Every kid who enjoys playing basketball, dreams of becoming one of the greatest players of all time. Everyone wants to be like Jordan, Bryant or LeBron, but only a handful succeeded in stepping on the court of the famous halls and playing in the elite NBA league with the greatest stars of the basketball world. Unfortunately, we did not have this chance and happiness, but we can relive our children’s dreams by watching live matches. Better that than nothing 😛
We watched our first NBA game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where home team Nets played with their neighbors from Boston, with legendary Celtics. A modern, only a few year-old arena, which can accommodate over 18.000 spectators, was filled to the last seat. One of the important information before watching the NBA spectacle is definitely that it is forbidden to bring any camera or DSLR to the arenas, but those rules won’t stop Saša, so she, with a great deal of ingenuity, despite the strict rules brought all of our photo equipment inside. Believe us, without all of these photos, this post would be very boring.
Although Cuba in not exactly the destination for gourmet enthusiasts, who are impressed by the exceptionally high class culinary and Michelin stars. However, chefs on Cuba, despite the country’s closure, provide the most interesting dishes from the accessible ingredients and with a touch of innovation. Combinations of foods may not really be what we are used to, but believe us; you will lick your fingers after each meal.
Well, if we exclude resorts in Varadero, then you can forget the dishes from other parts of the world while you traveling around the Cuba. So do not waste your precious time looking for Asian specialties, modern French cuisine or fine Italian pasta. Otherwise, if we are sincere… why would you eat frogs’ legs, pasta with truffles when you can enjoy the freshly caught seafood, lobsters, beef, that literally melt in your mouth and sweet fruits with coconut, papaya and pineapple at the forefront? The offer is endless, so get out of your comfort zone and try all of those real traditional Cuban specialties. You will not be sorry!
We saved best for last, it was so good, that we stayed two extra days, but about this later 🙂 22 kilometers of beautiful sandy beach, which stretches across the entire length of the peninsula on the north side of the county, is the main reason for visiting Varadero or so-called city of colored bracelets. Forget about unique artistic jewelry, those are plastic bracelets worn by all-inclusive guest from various hotels and resorts.
The city is created for tourists, bunch of huge hotels, stalls with souvenirs on every step and roads full of taxis. The prices here are significantly higher than on the rest of the island, which is reflected not only in restaurants and bars but also on stalls. You have to go deep in your pockets if you want to indulge yourself in one of those hotels. You will have to spend more than 100 € per night, which is of course a lot more than you would paid for a night in casa.
Well, here it is, our beloved and faithful companion, rain. With each passing mile from Trinidad to Santa Clara was getting more darker and in the end the rain finally caught us when we were walking to our casa. And no, it wasn’t just a quick shower, but it rained for almost 2 whole days, so our plans literally fall in water.
Nevertheless, we manage to see the statue of Che Guevara, his mausoleum was closed due to rain or moisture until next sunny day. Cuban logic 🙂 You all probably know this person, if not from elsewhere, you definitely saw him on a shirt worn by one of your classmates in high school. Che is still worshiped as a god in Cuba; in honor of him, they named streets, build statues, post jumbo posters along the highway with his portrait and his famous slogan Hasta la Victoria siempre! The story about him is complex, so we will not talk about it… but you can always check some history textbooks if you are interested in those stories.
From the coastal Cienfuegos, we again took a taxi and went to the most eastern point of our journey through Cuba, Trinidad. Oh, no worries, this time the drive was far more humane than the last one 🙂
A small town founded in the mid-19th century on the riches, brought by the nearby sugar cane plantations, still retains its authenticity and it seems like, in spite of flood of tourist, time stopped here. Therefore, we were not surprised when we were woken up at four in the morning by the rooster, at five by cats who were looking for their partners and at six by hosts Chihuahua.
After several attempts to book a bus from Vinales to Cienfuegos, we give up and choose a taxi. We were so surprised by a price that we did not even negotiate at all (32 CUC per person, which is 2 CUC less than a bus). We should hit the road with a minibus and the whole journey should take only 4 hours, which would be twice as fast as we expected. However, the thing was a bit different (yes, they covered up a truth for a little bit)… In the morning there was a 60 years old car waiting for us in front of the house in which they manage to squeeze 8 people + driver. Yeah, just like a minibus. No problems, we will survive that. Well, at the mid-way we even replaced a car for a bigger one in which they squeezed 7 more people and one baby 🙂 That’s Cuba, everyone. Thankfully, we had a great company and those 4 hours, which lasts 7 hours, were actually passed quickly.
After three days in Havana, we went to the countryside, away from the city bustle. More specifically in a small town or rather the greater village called Viñales, which is just around 200 km or 4 hours drive from Havana.
When you will see two rocking chairs in front of each vibrant colored house and there are horses or oxen walking down the road then you will know that you have arrived at your destination. We reserved our room via Airbnb, but the locals here literally overwhelm you with offers when you step out of the bus.
What is the best thing to do after a 12 hours of sitting on a plane? Take a hot shower.. well, even the cold would be great, but we didn’t get any of this in Matanzas. Such a bad luck for us.. just when we arrived, they had a problems with ruined pipe. Anyway, we came to this place because of the relative closeness to the airport (approx. 20 km), significantly cheaper accommodations – as the same remote, but more touristic Varadero – and a good bus connection to the Havana, which was our first real stop on Cuba.
Speaking of bus transport.. there are vehicles owned by company Viazul, which are intended solely for tourists and they drive to all major tourist areas on the island, and so goes for prices, which are not that cheap. One more thing.. book your transport at home, because it might happened that your bus will be completely full on the day you will want to go somewhere. Btw, we got the last two seats from Matanzas to Havana.
New year, new journey, a new continent and a new country! This time we will use our time machine and travel back for a several decades. We’re going to the largest island in the Caribbean, where you take a ride with »carriage« instead of a taxi, rather than staying in hotels, you sleep in local’s houses and instead of free Wi-Fi connection you use the internet which emits very strange noises (if, of course, you are lucky enough to find it). The communist country, which lost its great leader in 2016, is primarily known for the revolution and the man whose portrait is being printed on T-shirts worldwide. Of course, we are talking about Cuba, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara!
In the coming years, the Cubans promise better times, US has lifted the embargo, number of tourist is growing up and with this, island is slowly losing its charm and beauty, so now should be the last moments to experience the country in its true light. And this is the best time to salsa with locals, listening to authentic Cuban music.