I’m not a type of tourist who does sightseeing every day and plans well his to-do list. I like to see interesting spots but I’m also ok if I spend a day in a country doing nothing, just hanging out with locals, getting lost on the narrow streets, reading book in the park. I love to observe everything around, to catch little differences in culture, to look at people and talk to everyone who open for a chat. I learn a lot this way, maybe more than by visiting museums or running in rush with a guide book.
One of the goal of this trip is to get a good spanish, so I speak everyday, do lot of mistakes, creat my own words hoping that it will work (usually not), have fun with people who help me as mush as they can with their language. I better remember words from the people, from real situation. Studying in school helps, but I forget everything quickly. I need some kind of stressfull situation, good kick in the ass to put a new word in my head. So, this first days my brain was working 24-hours, getting used to the new reality. Moreover, it gave me a real pleasure to hear everywhere language that I adore. So little thing can make me incredibly happy.
However, there was much more in Cuba than just spanish language.
The fourth day turned out to be more touristy. One of my friends I met on the plane had a day-off and offered me to show the city.
First, by ferry we reached the Regla district, where we went to church.
This district is a suburb of Havana. It was inhabited after the construction of church of the Virgin Mary (Nuestra Senora de Regla) in 1690. The town was founded later, in 1765. In the 19th century it was known as the capital of smugglers.
In addition to this unattractive glory, Regla is also known for its traditions. This city is inhabited mostly by Afro-Cubans, and here you can observe an interesting mix of Catholic traditions and African beliefs. In September they have very colorful and interesting festival of the Virgin Mary, one of the most important here. African slaves were brought to Cuba during the spanish colonization. Culture had mixed and new religion was born. One of the most interesting combinations of African and Christian culture is the religion of santeria. This religion is not officially recognized but very popular in Cuba and America.
Near the ferry station in Havana we found an Russian Orthodox church . We were invited to have a look inside.
After Regla we went to the large statue of Jesus on the other side of the river. The view from there was stunning.
On our way back from the top we found a guy who was selling cold draft beer for 5 pesos. We stopped for one … two … okay, we stayed there quite long. Heat in Havana that days was terrible, I couldnt stand it. Poor cold Russian not used to this hellish heat.
After that refreshing break we went to the Colon cemetery . This is large, very beautiful cemetery with hundreds of beautiful statues and crypts. I’ve been to a similar cemetery in Barcelona, but one in Havana impressed me even more.
Colon Cemetery was founded in 1876. Now here there are more than 800 000 burials, more than 500 of which are decorated with stunning monuments and sculptures. Just an ironic fact – the first person who was buried at this cemetery was its architect, Calisto de Loyra.
Despite the name Columbus had never been buried here.
The day was beautiful. Havana has lot’s of thing to offer and I never got bored there. Such a lovely city. However, I wanted to go somewhere else, to have a look at other cuban cities. Capital is another world, and it doesn’t give you image of the rest of the country.
We arrived at the bus station. Problems again… This station was only for the Cubans, and on an Cuban bus tourists not allowed to travel. There are more comfortable buses with an air conditioner which stop hell knows where. For Cubans trip to Trinidad will cost only 3 CUC, for a tourist 25 CUC. I was mad. I was sad. I was tired. I didn’t like this stupid rule for the obvious reason. But I didn’t have time to search for another option. And I was tired. And mad.
As a result, we agreed on a taxi collectivo with my friends. This is another way of traveling around Cuba, when five or six people going the same direction share the car. The most important thing is to find people to go with you and then the trip will cost cheaper than on a tourist bus.
The taxi driver promised to pick us up early in the morning at home.