Cuba happens to be place stuck in time with miles of white sand beaches, small towns with striking architecture, clear blue water with puffy clouds above and best rum the world that you can taste along with the world’s famous cigars. All this could be enjoyed while driving around in a vintage classic.
Very few people have managed to discover this magical island and all that it has to offer, especially from India. In certain parts of Cuba, I was the first Indian they saw. The time to get to Cuba is now before it gets commercialised and before the country is forced into losing some of their cultures in order to please the tourists. Cuba’s charm lies in the fact that it doesn’t have big hotels; consumerism has not seeped in, internet penetration is barely there, the beaches are virgin, landscapes stunning& people incredible, and the restaurants serve authentic Cuban food and drinks; so there is nothing fancy or materialistic about them.
Whichever city I visited, each and every location boasts of sights that are so special that next time I would fly only to see them. Be it the historical landmarks and private restaurants on a rooftop of mansions in Havana or the colourful colonial wooden houses and orchids & palms in Vinales which is situated in the western region of Cuba. Then there is Cuba’s ‘Pearl of the South’, the city of Cienfuegos where there are gold-leaf mosaics and ceiling frescoes. This city has seduced travellers from around the world with its elegance, enlightened French airs and feisty Caribbean spirit. A visit to the Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara (also nicked named ‘The City of Che’) will bring out the revolutionary in you.
Trinidad with its clobbered streets is the best preserved colonial city, with a unique mix of 1850’s architecture & 1950’s cars that feels frozen in time. There is a 500-year-old church in Ramedio which has stood the test of time. And Nature lovers can embark upon a day of adventure, exploring the area’s caves, keys, and virgin forests in Varadero. You look anywhere, only beauty will surround you with an invigorating sense of stillness.
One of the most famous products to come out of Cuba besides tobacco is the sweet delicious Rum. The Mojito, The Cuba Libre and the Daiquiri, all originated in this country and can be found almost everywhere you go. It would be a travesty to leave Cuba without trying at least a few types of rum and this is just one more reason to visit this beautiful country. There’s little disagreement that the best cigars in the world come from Cuba, and even if you are not a smoker the urge to find out how and why these cigars are so good is an overwhelming experience.
Cubans are simply wonderful creations of God. You will feel that they are born artists who love to play instruments and create beautiful art. Throughout the country, there is a background sound that follows you wherever you go, any day of the week, any time of the day. That background sound is the music that flows so easily from the local musicians who play anytime, anywhere. You can spot Cubans doing salsa for no reason anywhere. In fact, in one of my discussion with locals, I was finding it hard to explain ‘what is depression’. They have never experienced such a thing and I hope they will never.
Art is another way Cubans love to share their sense of creativity, from the colourful murals and tiles on the houses to the vendors on the streets selling their paintings. It is a common scene that unfolds as a painter sets up at a local café and starts painting the landscape. They also have a mural on the mountain face.
And if you love old cars Cuba is the place to go because the country is literally a rolling car museum. Cuban streets are literally filled with American style cars from the 1950’s. The chance to take incredible pictures and take a ride in an old convertible you thought didn’t exist anymore is absolutely reason enough to visit Cuba.
There is nothing boring about Cuba right from the locals who welcome you in their houses join you for a traditional seafood meal to jamming with you on the beach. Cuba is truly a melting pot of different cultures and races accepting all sorts of different colours and creeds without judgment and is an excellent example of how cultural diversity can work. For me, the time spent was a cultural lesson in the Cuban way of life. After all, that’s what this whole travel thing is about, for me.
by Vincent Panangadon