poniedziałek, 23 lipca 2012

Things I actually did: Go to Cuba

Bad news: No pics. My camera died just before I landed in Havana. Which actually made my trip even more retro. A week without a digital camera, Internet and a cellphone, can you imagine? My dream was to see a communist Cuba before Fidel dies. Cuba without McDo's and Coke. Without iStores, Zaras, H&Ms and Wallmarts.

All my stay in Cuba was sort of a lucky coincidence. When I was coming back to Poland from Mexico, I managed to  find a super cheap (300 €, 400$!) and super complicated (Mexico City - Panama - Havana - Moscow - Warsaw. Long live Aeroflot!) flight with a 4 days stopover in Havana. Cuba is amazing. It's everything you imagine about it multiplied by 100. I managed to find an accomodation in an empty-ish former St. Clara convent. An old lady, who turned out to be a receptionists greeted me with perfect Polish. It turned out later that she came for some time to Poland for a student exchange, when both our countries were still trying to manage to survive having the best of the political systems...

This is what I noted down in my travel diary:
"(...) Shops here are pure poverty and just a sorry sight, one can choose between only two types of toothpaste - the green and the blue, there are portraits of Che at every wall and in a warehouse a female voice from the loudspeakers asks companera Hernandez to come to the backroom. Even buying stupid ice-cream appears to be a problem. You have to go to a huge ice-cream shop, Coppelia, and stay in a queue. No one knows what is in the beginning of this queue, but I remember my mom's memories from the time of communism in Poland, and I know that if there is a queue, there is surely something desirable to buy on the other side of it. I join it. When I manage to move to the beginning, I meet a gentleman, who tells people where to go: upper or ground floor, depending on tables available. I have to go upstairs. A grumpy waiter seats me with a three-persons family, and the fact that I'm not with them has no meaning. Coppelia has a wide variety of desserts: two, three, four or five chocolate scopes. Well, I choose two, I eat, (I pay) and I run away.

There is also a heat. A heat that you can't escape from, because there is almost no AC here. There is a moderately acceptable temperature only in a bar in Obispo street and few warehouses, which I enter in order to research on differences between two types of shoe polish, when the heat gets unbearable. Restaurants look great, however the food they serve is terrible. It doesn't matter if it's a dingy bar in Obispo street or a beautiful newly-renovated house in Plaza Vieja, in every single one of them you'll find  different combinations of a cardboard-like bread, plastic cheese and some other ingredients.

The atmosphere however, is mind-blowing. In every square, in every cafe and from every radio - salsa, mambo and rumba. Chevrolets and buicks from fifties and stunningly beautiful people. People, who in Europe would drag people's attention instantly. Dark, fit boys with perfectly shaped chests and long-legged doe-eyed beauties. And the feeling that time stopped here. Almost no one owns a cellphone here, no one has an access to Internet. Life goes on in the streets and an old-fashioned pianist, just like Sam from Casablanca plays elegant songs in a cafe of hotel Europa."

I would totally love to come back one day.

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