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Travelling to remote and not so remote places



Havana – Hasta Que se Seque el Malecon

The title of Jacob Forever’s Latino summer hit, which accompanied us everywhere in Cuba (and is now an entry in my all time favourites playlist), gives the Malecon, Havana’s legendary seaside promenade, a higher rating than I would.

However, Havana was one of the highlights of our journey. What a place! Beautiful buildings, nice restaurants, great bars, but above all a happening, happy vibe which makes it truly unique. Like any other big city with a not so well off population it has its downsides: petty theft, extremely friendly ladies (and I expect lads, too), who, as my old friend Don Antenno once put it during a legendary night, “won’t really love me” and a lot of other people who Continue reading “Havana – Hasta Que se Seque el Malecon”

Varadero – Caribbean Dream?!

Our trip to Cuba has been fantastic: the life and atmosphere in Havana, sheer beauty in Vinales, recent history in Playa Larga (and yet another CIA meddling failing is just too much fun), time warp in Trinidad and, eventually, the Caribbean dream in Varadero.

Varadero Caribbean Dream
The beach at Varadero is probably one of the best beaches in the world: fine, white sand – turquoise, clear water.

When we’ve planned our Cuba trip we weren’t sure about how things would work out. We’ve heard too many stories of travellers reporting food ranging from inedible to incredibly boring, cumbersome travelling, lots of hassling – Continue reading “Varadero – Caribbean Dream?!”

Colonial Cuba

Indeed there is a backlog of impressions from Cuba! Regular blog updates require an internet connection and in this respect Cuba still lives in the Cold War era. Obtaining an internet card (that buys you an hour of service) is a bureaucratic process that would make a Russian state employee proud. Once a card is purchased, you have to find a wireless “hotspot” to get online. A sure spot is around high-end international hotels, where you at night find a gathering of locals whose smartphones light up the dark like fire flies.

Whereas the cold wind of communism still can be felt in Havanna, the bittersweet smell of colonialism still hangs over Trinidad in the south of Cuba. Some say time has stood still here, and it’s a beautifully preserved colonial town but it felt a little bit like an open air museum.

Nevertheless we housed in a lovely Casa “Juan Carlos y La China” where colonial furniture was still in use and three stories towered over an inner courtyard. From there we had beautiful views over Trinidad and the Escambray Mountains. And the Mojitos were delicious!

Casa Juan Carlos y La China
Many old colonial buildings are still in the hands of the original families

Trinidad’s heyday was in the 18th and 19th century when wealthy families traded in slaves and sugar. When slave trade stopped and the sugar business petered out, Trinidad went to sleep for a 100 years and the buildings remained the way they were. Until the 60’s…

Continue reading “Colonial Cuba”

A Rum diary

I love Cuba! It’s a friendly, feisty, charismatic place! Like an old woman, worn down by age and hardships, a bit rough around the edges, but still not having lost the sparkle in her eyes! A place where an underdog can win an impossible fight.

The Bay of Pigs was named in the good ole’ times when starving pirates came to the natural harbour to stock up on food from a local pig farmer. After Che and Castro released Cuba from “decadence and corruption”, the place again got on the international map in 1961 when the Americans decided to support, and train, a group of counterrevolutionary Cuban ex-pats who would invade their home country and crush the communist dogs. But the invasion was an embarrassment, Kennedy got nervous, withdrew his support and unceremoniously left the soldiers at the mercy of Castro (who later traded them for medical supplies and food). The Cuban American love affair was over and Castro and Che promptly got in bed with the Soviets instead.

Bay of Pigs invasion info
The invasion plans were anything but secret. Kennedy had apparently exclaimed: “Castro doesn’t need spies, all he has to do is read the news!”

Continue reading “A Rum diary”

The Classic Cars of Cuba

Ooph – over two weeks in Cuba generated quite a backlog of experiences to report on! That meant that we were over two weeks offline, since getting an internet connection in Cuba is not exactly straight forward. And getting a working internet connection is pretty much a lottery – when I eventually was sitting on a workstation in an internet cafe it took me forty (40) minutes to complete our online check-in for the flight back to Panama City.

In the meantime we have arrived in Quito, where internet connections exit, but the quality of the connection is somewhat late 90’s. Enough rambling, backlog #1:

I’ve heard a lot about classic American cars in Cuba and expected to see the occasional vehicle. I was not prepared for the fact that virtually every car that was on the road in 1959 when Castro took over is still in use! At times it felt as if more than half of the cars on Cuba’s streets where classics. Interspersed with the occasional Lada, probably a subsidy from the happy times when the Soviet Union was Cuba’s main supporter, and a few Japanese and Korean automobiles. We’ve seen hardly any luxury cars – I recall a newish Mercedes E Class and an Audi A4.

Classic Car XIII
Our trusted Ford, which brought us from the Bay of Pigs to Trinidad and from there to Varadero. Ford chassis, Fiat engine, Mercedes gear box, Hyundai transmission – Cuban mechanics are creative in working with what they’ve got.

All the cars are in full use. Most cars date from 1952-1959, Continue reading “The Classic Cars of Cuba”

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