1. – 3rd day
Santiago de Cuba
Italian as a guide and a return to the past
We wake up in Cuba, fill our navels with a huge breakfast and head to the center. Our casa particular (accommodation – private house) is only a 20-minute walk from the center. I don’t know if the whole of Santiago de Cuba is so dirty and dingy or just in our neighborhood, so we’re treading with a bit of uncertainty.
Finally in the center. We pass the souvenir stands and appear on the boulevard street with many shops. We find the jewelry of the Italian, who we escaped from the airport and maybe even from the murderous clutches. We explained to him that we were picked up at the airport and that we therefore immediately took the opportunity to check in. He immediately slapped his forehead when I told him how much I paid for the pickup from the airport. In his shop, he waved to his assistant and set off to show us around the city of Santiago de Cuba. He bought us exotic lemonade, showed us where to conveniently exchange money, introduced us to a restaurant, where he explained that we would come for dinner in the evening and that we would pay Cuban prices and not tourist prices. The restaurant manager approached us, looked us up and down and nodded to us that she would remember us and that we were expected in the evening.
Itilián invites us to lunch at his friend’s (also Italian) restaurant the next day. I try to at least invite him for coffee, so that we can return his hospitality in some way. “No thanks, not now… we’ll see later…”. This reaction of his, of course, once again pinched my paranoid brain center (which had swelled up as freshly poured couscous). We say goodbye to the Italian, that we will go through the rest of the city on our own and that we will see each other tomorrow.
A walk in Santiago de Domingo is pleasant, everything here is as if time has stopped somewhere in the seventies. Including queues in front of shops. For food, Cubans have vouchers and receive free rations (rice, bread, oil, etc.) according to the number of family members. They then exchange and buy the rest on the black market.
The ubiquitous Fidel and Che is at times almost grotesque. 4 things to choose from in the pharmacy is, on the contrary, a sad sight. And then you will also find cafes that are open 24 hours a day. The fact that they don’t have coffee or anything else to choose from is another matter. As well as the legendary fast food chain Rapido (in translation Fast) – we have already read about it from the Internet from other travelers that they are really fast. As in other shops, they don’t have anything to choose from, so you quickly leave with the same empty stomach as you arrived there.
While walking through the side streets, we also came across an amazing lookout, where the use of cameras is prohibited (or for a fee). I only read that afterwards, so I took some photos and a video.
We visited the restaurant with a beautiful view of Santiago de Cuba, where the Italian had arranged our reservation, the same evening, the manager remembered us and the prices were really Cuban. For example, for Cuba libre, Piña Colada and any similar drinks we paid 1$ USD. Meals were around 3$ USD. We had the same experience the next day at lunch when we accidentally discovered a restaurant on the rooftop terrace. Again, Cuban prices. That was also the last time in Cuba. In the evening we were in another restaurant and there we already had tourist prices (Cuba libre for 3-4$ USD).
It looked like we were going to have to stay in Santiago de Cuba a little longer than we expected. At the bus station, they informed us that the tickets to the tourist-famous Trinidad are already sold out for the next day, so we have to wait until the next day or take a night bus. Yes, you always buy bus tickets in Cuba at least a day in advance, and as you can see, even that is sometimes not enough.
So we chose to travel at night and thus save on accommodation. In addition, we gained additional time to enjoy a little more of Santiago de Cuba, which for me personally has become one of the most popular places in Cuba due to its rawness.
You will hardly come across tourists here, as the city has a reputation for fraudsters and thieves. This also inspired us to ask Frida what she thought of the Italian. “It’s definitely not safe, the Italians here in Santiago de Cuba, we don’t know why, they do this, they help people and then they talk about money.”
We didn’t see the Italian again and we didn’t visit his friend’s restaurant with him. His effort to help us for no reason may or may not have been due to his friendly nature. He didn’t get any money from us, we sent him a view from Havana for that 🙂
The article did not include photos from the visit to the cemetery, which are on a separate page: