TRAVELOGUE
Cuba

Varadero

Today there is electricity but there is no water. I wash my face using the water from a bottle I have. Last night I paid for two excursions in the nearby hotel Nacional, so I go to the hotel to get there a bus that will take me to Varadero.

Varadero peninsula
Varadero peninsula
Varadero is a narrow and long peninsula, located 150 km east of Havana. It's a tourist ghetto with numerous hotels and endless sandy beaches. Although I don't adore this kind of tourism, one relaxing day here will do just fine. I have an "all-inclusive" day in a **** "Sol" hotel. "All-" means drinks, food and sport activities. What interests me most is windsurfing. I was told that there are windsurfs here and that it's included in the price. The ride to Varadero lasted 3 hours because the bus had to pick up a few tourists that were transferred from Havana to Varadero. The bus driver had to pay a 30 peso fine to the police along the way, for some unknown reason. In the hotel I make friends with my fellow companions on the excursion - the Mexican Paco and the Columbian Maria-Eugenia. We've been endlessly waiting at the hotel reception for someone to show us the room where we'll use the shower later (it's a big hotel complex). Finally we took the key and found the room ourselves.

The beach is gorgeous. One of the few things that is just like I imagined it before the trip to Cuba. The white (and hot!) sand and the azure sea (the sea could be a bit colder though!). I found the sport center on the beach - I'm disappointed when I see that the windsurf looks like it's been run over by a truck. I take it anyway because the wind is good. A few minutes later the windsurf disintegrated. I collected its parts and brought them back to the shore. Well, I'll have to spend the day sunbathing and swimming...

I go to have a snack at the beach grill. Here I find some re-re-heated food that is hardly eatable. And they call that a **** hotel! The hotel belongs to the "Sol" (=sun) chain, I suppose because the sun is the only thing here one doesn't complain to. Anyway, it's a nice day. There are no Cubans on the beach because they're not allowed to Varadero (unless they work in the hotels). I must admit I like it this way - they're too annoying on the beach.

Once I have enough of the beach I sit at the hotel bar. I order a coffee and the lady at the bar gets it for me with a smile and a "mi amor" (=my love). I'm a bit surprised because I still have to learn that this is just a widely used expression on Cuba and it has to do only with the Cuban hospitality.

The bus is taking only the three of us back to Havana. Paco is explaining to me everything that is worth knowing about Mexico. I learn also that Colombia has nice sandy beaches, on two oceans. Who knows, maybe one day...

In the evening I look for a paladar, but I find none. It seems they're not open anymore. Too many taxes. I find the state-owned restaurant Cochinito and at the entrance I ask to sea the menu to check the prices. A beef steak costs 21$!!! I can't believe it but then the waitress tells me that it's the price in pesos ($ - the same symbol!). So, in fact, the price is <1$. That's much better. I have a seat and get a menu, only to see that this time the price of the steak is 8$! American ones, this time. I ask for the explanation and find out that the waitress at the entrance thought I was Cuban so she showed me the menu for Cubans! I protest and after some negotiation manage to get a cocktail, main food and a bear for 2.5$! I leave a 1$ tip so they remember me the next day. I'll change 5$ in pesos the next day with my casa owner and get back to eat here, paying in pesos. The food is not magnificent, the service is bad, but it's cheap. There are no handkerchiefs, I get the main dish first and then beer and cocktail together!? Well that's Cuba too!

My casa owner tells me that the day before a Cuban plane was hijacked and forced to land in Miami. And the next day *I* am going on an excursion with a Cuban plane! In this moment a prayer is advisable... Tonight there is a concert not far from my casa, a protest against a new American war that just started somewhere (Iraq). The music was good!

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Cuba: Cayo Largo
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