They have Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara, and José Martí, and Raúl Castro… and a few more. Everything is about these guys. Everywhere and all the time.
Since we were backpacking I only brought two books on the trip, and I finished both during the first week. After that I tried to get something else to read, but the few bookstores we found were filled with books about these guys. Every single book was about Cuban history or politics. I really began to see the advantages of having a Kindle.
In Cuba sharing and helping is a second nature. It was nice to notice the way neighbours were helping each other out and sharing everything from tools to babysitting. In the local homes you never really knew who were family and who were neighbours on a visit. Also, as a transport engineer, I noticed the friendly way drivers interacted in transport intersections.
The families we stayed at always helped us to book accomodation in the next city or village we wanted to visit. When arriving with the bus, the casa owners always arranged a bici-taxi to greet us. In the picture below, a bici-taxi driver is waiting for us with a sign “Johanna, Anna”.
With a car-ownership ratio of 25 per 1000 (compared to 520 in Finland and 850 in the US), horses were widely used for transport in Cuba, even in cities.
The best (and sometimes the only) accomodation options when we were traveling around in Cuba were Casas Particulares, i.e. a room in a private house. Staying in the homes of locals really gave an open and deeper understanding of the country. The families we stayed at were very friendly, helped us with our travel plans, and even cooked dinner for us on request. Regular government inspections ensure that the casas are clean, safe and secure. Casa owners must keep a register of all guests and report each new arrival within 24h.
Cuba was interesting, indeed, and it took a while to figure this country out. In Cuba, where montly salaries top at around 20€, almost everything is government controlled. The tourist business is no exception. Cuba has a double economy with two currencies, convertible pesos and Cuban pesos. In practice, tourists pay with convertible pesos and locals in Cuban pesos, which makes everything 25 times more expensive for tourists.
I will post more photos and Cuban highlights in the following days.