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Polaroid Of The Week: Soaking Up Cuban Life In Trinidad

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week cuba trinidad

The true showstopper in Cuba for me wasn’t Havana, but Trinidad, a city founded by the Spanish that dates back to 1514 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I wasn’t sure if it’d be worth the long drive to get there – the city is located pretty much in the middle of the island, halfway between Havana in the north and Santiago in the far south; around 6 hours on a bus from Havana. But I am so glad that we decided to add it to our itinerary, despite the distance from Havana and Viñales, our first two stops.

Trinidad looked like it hadn’t changed much since the Spanish founded it in the 16th century – colonial houses line cobblestone streets, there are several Spanish-colonial churches and neatly arranged plazas, and horse carts outnumber cars. When people say that a trip to Havana feels like a trip back to the 1950s (because of all the American vintage cars from that time), it’s safe to say that a trip to Trinidad feels like a trip back to the 16th century.

In Trinidad, we got to really soak up Cuban life. With four nights here, we had plenty of time to experience Cuban culture, watch people dance salsa in the town square and in the bars every night, watch locals meet for a chat or a glass of rum in one of the benches that lined all the plazas, and artists draw paintings in the many galleries.

Every time we wandered around town we found a new street that was oozing with character, another crumbling church, another shop that looked more like a museum than a store, with items written on a chalk board and old-fashioned scales on the counter. The rolling hills surrounding the town and the nearby ocean (the popular beach Playa Ancon is only eight miles from Trinidad) only add to the attraction of this picturesque little town. Trust me: Trinidad is not to be missed on a trip to Cuba!

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Polaroid Of The Week: A Picture-Perfect Caribbean Beach in Cuba

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week cuba cayo jutias

Even though Cuba is a Caribbean island, whenever I thought of Cuba, a Caribbean vacation was not what I had in mind. Instead, I pictured Spanish-colonial colorful towns, lush green tobacco fields and the crumbling facades of Havana’s grand buildings. What I wasn’t thinking of were turquoise, crystal clear waters and pristine beaches fringed by palm trees. But of course, there are lots of exactly those in Cuba, and I am glad that I got to include a couple of them into my packed Cuba itinerary.

The first beach we went to, Cayo Jutias, happened to be a beach that is one of Cuba’s most stunning beaches (nearby Cayo Levisa on a tiny island off of the coast is supposedly the absolute best beach in Cuba. And yes, every beach we saw afterwards looked just.. uh.. nice.. in comparison (but those were still Caribbean beaches..!). Cayo Jutias doesn’t have any hotels, only a couple of restaurants. Other than that, it is just miles and miles of untouched, picture-perfect beach. And the best thing? Since Cayo Jutias is fairly difficult to get to – located on the northern tip of the island, a bumpy 75-minute ride on a pothole-filled country road from the small town of Viñales – there aren’t many tourists there.

As we walked further away from the restaurants – not before trying a Coco Loco, a fresh coconut to which rum and honey are added – we encountered less and less people, and found a large stretch of beach that we had all to ourselves. Parts of the beach aren’t fringed by palm trees but by a mangrove forest, which makes for an interesting backdrop and some lovely photo opps (see some of the pics in my April round-up). After a few days of city life in Havana and exploring the countryside around Viñales, I couldn’t have asked for a better beach getaway than Cayo Jutias…

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Polaroid Of The Week: The Classic Cuba Shot

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week cuba havana

I have so many thoughts and emotions about my Cuba trip, I am still processing everything I’ve seen and experienced on this spellbinding little island. Visiting Cuba turned out more challenging as I thought it would be, but it was so worth it. I have yet to go through the thousands of photos I took and sort my thoughts, but I’ll be sharing a number of Cuba articles shortly.

For now, let’s just say that Cuba isn’t like any other country I’ve ever visited, and yet, it felt strangely familiar. Why is that, you wonder? I grew up in East Germany, a Communist country, just like Cuba still is. In fact, Cuba was one of our socialist allies, and while with the collapse of the Communist bloc, life for me and 16 million other East Germans took a huge turn (for the better), Cubans still live so many aspects of the life that I remember from my childhood. Before this little teaser for my upcoming Cuba content becomes too much of a ramble (I’ll be talking about this ‘walk down memory lane’, which this trip inadvertently turned into for me, in an upcoming article) – for now I just want to say that I was fascinated by the spirit of the Cuban people, the lust for life, their ability to find joy in the little things, and about seeing how life spills out into the streets everywhere. I found especially Havana captivating, with its grand buildings, some of which were crumbling while others were already being renovated, showing off a fresh layer of paint and repaired facades, a visible sign of the changes that Cuba is seeing with the ease of the trade embargo of the US. And then there were of course the hundreds of American vintage cars cruising around Havana, just waiting for you to take that classic Cuba shot.

I’ve already gotten a bunch of questions about my trip, especially on Snapchat where I’ve been sharing some of the clips I took in Cuba (where I was completely offline, by the way!). Tune in for a Cuba Q&A on Snapchat this Sunday (30 April) – my user name is mariposa2711.

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