Something which you cannot help but notice as you travel around Cuba is evidence of the Revolution. Even though this happened in the late 1950s, it is like it happened last year. You can't get away from it. There are revolutionary slogans painted everywhere by the government as a constant reminder of it - even in the middle of nowhere there will have been a concrete slab erected and something painted on it. Images of leader Fidel Castro and especially his right hand man Che Guevara are equally everywhere. This can be seen in its most celebratory form in the massive Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, where the iconic Guevara adorns the side of an eight floor government building.
|Che Guevara - Plaza de la Revolución, Havana|
|The church in Trinidad|
|Train 1590 at Iznaga station|
This time we stayed in Old Havana, which is a part of the city that has been renovated to its former glory by the Castro Government. Here you can see the colourful buildings, painted in yellow, green and blue, that you see in the guide books. However, you don't have to walk far to see the 'real' Havana that the Government are less keen for tourists to see. The people were friendly enough but the obvious poverty meant that, as before, they wanted to extract any pesos they could from you and weren't scared to use their creativity to do so ...
|The Havana Club bar|
So is Cuba the gorgeous time-warp of a place that the guide books portray? Yes, in places. In other places it is a rundown and poor, with the famous architecture and classic cars being patched up and shadows of their former selves. The landscapes that we traveled through were stunning and idyllic in many locations, especially the serene Valle de Viñales. Are the people the 'friendliest in the world', as our book put it? No - we met some lovely people especially outside of the main touristy spots, but in the touristy spots it felt that you were running the gauntlet on most occasions as you were constantly pestered and bombarded with questions in the street. Will we go back again? Probably not. Did we enjoy our visit? Mostly yes, sometimes no. Are we glad that we went? Definitely yes.