Colonial town, fort, cemetary and mountains

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
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Trip End Jan 31, 2012


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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 1 - Plazas, Museo Emilio Barcardi, Streets, Parque Alameda, Padre Pico Steps
Interesting bus ride to Santiago de Cuba with a few interesting towns passed along the way. Ended up at the local Visual bus terminal where I got picked up and once again overcharge by the taxi driver taking me to the casa.

Decided once again to only have breakfast and not have a dinner at the casa. At this point the guy offered to possibly give me dinner for 4 rather than 5 CUC but still decided against it.

While the place was central it didnt have any of the character some of the other places I stayed at had Since it was basically just an apartment in 4 storie building. Dumped my bags off and since it was around noon decided to head out and visit the different plazas.

Found the city to be basically built on to of a large hill. Lots of old building and lots of character. Also lots of people around. Started out at the main plaza which had lots of old buildings around it and a church at one end. Had hoped to wander through the church but found that it was closed.

When I had arrived in town I hadnt had enough time to get a ticket to Baracoa so headed down to the bus stop to get one. This walk basically got me out of the historic center where the houses arent quite so well kept. Along the way also saw a local bus though it was more of a cattle truck with seats in the back.

Found I couldnt get one for the next day and that I would have to wait an extra day before I could head out. Had originally planned to only spend a day in Santiago this time through and spend the extra day in Santiago on the way back to Havana but not to be.

Headed back up the hill to town and wandered into Museo Emilio Baracardi. Seems that this guy had collected a number of artifacts from around the world. This included some mummies and unlike egypt I was able to take some photos. On the way out found a band playing and people dancing.

Spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the streets. Along the way found a whole bunch of people selling soft serve icecream from there home fronts. At 5 cents a cone its especially cheap. What surprised me though is the number of people who actually owned a machine.

Also found a house selling some nice cheese and tomato pizza. These things were basically more like calazones since the pizza was folded in half and had a nice toasty base.

Was starting to get later in the day and headed down the hill towards the bay. Wandered along the park near the shore and found a couple of spots where I could get down to the waters edge.  At one point a guy started talking to me and asked what I thought of Cuba. He ended up saying something along the lines that it wasnt as nice as people thought (can understand lifes financially tough) or as safe. Got the impression of an implied threat there so kept talking for a bit longer with him before walking away and keeping an eye out for him.

Kept wandering along near the shore looking for more spots to reach the waters edge but didnt have much luck. Also found that the further along I went the more rundown the neighbourhood got. Also found lots of people on the streets outside the fronts of there houses. Given it was hot I guess this is what people use to do before air conditioners (and probably TVs as well)  were created.

Wandered around the nieghbourhood for a while and up a couple of small hills for a better view of the city and surrounding hills. Also wandered over to the Padre Pico Steps where I had a nice view of the city as the sun set. Wandered a bit more and called it a day as it started to get dark.

Ended up having a relatively early night and didnt bother heading out into the town.


Day 2 - Castillo de Morro, Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, El Cobre
Had pretty much wandered around the town the day before so decided to pay for a taxi to take be out towards the mouth of the bay where Castillo de Morro was located. Headed to the main square where the taxis could be found, ran into the taxi driver I had seen the day before and given it was a reasonable price fro the trip decided to go with him. Also had a little bit of english even if it was very broken.

Nice drive out to the castle with a few places that would have been nice to have a stop at. Fort is located at the mouth of the bay with the ocean crashing in on one side and views into the bay and back towards the city on the other.

Must say I really like the design of the these spanish forts. Very geometrical as well as solid and defensible looking. Guess you needed something like this to protect against the pirates that use to roam the nearby seas.

Spent a couple of hours wandering the fort and small museum with its pirate and fort defender memorabilia. Unfortunatley most of the signs were in spanish so not really able to read much of it.
 
Had with nice views of the ocean crashinging into the rock walls under the fort as well as the coastline in the distance across the bay mouth. Looks like it would be an interesting place to do a bit of hiking.

Could also see a small town on an island not to far away and had read that you could catch a ferry out to it. If I had taken a bus rather than the taxi I would definately have walked round to the dock and caught the ferry to the island so I could go for a wander.

Ended up heading down the stairs at one end of the fort towards the sea shore where I wander around the base of the fort before heading back up to the top and making my way back to the taxi. as we were heading back to town the driver was trying to sell me on going to another destination. Ended up deciding to do it as well as visit the cemetary I had wanted to go to on the way there. Ended up getting the price down by 5 CUC which he accepted but left him pretty unhappy.

Next stop was Cementerio Santa Ifigenia which had a few famous cubans buried in it. This cementery houses tombs for such historic notables as Josť Marti and Emilio Bacardi including graves from those who fought for revolution.

Never really mind walking around cemetaries since they can have some interesting religous statues and tombs in them. Especially the older ones where people feel a need to be grand in death and leave a mark to represent their passing. One of these even looked like a small castle. Guessing it was someones family tomb rather than just the tomb of an individual.

Managed to time my arrival with a a bunch of soldiers doing the changing of the guard ceremony at one of the tombs. I am assuming this was Josť Marti's tomb since it was the biggest one in the cemetary and the statue in it suggested as much.

Continued onto El Cobre which had a church to visit. Had a nice drive through the country side and up into the mountains to reach it. This church houses the Black Madonna (virgin mary not the signer) which is a religous pilgrimage sight for lots of cubans. Found that only the second floor area where the madonna was located was open while the rest of the church seemed to be under renovation.

Church was definately in a nice location with the village and surrounding mountains. Decided to pay an extra 2 CUC to make the driver a bit happier and got hime to take me to a small hill which provided a lookout point into the valley and of the nearby lake. Appears the town is also the location of a copper mine and the lake was definately a bright blue/green colour as a result of the copper thats disolved in it.

Headed back into town from here and decided to go for a bit of a wander around town again. Just aimlessly wandering the streets taking in the towns daily life and tempo. Made my way back to the steps for the view and ended up having someone who was drunk and calling himself a doctor (seemed educated enough fo rthis to be true) start talking to me. Seems his life turned to shit when he spoke the truth out against the governement some time agao in the past, though I'm not sure why he was talking to me.
 
He also felt the need to make a comment about me sitting their eating a 20c cheese pizza. Got the impression he was making fun of me (incredulous sound in his voice) about a rich foreign tourist sitting there eating something so cheap. Especially when he felt his life had turned to such crap.

Headed back to the casa as it started getting late and anded up deciding to have dinner at the casa which was a nice meal of fish and salid with soup.

Decided to go out for a bit tonight so headed out to casa La Trova. Managed to arrive just before a large tour group so had a seat and could hide in the crowd. Had a few beers listened to the music and watched a number of people dancing salsa. Also interesting to watch the old single guys hanging around the balcony waiting for some local to come pick them up. Once again old guys young women hooking up.

Was about to leave as the place was thinning out before someone sat at my table. Didnt want to be to rude and just leave but sat quitely so she moved on after a few minutes and then decided to call it a night. Probably would have bought her a drink and gone dancing if I could do anything more than a few basic steps.
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