No more Cuba

This is the last post on Cuba. Then it's over, then we'll come back to Aruba.

The entrance to Chinatown in Havana. However, there are only a few Chinese in the Chinese restaurants here.

Both Jens and I were definitely not the last time in our lives in Cuba. Depending on how upset the population is, sooner or later there will be changes. Many Cubans are hoping for Joe Biden and that he will lift the embargo. Tourism could be a solution for now. The only products that are made in Cuba and are competitive on the world market are cigars and rum. That alone will not make the economy healthy.


An (incomplete) list of the things we have been asked about again and again because they are either not available at all or are only available at ridiculous prices:

Bell tower

- Cell phones, with or without buttons, with an intact or cracked display
- old and often defective laptops
- Toothpaste, shower gel, liquid soap, detergent, cleaning agent
- Disposable lighters, full or empty. In Cuba you can refill any lighter.
- cooking oil, salt and pepper
- T-shirts

Chicken Monument

It's also great when you have a few little things with you for the many children on the street. It's not about pens and paper for school, they have enough of them. Chewing gum, candy and chocolate bars make friends for life.

The lack of lighters showed itself to our landlord couple in Havana in a blatant way. Both are smokers. Cooking is done on the gas stove. The pragmatic solution is, if there is no lighter in the house, that a flame from the gas stove burns continuously, even 24 hours a day, whether someone is at home or not.

One of the nicer oldtimers

Credit cards do not work at all or only rarely in the whole country. Shortly before our trip to Havana, the Swiss sailing boat Lupina came into the Marina of Santiago. On the last evening before our departure, skipper Köbi asked me if I could help him with his problem. He's run out of cash. After several phone calls with his bank in Switzerland, he found out that the Swiss credit cards don't work in Cuba, not even in the bank branches. Switzerland adheres to the embargo. So be careful! I'm helping Köbi out with $ 1,000 and I'm sure the money will be in my account before I get to Aruba. (Addendum: It would almost have been the same if I could write my own IBAN ...)

Yellow classic car

We had several thousand dollars with us in small bills - all of them were 20-dollar bills, many of which were already worn, a little torn or had traces of these pens with which to check authenticity. We felt well equipped with that. We were not entirely wrong, but not entirely right either.

The best exchange rate is for brand new $ 100 bills that are completely unused. I am talking about the exchange rate on the street, whereby street is not to be taken literally. I preferred to trade in private apartments where you couldn't see the deal. It's best to swap with people with whom you have already established a relationship. Of course, you have to negotiate the exchange rate, but once an agreement has been made, it is meticulously adhered to. Instead of the dollar bills, euros work just as well. But be careful: Many tend to simplify things and use a 1: 1 exchange rate from dollars to euros.

Jens took all the pictures in Havana.

Eating in the restaurant

Since there is no breakfast in our hostel, we always walk to the old town after getting up, where the restaurants are. There we avoid the restaurants in the large squares, where "Reinholer" pounce on every single tourist with a huge menu. Everything is on this menu, just no prices. We are looking for the small restaurants in the side streets, where mostly a handwritten menu with good prices attracts us. We can recommend the Mambo Bar, as well as the Teniente del Rei 360. The average warm meal costs 150 pesos. I would have liked to link the two places, unfortunately they have no entry in Google.

Stalls in the street

Especially with printed menus, you shouldn't be drooling from hunger and choose the dish you would like to eat most. It is worth asking the waitress what is available at all. Fish and chicken are generally available. The fish is always fresh and the chicken cannot be compared with the dry, tasteless meat we know. Chicken is very juicy and tasty in Cuba.

Pork, octopus, shrimp, and lobster are occasionally available. Fresh cooking is done in all restaurants, and no helpful powder is used - the convenience products that are so popular with us are simply not available in Cuba. The side dishes are always rice (black or white rice), fried bananas or plantains (plantains) and vegetables. We would call the vegetables a salad because they consist (depending on availability) of green lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber slices. Sometimes they have sweet potatoes too. Jens doesn't like bananas, but he likes to eat the fried ones - they no longer look like bananas, no longer taste like bananas and have a different consistency.

Dance on stilts

What we never found on the menus in Cuba are french fries. I think it is due to the lack of cooking oil and the lack of potatoes. Edible oil is very difficult to obtain. We gave away some bottles from Sissi's stock. For example, a bottle of our sunflower oil, which we bought in Martinique, made the New Year's Eve feast for one of the Marina employees possible. He tried fishing on his night shift, and we sat together on the jetty and talked about Cuba. When he told me that he had been trying to get cooking oil for New Year's Eve for days, I spontaneously offered him a bottle. After our return from Havana I was allowed to look at the pictures of the opulent meal (pork, rice, vegetables) on his phone.

In my opinion, the women in Cuba are the most beautiful women we have seen in the Caribbean. They are slim and have beautiful bodies. There are also no men who carry their fat plaster in front of them. People are not emaciated and emaciated, they are just slim. That certainly comes from a healthy diet.

Open air workshop for rickshaws

Whoever you talk to, whether in Havana or Santiago, the people in Cuba are upset. The extreme lack of everything, the soaring prices and the government not doing what people want it to do. Some speak of another revolution. We exchanged email addresses with some Cubans and will follow what is happening in the country in the future.

Cuba is a large, fertile island. Agriculture could actually produce enough products to feed the people in the country. The current shortage of fresh agricultural products is in part the result of the extreme Covid shutdown last year. From March to September nothing went anywhere in the country. People were not allowed to go to work, the harvest was not brought in in the fields and has rotted away. If there was a harvest, it could not be transported to the cities because internal traffic was prohibited. Cuba was able to leave the first wave of Covid with an excellent record, but the population now has to pay a high price.

Stairway to the Capitol

Another reason for the lack of food in the country is the fact that the government has sold a good part of the production abroad in order to wash foreign currency into the empty coffers. The common Cuban cannot buy anything from it and only sees the empty markets. This contributes to popular dissatisfaction with the government.

The Covid numbers are currently rising again in Cuba, certainly a result of Christmas and New Year's Eve. On our last day in Havana we wanted to book a taxi and drive to the countryside. Nearby are “Las Terrazas”, famous waterfalls and a swimming area among them. Our landlady tried to find a taxi driver to drive us there. Unfortunately the effort was in vain. Two drivers refused our beautiful green banknotes because the government has banned travel across provincial borders.

Barber on the street

Cuba is a safe island. We have never been afraid of being mugged and robbed in a dark corner. Street crime does not take place. Even if everyone knew that we literally had our pockets full of dollars, that was never a problem. If we had lost a cell phone, it would of course not have ended up in the lost property office. But we never had to worry that the expensive electronics would be snatched from our hands. The half bottle of shampoo that we left in the marina shower that evening was of course gone the next morning. But we were never afraid that they would get into the boat and remove all the beautiful goods from our storage loads.

First violin

Enough cigars, our rickshaw driver drives us through the old town for an hour for $ 10. He tries again and again to explain the sights to us, but he gets really out of breath. When we tell him that he doesn't have to tell us so much, he is very grateful. He drives us to some corners that we probably won't walk to and wants to take a selfie with us at the end. With pleasure! After the hour the Cohiba burned down too, the timing is perfect.


We slowly walk back to our quarters. After walking around for hours, our legs are tired and we want to sit down and read a little. In the morning you don't see much of our four-tenant couple, but they are both very active in the evening and usually come home late at night. Violin sounds fill the house. Maury has connected his electric violin to a loudspeaker box and plays karaoke versions of various songs, to which he plays first violin.

The same alley a little further inside

He wants to know what music we like to listen to. He can't do much with heavy metal like most people in Cuba don't. But I can think of a title that he definitely does not know and in which a violin plays the leading role: "At the window" of City. He really doesn't know the piece, listens to YouTube for a moment and plays the violin part after half a minute. That is what defines the professional musician. Afterwards he thanks me for telling him the song. I think he will add it to his repertoire.

Fortress with lighthouse - military is still in there.

Conversations with people who speak only Spanish are complicated, because apart from a few greetings and food orders, the language is still foreign to me. At most, words in Papiamento come to mind, but they don't necessarily make sense in Spanish. So we have a chat with the help of Google's translator. The internet connection in the building can - um - be improved. Like in Germany in the flat country. Sometimes the phone has a bar, sometimes it doesn't. But that is not Cubacel's fault, it is due to the tall building into which the radio signal finds its way difficult.

Magnificent hotel with a spherical taxi

Google can also translate the spoken word, but we do not use it. The data volume is strictly limited, comparatively expensive and must be used for YouTube. We write on the landlord's smartphone. The Spanish keyboard corrects me again and again with the English entries. I save translations between German and Spanish right away, you can't write properly German on a Spanish keyboard.

Maury complains that prices have risen so exorbitantly. A beer would now cost 100 pesos ($ 4), that would be a scam and people would be angry on the street. The price of a pound of pork with a rind and bone has risen from 50 pesos to 150 pesos. All of his friends are angry with the government. The price of his beloved Cuban coffee would also have quadrupled. If it continued like this, people would soon have to eat one another.

Queue for bread

It's all because the peso has now somehow been pegged to the US dollar. It seems a little like 30 years ago in Germany. When the D-Mark came to the GDR and prices also rose. When people suddenly could buy goods but had no more money to pay for them. While wages are rising in Cuba, prices are rising faster. And freelance artists like our landlord are currently without any income. There is no unemployment insurance in Cuba like in Germany.

Prices are also rising in the restaurant next door, first and foremost beer prices. The host now also takes 100 pesos for a beer (instead of 75 pesos before). It's actually a cheap price, you don't pay more there than on the street. He cannot make a profit with it. Absurdly enough, spaghetti costs 75 pesos, so a meal is cheaper than a drink. In general, the food in the restaurants in Havana is good and cheap.

Festival of cigars and rum

Traveling in Covid times is complicated. I have already written about traveling by rail in Cuba. But sightseeing in Havana is also difficult. All museums are closed, there are no open dance halls with salsa.

Water sellers on the street corner

The friend of our landlady is a professional violin player and is usually always booked for dance events. Since these are not currently taking place, he currently has no income. That is hard. For us it means that we can only walk around in Havana and let the impressions work on us. However, this is much better than nothing.

Shrine to a baseball player

We feel free in Havana. Although we had to leave our address in Havana to the authorities in Santiago, we do not have the impression that we are under surveillance. It felt different in Santiago. There we could sometimes see the same people standing in different corners of the city and paddling on their phones. That didn't really feel good there.

Church near the old town

The pictures that I blog about this text have only rudimentarily to do with the text itself. I cannot write an illuminating report for most of the pictures, because they are just street scenes from Havana. Instead I would like to formulate my impressions and write about what we have learned from the locals.

Same church inside

Let's start with the Cigar and Rum Festival. The first of January is a public holiday like ours, the second of January is also a public holiday, this is the anniversary of an event of the revolution. That's why Cubans start celebrating on New Year's Eve. The traditional dish is a pig that is grilled and turned over a fire for hours. You can't call it suckling pig, the Cubans already roll whole pigs or at least pork halves over the fire. They also drink rum.

Family carriage

As a result, most partying people are still a little unfit on the morning of January 1st. So we could experience it with our landlady, who was difficult to get out of bed, but otherwise the streets in Havana were pretty empty until the early afternoon. Then life slowly develops, and the cigar sellers and rum marketers are on the road again. In fact, it's pretty legal at the Cigar and Rum Festival. The employees of the cigar factories, rum factories or coffee plantations are allowed to bring their products to the man or woman on their own account.

Truck with bullet holes in front of the Revolution Museum

It's already the man. I haven't seen a single woman on the street with a cigar in her mouth. Instead, in the first few days of January you can see a lot of men walking around with big cigars. That makes the good price. That is basically a matter of negotiation.

Clothes dryer

We enter the premises of a cooperative. From the outside it looks like what the German real estate agent would advertise as a home improvement paradise. A block in dire need of renovation. Nobody would want to live there with us, but the building is very popular with the residents. We are shown through some backyards and we are told that all residents of the cooperative are able to renovate the building together and then live rent-free. This is how it becomes a shoe.

Prefabricated buildings

The offer is presented in a living room: cigars from the brands Cohiba, Montechristo, Romeo y Julieta and others are on the table. As I said, the price is a matter of negotiation. The Legendario is touted as the rum, which, unlike the Havana Club, shouldn't cause a headache. That all sounds very good, but we are puzzled over coffee. The “best coffee in Cuba” comes from Spar. Exactly the brand Spar that we also have.

After a short but successful round of negotiations, I buy 10 Cohibas and a bottle of rum for $ 35. The seller is a little disappointed that he can no longer sell to us, but who should smoke all those cigars? In retrospect, I'm annoyed that I haven't bought coffee. The professional violinist is as addicted to coffee as I am, but he doesn't have coffee in the house every day.

Typical bustle on the street

We take a bicycle rickshaw and let us drive a little through the streets. The first Cohiba, which is really tasty, has to believe in it. Maybe I should have bought more of it. We learned at the cooperative how to distinguish a good cigar from a bad cigar.

First of all, hold it with the tip down and turn it a little while applying light pressure. If tobacco crumbs fall out, you immediately know that it is not made from whole tobacco leaves. This is often the case with the cheap cigars that are forced on tourists on the roadside. That fits with the statement that one should definitely not buy cigars on the street.

If the cigar has passed the crumb test, the pressure test comes. With your thumb and forefinger you exert hard pressure on the cigar and squeeze it together. Then you let go of it, it has to return to its old form. If this is not the case, you are not holding a good cigar.

One of many street dogs

In addition, a cigar has to be light. It is not very heavy. Such a fat Cohiba weighs a lot less than it looks. The question of which cigar smells best can of course only be answered by connoisseurs. Besides Cohibas, I also tried Montechristo and Romeo y Julieta. The latter have a darker tobacco and are a little stronger. The Cohibas and the Churchills of Montechristo don't give each other much in my opinion.

As soon as I arrived in Santiago, I bought a couple of cigars from the brewery. They weren't bad, no comparison to the goods we sell in aluminum tubes at petrol stations. But the real cigars from Havana beat the things from the brewery by far.

Pharmacy Museum

The museums in Havana are closed. The Revolution Museum is no exception. The Museum of Modern Cuban Art is also closed and so is the Pharmacy Museum.

Pharmacy Museum

This is a special assignment for me. My former work colleague and friend Uli is in the process of setting up a pharmacy museum in Neubiberg near Munich. He asked me to visit the pharmacy museum in Havana, take pictures if possible and bring all kinds of brochures or illustrated books I can get.

The search for the museum is difficult at first. None of the taxi drivers we ask know where the museum is. Maybe I asked the question the wrong way, I asked about the historical pharmacy. We're just poor, without our phones and without the Internet. Really offline. Only Jens’s camera makes these recordings possible at all. After we initially had to give up in front of one of the three historic pharmacies because it is closed for renovation, we finally find the Reunion / Sarre pharmacy.

Pharmacy museum from the outside

Photographed from the sunny side, the representative building looks pretty closed. It's a Sunday, we want to give up and come back the next day. But as soon as we walk around the corner, we can see that the front door is open. The museum is not just a museum, but a real pharmacy where medicines are sold.


There isn't much going on in the pharmacy on Sunday. Or maybe they don't have any medication. We ask if we can take photos. We may. Then we get a friendly explanation that the museum is closed. Jens takes a few pictures through the front door when suddenly the pharmacist comes and indicates that we should follow her. We are guided through some of the rooms in the museum and Jens takes photo after photo.


We cannot go upstairs and the rooms in front of which a security fuzzy sits are also taboo for us. But we get some nice shots together.

Part of the showcase up close

All sorts of tools that a pharmacist needed to make the medicine can be found here in the showcases. When the museums have reopened, I can only recommend a visit to this museum if you are already in Havana.

Historic pharmacist scales

Unfortunately I can only bring the pictures for Uli, he has already received a Dropbox link. Uli, feel free to use the images on your website. The highlight of our very private unofficial tour is the opening of the door of the safe, in which the expensive ingredients and drugs were.


In the end we donate $ 10 for the restoration of the museum or for a dinner for the pharmacists. I dont know. Anyway, it was a great private tour and the exhibits are nice to look at. In any case, you won't find a museum like this on every corner.

Apothecary jars


In the morning we fall tired from the train and have no idea where to go to our quarters. We stop a taxi at the train station and let us drive us. The taxi driver asks $ 15. We have no idea whether the price is okay or not, nor do we know the geography of Havana. So we agree and after about 10 minutes we are in front of our “private house”, our apartment for the next few days. It is the morning of January 1st 2021. I ring the doorbell like crazy, nothing happens. Only after a few minutes does the door open and a young woman with a completely tired look lets us in. First she wants to rent two of her three rooms to us, but one is enough for us, it costs half.

The living room". It has no roof and when it rains it rains in. Otherwise very nice.

Of course we have to pay for the room in advance, people don't have any money. Our landlady disappears with the ID cards to write down our details. When I get my ID back, the visa is missing. After several minutes of searching, she found it somewhere on the ground; it just fell out of the pass. It would be fatal for me if I lost this visa.

After we have rested, we take a walk through the neighborhood. In search of a meal, we keep walking towards Old Havana. Most restaurants are closed on January 1st. A taxi driver wants to drive us around, but also knows a restaurant that is open. So we are already full.

Old Havana. There is not much going on.

Not much is going on in the streets. Nevertheless there are still enough taxi drivers who offer us their taxi. It is the festival of cigars, the workers in the factory can sell cigars on the street for a small price. Rum and coffee are also on offer. We don't buy anything, we are very tired anyway. Here we see a beautiful street scene with a view of the Capitol.

Later in the day the streets are more crowded

We are repeatedly asked whether we need a taxi, want to change money, buy cigars or a woman. We are asked where we come from. When the Cubans hear that we are from Germany, the words “all clear” and “all paletti” keep coming up. Apparently every Cuban has a relative, acquaintance or friend in Germany. At least that's what they say. There was only one person who wasn't really familiar with geography, he located Manchester in Germany. From a distance it's only just off the mark.

Close up of the Capitol

After a two-hour walk, a meal and a few meters more on the asphalt, we've had enough. We run back to our quarters. We spend the rest of the day more or less in the living room.

Unfortunately our landlady has an empty refrigerator. So for dinner we go outside again and visit the restaurant next door. It's on the corner, it's around the corner, so you could call it a corner pub.

CanChanChaRa - on the corner. Our quarters are two doors to the left.

A meal here costs between three and five dollars. A beer costs three dollars. So we can fill our stomachs with no worries. The food is really good again. It tastes different than in Santiago. We learn later that each region in Cuba has its own style of cuisine. We want to come back, it's cheap, good and practical.

View from the balcony of the regular restaurant

If you sit on the balcony of the restaurant, you have the view as in the picture above. It looks like it's late at night, but the sun sets in Havana at 6 p.m. at this time of year. Two hours later there is nothing going on on the streets, at least not on January 1st outside the old town.

Drone flights prohibited. Taken at the Capitol

In the next blog I will describe what the drone flights are all about. Now I still have to work a bit, we have brought so many pictures from Havana. In the coming days we will continue sailing towards Aruba, Bonaire or Curacao. That is why I have to prepare the contributions today.