Arikok with Barbara

Happy 25th birthday, Felix. I prepared this post before we left Aruba, it was supposed to appear today, which it is doing. I just have to rewrite it a little, because after all we are no longer on the ocean, but back in Aruba.

Conchi, the Papiamento word means "bowl"

As the last attraction in Aruba, we saved the national park before leaving. We rent a four-wheel drive jeep for the day. With it we drive into the Arikok National Park and straight away over the off-road route to the Conchi natural pool. There we can relax for over an hour before a large group of other tourists shows up.

Here you can see the bowl very nicely

After swimming, come the caves. We visit the two caves. As with our last visit, the second cave is the nicer one. From one room to the next it goes underground. The individual rooms are nicely lit because the ceiling has collapsed in several places.

In the cave

Barbara, who bought a new camera a few days ago, is still putting it through its paces. She takes photos enthusiastically and will bring home many beautiful pictures from Aruba.

Even if she comes to Europe with KLM and not with Sissi, she will definitely remember this trip.

Barbara with her new camera

Welcome on board, Barbara

Today is Friday, the day of German beer. That's why I want to buy a few cans of German beer in the superfood, but apparently they also celebrate this day in Aruba. Wherever there is German beer on the shelf, everything has been swept clean today. This is a pity.

One Happy Art Island

Since Monday we have a new crew member on board, Barbara. Barbara and I have known each other for decades. As a new SKS owner, she doesn't miss the chance to take on the night shift for us and make sure that we get enough sleep on our Atlantic crossing. When she arrived on board on Monday, she fell into a deep sleep after ten minutes. The journey from Frankfurt via Amsterdam to Aruba was exhausting.

Blooming Divi Divi tree

We start the tourist program on Tuesday. We drive all over the island with the rental car that we have for a week. We pass a flowering Divi Divi tree on the road to San Nicolas. You don't see them that often, the flowers look very nice.

The blossoms. The tree is almost dead

The sightseeing program will continue until Sunday. We tackle two or three items on the program every day. This also gives us the opportunity to repeat one or the other program point if something has gone wrong - for example with the photos. That's a very funny story ...

Barbara, Jörg and Jens - the new crew of Sissi

In Germany, many shops are currently closed, including the specialty shops where you can buy a camera. That's why Barbara flew to Aruba only equipped with her phone. We suggested she buy the camera here, after all, there is now a lot of space in her luggage. She had to carry a fair amount of spare parts to Aruba. After a short walk in Oranjestad, Barbara was able to purchase her new camera.

Barbara photographs street art

What better way to take your new camera for a test drive than photographing the beautiful pictures that have been painted on the walls of so many houses in San Nicolas. There are different lighting situations, sometimes the viewing angles are not so easy and finally the very mundane operation of the new device.

Also called "angel"

Now I know your new camera very well. Somehow it is possible to activate any camera functions while using the nose and to change important settings for exposure. At some point, Barbara realizes that many of the photos are overexposed. A few minutes later, the camera suddenly shoots a series of images that turn out to be series of exposures. A few minutes later I finally find out how to turn it off again. Funny. My ten-year-old Nikon looks pretty old at times. However, the lens can still keep up.

Barbara is walking at Mangle Halto Beach

We end the excursion to San Nicolas on the beach of Mangel Halto. This is a very beautiful beach, on which only a few tourists, but all the more locals. Fortunately, the camera stays in the car, because the current in Mangel Halto is so strong that it pulls Barbara's feet away. That ends with very wet clothes. Of course, this moment is not documented.

The sea rages by the natural pool

Of course, we also go into the water on purpose. One of my favorites is the natural pool at the gold mine ruins. As always, the sea outside the pool is rough. And as always, the pool is good to endure.

You can endure it here.

The other visitors disappear after a few minutes. Most of them simply don't have enough time because they are part of a guided tour or have to return the rental car straight away. This allows us to relax completely and spend a nice hour and a half. Because if sailors have one thing, it's time.

After a refreshing bath

The sailor has time and the sailor doesn't. My time together with Soraida is coming to an end for the time being. That makes Soraida sad and it doesn't make me happier either. On the one hand, the spirit of optimism grows, the joy of the sailing days and the fact that we will get a little closer to home every day. On the other hand, we both get sentimental when we think about the long separation ahead. It will be half a year before we can meet again.

Jens cut this little video from our visit to the pool.

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.

church

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.

Altstadtgasse

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.

Salesroom

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.

Showcase

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.

safe

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

Havana

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.

Adventure railroad

End of the radio silence. We are back in Santiago. We are still looking for a solution to publish a nice blog with pictures again, hopefully that won't take long. Unfortunately, we learned that Jamaica is still closed. So we're looking for other destinations and maybe come up with a surprise. But now to our trip to Havana.

First of all: I will never again make a complaint about Deutsche Bahn. Never again in my life, I swore to myself here in Cuba.

The timetable is a dream. There is a train between Santiago and Havana that runs every four days. He leaves Santiago on the first day and arrives in Havana the following day. There it goes back a day later, on the fourth day the train is back in Santiago. The first adventure is buying the ticket. The ticket is available with the associated seat reservation in special agencies or at the train station. Unfortunately, I was unable to get to the relevant counter. Probably because I'm not a local. But Norbert was able to help me get the ticket for the connection to Havana. We just couldn't get the ticket back in Santiago, because there are new fares in the new year and nobody knew about them at the end of December.

So Jens and I go on December 31st. around noon to the train station in Santiago. Before we go to the taxi, Norbert asks us if we have also packed warm things. He's reserved first class for us, the wagons there are air-conditioned and really, really cold. We ask him to get us a second class ticket for the return trip and to get some warm clothes out of the boat.

The train is supposed to leave at 4:30 p.m., so we're at the station at 1 p.m. Why? Because that is imperative. The reservation must now be converted into a registration. You have to go to the appropriate counter. There you show your passport and the reservation is checked on the computer. The ticket is then stamped on the back.

Now we can leave the station again and buy a few more sandwiches for the trip. The small snack bar opposite the train station has everything a traveler needs for the journey. However, there is no beer, like almost everywhere in Cuba. The turn of the year casts its shadow ahead, the Cubans have bought all the beer supplies on the island for their own purposes, so no cans are left on the shelf. Okay, that's a minor problem, there is enough rum after all.

At 3:30 p.m. we were sitting in the shade in front of the train station when suddenly the doors of the waiting hall were closed. Besides us, there are several dozen other travelers at the door, and there is almost a riot. We can see from outside how the temperature is measured for all those waiting. When the temperature measurement official has checked all the travelers, the doors are opened again. Now we can also go to the waiting hall, when we enter the tickets are checked for the first time, our hands are disinfected and our temperature is measured.

The gates to the platform open around 4 p.m. The tickets are checked a second time, we are sent to the first car. There the conductress is at the door, checking our tickets a third time. A ticket check also meant that we had to show our passport every time. The conductress notes our names on a clipboard, the seats printed on our tickets are assigned to us and we can finally sit down. The air conditioning hums violently, it is already quite fresh in the car, but the sun is still coming in from outside. Televisions are mounted on the ceiling and play a kind of western. In Spanish. Nobody can avoid it, the sound comes through the car speakers.

The wagons are only a few years old and come from China. There is nothing wrong with that, China has a huge rail network and they can build trains. The seats are very comfortable and the legroom is exorbitant. There isn't that much space on German trains. The wagons are also very clean and they have two (!) Working toilets per wagon. Deutsche Bahn has long since abandoned this concept. Only the TV and the air conditioning are annoying.

On departure, the conductress stands in the middle of the car and makes the announcement, as you know her from our trains. We're going to Havana, we stop here and there on the way, and and and ... Meanwhile the western continues to play on the TV, only the sound has been turned down a little.

Then there is the fourth ticket inspection. The conductress checks that everyone is seated in the right place. Whoever sat in the wrong place is now sent to the right place. Slowly the train rumbled out of Santiago over somewhat worn tracks. The landscape changes quickly, it's wonderfully green outside. We drive through banana plantations and jungles. Great. In addition to the conductor, there are two policemen in each car. And the head conductor. Four people are responsible for around 50 travelers.

After just under an hour, the train stops at the first station. I forgot the name again. But it looks a lot like at German railway stations in the country. A platform for passenger traffic and next to it a dozen freight tracks with rusty and rotten freight cars. However, they are all in use. That is the difference. In Cuba, many goods are still transported by rail.

After the first stop, the conductress comes running through the car with a trolley, as is common in airplanes. She sells a sandwich and a small bottle of soda for 5 pesos. Five pesos is about 20 cents. However, the bun is not worth more. It's dry and topped with gristly ham and tasteless cheese. The soda is sweet as a card. The offer is widely used, you can buy as much as you want. Our sandwiches from the shop across the street are better. We also baked bread for the trip, which beats local bread by a long way.

At the fifth and final ticket inspection, we no longer need to show the passport, the ticket is torn off and the conductor collects the torn off sections. Since the paper is not perforated, she meticulously folds the tickets and then tears them off with a practiced movement.

Around 10 p.m. we had to endure several music videos, propaganda videos for tourism in Cuba, a pirated copy of a Steve Martin film (English with Spanish subtitles) and a Spanish romance film. The film terror comes from a DVD player that begins to jump on switches or heavy rail joints. There is a DVD player in each car, which is apparently started one after the other by the DVD officer and then plays the same program with a slight time lag of around 30 seconds. From where I know this? I could hear it when the doors between the cars were open. At 10 p.m. they turn off the film program and the lights in the car are also turned off. We can finally try to sleep.

The lights on the train come on again punctually at midnight. The train boss himself runs from seat to seat and wishes every passenger a happy new year. Then the lights go out again and we try to sleep while our feet slowly freeze into chunks of ice in the no-sock sandals.

After little sleep, we arrive in Havana the next day at around 10 a.m. with a delay of only two hours. We take a taxi to our quarters and have to warm up first.


We received second class tickets for the return trip. The number of controls is exactly the same. Even the spacing of the seats is the same in second class as in first class. The new second class fare is identical to the old first class fare. A trip costs 95 pesos per person, around four dollars.

The advantage in the second class is the absence of video screens, the absence of air conditioning and the ability to open the windows while driving. This is real train travel. I can listen to the clacking of the wheels over the rail joints, the people talking and I can enjoy the smell of Cuba. It always smells kind of burnt. Somewhere people burn their garbage, the locomotive burns sulphurous diesel, somewhere there is always a factory that is sooty and spreads its black smoke over high chimneys in the country. Sometimes it smells of the jungle, of a lot of green.

In addition to the ticket control, there is also the Covid control on the way. Each passenger must write down their name, ID number and the destination of the trip. Why? We have fixed seats, the ID numbers are also stored in the system. On the other hand, it doesn't matter, we're still on this train for hours and have nothing better to do.

The rolls now have new prices. What was available for five pesos on the outward journey now costs 50 pesos. What luck that we looked after each other again before the trip. We also got our stomachs really full again in a restaurant. The travelers protested loudly about the new prices on the train. Not only there, everywhere in Cuba there is ranting about the new food prices. Prices have risen massively, but salaries have not. Our landlord said that people would eat each other if it continued like this. I am curious to see how the situation in Cuba will develop over the next few months. Meat prices have risen over 150 percent and bread prices by 500 percent.

After our arrival in Santiago we first have to wait on the train. When we are finally allowed to get out and walk along the platform, we first pass a passenger disinfector. He stands there with a kind of syringe, like the one we use here for weed killers in the garden, and disinfects all passengers and their luggage. Then we pass a station where fever is measured. Now we are finally released from the train station and can take a taxi to the marina.

Norbert is pretty happy that our trip went so well. He tried to contact us in our quarters several times. Unfortunately, our landlady was always out and about at night and partied, but she didn't hear her phone during the day. We are also pretty tired after the night drive and go to bed early. I still had to write this blog. So much time has to be. I will never again complain about Deutsche Bahn, about the possibility of buying a ticket at the train station and then getting on a train, which usually leaves once an hour.

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year! When these lines appear, the train is leaving for Havana. Like last year, we cannot take part in a big New Year's party, but are on the way.

The situation with the Internet has not yet changed, but there is always a solution to a problem in Cuba. That's why I can write a few more lines today, I've found a real computer that is connected to the Internet. You ask your way through, you help yourself. The people here are great and helpful.

We visited El Cobre with Eddi in his little yellow taxi. The traffic in Cuba is fascinating. On the one hand, Eddi curves us around potholes where you could park an elephant, on the other hand everything is friendly, you help each other around the potholes. The landscape is a dream. Everything is green, no comparison to the desert in Aruba. The view to the left and right of the road is a view of the jungle. In addition to the fully occupied buses and a few taxis, there are many horse-drawn carriages and donkey carts on the street.

The animal-drawn vehicles have their advantages, they simply fill up with the grass that grows on the roadside. There are long lines in front of the petrol stations for the cars. Trucks waited half a kilometer for their diesel at a gas station. That is Cuba too. There isn't much and for what there is you have to stand in line and wait for hours.

El Cobre, unfortunately I can't link it, is probably the holiest of all churches in Cuba. Several kilometers beforehand, vendors on the roadside are offering sunflower wreaths and candles that can be set up in the church. The closer we get to the church, the more stalls there are. Eddi stops at a point where we have a great view of the scenery.

Right at the church we first have to exchange fists to greet Eddi's friend, the new Covid greeting instead of a handshake. We still leave the religious knick-knacks on the shelf, no matter how nice the seller is. Instead, we turn our steps to the cathedral, where both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict (Papa Ratzi) have already read mass. It is impressive. Unfortunately, I still can't offer any photos. The fact that we can use the computer with internet access is a sensation. That's Cuba. With their internet connection, people only have 40 hours of internet a month, but they share that without compensation.

After we have left the church, Eddi drives us back. We drive through the alleys of Santiago to find the fruit of Zapote somewhere. We recently got two of them that taste great. They only exist in the Caribbean and only on islands with high mountains, such as Cuba or Jamaica or something. According to hearsay, they are not exported to Europe, are sweet, have a peculiar texture and taste that Jens and I have never known before. Great. Unfortunately we can't find the delicious fruits. Eddi promises us that if he finds any, he will get us some. It doesn't seem that easy.

We will continue to book him as our “personal” taxi driver, he never disappointed us. Photo stops, shopping, and the broken English clues about the sights make it what it is. Plus his taxi works, that's not the rule here.

It may be that there will be radio silence again in the next few days, I have no idea how things are with the Internet and the access options in Havana. We don't want to carry too much luggage with us, the computers stay in Santiago.