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Our first impressions of Cuba? It’s hard to make any assumptions as our impressions are both diverse and fragmented. The plane made it to Cuba an hour before scheduled, there were absolutely no queues, such as those that we’re used from Asia, our luggage arrived quite fast and nobody cared who we are and why do we have only one-way ticket (we were advised beforehand to buy onward ticket). The forms, which we dutifully filled out during flight (among other things, you are required to list all the electronics, which you possess and their value) weren’t even read; not even once. It was also first time for me that at the arrivals there was someone wating for me with the sign titled ‚Senora Stanisa‘ – a sight which amused me greatly. We were picked up by a friend of the owner of the ‚casa particular‘, who is in her spare time taxi driver for her neighbour 😊. For those who do not know – the ‚casa particular‘ is the most widespread of options when one wishes to stay in Cuba where locals rent out a room in their apartment (and government gets provision) and usually breakfast (and sometimes dinner) is served as well.
But let’s get back to the cab… It’s hard to describe the condition of the age-old Lada Niva, which was probably imported in the golden time of communist regime. In Europe such car wouldn’t even be allowed to park in front of a car dealership, let alone have it marked as ‚road-worthy‘. To sum it up, the car did have a sturdy metallic frame, four wheels, and an engine – but this was more or less it. In my naive optimism, I tried to buckle up – of course there were not seatbelts, what I was thinking 😊 Still, overall the traffic on Cuba is somewhat steady and could best be described as a state of near chaos, but one should get used to it eventually – I hope!
Only a few turns and stop signs from the airport and we arrived in… the past. All of the photos that you see from Cuba cannot replace the moment when you have a feeling that you have just driven into 1950. Old trucks, spotless American Chevrolets, driven by old grandpas wearing straw hats and smoking cigars and spotless cabriolets, draped in all shades of pastel, festooned with ancient upholstered seats, out of which latest Latino-music-hits can be heard. The old colonial buildings, adorned with countless fabulous facades, mixed with the grey Soviet-style blocks give the impression that the whole place is shrouded in the fog of the past. Even though we prepared ourselves for such a sight, you can’t help yourself and you half expect that someone will shout: “Haha, this was just a joke, it’s not real!” and the mirage will disappear. But no – welcome to Havana. 😊