Cuba, a small island country, has many interesting historical claims to fame.
It was the first land set upon by Chris Columbus and ignited the Spanish American war with the sinking (or possible scuttling) of the U.S.S. Maine.
In recent times, Cubans have been in the middle of a nuclear showdown, opening the door for the Americans to justify illegal overt and covert operations, not to mention an embargo, to maintain control over its' 'sphere of influence.' They may have even indirectly been implicated in the assassination of JFK.
Of course most of us are familiar with the lighter side of this island nation; the cigars and rum, the fantastic music and dancing, and the colorful personalities like Jose Marti, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and of course little Pepe over at La Casa Blu.
Praguers know how adversity can adversely affect ones liver, our man in Havana, shows us the ropes (watch out Ali), and puts the drinks on his tab.
Nobody flies directly from Prague. We checked into flying out of other cities and finally decided to take the 26000Kč Iberian flight from Vienna via a one night stopover in Madrid.
Off to a good start spending a hellacious night in Madrid, drinking with an insane oil worker from Manchester, we almost missed the aeroplane in the morning. the shuttle driver who tracked us down in our rooms and had a cooler full of beer in the car and we decided to start celebrating, all the way across the Atlantic, …next stop Havana.
I'm from Canada, and my pal is Norwegian so understandably we were both delighted and horrified with the state of the weather we encountered as we hit the tarmac in Havana.
Lots of gorgeous Cuban women with their Mothers, sisters, little brothers, etc., being ferried back and forth by their Italian husband, boyfriends, sugar daddies etc. in the lines with us at customs. An American 'sex tourist' in front of us and reiterates to the customs man 'no stamp' (they will not stamp American Passports….but tourism is saving the country from total collapse, so they are reluctant to turn them away).
We had to show our passports and our 'Tourist card' which is a visa all foreigners need that costs 25 USD and must be accompanied by at least a one night booking at a state Hotel. This was all arranged by the travel office in Vienna. Off to the first bar.
They served us a beer called Bucanero , 6.5 alcohol and costing 1-3 USD on average. We learned quickly that there are a few little scams going on. One night we went out for some Cuba Libres and I realised later that they apparently water down the drinks after your third or fourth so always order straight shots of rum, a can of cola, a bit of lime and make your own concoctions. A Mojito (a mint and rum combo) or Daiquiri will cost anywhere from 2 to 5 USD.
The American dollar is still the basic currency being used in Cuba although there is the convertible peso which is pegged to the dollar at a constant rate of one to one and is used everywhere and a Cuban peso, CP (at 23 to the USD, and useful to have around) which can be used to purchase local items.
It would useful had I been a lone traveller, and not meeting old friends.
It didn't take long before I had a first hand perception of what sex tourism here was all about. Like the Czech Republic the people are open sexually. This biggest group of course are the Italians who prefer to get verbally and physically manhandled and harassed by Cuban women, than having to harass and manhandle foreign women back in Milano.
The Spaniards, Argentines, Canadians (who have a hard time getting laid even in a brothel), Germans and the English paddled around close behind.
Approximately 80% of the 1.5 million tourists to Cuba are men. So I was told and it definitely looked that way to me. In Prague it's about equal, half of which are maddogs and the other half being too sensitive to even consider sex. We did not spend much time intellectualizing with the Cubans about their present situation or their feelings about Fidel.
Salt in the wound.
I learned many years ago, after the revolution in this country, how ridiculous these conversations could be. Especially with the heaps of Berkeley types running around Prague trying to experience the remnants of some apparent socialist utopia. They never had enough bottle to come around before the revolution to see the reality. In Cuba, it is apparent that the people are suffering to some extent but nobody ever really complained to us about it.
We focused on lighter topics like the rum. You've undoubtedly heard how Ernest Hemingway liked to hang around Havana. Inspired by his drinking and fishing stories, we got really drunk a lot and caught a 100lb Blue Marlin (Ernests' was 1500lb in The Old Man and the Sea). Drinking, at Hemingway's old haunts was for Havana quite reasonable but we splurged on the Marlin fishing (4 people, 4 hours $400).
We took our catch to our friends and served it with, with rice and beans, fried plantains, and lots of Tobasco. Hemingway was debauched all over Havana but is famous for having been a patron at La Floridita, Daiquiris and at La Bodeguita de Medeo, where he drank Mojitos. Unfortunately, these two places are no longer bars but rather museums where you can get a drink.
They practice apartheid at these bars (and most hotels) which means that they have bouncers at the door who do not let in Cubans unless they are in the company of foreigners (because of tourist bombings a few years back). Needless to say we didn't return but found places around the corner that were more fun, less expensive, with no racism, and lots of women.
The women, I have to make mention of the Cuban women. They are at the opposite end of the spectrum from North American women: they are friendly, fun, beautiful, un-uptight and without any sexual hangups. This is good news for men on holiday in Cuba, where it is virtually impossible to go unaccompanied by a woman, unless you hide in your room.
They are not very shy and there are many single women at the bars and discos. So pick the best looking woman that approaches you and hang out with her because then all the other women will leave you alone. This is not prostitution although that is highly available too, especially in the night clubs.
Cuban women like to party and they do it with great enthusiasm. They think it's a great to get drunk, smoke, dance and generally carry on until you collapse… just like me! My kinda women.
All aside, I highly recommend travelling to Cuba. It was not the cheapest holiday I have ever been on but was definitely one of the most interesting. After my flight I ended up spending per day about $25 on accommodation (beyond the hotels apartheid), and another $20 on food. The private restaurants were not as good as the hotels. The Hotel Capri in fact had probably the most affordable and safest food in town (Hmmm. Lobster)
The other fixed operational cost for the day is what the chapparones get. A nice young man speaking MTV English will approach you offering to take you to a great restaurant, beautiful apartment taxi, or whatever else you might fancy.
For each transaction they receive a commission, usually from the cuban side but nonetheless your cash. This amount is inversely proportional to the amount of days you have spent in country. A perfect winter getaway.
Our man in Havana assured me there were plenty of interesting young men looking for nice girls like you as well.