Trinidad – one of the most famous icons of Cuba – it sounds beautiful and it is beautiful.
In May 2015 we decide to do a trip throughout Cuba , we want to travel the whole island with all its nice locations and bays , its nature and its great music – a country that is more than poor and that is so much different.
We start in Havana and drive towards south east of the Island. The roads are very simple land roads and there is so much to see – the beautiful nature , fruit trees; mango trees or banana trees , many different types of palm trees , people on the road waiting for a bus , small little villages , people driving on very old motorbikes , old cars or people riding a horse on the street, people sitting and taking a rest , sitting in their swinging chairs or selling some fruit or cigarettes . A peaceful and quiet country where everybody seems to be happy .
Our goal is to arrive at Santiago de Cuba and on our way we stop here and there at a lot of nice destinations which are all very distinctive for the history of Cuba .On half way we visit the region of Sanctus Spiritus and the ancient town of Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios.
In the morning of a beautiful day , we decide to go to Trinidad to visit this marvelous city and to have a nice lunch over there.
Once we arrive there on the Plaza Major we recognize that there is a festival in the city and all people gathered on the place to listen to the music and to have some fun .
Cuba as an island played a major role for the Caribbean region after the discovery of the North American continent by the Spanish as Havana became a very important port and was a bridgehead between the American Continent and Spain in the Carribean Sea .
Trinidad as a city was founded in 1514 and owed its existence to the sugar industry that flourished in the valley de los Ingenios ( Valley of Sugar Mills ) located about 12 km nearby in the 18th and 19th century .
I think it is hard to describe the beauty of this little old city , the unique atmosphere , the Cuban people and the beautiful sounds of Salsa music…
It is a walk back in time as all the houses and buildings around are from the past centuries – all in yellow , green , blue and pink color between their ancient cobble stone streets and old cars .
People are sitting under the sun and watching us , so do the street dogs . Somehow you constantly listen to some music that is playing somewhere nearby.
The city is very clean , the colors are very bright as the sun is shining . Most of the buildings are from the 16th and also from the 18th and 19th century when the sugar industry and slave trade was really booming over here and bringing wealth to the region .They grew sugar cane , cattle and tobacco with the help of African slaves.
The colonial type of houses with their terracotta tiled roofs , the colonial mansions with their balconies , the bell tower ,the picturesque Plaza Major , The Palacio Cantero ( Museo Historico Municipal ) are significant landmarks of the city. On the upper end of the Plaza Major there is the largest church of Cuba , the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad that is housing a very well known and worshipped wooden statue , the Christ of the True Cross.
On our way we pass by the Palacio Brunet and the Casa del Arteman Ortiz ( Art Gallery ) which was built in 1809 by Ortiz de Zuniga , a slave trader and mayor of Trinidad and which is now used as an art gallery and selling paintings to the public .
On the streets the famous characteristic old cars of the 1950 s of Cuba can be seen – colorful , huge and beautiful.
During our walk through the city we can partly also have a look inside the houses of the Cuban people .They are all very modest , all have some swinging chairs , no glass windows but some fence , a TV and some little furniture but thats all.
The weather is hot and we decide to get some famous Trinidad Chanchanchara drink in the Chanchanchara Bar in Trinidad . The drinks are served in pottery cups and are composed of rom , honey, lemon and some ice .We can have a rest here in the shadow of the garden. They play Cuban live music. We mingle around for a while.
On our way through the streets we recognize a bar that is dedicated to the “Beatles” – a forbidden fruit in Cuba .The Communist – run island refused the Beatles as they were seen as symbols of the Western World and feared for their Western influence to the local people in the 60 and 70s but later in the 1980s, when the Cold War ended, John Lennon was well accepted and celebrated as a “revolutionary” hero by Fidel Castro . Since then the people were in love with the “Beatles” and even parks and statues were dedicated in memory of them . Later in 2017 it was a great event when the ” Beatles ” were allowed to give a concert in Havana.
We walk further down the cobble streets to our restaurant where we will have some good lunch – it is quite hot.
All of a sudden somebody is knocking at my shoulder – I look back to see of who it is … an elderly lady who is vividly talking to me in Cuban language but I cant understand what she is telling me .I really listen very carefully in order maybe to catch a word or to understand something from her mimics but really no idea what makes her so excited and what she wants to explain .
I try to tell her that I cannot understand and walk further as I really have no clue.
The same happens again – again she is knocking on my shoulder and talking and talking but again I can’t understand what she wants.
The same happens once more and with patience I try to listen to her as I am really also curious to know what the problem is…and…I think this time I understand 🙂
She shows me my Kipling bag. Usually these bags have a kind of monkey at the zipper .From all her excited behavior and with the help of my imagination I understand that she has a grandchild and is asking me whether she can have that monkey as a toy for her ….oh my goodness , it was really difficult !
Of course she can and so I am just trying to detach the monkey from my bag and giving it to her . She is so happy ….I am really touched . There are so many children in the Western world who have so many expensive toys at home and they don’t care and here in that poverty this little monkey is like a diamond for this elderly lady as they don’t own anything here .At least I am happy that we could understand each other and that I could help her with her wish . I am just imagining the little child receiving that little monkey today from Grandma and how happy it will be…
We pass by a school and could have a look into the classroom . There is their lessons schedule on the wall and there are always some photos of Fidel Castro or Che Guvera at the entrance – the school furniture and the classroom is very modest and simple again.
We finally arrive in our little restaurant that has some nice dishes for us but the nicest part – there are 4 musicians just standing at the entrance, wearing white light clothes and playing wonderful Cuban Music – what a joy.
We have a delicious lunch with great music and a fine rest in this beautiful town, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988 and it is one of the best reserved ancient cities in the region of the North American Sphere .
We leave this gorgeous site being enchanted . The music is following us .
In the afternoon we want to have a look at the valley de los Ingenious – 3 valleys which are connected with each other called San Luis ,Santa Rosa and Meyer which cover a space of about 225 km2 . About more than 50 sugar mills with nearly 11.000 slaves were working in these valleys in the 19th century .The Spanish and the British imported about 600.000 slaves from Africa , India and China in the same century to Cuba and slavery was abolished on the island in 1886 .
The Valley de los Ingenios is a testimony to the sugar production industry and a living museum of those days and there are about 75 ancient sugar mills , plantation houses ,mansions , barracks and other facilities of the industry in this region.
We have the opportunity to visit one of the most well know ones – Manaca Iznaga .
When we enter the site there is a path where today the local people are selling some cotton table cloth , clothes , scarves ,decorations , some souvenirs , some fruit or fruit juice to the tourists – everywhere you see the white cloth hanging on the lines .
Walking further you arrive at the huge hazienda which is a former colonial mansion and at the right hand side you can see the observation tower and its ancient bell in the garden .The tower was used as a slave lookout in the ancient sugar cane fields . Once you climb up the tower you have a wide view to the whole region .
What a feeling to remember the people , the slaves ,working here for the wealth of others in town. Nearly all sugar mills stopped working and nowadays there are just the ruins of those refineries which gave Trinidad such a great wealth and splendid times in the past centuries and is just a part of mournful slave history by today .
We leave the site in the late afternoon as we are a little tired with many impressions of the day – it was really great !
Now it is time to have a swim in the Caribbean Sea at the sand banks of our hotel .
The water is very warm – I never swam in such warm ocean water so far. The sand is white and very soft. The water is refreshing our body and soul.
We observe the nice sun dawn at the beach and are curious for the next days to come in beautiful Cuba.