Sunday, 28 April 2013

Music & Dance ~ The Soul of Cuba ….. April 2013

Land Travel to Trinidad, Cuba:  18 – 21 April 2013

Wow – What a Gem!P4180037

We were relieved to step off the dirty smelly Viazul bus from Cienfuegos, we had drawn the short straw and were seated at the rear next to the overflowing toilet….enough said !!!. Still, the journey had been short and the scenery interesting.  It seemed like every Casa Particular (B&B) owner in town was there to meet the bus, most of them held guests names high on cards but we hadn’t prebooked anywhere and wanted to take our time to get our bearings before committing to accommodation.

As we started to wander the small cobbled streets it was apparent that we had arrived in a truly amazing place. Set 12km’s inland, elevated in the foothills of the Sierra del Escambray, this small town has had a mixed history since it was founded by the Spanish in the early 1500’s.   The mix of inhabitants has included pioneers and pirates, mercenaries and missionaries, slaves and sugar plantation workers, refugees and revolutionists.
P4180048 This diverse blend of races have all left their mark over the years, but the architecture is Spanish and it is the best example of a small town we have seen outside mainland Spain.  Handsome buildings line the cobbled streets around the Plaza Major, the Church takes pride of place at the top of the square and several nearby buildings have been restored and converted into all manor of museums, galleries and restaurants.
A restored mansion showcases the wealth amassed by the sugar estate owners, expensive period furnishings adorn the rooms, crystal and silver sparkles, and elaborate artwork drapes the walls.  
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beautiful colours on the buildings off Plaza Major in the early evening light
It’s All About The Music

For the locals life goes on around the coach loads of tourists arriving daily. For many of them it seems their life revolves around music and dance, so prevalent in Cuba but seemingly more-so here.
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There were groups of musicians “jamming away” from the moment we stepped out in the morning until the wee small hours, it seems they never stop.  Street corners, plazas, open doorways, steps – anywhere they can set up and play – any time, they are there.
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And then there is The Salsa!P4180039

Not to be forgotten are the amazing dancers we saw nightly, most of them were locals just out enjoying the music and “salsa-ing” away but there were a handful of tourists too who had all the steps and let fly.  The faster the music, the faster they danced, their feet just didn’t seem to touch the ground on the cobbled streets, they were sublime.  We sat spellbound watching, listening and sipping on Mojitos, if you want to find Cuba’s musical soul – Trinidad is the place to visit.

P4190065 We had very late nights enjoying the music so our couple of days there didn’t seem to have so many hours in them!

We enjoyed a look around the small museums and through the church, wandered around the myriad of tourist stalls selling all manor of items from plastic trinkets to some excellent artwork and fine embroidery.  We hiked up into the hills above Trinidad but it was exceptionally hot work, commonsense prevailed before we expired in the heat and we returned to the shady streets to discover life in the non touristy part of Trinidad.

Snapshots of the lively cobbled back streets
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Are these gents selling these fruit  or are they just chatting?  The front yard barber – are the others clients or just sitting around watching?
A peek in through a chicken wire window discovered this dusty cigarette factory.
  The whole in the white wall is the butchers shop- see the carcass hanging between the 2 heads.
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 A couple of colourful fresh produce vendors with the best quality we had seen
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 At last ~ the classic Cuban scene, donkey, cart, old man wearing straw hat chewing on cigar – real life for some in Cuba!!!

P4190073We loved Trinidad with all its nooks and crannies to explore, wherever we ventured we felt welcome and always safe.  There was a general feeling of contentment by all the locals.  Everyone seemed happy with their lot, going about their daily business.
We prebooked the Transtur bus to take us back to Marina Hemingway in Havana.  A car collected us as planned from our Casa Particular just by the Plaza Major to ferry us to the bus depot.  We collected an Italian couple enroute but we never did go to the bus terminal.  3 hours later we had had a speedy return by car to Balvenie – somewhat cramped in the back but over in no time.  We have no idea what happened to the bus!

 Whether it is communism, socialism, capitalism or whatever..ism. Just throw in enough music and dance and it all seems to work!!.

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