Taking a bus from Trinidad to Santiago took some 13 hours so the whole day yesterday. My mum told me that the pre-organized tours they propose to tourists traveling to Cuba often don’t even include Santiago de Cuba because it is so far. Or if they do, the trip is made by plane. But I don’t mind, I liked sitting in the bus, writing, listening to music and talking with other passengers. The weather was sunny the whole day and we passed by many other cities such as Sancti Spiritus, Camagüay, Las Tunas, Holguin and Bayamo. The view from the bus window remained mostly the same all the time: fields, plantations, small villages. Horses, cows, goats. However, when approaching the south, it appeared to be somehow more modern but maybe it was just in my mind. Santiago de Cuba is the second biggest city and used to be the capital of Cuba for a short while in the 16th century. It is said to be the heart of traditional Cuban music and a combination of cultures from all around the Caribbean.
In Trinidad I decided that I should, after all, try to cut my budget and find a cheaper accommodation here in Santiago. The thing is, when I let the hosts in my casas book a room for me in the next place, they always charge me the same price because they know that I will pay it. As I started with paying 30 CUC per night they always charge me 30 even if there are casas with rooms for 25 or even 20. So when abuela C asked me if I had a place to stay in Santiago I said that I would just walk around and find something when I got there. As expected, she said that it was not a good idea. Since Santiago is a big city and the bus station is not in the center, she thought it would be dangerous to walk alone in the evening. So I didn’t argue but let her call a friend and book a room for me. I also talked to her and I must say she sounded lovely. And I must admit that after the 13-hour bus ride when I finally arrived to Santiago it was a relief that everything was organized and that I was picked up from the station. Once again, why complicate your life when you don’t have to? Besides, this time it doesn’t even matter because S and H are coming tomorrow after a stop in Bayamo so they will share the room with me. Lucky me, I can divide the price by three and I will have roommates! Here in Santiago I am staying with Senora Z, her three children (all about my age) and numerous friends and housekeepers who hang around here all the time. The house is close to the historical city center, not as beautiful as in Trinidad but still very nice and of course they have a garden and a rooftop terrace as well. Z is adorable (I didn’t expect anything else), so are her children. Everyone is saying that Santiago is dangerous and that I should be extra careful with my things. So I decided not to carry my Lumia with me, thus the pictures are taken with my old iPhone. However, I don’t think this is less safe than other cities, people always exaggerate.
I started exploring the city with some errands I had to run (bus station, bank, internet) and then went strolling around in the center, called Casco Historico. I kept going with my new favorite hobby, photographing houses and life on the streets. The houses are bigger than in Trinidad and look older and more modest and unpretentious, even a bit run-down. Doors and windows are left open again and there are rocking chairs in each home and on every porch. The city stretches up and down in all directions so it is very hard to orientate. It looks like a big city, there are real roads, traffic lights, cars and motorcycles. Boulevards, shops and parks. But even if Santiago is big, the ambience is very laidback and southern-city like.
At the central plaza Parque Céspedes and church Cathedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción:
My guidebook says the culture in Santiago has been influenced by other Caribbean islands, like Jamaica and Haiti, as well by Africa countries. It is true that there are more black people here than in Havana for example and in a way it looks a bit like in Jamaica. J, you would like it here. People seem to be very friendly, men and woman, and not as much after money than in Havana. A guy who started chatting with me on the street actually bought me coffee instead of tricking me into buying something for him (btw I like the Cuban coffee it is so sweet!) We went to a very nice café called Café la Isabélica and joined some friends of his. One woman was so pretty that I had to take a picture with her. We were arguing for a long time about which one of us has more beautiful hair, although in my opinion there is nothing to argue about. I would love to have her tanned skin and dark features, look how pale and colorless I look next to her!
Some interesting pics from the streets:
There is music everywhere, especially on a street called Calle Heredia.
When the girls arrived we walked to the Malécon (a general name for all the seaside promenades, I get it now) to enjoy a beautiful sunset and then went dancing to Casa de la Musica. We danced not only salsa but also batchata, lambara and merengue. I feel like I’m finally getting a hint of how to dance salsa, but I still look ridiculous.
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!