Like an old lady, still with her beauty intact. She lures you in and creeps under your skin. In the end, you will not want to leave.
When you hear the word UNESCO, your expectations raise a few notches, whether it’s an old town or a place of natural beauty. The 500 year old city of Trinidad is a jewel of the old colourful colonial style. The town is surrounded by green hills and mountains which stretch out towards the Caribbean Sea, once frequented by pirates. Maybe Blackbeard sought shelter in the waters here?
The sun is low in the sky when we saunter along the cobbled streets, passing colourful worn brick walls. A dog eating from a pile of litter is looking at us. When we talk to it, he wags his tail and walks with us a while.
As the sun goes down the streets fill with music.
The Alto Cedro voy para Marc
Llego a Cueto voy para Mayarí
It is the same song almost everywhere. Just about every restaurant seems to have a house band playing. Some bands use the street as a stage. There are some talented musicians and great voices, aided by the acoustics of the buildings, where the ceilings rise far above our heads.
Guantanamera, guajiara Guantanamera …
When we wake the next morning, we go walking. Wander down to the Cadeca to exchange money. Buy bottles of water and some fruit. During the day the streets are very busy and full of people. There are tourists who take pictures, while on their way to or from a casa. There are Cubans with a busy schedule. Horse drawn carriages whizz past. Mopeds and old American cars compete for space with Viazul buses, which should find alternative routes to the narrow streets of the old city. They can barely make it around the corners. More than once we stop and stare to see if they can do it. A station on the outskirts of the town would probably be better. The sun is beating down and I feel some kind of exhaustion come crawling over me.
We climb the hill up to the radio tower to get a better view. As if he were expecting us, a guard comes out and welcomes us when we stop to take a breath. It’s a hot day. He talks about the area and waves ’come along’. We climb up a ladder onto a concrete roof where we get fantastic views of the Valle de los Ingenios.
He points to the old plantations. Once the valley was full of sugar cane and the hard work on the plantations was done by slaves. Businesses flourished and Trinidad was busy. The man points to the mountains and the sea. It was up here they kept an eye on the waters when pirates were ravaging. It’s quiet out at sea today. No cruise ships or yachts. It will be a few more months before the first cruise ship from the United States moors in Havana.
We pay the guard a little money in thanks for the guided tour and take a walk back down to the city. We find a seat at La Botija for something cold to drink. On the wall Trinidad’s dark history hangs on display with rivets, padlocks and chains that held slaves captive. Despite this reminder, the place is very popular and very pleasant in the evenings. We can’t seem to stay away, but keep coming returning. Greeting the people who work here, we find our favourites on the menu and order a cold fresh mojito.
As we have mentioned in a previous article, Trinidad is a good place to base yourself for a few days. One day we take a walk to the national park Parque El Cubano. Another we go diving on the reefs off of Trinidad. We take a taxi to the beach to soak up some sun at Playa del Ancon. There are three hotels in a row, but there is still a quiet and relaxed atmosphere here. The Caribbean Sea is calm with clear waters, which makes it hard to stay away.
We wade into the water looking out over the azure blue sea. Behind us is a country that is so different from the other Caribbean islands. Ok, it is still Caribbean, it is still Latino, yet it is something else. It is Cuba and we’ve loved every minute of being here. Nevertheless, it is inevitable that you create your opinions on what you see and experience while here. You do think about the changes that are on the horizon. Cubans deserve the best. We will share some thoughts about this in a later post.
We collect our things and go to the parking lot. Finding a taxi, an old American car of course, we agree on a price back to Trinidad’s narrow streets. The sun is sinking over the horizon.