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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Travel to Cuba: Fifteen fond photo memories of our family trip of a lifetime.

Throwback to … the year 2007. Having recently graduated from university, my parents have taken to sponsor me & my brother on a family trip to Cuba. Once again, the four of us cross the Atlantic (we have already travelled to the States twice before) in order to enjoy the fascinating culture of Cuba before it is “too late” (quote, my mum). Check for yourself if it really is now: My brother and his girlfriend have been to Cuba only two years ago, and written about it here: “Quick off to Cuba before the onslaught of everyone else“).

But for now, let us stay in 2007. Having grown up in Austria and only been to the US and Western Europe before, our trip to Cuba has offered us many strange, sometimes wonderful, but above all contradictory experiences, some of which I’d like to recall here.

There is Luis, who wants us to send him sports shoes in size 45 after we return to Austria. There are no such shoes in his own country, he says. Whether we could be so kind and send them to him?, he asks, giving us his address.

Lala, our Havana city guide, officially works as a teacher, but uses her holidays to earn herself an extra salary off tourists to the city. Above all, to be able to afford a very expensive refrigerator, she emphasizes.

Refrigerators, we soon learn, are the latest craze in Cuba. They are proudly presented everywhere and at all times. Almost as much as the (even older, more rusty) cars.

“Cuban food”, which is served everywhere, consists of delicious, tropical fruits next to rice with beans, fried chicken, salad, as well as fish. That’s pretty much it, as far as variety goes. Once, we all get diarrhoea from a particular stir fry. Duh …

Throughout the country, there is no “advertising” whatsoever (no signs, not the usual billboards, etc.). We navigate our rental car mostly by sense of direction, as well as the position of the sun in the sky. Apart from (and amidst) the fascinating natural landscapes of Cuba, the only thing we see “advertised” are socialist propaganda boards. “Socialismo o Muerte!” – “Fideles a Fidel!” (Faithful to Fidel Castro). “Venceremos!” (We will win). And so on.

Towards the end of the month of July, children and adults ask us if we have some spare “soap & pens” for them. It is not a question of begging, but rather a consequence of the Communist regime: Everyday goods follow a monthly distribution roster in Cuba, using food stamps similar to what my grandmother tells us from the post-war period in Austria. In late July 2007, the country unfortunately ran out of, well, soap and pens for its people.

 

And yet (or exactly because of all of it), we do find ourselves falling in love with Cuba.

Cuba, this spectacular country full of contradictions, full of dance and music, sun and rhythm, history and culture, fascinates and impresses us. Raises many questions, which we try to discuss and understand together in the family. Teaches me to once more reflect on completely different everyday life situations of people around the world. The fact that I am already fluent in Spanish at that time thanks to having lived in Spain before, is a blessing as well as a curse: People literally tell me everything. Phew. It’s intense, listening out for the personal life stories, the odd contradictions, the history of a nation. Not easy while actually meant to be on holiday, and I recall having really needed my family to understand, to analyze, and to digest everything after I’ve heard such stories. Well, we did stay in a resort in the north east of the island for a “vacation from the cultural trip” in the end. A nice comedown. And what an experience. Check this out.

Mit der Family in Kuba : Herrschaftlich in Hemingway's vormaligem Haus auf der Insel, nahe der Hauptstadt Havanna ...

Family trip to Cuba: Visiting Ernest Hemingway’s house in Cuba …

 

... und kennt Ihr schon die berühmten "Elefantenhöcker-Berge" rund um Viñales im Westen des Landes? Hier stehen einige der berühmtesten Tabakplantagen des Landes ...

… as well as the famous “elephant hills” around Viñales in the northeast of the country: Some of Cuba’s most famous tobacco plants are grown here …

 

... vom harten Leben der Sklaven auf den zahlreichen Plantagen des Landes erzählt dieser vergleichsweise "mickrige" Versuch meines Bruders, Zuckerrohrsaft aus den gepressten Zuckerrohrstangen zu holen ...

… “learning by doing”: My brother gets a feel for the hard work done by slaves in the past, pressing sugar water from the sugar canes in this mill …

 

... und ganz gleich, wie Ihr Euch in Kuba fortbewegt ...

… and no matter how you choose to travel in Cuba …

 

... die Fahrt mit einem der schicken Schlitten, wie dieser Cadillac Baujahr 1957 (!) hier dürft Ihr Euch nicht entgehen lassen ...!

… do not miss a ride with one of these “old ladies”, a 1957 (!) Cadillac convertible in our case …!

 

Selbige (und viele weitere Baujahre und -marken) sind in Kubas Hauptstadt "La Havanna" zum Zeitpunkt unserer Reise allgegenwärtig ...

There are many old care in and around the Cuban capital city La Havanna, many of which can either be rent or hailed as a cab …

 

... der Tipp, einen zu buchen bzw. einmal sogar selbst fahren zu können, stammt dabei von unserer lieben Stadtführerin Lala, hier auf dem Familienfoto mit abgebildet.

… thank you, Lala, for introducing us to the colourful stories of your hometown.

 

Wirklich schöne Erinnerung : Mein Bruder und ich mit frisch vom Bauern gekauften Obst in Kuba ...

Another lovely memory: Eating fresh fruit from street vendors along the farm lanes in Cuba …

 

... mit meiner liebenswerten, neugierigen & weltoffenen Mama in der Stadt

… visiting the city of Trinidad de Cuba in style …

 

... die sich wirklich ausgesprochen hübsch ausnimmt ...

… a pretty little town indeed …

 

... und natürlich, wie könnte es anders sein, voller alter Autos steckt, die für Kuba in unseren Köpfen so typisch sind.

… and, ever so typical, filled with old vintage cars from abroad.

 

Wenig später, in der Stadt Camaguey ...

A little later, we make it to Camaguey …

 

... und darüber hinaus, finden wir in diesen schönen, von sattgrünen Wiesen umgebenen Bungalows Ruhe.

… and end up relaxing in those bungalows after our intense culture trip across Cuba.

 

Erstmal ist nun wirklich Urlaubsstimmung angesagt ...

Time to unwind a little …

 

Prost Mahlzeit, liebe Familie !!!

… what a nice trip, really. Thank you, my sweet family !!!

 

And you, what comes to your mind when you think of the travel destination Cuba?

 

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

Elena has recently published "The Creative Traveler's Handbook". Chock full of inspiratinal stories, travel tips and advice, it offers everything you need for planning and managing your next creative escape, addressing beginners and experienced travelers alike. Here's how to get your hands on it now!
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