A slow day in Varadero

Varadero –

This post is part of the summary-article 2-Week Itinerary Cuba on a Budget . You can either use the links in the summary to get detailed information about each place in the itinerary, or the floating bar at the botton of the page to navigate through each day.

cuba varadero villa backpacker backpacking travelWe have an exception today in our morning routine: We actually sleep in – after all, this is really necessary. When we finally make it out of our room, Anabel looks quite amused at us probably having a terrible hair day: “Coffee?”. Oh yeah ! We help setting up the table and have a relaxed breakfast then. Today we just want to relax. After having a shower, we set out to explore Varadero. The city looks very different from what I had expected: No “Ballermann atmosphere”, no over-crowded concrete hotel resorts. From the looks, this city here could have been located somewhere in the Mediterranean, if it wasn’t for all the oldtimers.

cuba varadero beatles backpacker backpacking travelOriginally this peninsula was inhabited by Indios and the invading Spaniards used it as a repair dock later (hence the name “Varadero”). You cannot see any remaining dock parts though – but instead lots of holiday villas of rich Cuban hacienda owners from the 19th century. Especially in the surrounding area to our Casa is, there seem to be quite some older buildings (Calle 40-50). a Jannis mentioned that there should be an old villa of Al Capone* somewhere to be found here. On the opposite side to the Parque Central is… a mall? Hmm – Wait a moment. The building which looks like a shopping center is actually the park named “8.000 Taquillas” (Taquilla = dressing room), where tourists can use changing rooms and lockers and buy some snacks. This structure was built in the 60ies to bring local people from all kinds of social status and foreign visitors together. Nowadays, tourism has become unpayable for most locals – for people not working in the tourist industry having holidays here is probably impossible. We stroll along the avenue primera (apart from street there is also a parallel one called Avenida Playa) towards the west end… The scuba dive center should be actually located next to the Beatles bar with the 4 life-sized statues of John, Paul, George, and… this other guy. The small blue hut with the numerous fish pictures does not have a “permanently closed” sign, but a note that the diving base has now moved to Calle 6. And we are in Calle 59 right now… Uff.

cuba varadero streets backpacker backpacking travelIt doesn’t look that touristy here either… rather relaxed. We switch between the beach road and the Avenida primera and watch the builings, cars and people on the way. Somewhere near Calle 30 we spot a market place with quite a lot of souvenirs – not bad, can have a look tomorrow, maybe we’ll find something cool. Since there is a sailing trip bureau nearby, Frank decides to book a trip while I go scuba diving tomorrow. After a while, I make it to the diving center “Barracuda Diving Center”, where I sign up for tomorrow’s half-day trip – 2 wreck-dives for 80 CUC . Great. I take a cocotaxi back to the market place and have a chat with the driver in the meantime – a mechanical engineer. Jep, I can not imagine how this works out at all – my father has also been driving a taxi during his university years to earn some money… but to give up the profession you have studied so hard for? It seems to be the more lucrative solution, since a taxi driver is paid in CUC here in Cuba. If you do not come in contact with travelers here somehow, you do not seem to make any real money…

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cuba varadero street oldtimer backpacker backpacking travel

inevitable picture of me and one of those oldtimers…

I meet up with Frank at the beach and we get right into the water. Refreshing… our clothes seem to have been sticky for quite a while. As “afternoon dinner” we have (once again) Hamburguesas with Cerveza. The beach seems to be ideal for kids – you seem to be able to get quite far into the water without having solid ground under your feet.

Slowly it starts to get dark – we walk along the beach to the place we agreed upon meeting Jannis and Vicky and they soon join us. The nearby beach bar looks quite inviting: Seems it belongs to an an all-inclusive hotel, since similar to the one in Playa Ancon the prices for non-hotel guests are not “set in stone” – this is more like a tip for the bartender. Lying on the beach, we watch the sunset – some kids play baseball with their parents. Funny, as I somehow have to work as an interpreter – some words just do not occur to us in English, so I speak German with Frank and translate for the couple to Greek. Funnily enough it happens more than once that I try to speak Greek with Frank and surprise the puzzled waiter from the bar asking for another order by dressing him in German .

cuba varadero street lantern backpacker backpacking travelSince it is starting to get late, we decide to find us something to bite – we are already at the third round of cocktails… as usual on an empty stomach. I had seen an interesting restaurant on the way to the dive center: “La Sangria”. A Good choice! “Italian and international food” is a little misleading, because the chef seems to be into very creative cooking, but “la casa del buen comer” hits the nail on the spot. A huge selection, big portions and delicious . To our surprise Frank will be on the same yacht as Jannis and Vicky tomorrow. I will have to be at 8:00 in the moring at the dive center (actually they wanted to pick me up, but I could not remember the address of the Casa)… Shortly after 23:00 we return pretty tired, but stuffed & happy at our accommodation.

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*The villa wasn’t used as a vacation home though, but as a smuggeling warehouse


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A slow day in Varadero

by Mario time to read: 4 min