On the map it looks like a lizard. Or a caterpillar.

A long island on the Caribbean, famous for conga drums, the aroma of hand-made cigars, night clubs and – first of all – music. Have you seen “Buena Vista Social Club”? The “grandpas” singing and smoking?

Most people who visit Cuba, go either to Havana, or Varadero. The latter is a typical holiday place with hotels, restaurants and beaches (they say it’s difficult to meet any people form Cuba here), the former is the intriguing capital of the country.

This lonely island is not for tourists looking for sandy beaches, although you can find beautiful beaches on the island and if you like diving or snorkelling, it’s a paradise. But it’s not for them. It’s not for tourists who want an easy place. It’s for people who have great hearts. For people who look for old, red cars, musicians playing in the sun and the atmosphere of communism which will soon disappear.

Whenever you go, rememeber that the real Cuba is inside and tasting it should mean also communicating to more remote parts of the island. It also means searching contrasts, one of which (and the saddest wjhen you visit the country) is definitely the contrast between rich tourists and poor citizens.

Old Havana (La Habana) is impressive. If you were an ancient traveller coming to the island from the sea, you will see first the waves breaking in Malecón – a promenade by the sea. Inside, the colonial architecture has made the city a pearl. Old Havana is full of beautiful old buildings. Narrow streets and warm colours of old facades will not be forgotten. The precious, old part of the city would have been ruined if it had not appeared on the UNESCO list in 1982: Castro did not bother to restore the city and concentrated on poor rural regions. Since the eighties the city has been under renovation: but although so many specialists have worked on it, over 600 buildings have already collapsed. The old city is so rich that one should probably get lost there for a month or two. It’s not surprising that writers and artists also liked this place. The most famous amateur of Havana was Hemingway. His favourite bar was El Floridita, visited later by such fames as Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, Marlena Dietrich.

So this is what tourists must know: about the rom, about the cigars, about the music. Fortunately no guide gives the tiniest hint of what it really tastes like. Imagine an evening in old Habana, drinking mojito in a Hemingway’s bar, looking at the Mexican Bay which saw the revolution, getting lost in the narrow streets of the city, stopping to listen to musicians standing in the corners. You won’t forget.

The Cuban food is dominated by rice, beans, onion. Simple dishes are made in “country style”. A special kind of banana growing on the island, called el platano is never eaten row, but fried, grilled or baked. Of course theyre is no Cuba without rom and Cuba Libre or mojito. On the island there are also probably the best cigars in the world. Their secret is not only the climate and soil but also long tradition. Each year Cuba exports about 100 million cigars which brings a big profit to the island.

The island is never silent, it’s at its heart. There are over 12000 professional musicians on the island (the number does not comprise amateurs!). The music is very rhythmical because of the special kind of rhythm called clave. It would be difficult to ennumerate all kinds of music played on Cuba: apart from these that we know, like slasa, mambo, rumba, there is, for example, trova – romantic ballads.

Improve your vocabulary!

lizard – jaszczurka
caterpillar – gąsiennica
latter – drugi