After an endless colectivo taxi ride from Viñales, we finally arrive at Cienfuegos. We have to say that as we wanted to save some CUC (exactly 2 each…) we ended up having a weird experience (well, not that bad in the end because we arrive at destination without problems, but not pleasant). Walking around downtown in Viñales we get a tempting offer from “Dayron”, who assures us that for 30 CUC we can get a colectivo taxi to Cienfuegos (our next destination) and arrive there in 5 hours. Well… we decide to believe him and book the taxi instead of the viazul bus, which takes 8 hours and costs 32 CUC. Dayron also promises a spacious and air-conditioned vehicle.
The truth is that we haven’t saved time, nor have we been comfortable, nor did the vehicle have air conditioning… fail! so, if you are in Viñales and you don’t have any other alternative, then take the taxi, but if you can, travel with the official buses.
This is our experience with the “fantastic” colectivo taxi: First of all, we do not leave at the agreed time (we have been collecting passengers through the town until the taxi has been filled, after some shuffling passengers around, hoping from taxi to taxi…). Secondly, they have tried to change our vehicle by placing us in a better and more expensive one (but, pay attention to the trick: once you are inside the nice taxi, with all your bags loaded, then the new taxi driver asks for a higher price than the original one), we then return to the ugly and bad one. And finally, we have to make a stop over to change taxi again (apparently each taxi has an area limited license), there we have to wait again for more passengers to fill again the new vehicles…. anyway… as we said, we’d have had a much better journey with the bus, with real aircon, comfortable seats… and all this just for 2 CUC more… Ah! and we almost forgot! we also experience a paranormal phenomenon called “the girl who had to pee and the SMS fine”.
After this definitely interesting trip, we are in Cienfuegos. We stay at a fantastic AirBnB, Cary and Orly are two beautiful people who are constantly very curious about life outside Cuba. They ask many questions, some of them really surprising, like: “What is wikipedia?”, or “On the internet, can you write your opinion freely?”… But the cutest moment we experience with them is when we give them a pack of microwave popcorn. In the beginning they look at us without knowing what to say, as they have absolutely no idea what are we giving them. We explain that these are popcorn (rosetas in Cuba) that are to be made in the microwave. As they are kind of scared about the whole popcorn microwave magic, they ask us to prepare them. Orly stares at the microwave while the bag grows and pops, also a growing smile appears on his face. It’s nice to see the face of a child on an adult. We learn a lot from Cary and Orly as well: the Cubans have their own wikipedia, written by Cubans just for Cubans… hmmm… and also that there are no microwave popcorn in Cuba 🙂
Cienfuegos is a little town and we like it a lot since the moment we arrive. It looks like Havana but in a reduced version, with its Paseo del Prado, its Malecón and its Coppelia ice cream shop (where for 5 CUP you can get two glasses of excellent Guanabana ice cream), and non-working cinemas (we’d really like to see Cuban cinema, but no chance).
The city also ressembles La Havana wifi-wise… We tried to buy a wifi card without success in ETECSA, but the “We run out of cards” from the office worker is always preceded by the “Wifi, my friend” of friendly locals who walk around, and who interestingly have cards at less reasonable prices than in the official store…
The Boulevard in Cienfuegos leads to Jose Martí’s Square, where the origins of the city are explained on a mosaic on the floor, and where the most emblematic colonial buildings are. Walking around without a fixed goal is how we explore places. But in Cienfuegos, which claims to be the cleanest city in whole Cuba, we discover the incredibly dirty streets right behind the historical center. We feel a bit sad, as the touristic areas of the city are immaculate, but when you go behind that… how can they claim to be the cleanest city? we still wonder… We see a train cementry and tones of garbage around… Escaping from that, we end up at Cienfuego’s pier, where not even 24 hours after our first paranormal phenomenon, we experience again another one, we name it “The Patriotic man and the potatoes”.
After this super tiring stroll around the city, we get hungry and, as we like eating local, we goto Plaza Villuendas to try on some “Paladar”. We still do not understand why but we end up sitting in a place full of flies (probably the most fly-crowded place in all Cuba, disgusting in many ways) and still without knowing why and after they told us that they had nothing of what we wanted to order, we insist on staying in that joint (human stupidity is like that and we are no exception), so we finish our dishes super quick and we rush out of that place.
After the culinary “displeasure” we head towards “Punta gorda”, strolling down Paseo del Prado and Malecón. If we had been given a Cuban Peso for each time we were asked for a Taxi ride during that walk, we would be having dinner with Bill Gates every day…
Punta Gorda is a rich neigbourhood in Cienfuegos, with plenty of nice big houses. At the end of the neighbourhood there is a little park with a very nice spot where you can see the sunset while having a mojito, but for us no sunset and no mojito, the sky is overcast 😦 coming back home with a local guagua (1 CUP!!!), the best way of getting to chat with locals (there is always a Spanish ancestor in the family tree they like to refer to when meeting a Spaniard). That was a fantastic day in Cienfuegos!
Did you know that…
… in 2005, UNESCO inscribed the Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos on the World Heritage List, citing Cienfuegos as the best extant example of early 19th century Spanish Enlightenment implementation in urban planning?
…the city is dubbed La Perla del Sur (Pearl of the South)?
- People: Not crowded as La Havana, easy to walk and discover.
- Accomodation: Our casa Particular was great, hostal Cary & Orly (very near to the bus station, and 10 minutes walking distance to the center)
- Ice Cream: Coppelia ice cream is delicious and cheap 😉
- Etecsa: As usual, Impossible to buy a wi-fi card.
- Surroundings: The outskirts of the town are full of garbage and dirty. It’s difficult to believe people having to live there…
- Bad Choice: The fly-crowded local paladar.