Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pinar Del Rio

"You're going to Pinar Del Rio? Why? It's a tourist place" or "it's boring" were general comments of other Cubans whom i told about my travel route. So, understandably i was expecting a mountain-full of tourists and greedy locals. What i got was of course the opposite: so far i've seen only couple of tourists and the locals are wonderfully friendly. As far as photography is concerned you couldn't find more agreeable folk. Pinar Del Rio has low buildings and lot's of colonial architecture. Reminded me greatly of Oaxaca city in Mexico. It seems that most of it's inhabitants are passing their days playing dominos or just chilling on their porches. I'm of course talking here about the old part of town, not the newer and somewhat fancier part.

My Havana casa's landlady Anita had organized for me an accommodation in her friend's casa particular. That friend was supposed to meet me in the bus-station. When i arrived and saw that nobody was waiting for me, i thought i'll just walk to the house, Anita had given me a business card with the address. When i started asking from people how to get to calle Joaquin Perez, it became very quickly very clear that Anita had misunderstood me and she had organized for me a casa in Viñales, which is 27 km from Pinar Del Rio and next in my travel route. I rang the doorbell behind the first door that had "casa particular" blue sign on it and got very lucky. I could've ended up in a nice little clean 10-15 ㎡ euro-renovated room for tourists, but instead i stumbled upon an old colonial apartment which was HUGE, with about 5m high ceilings and atmosphere to die for.

The apartment belonged to an old couple Maria & Pedro (or Mary & Peter as they called themselves for tourists) and they were renting out one big room from it. Their place was filled with aged books, old cool furniture and other trinkets screaming "pre-revolution style!" at you. Pedro's father had been an avid traveler and the apartment was filled with souvenirs from every then-existing country in the world. And i mean, every. They took great pride in showing me all of them. The house had a huge roof terrace and a balcony with swinging chairs for sipping mojitos in the evenings. What else could one person wish for?

I decided to take up Maria's offer for dinner and boy was that a dinner, enough for 3 people. And when i thought i couldn't stuff myself anymore, they brought out the dessert and liquor. Seriously, i felt like i was going to burst. I think they are renting out the room to make the ends meet and i guess the lack of other income leaves them no choice, maintaining that big apartment must take it's toll on the family budget.

They were treating me very well and seemed that they are very lonely and starve for fresh company. Pedro was delighted to converse with me in Spanish. In the beginning i understood most of what he was saying but as the time passed and more and more political topics surfaced, it all turned into full-blown monologue. Maria was speaking a little English, but it was actually easier for me to have the whole conversation in Spanish rather then jump between the two languages.

Interestingly enough they had a very strict rule of not eating with the guests. And whatever i said or did had no effect. It felt very awkward to gorge myself when they sit right there to keep me company (which they insisted in) but refuse to dip in. For some reason i had a strong feeling that their dinner was going to be whatever was left of my eating and believe me, there was plenty. All in all it was one very interesting evening, almost like couchsurfing in Cuba.

Casa of Maria & Pedro:

Price: 25 CUCs/night, but since i was alone, the price for me was 20 CUCs.
Dinner: 8 CUCs.
Location: about 5 minutes walk from the bus-station, address Marti street 51 / e/ Colon e isabel Rubio. Open 24 hours :). Seriously, they have a sticker like that on the door.

My bedroom was quite comfortable, with a huge desk. It looked that it might've been somebody's office one time.

Bathroom had an old style radio in it which played some decent Cuban music. Apparently Cuban create more than just salsa :)

That's their house. The whole second floor on the corner is theirs, including that wonderful corner balcony where i was sitting and enjoying some nearby live concert, that carried well through the quiet city.

My bedroom

Casa dinner

Me on the rooftop terrace

Oh that wonderful balcony ..

Maria aka Mary

The town of Pinar Del Rio:

I like the inventive and creative approach to the lack of space for drying your laundry

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