(Update October 2018)
Synonymous to Cuba, Trinidad is its own cliché. The traveller finds exactly what he expects and that makes it so void and boring.
|Here you have it all: The cobblestones, the colorful houses, and the indispensable oldtimer – ¡Bienvenidos en Trinidad!|
Yes, the streets are paved with cobblestones, yes, the facades are colonial and brightly painted, yes, the antique shops are filled with – who would have guessed? – antiques, yes, at the casa de la musica the musica is great and jineteros (in other countries they are called gigolos) are waiting for tourists to dance Salsa and get their drinks paid.
Everything in Trinidad, at least in the central neighborhoods, is made for tourists. Everyone wants a piece of this huge, yummy tourist cake, but it is a tad bizarre when an old man is walking around with a donkey that’s wearing a sing “foto 0,50 CUC”. He and his donkey probably have walked these stupid cobble stones for ages – and then one day he understood that this could be a lucrative tourist attraction. Or people who offer CUP with Che Guevara on it demanding a tenfold of the coins’ worth. Or a gentleman walking around in a caricaturish Zoot Suit volunteering for pictures – I don’t know how much he charges since he did not have a donkey with a price tag on it.
All this is understandable, but it’s not good. Not for the tourists, not for the country and on a long term not for the Cuban people.
|It’s a curse – but real life can be so picturesque.|
So go, walk the cobblestone streets, take pictures of the colonial facades, climb the tower of the Convento de San Francisco de Asis to get a wonderful view at the city and its surroundings. But do it preferably either in the morning or in the later evening when at least the groups and day trippers are gone. I’m not promising you to be there by yourself – ever; but at least all the pushy awing will be gone.
|View of the city and its rural surroundings from the Convento de San Francisco de Asis.|
Of course, everything is beautiful here – and the center of beautiful is the Plaza Mayor. On its north side is the old Casa Padrón that today houses the Museum of Archeology. On the east side are the Palacio Brunet, built in 1812 by José Mariano Borrell y Padrón and now housing the Museo Romántico, the Romantic Museum. Next to it is another neoclassical building which was completed in 1892, the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santísima Trinidad, Church of the Holy Trinity.
|The Casa Azul’s backyard and in the backdrop the Church of the Holy Trinity.|
Now, on the south side of the square is a light blue building – hence also known as the Casa Azul, the blue house – that houses the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial, the Colonial Architecture Museum. As a matter of fact, it used to belong to the wealthy Sánchez Iznaga family and shows practically their belongings; so don’t expect a museum in the sense of….museum.
|Modern art on crumbling walls at the Galería de Arte Universal Benito Ortiz – I see that every other year at the Biennial in Venice; you’re on the right track of artsy hipness, Cuba!|
Being an art enthusiast, the building on the west side is my favorite: There you find the Galería de Arte Universal Benito Ortiz which is far more than just an art gallery. It’s rather a cultural center where also young artists find working spaces and the opportunity to exhibit their work. The exhibition of traditional lace handicraft from Trinidad on the first floor is not to be missed.
|The Plaza Mayor surrounded by all these iconic buildings mainly in yellow and blue. At the end of the street the famous Convento de San Francisco de Asis|
If you are into antiques, the Calle Desengaño will be just perfect for you: Peeping left and right into houses, shops, and galleries, you’ll see the most amazing things.
Walking further north, you’ll get a glance at what real life in Trinidad is like since here live more of the black folks who obviously do not get such a big share of the fat tourism cake.
|Casa de la musica – on this square, locals and tourists alike enjoy really good bands and sway to the rhythm of salsa.|
Every Cuban city has a casa de la musica and a casa de la trova. What makes Trinidad’s casa de la musica more agreable is the fact that it’s not a casa but a court so that you enjoy the musica and your mojito in the fresh air with the moon and the stars above – and that’s pretty nice.
If you need more – and most of all more original – party time, check out the Discoteca Alaya which is actually located in a cave. Very unique party experience.
About 15 kilometers west of Trinidad is the Playa Ancon – some say it’s wonderful, others find it to be Cuba’s worse beach. Find out for yourself by either cycling on a rental bike – good luck, it’s Cuba, hence it’s hot and the roads are…Cuban – or taking a shuttle bus. You can inquire about the exact hours at the Cubanacan office on calle Frank País. Of course, there is also the option of going by cab, but then you should be carpooling with others.
|Cycling on the cobblestone streets – you better get your butt padded.|
A really nice tour is a trip by cart and horse to the Valle de los Ingenios. You get to climb to a waterfall and take a refreshing dip, you get to sample some ‘Guarapo’, juice pressed from sugar cane, and you learn a lot about the sugar cane history and industry in the region. It’s a nice day out.
|There are different ways to explore the sugar mill valley: On horseback, by horse cart….|
|….and there is even the option to take a train – which some say is nervewracking slow.|