Santa Clara, Cuba – the city of Che

santa clara

In Varadero we decided to split. Michal and Marysia were to stay enjoying the beach and the three of us to go on to Santa Clara. We were supposed to meet the same evening in Trinidad. And this is what happened.Varadero sunrise

The three of us got up early morning. Somebody told us we need to be an hour before departure at the station to get tickets. As we hurried through out the empty streets I noticed the beautiful colors of the dawn. We got to the station 40 minutes too early and so I still got some time to get us a breakfast 3 x Pan de Tortilla and 1 Pan de Jamon, 5 CUP each. The ticket to Santa Clara was 11 CUC. We got luggage tickets. I have to say this surprised me as I didn’t expect they would take such precautions.

Before I went to Cuba I read a book about it written by a well know Polish voyager/traveller. During her visit she was looking for the truth about Che. Che GuevaraWas he an idealist or simple murderer? As we all know the truth is never that simple. I guess you have better chance of finding the truth about a person when you meet him than from reading thousands of books, personal letters, watching photographs or videos. There is no harm in trying but certainty is unreachable. I myself was more interested in Hemmingway than Che, but for Maria the second was a real romantic hero. Her favorite song is Hasta Siempre, Comandante by Cuban composer Carlos Puebla. All our stay the meaning of the song was a mistery to us. Now finally I found the translation of lyrics. Enjoy:

We learned to love you
from the historical heights
where the sun of your bravery
laid siege to death

Chorus:Here lies the clear,
the dear transparency
of your beloved presence,
Commander Che Guevara

Your glorious and strong hand
over History it shoots
when all of Santa Clara
awakens to see you

[Chorus]

You come burning the breeze
with springtime suns
to plant the flag
with the light of your smile

[Chorus]

Your revolutionary love
leads you to new undertaking
where yearned is the firmness
of your liberating arm

[Chorus]

We will carry on
as we followed you then
and with Fidel we say to you:
“Farewell, Commander!”

Varadero bus timetableWhen we arrived in Santa Clara there were crowds of locals and taxi drivers. As we wanted to get to Santa Clara the day before we did, we enquired in Varadero about accommodation. We were told the owner of the Casa wouldn’t be able to host us as late in the night as the last bus arrives. This is why we took the first morning bus the next morning and decided not to stay overnight.Vaizul

It seems the woman still thought we would come as she waited on us in the station. Hounded by taxi drivers from which we could not get free we tried to enquire about buses to Trinidad. There was one taxi driver in particular, quite old and determined. He didn’t speak English and kept saying he will show us four museums. He followed us everywhere. To the office of Viazul (where we found out there are no more buses to Trinidad), to the left luggage (where we left our backpacks), to the place where we ordered pizza and hugo natural and finally when we sat down on the steps of the bank to look at the map. I don’t know how it happened that he left us alone but his silent presence was annoying. We grew impatient as we were worried how we are going to get to Trinidad.

Pizza Santa ClaraAnyway just one more thing. There were buses for locals that went to Trinidad they just wouldn’t let us on the bus. I read about it before coming to Cuba. The driver if caught “smuggling” tourists would get in trouble. We tried anyhow. First time it was “NO”, second time it was “You look like Cuban Maria you could go, but the other two no way”. I still think if you speak directly to the driver it can be done.Monument and Mausoleum of Ernesto Che Guevara

We decided to walk to the Monument and Mausoleum of Ernesto “Che” Guevara. And it is not far so you don’t have to hire a taxi. It really looks impressive from outside. Mausoleum houses the remains of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and 29 of his fellow combatants killed in 1967. Guevara was laid to rest with full military honors on 17 October 1997 after his exhumed remains were discovered in Bolivia and broughut to Cuba.

Che GuevaraThe most distinctive is a bronze 22 foot statue of Che looming over the whole complex. The adjacent decorative wall depicts Che in the Sierra Maestra consulting with Fidel, beside Camilo Cienfuegos, and in the mountains on horseback. Another section shows Che as Minister of Industry performing his usual voluntary work. Lastly literacy tutors, children in schools, and young pioneers are depicted issuing the daily salute that all Cuban children recite each morning “We will be like Che.”The museum is dedicated to his life, work and fight. You can see there his pictures, notbooks, letters, official documents, pistols, guns, doctor uniform and many other personal belongings or belongings of his fellow combatants.Che Guevara wall

You might wonder why Santa Clara is the city of Che. This is because Guevara’s troops took the city during the final battle of the Cuban revolution called Battle of Santa Clara. Interesting fact: 500,000 Santa Clara residents contributed more than 400,000 hours of volunteer work to the construction of the monument.

Santa Clara tractorOn the way from the monument to the city center we stopped  horse cart (1 CUC for all 3 of us) but I still think you can easily walk if you have time and will. We visited the art museum (2 CUC additional fee for photographs and recording). In the price of ticket you get a guide tour of Cuban/Spanish house. I think it could have been more interesting. I asked some questions but the answers were not encouraging. It holds objects from XVII to XX century. The oldest object being chest for clothes and a cabinet with a secret drawer, that saw pirates times. As you can imagine cabinet creator paid with his life for its performance. I wish the guide told us some pirate stories.troop wagon santa clara

We also saw The Armored Train Park-Museum (Parque del Tren blindado). I didn’t go in but Maria and Adam visited all railway wagons. If you don’t know Che used tractors to raise the rails of the railway and derailed train which transported troops.

After sightseeing we decided to get something to eat. On the way one Cuban started chatting to us and wouldn’t leave us alone. He followed us to a disturbing restaurant with no windows, then took a table next to ours in a restaurant where we had terrible spagetti and followed us throughout the streets on our way back to the bus station. We had to take a taxi to Trinidad and the driver told us that even he that he doesn’t have a licence is worth for him to pay the ticket for the price of our journey.

Now, the best part of my stay in Cuba is to follow. Trinidad! I just can’t wait to tell you all about it!

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