Finding Peace in Cuba – Part 2/2

Cuba – a place of memories. Last time I shared some wonderful scenes about eating lunch under a tree and reading a book on a shady terrace in Viñales, and today I want to tell you some tales of my quiet nights in Havana. I hope you enjoy these little moments like I do.

Nightly Walks in Havana

Havana in the day is a loud, chaotic city where people scramble about with purpose and call greetings to each other, especially in tourist areas where everyone works to make an extra buck. But every night, as the sun falls beyond the horizon and darkness gently blankets the alleys, the living Havana you witness by day is replaced with an entirely different mood. People retreat back into their homes as night falls on the city, and the streets are left quiet and empty, sparsely lit by a ragged army of lamps stationed sporadically throughout each district.

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I regularly explored the streets at night, and it was always surreal to see Havana cast in quiet shadows when before it had been such a bustling city. Music creeps through the thin alleys of Old Havana, fresh ocean tides scent the air along the Malecón, and a hushed energy spills from the open windows of Vedado’s bars in the moonlight. Walking in Havana at night is an experience like no other, and my wandering feet were drawn to the streets every night. It’s a place I won’t forget anytime soon.

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My First Cuban Cigars

Smoking a Cuban cigar is a rite of passage for anyone traveling to Cuba. I’m not a smoker, but for me indulging in a cigar wasn’t about the tobacco. I took part because I wanted to experience a classic aspect of Cuban culture, and it was a great experience to share with new friends from previous weeks in Cuba.

My favorite cigar was near the end of my trip. I had met a group of Finns in the hostel I was staying at, and one night I convinced them to try one of the cigars I had purchased from a tobacco farm in Viñales. The four of us crowded onto the hostel balcony that evening and lit the cigar in the darkness. I’m chuckling now as I remember that I had forgotten to cut the end off the cigar before we tried to smoke it – I was still wet behind the ears when it came to the fundamentals.

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Even so, we smoked our cigar as the cool ocean air wafted over us that night. Laughter, stories, and dreams flowed out of the glowing ember that joined us all in the dark blue of that Havana night, and we connected that evening in the kind of intimate, fleeting moments that often seem to be the core of a traveler’s relationships. That night I witnessed the power of culture and tradition at work in a single cigar, a conduit through which we briefly shared our lives with one another.

If I ever see that group again, this is the night I would have us remember. Perhaps the others think about it from time to time as I do.

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As I write these stories of my time in Cuba, I find myself closing my eyes and trying to remember exactly what it felt like to be in those places at those moments in time. I know these memories will slowly fade around the edges, but the life at their core will remain strong for many years to come. I think it’s important to remember the special parts of your travels, and perhaps by writing about them my grip on the details will remain strong over time.

But enough about me! Do you have any memories of wonderful places from your travels that you want to share? Share them with us all in the comments, and let us know what they meant to you.


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