(My Heart is in) Havana … Havana, ooh na-na …

14. – 17.11. / 01. – 02.12.2019

A typical old American car in Habana Vieja

Havana is definitely one of the cities in the world where you’ll have to spend more than just two days in order to see it all. Its true spirit can especially be felt in La Habana Vieja – the old town. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it features many historic colonial buildings. Other than that, you can find here the capitol, the four main squares, some nice churches, forts, and the famous Floridita bar where Ernest Hemingway used to hangout. And – of course – hundreds of these famous old American cars! 🙂

Without even knowing it, I had booked my flight exactly for the time when Havana was celebrating its 500th anniversary. It was a huge spectacle with free concerts, huge fireworks, and colorful parades. The best time to be there! And, of course, we also went to an after-party…

Vedado is the more modern part of Cuba’s capital and the central business district. It comprises many bars and clubs, cultural venues, part of the Malecon, the Revolution Square, and the University where also Fidel Castro studied law. A bit further outside, Fusterlandia – the Cuban answer to Park Güell in Barcelona – is worth a stop.

Exploring the Viñales Valley

18. – 20.11.2019

Viñales is a small town in the Western part of Cuba. It mostly consists of colorful one-story wooden houses with porches. Many of which are so called Casas Particulares – private residences that have been tailored and licensed to operate as bed and breakfasts. (My travelmate Darijusch and I stayed in these throughout the whole trip.) It is situated in an agricultural area, where crops of fruit, vegetables, coffee, and tobacco are still grown by traditional methods. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the Botanical Garden in this town when you’re around!

The Viñales Valley has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999 and draws more and more tourists every year for its outstanding karst landscape and traditional agriculture as well as the unique architecture, crafts and music. There are many natural sights to be found such as caves or limestone cliffs. Those mountain formations are called mogotes and are only comparable to the landscapes in China and Malacca.

Nearby – about 3 hours by van – is one of the most beautiful beaches of the whole island located: Cayo Jutias. Especially when you walk to the right hand side, you will have the white sand and the clear blue waters all for yourself. What a paradise! 🙂

The Colonial Towns of Cienfuegos & Trinidad

21. – 26.11.2019

Also nicknamed “La Perla del Sur”, Cienfuegos is situated at the Southern coast of Cuba. There is no other place in the Caribbean which contains such a remarkable cluster of neoclassical structures. Other than these magnificent colonial buildings, a stroll along the malecón during sunset is a must-do. Oh, and don’t miss the main square in the city center!

Nearby the city of Cienfuegos, Playa Rancho Luna is worth a day trip in order to have a relaxig time at a very uncrowded beach.

Trinidad is famous for its colonial architecture and the cobblestone streets. As it is well preserved, tourism is the major income in this town and you meet many tour groups here. For me, walking around the city center for one day was enough. In the evening we bumped into some really cool other travelers, went for some mojitos, and to the famous cave disco.

On our second day in Trinidad, all of us decided to go on a bike tour together to the Valle de los Ingenios. This area was a center for sugar production in the 18th & 19th century. At its peak, there were over fifty sugar cane mills in operation here, with more than 30,000 slaves working on these plantations. And of course, we did taste some sugar cane juice! 🙂

In addition to its beautiful natural surroundings and colonial appearance, Trinidad is located by the sea with an excellent beach nearby: Playa Ancon. It is 4 km long, with white sand and green-blue water. And that’s where we enjoyed some Coco Loco and Mojito during sunset.

Santa Clara & Remedios // Varadero & Matanzas

27.11. – 01.12.2019

In the very center of Cuba, Santa Clara can be found. The city itself is not very remarkable but the interesting aspect about this place lies in the fact that Santa Clara was the site of the last battle in the Cuban Revolution in 1958. Nowadays, this city is home to a Che-monument, a Che-museum and a mausoleum which houses the remains of Che Guevara and sixteen of his fellow combatants.

One bus ride away, towards the Northern coast, one reaches Remedios – the oldest Spanish settlement. The city center contains many restored colorful colonial buildings. Just a few kilometers further, the small town of Caibarién at the shore can be visited in order to taste great sea food.

Featuring one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, Varadero is also one of the largest resort areas in this area. Luckily, there are also looong kilometers of white sandy beach before all of these hotel resorts start and that’s where we spent a couple of relaxing days before almost ending our trip around Cuba. I even met 6 Polish bikers there who invited me to have breakfast with them at the beach where they were camping. 🙂

Matanzas, located on the way between Varadero and Havana, is also called the City of Bridges or the Venice of Cuba, for the seventeen bridges that cross the three rivers in the city. Known for its poets, culture, and Afro-Cuban folklore, it is the birthplace of the music and dance traditions danzón and rumba.

From the Windy City to the Motor City: Chicago, Detroit & Buffalo

25.09. – 03.10.2019

The Chicago Riverwalk – the 1st photo I took back on US-American soil

I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago but it was never “on the way” while living / traveling (in) the South, the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States. Thus, this time, it was! 🙂 I fell in love with this city the first time I saw the river walk – in the middle of the night. Maan, my host, welcomed me in his amazing apartment Downtown with the best view ever and convinced me to stay for a week. Thanks for your hospitality! 🙂

I had a wonderful time there – went on motor and sailing boat trips on lake and river, got to know great people, discovered downtown, the parks, and the shopping district. The weather was mostly on my side, too. The sun was out and it was almost as tropical as in Mexico. 🙂 But of course, there were also some rainy days which I used to chill, work, swim, and to visit the planetarium, the aquarium, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Chicago History Museum. Very recommendable!

Well, the day came that I had to move on. Having arrived in Detroit in the early morning, I discovered the whole city on foot, looking at the nice university buildings, the stadiums, and the many theaters downtown. Afterwards, I crossed over to Windsor, Canada, through the tunnel but came back to the USA a couple of hours later.

View of Detroit from Windsor, Canada

Now, Buffalo is a city very close to the Niagara Falls. I stayed with a wonderful person there – Ahmad. He welcomed me to his home, went on sightseeing trips with me, and just spent his free time with me. That’s another thing I love about traveling the world – those very welcoming, hospitable people everywhere! 🙂 I definitely recommend everyone to try couchsurfing – its an incredible way to get to know the real culture of a country by living and spending time with (very lovely and hospitable) locals!

Indian Summer in New England

20. – 25.10.2019

So here I was – New England. The region in the Northeast of the United States with a lot of history dating back to colonial times and places already established before the American Revolution in the 17th century. It consists of 6 States with astonishing landscapes. In order to get a glimpse of it, I went on a short road trip through all of them and will provide you with some fun facts regarding these.

Head over heels enjoying this amazing autumn time in New England

Coming from Montréal, the first US-State you enter usually is Vermont. Fun facts: Vermont is not only the largest producer of maple syrup in the USA (more than 500,000 gallons per year) but also has the highest ratio of dairy cows to people (1 cow for every 3.8 people). In this state, I visited Burlington – the biggest city there and location of the University.

The pedestrian zone in Burlington, Vermont

Now, we are in Maine. The Pine Tree State accounts for 99% of the blueberries and 90% of the whole country’s lobster supply. And maaaan, how delicious was that lobster roll at the Lobster Shak at Two Lights near Portland!

Portland Head Light lighthouse

The next destination was New Hampshire. The Granite State was not only the first of the thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England but also the place where the first potato was planted in 1719. Portsmouth is a town with many old colonial houses which makes you feel like walking through an open air museum.

Portsmouth – a typical New England town

Massachusetts is the state I stayed in longest while in New England. The Bay State is the place where important inventions such as volleyball, the birth control pill, and the sewing machine originated from. Moreover, it also has some interesting places such as Springfield where the first basketball game took place and where autumn is still very typically celebrated with pumpkins and scarecrows.

Another distinct town in Massachusetts is Salem. This is where the famous witch trials took place in 1692 when 19 people were executed by hanging as a result of false accusations. Nowadays, much of the city’s cultural identity still reflects this. There are many witch museums, police cars with witch logos, an athletic team called “The Witches”, and much more. A great place to explore – especially around Halloween.

Boston is not only the largest city in New England but also the location where several key events of the American revolution, such as the infamous Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre, took place. It is a very tourist-friendly city with the “Freedom Trail” – a red line you just have to follow in order to pass by all important sights. And, of course, also two of the best universities worldwide are located here and worth a visit: the Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During my time in Boston, I also had the honor to stay with Jacky – a host that not only introduced me to painting but also cooked one of the best chicken-dishes and a great non-guacamole guacamole (insider). 😉

On our way down South, we passed through Rhode Island. The Ocean State is not only known for making fine jewelry and silverware but also for having hosted the first circus – in 1774. Newport is famous for its majestic old manors along the coastline – an impressive sight.

So the last New England State, we had to pay a visit to was Connecticut. The Constitution State is home to the first hamburger (1895), Polaroid camera (1934), helicopter (1939), and color television (1948). The little town of Mystic there is widely known for the Hollywood movie “Mystic Pizza” that was filmed in this place.

Halloween in New York City & a Roadtrip across the States

26.10. – 03.11.2019

Watching the sunset from my bed in a high rise building in Manhattan

Some might be asking why I went back to New York City again since I’ve been living there a couple of years ago. Well, it was a lucky coincidence that I got a ride there and then one of the most amazing apartments in whole Midtown Manhattan – thanks so much, Herta! 🙂 I had a great time there again with a feeling like being back home, meeting old friends again, going back to those places I’ve been before and visiting the ones that are new like the vessel, the high line, and the September 11 Memorial.

I also was in NYC at a very special time of the year – Halloween. During that time, the city is full of trick-or-treaters, haunted houses, costume parties, and parades. The most famous one is the Village Parade which everyone can take part in. It was a crazy party all night long and here are some of my favorite costumes as seen in the streets of Manhattan: