The former colonial town of Trinidad in Cuba is a symphony of pastel paint, with every house a different colour but somehow complementary.
Plaza Mayor is Trinidad’s shop window, and the heart of the Unesco World Heritage Site old quarter. The fine Spanish colonial buildings surrounding the square include the Museu de Romantica, once a Sugar Baron’s mansion that is filled with exquisite furniture, glassware and fine porcelain imported from all over Europe.
Delicate fans decorated with Mother-of-Pearl evoke elaborately dressed, 18th-century ladies dancing in the ballroom, doors and windows wide open to the balmy evening. All at the expense of slaves in the sugar fields working 16 hour days. There’s nothing very romantic about that. Today when you step outside the carefully-preserved old quarter the town is in a sad state of disrepair.
Walking up the hill to see the sun go down, men and boys are flying kites which tangle in the breeze. Touts and beggars interrupt the sunset watching. A quieter place to enjoy the evening light is from up the Trinidad bell tower looking out over the tiled roofs to the verdant mountains beyond.
Through many doors in old Trinidad I see vistas of arches, chandeliers and decorated ceilings. In Plaza Mayor a campesino drives his skinny horse across the cobbles. In the streets a classic 1959s American car edges around a bullock-drawn cart and then a Lada. It is these contrasts that made Trinidad come alive for me.
Also take a ride on the little steam train to the sugar haciendas of the Valle de los Ingenios (valley of the sugar mills) and climb the Torre Iznaga, or spend some time at the beach while you are there.
I enjoyed Trinidad, with its beautiful colours and 500 years of history. It’s not the real Cuba but it is worth an overnighter from Havana, which is easy to organise on the country’s good Viazul bus service.
Once the sun has set it is time to go back down and watch the stars wink on from a wooden rocking chair in the porch. Listen to the first sounds of a trumpet, gentle jazz with an insistent drum beat. The party starts after nightfall – just follow the music.
Natasha von Geldern
Have you been to Trinidad in Cuba? What did you think?