Further posts

I have merged both German and English blogs. For further English posts please use the following link

Hannaxel in English

When I write a post in German, it will be translated into German immediately (low quality translation). I will edit as soon as I am able to.

Thanks!

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Cuba (Day 6) – 11.3.2017

Saturday was a quiet day. As always, we were up earlier than the others, so we took breakfast in our Casa, not in a cafe (the D’Next) as on the first day. Hanna read a little after breakfast while I tried to acquire an access card for the WiFi hotspots in Cuba from the state telecommunications company ETESCA for the umpteenth time. From time to timeI needed to check the communication with the EU for an ongoing contract. After a couple of times, I had nearly given up, because the queue in front of the shop was just too long and did not move. Early Saturday morning was obviously a good time and after about 20 minutes waiting I had secured my card for 5 hours of Internet access (for about 7 euros).

ETESCA Internet

Otherwise nothing was planned with the group, so Hanna and I went on a small tour in the old town around our Casa. The first, surely typical impression, can be seen in the following photo.

Straße in Havana

Our original goal was the nearby Bacardi building, the original Bacardi headquarters, which was abandoned after the revolution (original rum from Cuba is now available mainly under the name of Havana Club, although the brand was introduced as early as 1935). Hanna wanted to see the building, and although we did not find a museum as expected, however, we were admitted to the entrance hall to see the beautiful art-nouveau elements.

Halle Bacardi

The entrance hall.

Briefkästen

Letter boxes.

Aufzüge

Elevators.

After visiting the building, we moved back to the side alleys. Hanna found a fruit and vegetable store and wanted to buy a few limes for the inevitable mojitos. They were probably a little overpriced with 5 CUC (about 5 Euros). Hanna had only a 10 CUC note and we got a 5-note back. It was not a tourist store and as you can imagine, on closer inspection the change money turned out as a 5 CUP bill. A CUC corresponds to about 25 CUP, which would have been a bad business. Luckily I had noticed it and we got the correct change.

A few yards away, we wanted to have a drink, a mojito, and went to a small bar with only a few tourists (Bar el Angel de Tejadillo). It was equipped with a lot of football insignia, including 1. FC Köln and FC St. Pauli. The owner spoke German quite well and it turned out that he was born in Berlin as a son of a diplomatic couple.

Mosaik

On the way (for lunch) we noticed this beautiful mosaic on a not very remarkable house.

At lunch in the (if I remember correctly) Ruinas del Parque Hanna had once again her lobster and we both had some Mojitos, the location was beautiful, under trees, and there was, as so often, good music. Two young cats were fed extensively by Hanna before they were swept away again and again by the waiter with a prepared water bottle.

Hanna then went to rest and I tried to get an internet connection in a nearby hotel, unfortunately in vain, obviously too many wanted people the same.

In the evening we all were back at the Van Van, where this time I noticed the decoration of the toilet room.

Toilette im Van Van 1   toilette2.jpg   

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Cuba – Day 5 (10.2.2017)

After the many visits on the days before, it should be a beach day this time. Two people, however, were not there: Sean obviously had a bad sandwich caught the day before and it was therefore bed rest. And our “tour guide” Natascha (also called “La Commandanta”) wanted to use the day to explore restaurants or other places of interest (and certainly to maintain or observe Sean). Even Brian did not come, but what he did, is not so clear to me.

Warten

At first, however, a little waiting was necessary, because the Snow family had to get first towels and then something to read. This meant for them the ascent to their Casa, each time more than 70 steps. For the rest of us, this gave us the opportunity to look around the Plaza del Cristo a little, for example the Iglesia del Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje.

Kirche

Then we went with two taxis to Tropicoco beach, about 15 km from Havana. The beach is very nice, but also well visited.

Ropicocbeach

But that did not stop us from making ourselves comfortable. The good thing about this beach was that not only the drinks, but also the food were delivered to the lounger. I shared a very good lobster with Hanna.

Greg, Erda, Hanna

Greg, Erda and Hanna, each holding on to a drink.

oliver.jpg

Oliver with a drink as well, probably Cuban cola (yes, there is such a thing).

Nadya

Nadya had coconut milk from a freshly opened coconut, although the picture unfortunately does not show whether it was with or without rum.

Sandra

And the last (but not the least) of our beach party, Sandra, with a beer like Greg above.

Hanna and I, incidentally, were the only ones who did not go into the water.

Kubanerin mit Zigarre

Cuban women sometimes prefer other local products.

In the evening we were all together again, even Sean was on his feet again. We had a good dinner at the Van Van with even better cuban live music. The tourists on Tripadvisor placed the restaurant as no. 1 of Havana restaurants.

Restaurant Van Van

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Cuba Day 4 – (9.3.2017)

On Thursday we again took a large taxi under the guidance of Alejandro. It went to the second stop of our trip: to Havana. The trip takes about 3 hours, interrupted by a viewpoint overrun by tourists (all guiding tours see the point as a highlight on the route, may be due to the fact that most tourists find a Pina Colada from a coconut absolutely great. Got me into the queue waiting for our driver, but he appeared before we became too restless.

Somehow we then suddenly were in Havana going through many streets and then the minibus stopped. Honestly, I did not know what was going on until it was clear at some point that we were at the accommodation for Hanna and myself (and for Sandra, who was scheduled to meet us later). So luggage was unloaded and then we went up an adventurous staircase to the first floor of Casa Carlos y Graciela. Hanna will surely have thought that she will never go down or up again, but the wonderful terrace on the first floor convinced her.

Hanna auf Terrasse

It turned out that this terrace should become a meeting point of our group in Havana. By the way, not only the advertising signs were a highlight, but also the plants, which Carlos jr. took care of with great dedication.

Pflanzen auf Terrasse

Actually, it was arranged that we should wait for Sean’s sister, who was to fly from Canada to Havana that day, while everyone else should go to their lodgings about 500m to 800m from our Casa. But somehow Sean arrived (as usual with a can of beer in his hand) and took us off as everyone else waited in a restaurant having lunch, while Sean had had a sandwich in a local “Hole in the Wall”, which should turn out to have fatal consequences the net day.

While going to the restaurant where the others were, we met Sandra, Sean’s sister, by chance one or two corners don from our lodgings. Her taxi driver had not found the address, and a Cuban had offered to show her the way. It is not clear whether this was our bad day … In any case, when Sandra asked him if he wanted to have something, he directed Sandra to the milk shop at a the corner and then bought some dry milk for 10 CUC which Sandra paid for. Dry milk or milk is hard to get with Cuban currency, but Hanna thought the man was under drugs.

After Sean had brought Sandra’s bags to our Casa, we went to the restaurant, where everyone else was waiting. A very traditional looking restaurant.

Restaurant in Obispo

Here, however, they have tried to rip us off. After thorough inspection, they had billed themselves over 40 Euros to our disadvantage, making Alejandro visibly embarrassed. But we could clarify everything and they corrected the bill.

Before Alejandro departed for good this time, he took us on a tour of Havana from which this sculpture of a wall (Che Guevara) on Revolution Square should be enough for now, we had a second tour of the city later.

Che

In the evening we played then the “eating out” which is not easy in a larger group. We landed in a crowded tapas bar, not surprising when the Lonely Planet not only records this, but also positively mentions it. We got a table on the first floor, cramped. The menu was not as convincing, so we decided to just have a drink. At least the Mojito was very appealing and unusually served.

Mojito

Hanna and I did not want to go with the others looking for a restaurant and went back to the Casa, not without getting us two ham sandwiches (1 € for both!) in a small Cuban shop (which offered obviously also a very popular drink that I could not identify) with two ham sandwiches. Unlike others, we had no problem with these!

Lamparilla Tapas & Cervezas

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Cuba – Day 3 (8.3.2017)

The third day was devoted to an event that only a few Cuban visitors experience: a visit to a Cuban family.

Nata and Nadya went shopping with Alejandro in the morning and then prepared a meal in the house of his family. The rest of the troops came later and we spent a happy afternoon.

Nata und Nadya beim Kochen

Some time between cooking, Nata has a discussion with the mother-in-law of Alejandro …

Nata und Alejandros Mutter

…while his father is taking care of the BBQ.

Alejandro's Vater

Hanna and I came under siege by Alejandro’s daughter Natalie, who gradually gave us her toy supplies.

Hanna mit Spielzeug

Natalie is, as we see, the pride of the father. The other family members present were the parents of Alejandro, his wife, his daughter, his sister, two sons, and his mother-in-law.

Vater und Tochter   Familie

Neffe   Familie

However, others did not look so very happy.

Oliver

But at some point the food was ready.

Essen bei Alejandro

And then mixed Canadian-Cuban dining groups (or purely Cuban or Canadian ones) were formed.

Nata, Nadya und Alejandros Familie

Kanada

Sean und Alejandro

After the meal music and dance were announced. Music is omnipresent in Cuba, there are lots of Cuban groups, but this time Greg was on the guitar. He had come out of Havana early in the morning with Erda and played despite his tiredness.

Greg und Zuhörer

Tanz

Even the most beautiful day comes to an end and as it is in Cuba, an old-timer was called for us a taxi. This was the best-preserved car from the 50’s, which we experienced on our trip.

Chevrolet

Innen

After the return Hanna and I fell into bed, maybe still an impact of the jet lag. The others wanted to visit the same Italian restaurant, where we had been the evening before, but this time they were not let in for unexplained reasons.

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Cuba – Day 2 (7.3.2017)

Surprisingly, our jet lag was not so severe and we could sleep almost until the normal rising time.

The second day was dedicated to the visit of Matanzas and the surrounding area. And since we were a group of 7 people, a correspondingly large taxi was ready in the morning.

Taxi Matanzas
Guide for the day was Alejandro, whom our Canadian family already knew from several visits and whom they already regarded as a friend. If any of our readers would like to book guided tours in Cuba (Varadero, Matanzas, Havana): We can only recommend Alejandro! (http://www.cubantripcompass.com). Alejandro was ready to collect the participants and, of course, some shot-chat was done before starting.
Alejandro und Gruppe

The first destination of our tour was a trip especially for Cubans, located on a river east of Matanzas, the Club Nautico Canimar Abajo.

Kubanisches Ausflugsziel
On the other side of the river were camping huts, which reminded me very strongly of the huts in Yugoslavia, where I had also spent a night or two in the 70s.

Campinghütten
The next destination was then the Saturno Cave, a cave on the way to the airport of Varadero. It goes down deeply and then opens to a cave with a water pool, in which one can swim, which was extensively used by three from our group of 7.

Saturno Cave

Before lunch, we had a trip to the Parque de la Libertad in Matanzas. It is the central square in the city and also a hotspot. In Cuba there are few accesses to the Internet. Private access is only coming soon, and if you want to surf, you need access in the open air if you do not want to go to a hotel. A hotspot is visible by people sitting on some benches and staring at their phones.

Hotspot

And this applies not only to mobile phones, but also to computers.
Internet and Oldtimers

We also had a look at the Hotel Velasco, which has, among other things, a wonderful bar.


Bar im Hotel Velasco
But then a lunch break was necessary. Since the restaurant Alejandro had chosen was unfortunately closed, we went to a restaurant nearby and found a seating area right by the sea.

Restaurant am Meer

Everyone had different dishes and we first experienced the (limited) selection of Cuban food. A typical dish is the “Ropa Vieja“, which is the only dish based on beef generally. Ropa Vieja is translated as “old clothes”.

Ropa Vieja

Hanna was exhausted after the meal and we delivered her to our Casa. Afterwards we went back to the central square of Matanzas, where we had been already in the morning. Alejandro always says that Matanzas is the greatest city in Cuba (because he lives there). The Lonely Planet für Kuba has a different opinion: He thinks that Matanzas is uninteresting, with the exception of the old pharmacy. This was our next destination and that was impressive. It is the only pharmacy in the world, preserved in the original state of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Apotheke Matanzas

For example, with the old cash desk.

Apotheke Kasse

Or the drugs that were offered. Note that Cognac and Vino Xeres (Sherry) were among the medications.

Arzneien

Also the “drug kitchen was interesting.

Drogenküche

After the pharmacy, we went to the main shopping street of Matanzas.

Einkaufsstrasse in Matanzas

In Cuba, there are two official currencies: the CUC, which is freely convertible and approximately equivalent to the US dollar, and the CUP, the Cuban peso, which the locals use. However, the supply of goods that can be bought with CUP is very limited, as a visit to a store brought us clearly.

Kubanischer Laden

After the visit to Matanzas we went to a cave, the Bellamar Caves, whose visit I had to leave, because I had considerable breathing difficulties and a rising panic. This was due to the high humidity of up to 98%, an effect, which I had unfortunately experienced a couple of years ago when visiting a hamam in Istanbul. Brian thankfully led me back out of the cave, where I was waiting for the others in the shadow of a ficus.

Ficus

In the evening we went to a simple Italian restaurant near our Casa. Near the restaurant was a store, which mainly sold alcohol and we saw many Cubans with a bottle of rum in the restaurant, which they had obviously brought from the shop. We did not have it, but there was enough alcohol for us. Next to the terrace was a taxi with an open trunk and a blasting stereo, so we had music without the restaurant having to worry about it. And as soon as one of the local guests asked for fire, Brian jumped up and donated one of his many lighters he had brought along. And the service got not only tips baut also a few pens.

Tired and satisfied, we went to bed.

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Cuba – Day 1 (6.3.2017)

I know I’m lagging behind with the reports from Cuba. The reason is that I had to carry out work for the EU right after our return. And then in the last week in Brussels one meeting after another. But more about that later. Our flight with AirBerlin to Varadero was scheduled for Monday morning. It was a great advantage that the flight went directly from Berlin to Varadero, without an intermediate stop. Of course, we had gotten up early enough, especially because we had not yet packed, but that is now routine (by and large). At some point an SMS of the airline came that the flight is delayed by an hour. Wonderful, we thought, then the taxi can come later. Ok, nevertheless, plans were disrupted a bit, but Hanna had forgotten something important, so we had to go back.

Finally arriving at the airport we thought that we were still in time, but the Checkin desk told us that we were lucky that the baggage handling was not yet closed. So it was quite hectic, especially since I still had to get the tourist card for Cuba. Ultimately everything was ok, and we were on time at the gate.

The reason for the delayed departure quickly became clear: the flight time was much shorter than planned, and an earlier arrival would probably would have affected all the transfer plans for the all-inclusive tourists. The flight was ok, especially since we had made an extra charge to get an “XL” seat in Economy, which offered some extra leg room.

The arrival in Varadero was ok, although the passport control reminded us a bit of the entry into the GDR of the 80s. The luggage handling was totally chaotic: everything was delivered on three baggage belts and taken off the belt by well-meaning helpers before the second round.

Customs clearance was surprisingly unproblematic. In front of the terminal, Nata waited, took our luggage and pointed us to the bureaux de change. It was great, however, that she also put a beer into our hands to bridge the waiting time. Our budget for the trip we had taken in cash and then changed a large part into the tourist currency CUC. Since our pickups were not there, we had some drinks next to the terminal The first Mojitos, which should develop into the main drink during the trip, especially for the female members of the group. At some point, the cars, oldtimers from the 50s, as you would expect in Cuba, were there to take us to the accommodation.

Varadero Airport to Casa

Our accommodations during the trip were all so-called Casas particulares . Our first stop was Matanzas not far from the airport and we arrived with a little timelag in the accommodation had our first Cuban meal at this place.

 casa_matanzas.jpg

The accommodation was very nice, although we did not use all the facilities, like the kitchen.

 Matanzas Kitchen

But the most important thing after the flight was the bed, and that was good!

Bed Matanzas

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Visitors, visitors, visitors

Today is the first day, without people visiting us.

On Saturday my sister and her husband were here, because he had to shut down his professional apartment in Berlin and move to his new job headquarters near Munich. We had a nice roast beef with carot vegetables.

On Sunday the Prenzler family was here and helped us to build a few furnitures from Ikea, as a reward we had a wild boar leg with ratatouille and potatoes. And for those who do not like Ratatouille, there was still some carots left from the day before.

After clearing the apartment Petra and Thomas were with us again on Monday, but this time we did not cook, but Thomas invited us to dinner in return for my assistance in the final inspection of his flat. We went to Schneeweiß, a restaurant very well visited for a Monday, obviously because it is recommended in many foreign travel guides, but the food is absolutely worth it.

After breakfast on Tuesday both then wanted to go for the final handing over of the Pankow apartment. This was however disturbed by the fact that some thieves had smashed the rear window of Thomas’ company car and stole the navigation system, radio and a couple of suits. There were obviously professionals at work.

After all this excitement we enjoy being alone again.

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Deadlines

28/01/2013 (Mon)

Today is again a Monday not moving over to Hamburg. The occasion is an appointment with the ENT woman doctor in preparation for the sleep lab. And she did find some things that could be important in relation to breath disorders. This requires of course some more tests. Maybe these then will bring more opportunities to stay a day longer in Berlin.

29/1/2013 (Tue)

In Hamburg, back again for a week of hard work on a deadline. We were successful last year with a proposal, being one of three that were selected from hundreds of applicants. Unfortunately we had overlooked a clause that limited the allowable day rates for personnel. The European Commission had negotiated the project accordingly, but unfortunately one of our partners took this as an opportunity to withdraw from the project.

The EU wants the project to go through, my boss wants it, so a new start with a reworked proposal. Unfortunately, my boss was in Brussels for 10 days before the deadline and furthermore caught a nasty virus, so I’m suddenly had to lead the proposal work with the support of a colleague. So long working days, today and tomorrow.

30/01/2013 (Wed)

I had been promised the numbers for Monday, when I did not get them, I had set a deadline for Wednesday 16:00 h, finally the data were dispatched past 17:00h. Then incorporated into the documented and loaded up to the Commission server. The submission of proposals nowadays is mostly electronic and usually it is good practice to upload a version in time to avoid heavy loadsjust before closing time. In another large research framework program one may upload a newer version again and again until the final deadline. But not here: uploaded, the got the message: now you are no longer allowed to, the proposal is locked in its current state!. Well, fortunately everything needed was in the document, the only thing I wanted to do still was nothing but polishing.

In the evening, I went to the Italian Mercato Ristorante once again, but this again lost a point: I feel slightly deceived if they give the impression that a menu depending on market conditions has been developed by shoowing the disheswritten on a blackboard. But then, if after a week it still says exactly the same thing, then I think it is nothing but a bad marketing ploy.

31.01.2013 (Thursday)

Today, as I had the deadline, I had postponedan appointment especially from the morning to the afternoon, to allowfor the last finishing touches to the proposal. But, as it was already locked the day before, I had some time to relax. Incidentally, for those interested: the application was on the subject of “Knowledge Alliances” as part of the Erasmus programme. In this project, courses are developed in partnership with industry to train entrepreneurs.

The appointment I had postponed was one with a professor with whom I cooperate on another project, the meeting focussing on personnel and staffing issues. The Prof had gone into retirement last year and his graduate students obviously had put together a book of his research career through the research papers he published over the yeara. And he gave me a copy, I thought that was a nice touch.

02/01/2013 (Fri)

Today is the most beautiful day of the week it is homeward!!

2/2/2013 (Sat)

Linus am Computer

Hanna received an unexpected Skype call today from an old classmate whom shhe deemed in Costa Rica. And of course she has invited him for lunch/dinner at our place at once. Otherwise, we had a leisurely day, also with computer games, when Linus is extremely fond of lying between us and tries to make using the mouse difficult for Hanna. To eat, we had a very simple but extremely tasty dish: pasta with a sauce of bacon, mushrooms, pine nuts, parsley, garlic and sour cream, topped with freshly ground parmesan cheese.

Pasta with bacon and mushrooms

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The week after

You would think that I would enjoy the newly renovated apartment once done. But no, the week from the 21st was the first full five-day week in Hamburg in 2013. So everything was back to “Normal”.

***

21/01/2013 (Mon)

The first full week of work in Hamburg and it begins likek that as well: the train stops on the open track, of course not far from the destination. Obviously, the train driver had to check some brakes for malfunction. Result was a delay of 30 minutes. No, exactly, it was one of 29 minutes. Have you announcements? 9 minutes then become “about 5” and 29 “about 25”.

Next to me on the train were two models talking in English. One was obviously from Toronto and one from Austria. They talked about their jobs, the agencies and photographers. And the job can probably be pretty hard, one was afraid of a date the next day, where she was booked for photographs of summer fashion. Fear because the photographer obviously loves the outdoors, shooting the light garment in the sub-zero temperatures we had then. What struck me about the girls was that they are very tall and, well, were very slim, but that they had had completely featureless faces. Must be so, so that the makeup people can express themselves freely.

***

22/1/2013 (Tue)

In Harburg, I tried a new Italian restaurant, the Ristorante Mercato in Neue Strasse. Decorated like a typical trattoria, of course with red checkered tablecloths, many bottles, Ferrari models to a full-blown Vespa. I had very good spaghetti vongole, with a lot of fresh garlic and a little on the sharp side. For dessert there was a parfait, with outside coconut on the outside and inside with a Limoncello cream. Delicious.

***

24/01/2013 (Thursday)

And nothera visit to the Ristorante Mercato, although I usually go really rarely eat dinner. This time I took the test that I perform always with Italians: the Carbonara test. Taking German shool notes,I would give this a 2- (“just about good”). Actually, they were good, but unfortunately the Parmigiano was already added to the pasta in the kitchen, I’d prefer to do it myself at the table.

***

25/01/2013 (Fri)

For the return trip on Friday I have now discovered a pleasant ICE. Usually the trains to Berlin leave Hamburg shortly after the hour, but since beginning of the new timetable this one goes at 14:38. Since it’s obviously not as well known, it is so beautifully empty that I (on Friday!!) do not need to make a reservation and have a whole table to myself. Ok, this one takes a little longer because of stops in Ludwigslust and Wittenberg, but the train scheduled half an hour later I could not take because all the seats were booked.

***

26/01/2013 (Sat)

How I missed it! When I used to live in Hamburg, I had a regular card playing evening, a German game called Doppelkopf for which you need four people. We met monthly in turns and had lots of fun. Here in Berlin we had tried several times but we were never successful in finding a round. Today we had Manuela and Michellewho usually clean our flat. This time it was a private visit with Flo and it turned out to be a fun round, so that I hopeit can also become a regular institution. The food in between, the wontons, I’ve already briefly mentioned above.

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