The Maldives

Originally we had intended to fly to another destination, but couldn’t find anything we liked, so we followed the advice of a colleague and decided to try the Maldives. We were in no way disappointed! We landed in Malé airport and a boat took us out to Coco, one of the 1200 atoll islands which form a large circle.

We especially love the climate, about 30°, mostly sunny, not so humid and moreover, no “climate change catastrophes” such as tsunamis or typhoons or earthquakes. The people in charge of Coco (my good friends) have transformed this island into a lush paradise of palm trees, flowers and walkways between the island villas and the boardwalks to the water villas, which are more costly, but worth their money.

Coco offers about 5 fantastic restaurants, cafeteria and à la carte, a beauty salon, a diving school, meet and greet evenings, a turtle research center, several shops, e-carts to get to the other end, a large pool. several beaches and many other things.

At the research center you can talk to the marine biologist about how turtles are often caught in fishing nets or plastic waste. They sell adorable stuffed turtles and the proceeds go towards the research. The corals are unfortunately also bleached in many spots since 2016, when the water temperatures rose worldwide. Yet they are altogether still in better shape than, for example, the Red Sea. Many are growing back, due in part to the efforts of the research center.

The snorkeling is wonderful in this clear green-blue water, there are masses of colorful fish, turtles, manrays, small sharks and corals of every hue. You can take boat trips, learn diving, arrange for a massage with aromatic oils, book a table and order fresh fish at one of the open air restaurants, watch the natives dance or just relax on a beach. Hopefully this atoll will now be flooded some day when water levels rise!

The Maldives

Probably the most fascinating trip we ever did was to the island Coco near Malé of the atoll Maldives. Not only was the weather near perfect, we also had heard that there are practically no natural catastrophes like tropical storms or tsunamis, the beaches are beautiful, sandy and the water so clear, blue and green.

Added to that are all the wonderful animals and the gorgeous flora of the island, helped on by the fantastic head gardener.

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If you are a fan of snorkeling and diving like us, do try and go there. The resident marine biologist is glad to have any photos of turtles, as there is an active program to save turtles from being snagged in nets and each and every one is being tracked where possible. There is an abundance of turtles, small sharks, fanciful and colorful fish, manrays, etc. When resting from swimming in the wonderfully warm water, we would walk through the island’s gardens, often laid out in coconut groves.

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Or we would enjoy the sunset and the breeze with a tasty fish menu. Or look at the creative Easter decorations of some of the young designers, made of styrofoam and paint on the backside of the large main restaurant.

The massages and treatments were nothing if not luxurious, only the tinny music wasn’t quite to my liking. Very much to our liking was the encyclopedic knowledge of the sommelier who had learned his craft in the middle of Europe’s finest wineries, do try the 6 course menu accompanied by varied glasses of pure bliss.

Cuba – son, ron and cajón

“Havanna na-na-na”…. my new favorite. If you have just read my previous blog about my cajón, a large wooden percussion instrument you sit on and beat grooves with, then you will know that I fell in love with just about everything Spanish, Hispanic, mozárabe and Cuba in 2004.

Fidel Castro was still alive and featured on every wall that didn’t already have Che on it, Raúl was in the sidelines, US citizens were not allowed in, the embargo was still on, most Cubans worked for next to nothing in Cuban pesos and got a bit more in US dollars if they could work for tourism. Basic food stuffs, such as rice, black beans, milk and sugar were still rationed out on miniature cards, all our tourist guides were academics, engineers, teachers and the like. Those who had studied mathematics in Chemnitz or medicine in Leipzig or Russian in Moscow all needed a sponsor to enable their studies in East Germany or Russia. The Fifties still reign supreme in La Habana : those cool cruisers, the famous Tropicana, the cigar factories you may not carry bags into, the rum shops, “Granma” and other Castro vehicles from the Bahía de los Cochinos, the decaying houses with crazy electric wiring owned by colorfully clothed Cubans who cannot even pay for a bag of cement – which, historically, was a donation by Honecker in exchange for oranges too bitter for the Eastern Germans’ taste. The guagua (public bus) still comes around at odd hours – provided there is enough gasoline from Venezuela and spare parts from former Soviet trucks.

Notwithstanding, there is nothing more beautiful than watching Cubans dance to the son rhythm, hearing musicians play Buena Vista songs, observing affluent tourists smoke a fat cigar, breathing the salty, heavily scented, hot, humid air, standing in a cloudburst in Cienfuegos, miraculously evaporating in less than 20 minutes, watching laughing children jump into the saltos (waterfalls) and slide into the cool water below, sipping a pina colada or mojito and savoring the sunset in a tropical garden. Qué hermosa es.