Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Searching for Commies in wrong Cuban places

The terraced hillsides of Las Terrazas, west of Havana, began as a reforestation effort but  now are an artist colony.
"Searching for Commies in all the wrong places" was my suggested headline for the second story in the Cuba series, which goes to readers on Aug. 10.

Either that was just too edgy or the paper's layout folks figured younger readers might not connect with the word "Commie" since it's not one in much use now. Many of the actions by Communists, who were in Cuba from the early 1960s until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, caused today's restrictions on Cuba for Americans.

So instead the story is headlined "Visit to Cuba has power to shake perception" which is certainly quite accurate.

Click on the contrasted print and you will be able to see the story itself along with pictures  of one of the prettiest places I've ever been  - Las Terrazas in the lovely Sierra de Rosario mountains west of Havana .

Thatch roof cottages on stilts provide rustic overnight lodging to visitors.

Whether by accident or intent this project initiated by the Russians and Fidel Castro has become a model of ecotourism - drawing visitors and Cubans alike to its cool forests, its art colony and to its Banos, a series of waterfalls and deep pools in the San Juan River where people come to play, picnic and stay overnight in thatched cottages on stilts.

Birds, wildlife and exotic  trees and plant species abound. It was begun as a reforestation  project on hillsides denuded of trees by people to make charcoal - the same activity that has made much of Haiti an ecological wasteland prone to erosion.

In the reforestation effort, which also provided wide employment, the slopes were terraced and mahogany, teak and other trees planted to end the erosion.

In the 40 years since then, it's become a lush oasis and a prime destination for a day or more away from the city. Hiking trails thread through the mountainsides, there's good dining, and a 1800s French run  coffee plantation has been restored for interpretation.  There's a small hotel with a huge tree growing through its roof.

Houses originally built for workers now have become a focus for an artist colony, many of whom open their homes and studios to visitors. Those who practice the arts always seem drawn to places of great beauty, which they make more beautiful by their own work.

Cuba still has several species of wild parrots, although the birds are endangered since many have been captured as pets. 

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