Kyiv’s Cuban Connection
By Paul Miazga
The Cuban influence in Kyiv is subtle, but it’s there – in cigar shops offering all manner of Cuban cigars, to Latin dance classes where students whirl through the paces of the salsa and the meringue and in much of the music in the popular nightclub Caribbean Club. There are even some Cuban ex-pats in Ukraine – as many as 10,000 by some counts – who long ago left their island home to start life anew here.
Many Ukrainians think of Cuba as the place of respite and recovery for many children affected by the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, but for me this is just an interesting historical factoid; for me the Cuban experience in Kyiv encompasses all the above things, and they make the city just a bit more charming and colorful.
Starting with cigars, Ukraine’s “Cuban connection” began a few years ago in Hollywood, where after many years cigar smoking suddenly became fashionable again. Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi and others have graced various cigar industry magazine covers and encouraged cigar smoking worldwide, even to Ukraine, where conspicuous consumption is no longer as taboo as it was in the past. Several tobacco shops have opened in Kyiv in the last two or three years, but none is more inviting than La Casa del Habano.
La Casa del Habano is a spacious and near-deserted cigar-smoking and whiskey- or cognac-drinking lounge on a quiet stretch of the Klovsky Uzviz that features a walk-in humidor, a large selection of cigars and cigarillos, numerous cognacs, brandies and whiskies, a wide selection of cocktails, including many variations on the martini (whether they make a martini properly is another thing) and lots of comfortable chairs in which to lie back and enjoy some of these regal pleasures. In short, it’s a great place to hang out and get away from the usual downtown crowd.
As for dance, the city has so many Latin dance groups as to make them uncountable. However, the easiest place to get involved is at Caribbean Club (see “Bars and Nightclubs” on the main page to get the full listing). Classes there are often held mid-week in the evenings so that office workers can take part and they’re not outrageously expensive. Dancers can even order a dinner of Latin American food at Caribbean (it’s actually a great place to eat), but best of all, many of the club’s dance classes turn into full-on parties as the night begins and the real fun starts. Wednesday nights are ladies night at Caribbean – one of the craziest party nights anywhere in Kyiv!
Check out Caribbean Club for music that’s not the usual house/techno mix and for a party atmosphere that’s far more about moving and dancing than about standing around and looking pretty. Very laid back and very fun!