"One Fidel Castro, there's only one Fidel Castro..." The crowds at the baseball stadium in the Cuban city of Guantanamo have not been known to chant that between innings, but they know the tune better than any British soccer fan. They also know the proper words. "Guantanamera" was written in the 1930s as a tribute to a Cuban peasant, a country girl from the province of Guantanamo - the bitter end of Cuba, a region that is as beautiful as it is neglected by visitors to the island. Guantanamo is also wounded by fate: it is the location for the world's last Berlin.
Beneath the bare mountains of eastern Cuba, capitalism and communism glare at each other across a lethal barrier. Berlin was like this, only cooler: a chunk of the East owned and occupied by the West. The Cold War is now a tropical affair. And, as in Berlin, it is a tourist attraction.
By now, you probably know about the treaty that awarded a 45- square-mile patch of the Republic of Cuba to the United States, until 2033 unless both parties agree otherwise. The Americans appreciate the intelligence gathering opportunity that the Guantanamo Bay naval base provides - it is a military thorn in Castro's side. Most of all, they relish the chance to deport problematic people to a corner of a foreign island that is forever (or thereabouts) American.
After 43 years of playing an unwilling David to the Goliath of the north, the Cuban authorities are, understandably, paranoid about security. Plane- spotting is as inadvisable in Castro's island as it is in Greece. So you may be surprised to learn that the regime welcomes tourists to the military zone that rings the US naval base where 158 suspected al-Qa'ida and Taliban fighters are incarcerated in conditions even less comfortable than those offered by the average Cuban B&B.
The military zone that abuts the US Guantanamo base is open to visitors for two reasons. First, the Cubans are keen to show foreigners just how aggravating and anachronistic it is for their biggest foe to maintain a military base on their island. Second, the chance of charging tourists a few dollars to visit the zone is not to be missed by a cash-strapped island.
The easiest way to see the last Berlin is to join a tour. Anyone who makes their way to the handsome "hero city" of Santiago de Cuba can arrange a trip to the base. Santiago is an essential stop on the revolutionary road. It was here that the first insurrection against the oppressive Batista regime took place on 26 July 1953, still the holiest day in the Cuban communist calendar. (You can see the truncheons used by the Batista police in the municipal museum in Guantanamo City.) One of the survivors of the futile attack on the Moncada Barracks was Fidel Castro. Almost half a century later, the Cuban leader is now master of all that he surveys - apart from 45 troublesome square miles of the island.
The road that loops eastwards towards Guantanamo Bay is a standard pot- holed battlefield that challenges the suspension even of the giant American saloons that act as taxis. Suddenly, a few miles from the city that donates its name to the province, the bay and the naval base, the highway transforms into a flat, four-lane masterpiece of civil engineering. The reason is that this is actually military engineering, and the road can instantly become a runway should Cuba need to scramble aircraft to the edge of the naval base.
From here, you descend into a scruffy town that everyone else in Cuba likes to be rude about, even though they have probably not been there. In mitigation, Guantanamo city's seedy image stems from the days when the Marines stationed at the US
naval base flocked to the town for gambling and sex. The coitus was interrupted by the Revolution, but the reputation has stuck. Guantanamo city is, admittedly, short on distinguishing features. But it contains a few gems. At the railway station, a faded neoclassical entrance leads into a tropical garden. …