Desayuno en la casaNovember 29 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C
Ein reichhaltiges Frühstück in der ersten Casa Particulares. Mit frischem Obst und Saft genossen wir den ersten morgen im sonnigen Kuba.
Ein reichhaltiges Frühstück in der ersten Casa Particulares. Mit frischem Obst und Saft genossen wir den ersten morgen im sonnigen Kuba.
In the museum of the revolution it’s all about USA bashing and what the US government did. Although much of it is true and agreed on by historians, many explanations and descriptions are formulated in a way that it refers to the US involvement as ... let’s say negative.
I spot a lot of old American cars, they are everywhere, but these one's are in great nick. This is Parque Central where a lot of tourist buses start their tours from, hence the guy's offering tours in the cars.
Next to Parque Central is a very impressive building, El Capitolio, or National Capitol Building. It was the organization of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. "El Capitolio" has a size of 681 by 300 ft. Its design is compared to that of the United States Capitol.Read more
Where do I even start? Five nights in Havana have blurred into one so this entry won't be chronological, but instead representative of the jumbled memories in my idling brain.
Old Havana is exactly that. It's dirty, it's smelly and it's falling apart but the original architecture is gorgeous. I would have loved to see this place in its heyday. We're staying near Old Havana in a casa on the third storey with a very helpful and friendly young couple. They've made some good life decisions and got set up on Air BnB, now they own their house and their car (rare in Cuba) and have a steady stream of income and plenty of guests to fill her old man's taxi. Well played.
It's hard not to overlook the poverty in this area of the city. It's not poverty like you see in countries like China or India (I assume - never been). There are few beggars and fewer homeless, and the majority are well dressed and look well fed. But the state of infrastructure is a mess. Empty shells of direlect buildings - some now hosting a variety of vegetation - are common, and piles of rubble from not-yet-completely-demolished buildings lay unsafely over the footpath. Gutters are non-existant and pipes spurt water (?...or worse?!) freely onto the street or the unsuspecting passer by. Roads and footpaths were once respectible, I'm sure, but now are buckled and cracked or with dangerously large potholes or, more commonly obstructed by piles of aggregate, rubbish, rubbish bins or a poorly parked three wheeled bicycle taxi.
In addition, the streets are filthy (making jandals and rain a dangerous combination) and it's difficult even for the dullest of us olefactors not to be nasally assualted many times per day. Unhealthily skinny stray cats and dogs loiter the streets and skulk in the shadows, searching helplessly for aid.
New Havana is a different storey, it's much cleaner and greener and slightly less smelly. It's on the edge of our walking range so we've only spent a morning there and to be honest we really only went for the ice cream!
One thing the government has begun to do well is restoration. Havana contains many truely beautiful buildings, many more in fact, than could be reasonably expected to be maintained. The museum of the revolution is one such building which we spent an afternoon reading (or looking at pictures as it was almost entirely in spanish...grrr) up on our mates Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. A history every Cuban is overwhelmingly proud of, demonstrated with busts and faces created in every form of art and displayed at any opportunity. We're also yet to visit a monument or statue not dedicated to a soldier of Cuba's independence. We took a walking tour with Ernesto, who offered reasonable english, excellent insights and a ridiculous amount of dates and spanish names. Woosh!
We've clocked up some serious distance on foot, averaging well over 20,000 steps per day. We're making in roads on waking fitness but cardio fitness is well and truely gone, as discovered on the first run in months. Two actually, along the Malecon boardwalk in the early morning, which was dotted with fishermen and some fairly impressive catches for a handline! Come to write about it, we've actually spent almost all of our time in Havana walking or drinking dangerously strong mojitos - after all we are in the home of the mojito.
The best part of Cuba is most definitely the people. All of our hosts and guides have been fantastic. It's so nice to see locals stopping just to say hi to one another, handshakes and kisses and smiles all round. Honks and waves too, an intricate part of the daily routine. I wish I spoke better spanish and could have had some better interaction, but that's my own undoing.
There are two things that have really been bugging me about Cuba so you're in for another rant! The first is the lack of internet. Cuba has been shielded from the world by their communist government for over half a century, and it's worked, largely I'm guessing because they're an island. Perhaps someone can tell me how that's going for mainland China or North Korea - I'd look it up but, oh yeah, I don't have internet. Private internet is non-existant - you can't buy it for all the money in Cuba. ETESCA is the only (government operated) internet provider. Cubans can set up an account with ETESCA which they can top up with cash at the shop (read: wait in line for hours) up to about 10 hours internet at a time. Everybody else waits in the same line (Scott loves doing this) and can get a max of three hours at $1.50 per hour. Then you get to walk to the nearest plaza or park, and enter the codes to get you online. Then you spend the majority of your valuable hour watching the wheel of doom spin. Or disconnecting and reconnecting. Or fending off chancers trying to sell you more internet at five times the price. IT'S HORRIBLE! Skype or data calls? You're dreaming. You'll be lucky if a picture message goes through. Oh and remember - the government controls what you can or can't see, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's blocked American content i.e. half the internet. I wouldn't know, I'm yet to buy enough time to load a webpage.
Why don't they get with the times? Clearly they have the infrastructure, and the majority own phones. Surely it's the readily available access to information they so desperately need. The world is leaving Cuba even further behind, but perhaps that's the way they like it. Although, apparently privatisation is well on the rise, we'll see how that goes!
The second on my list is the food. It's awful. I can and will list all the food in Cuba in one sentence. Rice, beans, chicken, pork/ham, beef, fish, bread, spagetti, cheese, eggs, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion and (to be fair) a reasonable variety of local fruit. So we've eaten omelettes and fruit for breakfast (read: ham, cheese, bread and egg). Sandwiches or pizza for lunch (read: ham, cheese and bread) no butter, mayo or tomato sauce of course. And for dinner we opt for spaghetti or rice, beans, questionable cuts of plain fried meat and salad (read: cucumber, lettuce and if you're lucky - tomato). Oh and when I say ham, it's often that gelatinous sausage that looks like dog food. Yum. That's dining at 99% of food outlets. We took a stroll through some local food markets on our 9th day in Cuba. We found chilli, capsicum, herbs and spices - litterally everything you need to turn the boring meals on their head. Why oh why do you do this to yourselves!?!? The impact of communism on Cuba for us, is most visible through the food. Citizens still queue for their free daily rations of rice, beans, oil and coffee at unmarked stores that make the 40's look like the distant future. There is only one brand of bottled water available, period. It's full of chemicals and usually makes you gag (at least on the first few gulps). Actually, the tap water tastes better but we've been warned away on that one. Coke and for that matter, anything US made - you're having a laugh. Infact, anything imported whatsoever is a lucky find. We've been on the street-food hunt, trying anything unidentifiable, hoping to crack the local secret dish - so far no luck. It's abysmal. The only incentive to eat is that it's cheap, and we're burning some serious calories on foot that need replacing. On this front, Mexico can't come soon enough.
We stepped up our game on the last two nights and found some chinese in Chinatown which was a welcome change, followed by a Swedish restaurant which was delicious - fine dining at $15 per head. I was battling an upset tummy by this stage so I was grateful for some food I could look at without feeling sick.
Cuba's history is repressed and unfortunately quite dyer at times. A fascinating read if you have the time, and offers a bit of insight into the above - famine and governement induced economic depression. Surprisingly, Castro even admits to making a few bad decisions.
Perhaps I'm spoiled but in my opinion Cuba is only for the intrepid traveller. The cultural shock and intrigue wears off after a few days and the inbetween is a battle a lot of time. If I were to do it again, I'd start in Havanna, spend less time there and spend more time in the country visiting the natural beauty.
If I haven't put you off, here a few tips I wish I had recieved prior to arriving in the tobacco capital:
- Do you research beforehand. Plan your route, research your destinations and book your flights.
Accommodation, buses and taxis are easy enough to get when you're there if you know where to look.
- Triposo App is worth it's weight in gold, offline too!
- Book buses as early as you can, they often sell out.
- Learn some spanish.
- Bring with you all your favourite treats.
That's Cuba done and dusted. An empty, delayed and very short flight later, we were in the americanised metropolis of Cancun. Stomach status: on the rise. Happy days!Read more
Traditional Cuban music bands give bars in Old Havana a special feel. The food and the service may not be very good in some of these establishments, especially the state-run ones, but the music is so good that you won't have time to pay attention to those minor inconveniences. The tunes of Buena Vista Social Club and other traditional songs are the perfect soundtrack for enjoying a drink while contemplating the eclectic landscape of the old quarter, and the musicians performing at these bars will give you exactly that.
La Dichosa: Too loud for some, amazingly fun for others, the bands playing at La Dichosa are really something. You can hear their music from more than one block away, and if you decide to stop and have a look inside, it's hard not to be overtaken by so much energy. This bar is a tiny spot on the corner of Obispo and Compostela, with all the typical furniture and decorations that you would expect to find in Old Havana. La Dichosa, Compostela (Obispo corner), Old Havana, Cuba, +53 7 861 5292
Santo Angel: At a superb location in Old Square (Plaza Vieja), Santo Angel is a restaurant divided into different service areas, including a bar called Don Gaspar. This colonial building has an ample porch that accommodates a big band of traditional Cuban music that performs daily. It's a great place to have a drink while taking in the atmosphere of one of the busiest centers in the old quarter. Santo Angel, Teniente Rey. No. 60. Esq. San Ignacio, Old Havana, Cuba, +53 7 861 1626
Cafe Taberna: Also in Old Square, Cafe Taberna is a bar offering live music performances by traditional Cuban music bands. The decoration of the place pays tribute to Benny More, one of Cuba's most famous singers in the 1940s, and some of the bands performing will have more than one of his songs in their repertoire. Cafe Taberna, Mercaderes No. 531, esquina Teniente Rey (Corner of Plaza Vieja), Old Havana, Cuba, +53 7861 1637
El Patio Bar Restaurant: With a gorgeous view of Cathedral Square, El Patio offers one of the best outdoor areas in which to enjoy a drink in a very colonial setting. Although the building houses an indoor bar and restaurant, the best tables are on the porch and the cobblestone street outside. In tune with the surroundings, the bands performing here play very traditional Cuban music-which tends to be more enjoyable in these outdoor locations than in the typical tiny bars in the old quarter, especially if you want a pleasant background for your conversation over one or two Cuban cocktails.El Patio Bar Restaurant, Plaza de la Catedral, 54 San Ignacio, Old Havana, Cuba, +53 7 8671035
Bar Monserrate: What used to be the lobby of a hotel that no longer exists, the Monserrate Hotel, is now a bar-technically a restaurant, but in practice, it's more popular as a bar. Renovated and re-opened in 1994, Bar Monserrate is a short stroll away from Havana's Capitol Building, at a cool location on Monserrate Street. Music is central to the decoration and spirit of the place: pictures of famous Cuban musicians hang on the walls, including those of Benny More, Bola de Nieve, and the Trio Matamoros. In addition to playbacks of traditional Cuban music, the place offers live performances by bands at different times of the day. If you are looking to get an idea of how bars looked in Havana the 1950s, this is a good option. Bar Monserrate, Esquina Monserrate Obrapía, Old Havana, Cuba, +53 7 8609761
La Bodeguita del Medio: One of Havana's most popular places among tourists, La Bodeguita del Medio is a bar-restaurant that gained international recognition for its mojito cocktails and its link to American writer Ernest Hemingway, who was a regular in the 1940s and 1950s. Even though the place is tiny, or at least too small for the number of clients wanting to have a drink there, it makes space to accommodate a band that plays Cuban music live. The atmosphere here is a stereotypical combination of Cuban rum, cigar smoke, and traditional music, with a touch of history made evident by the many signatures of famous people who have visited over the decades. La Bodeguita del Medio, Empedrado, Old Havana, Cuba, +53 7 571375
Ich hatte nur wenige Stunden Gelegenheit, in 4 Musik Kneipen zu gehen. Das war nur ein Vorgeschmack dessen, was ich dann ab Silvester mit meiner Heidi für etwas mehr als 2 Tage noch zu sehen bekomme. Es ist definitiv das Beste was man in Havanna machen kann.
Editiert am 27.02.2018Read more
Thought it was going to be a flight from hell to Havana, with a noisy guy on my left, and a screaming bairn across the aisle. Thankfully both fell asleep after take-off. Turned out to be a pretty good flight from México City, arriving in Havana 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Got into the terminal and queueing for the Immigration took about 30 minutes, in a dimly lit hall. Then took about another 30 minutes until I finally received the bag, due to the baggage carousel breaking down. Suppose I better get used to this. Accommodation is a Casa Particular, basically a Bed and Breakfast, in Old Havana which is a grid of old streets, looks a bit "interesting" but perfectly safe.Read more
Coming southwards into the port, I come across the Plaza de Trece de Mayo. In it there's statues for Gustavo Morez, José Martí, the writer during the independence revolution, and a huge Cuban flag.
Just behind that is the Museo de la Revolución, with a part of the original city wall on one side at the front, and the tank Fidel Castro used to fire a shot at a US destroyer on the other side.Read more
I walked not far north until I reached the road along the waterfront. This is Malecón, an 8km long promenade. Walking to the east, and towards central Havana, you realise the contrast of the bygone buildings, some retain their splendor, others have been left to become decrepit. It must have looked amazing in those days. Once closer to the centre, more have been preserved.
From the most eastern part of Malecón you get a view across the entrance of Havana port to the impressively named Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro. Lots of locals rod fishing here.
Along the way you can't but notice the variety of transport.Read more
We spent the day touring Havana, including the old Spanish fortress, El Morro. Most of the buildings were once lovely neoclassical structures, but now have fallen into decay. Lunch was at El Rancho in an upscale neighborhood where many foreign ambassadors to Cuba live. Lorenzo Lopez presented his art photography at his home/studio. He gave an inspirational talk on the beauty and positive power of smiling. El Rancho, near the homes of the many ambassadors to Cuba, is a very exclusive neighborhood. That night classic cars lined up in front of the hotel to take us to dinner. I became a teen-ager again as we were driven to dinner in a 1951 Chevrolet, the model in which I learned to drive. The show at the Tropicana was beautiful, sensual and expertly performed. The music and dance were no less wonderful than that in the city of Trinidad. All of the musicians and dancers were classically trained at conservatories in Havana or Santi Spiritu before branching out into native Cuban versions of their art. Costumes for both women and men dancers were dazzling. We spent overnight at the opulent, modern, clean, shiny Melia Habana Hotel. We are told that this extravant place may be used only by foreign tourists.Read more
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