CUBA - DAY 2, 3 & 4 - HAVANA

Havana, the largest city in the Caribbean, definitely made for an interesting visit. I found myself flooded with bright, dilapidated colonial buildings and classic Cheverolet's from the 50's driven by people of equally colourful personality. While perhaps customer service wasn't the best, Cubans seem to always be willing to help in any way they can, and I found that this may be because they have a different idea of time then we, in London, for example do. They were relaxed, as if they had nowhere to go, and when asked, for example, 'Donde esta la plaza vieja?' (Where is the 'old square'?), most would go out of their way, to show us where it was. That's probably what I found the most fascinating about this city, the people, and the way they operate.

Again, like in Viñales, we stayed in a 'casa particular' with, not surprisingly, some lovely company. We spent most of our visit exploring 'Havana vieja' which is the old, more traditional part of the city. In this area particularly, but also the whole city, there were very few cars, instead, tourists normally circulated in 'bicitaxis' (bicycle taxis) or 'coco taxis' (small, motorbike powered, vaguely shaped like a yellow coconut taxi ((very hard to describe.)) The streets are roughly one car narrow, and houses are very close together, making the contrasting colours of the different houses all the more satisfying. In the Old Town you will find souvenir shops, antique shops and hostels in abundance.

On New Year's Day we got to take a tour of Havana in a convertible Chevvy, and, of course, it had to be pink. It was from the 50's with a modern engine and it was a treat to experience the city like that (oh and great for pictures.) Later on, on New Year's Eve we went to a Cuban party, a unique experience I'm sure I won't forget, where I met an 'ecological rapper' who rapped about making Cuba greener, and actually had some pretty sick tunes.

Because of the (still going) US trade embargo of 1961 there is a serious lack of basic goods/items (so don't go to Cuba for fine dining or a shopping spree), and even simple things like shampoo are very hard to find, and expensive. In terms of food, the only fruit you can find is Guava, Banana, Pineapple and Coconut, and there are also very few vegetables (no potatoes... no chips..). And, even though this was hard to get used to at first, it was definitely worth it because after this trip I now like coconut and pineapple, which I didn't before.  However, there definitely was no lack of chicken, and my family and I found ourselves eating that almost every day. And, even though this was hard to get used to at first, it was definitely worth it because after this trip I now like coconut and pineapple, which I didn't before.

There is no other place like Havana. Nowhere else will you see such incredible architecture, untouched by modernisation, such lively, content people with silenced opinions, people with ideas doctored into them, no freedom of speech or publicity to convince them otherwise. (Yeah.. uhhuhh you read right, no. freedom. of. speech. mindblowing) Although many taxi drivers seemed to gush out with all their complaints about their government to us when asked, many were cautious as they were scared to 'get caught.' Day after day, we asked strangers 'Are you happy though?' and one man seemed to describe it very well, that 'if one is not happy, he is made happy.' which shocked me. For some though, illegal escape to the US is the only option, as Cubans are not allowed to leave the island unless given permission, and getting a passport is way, way out of 93% of Cuban's reach. (I could go on, and on, but it spirals downhill when politics are involved... really interesting though, so glad I could learn about all this first hand.)

Our days consisted of waking up, walking around the city taking lots of pictures, having lunch (probably chicken), then a much needed siesta to survive the afternoon heat, and out again to enjoy the rest of the night. My favourite thing about Havana was the bold, outgoing colours and the people that inhabit it. I really recommend this trip and would love to go there again.

x Sofia

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