Havana, Cuba, Day 1
Present day Havana, population 2.1 million, was founded in 1519 and became the capital in 1607. The French, Spanish and English all attacked throughout the years. Spain gave Britain Florida for Cuba in 1763. Sugar, rum, tobacco and coffee are the main exports. In the 1950s, Cuba was a wild town, complete with all night parties, gambling and American mobsters. Fidel Castro hated this and when he took power in 1959 stopped all the fun. There are many, many things to see.
The construction of Revolution Square began in 1959 and today is the base of the Cuban government. The obelisque measures 109 m high and is the tallest point in Havana-
Close by is the Ministry of the Interior with an image of Che Guevara and the saying "Always towards victory"-
and the Ministry of Information with Camilo Cienfuegos and the saying "Vas bien Fidel" which he replied to Fidel's question "Voy bien Camilo?" during Fidel's first public speech in January 1959-
The local Sunday market is an interesting place. Most booths are enclosed with chicken wire and a guard at the front door limits the number of people who can enter. Tomatoes, limes, bananas and peppers were all that was available today. People seem to do just fine with less-
This man is preparing a coconut-
The stationary shop - used books and other paper goods are for sale-
No matter where one goes, people like their pets, and with apartments being quite small, a caged bird is manageable-
Garlic for sale-
The meat shop: weiners, sausage and ham-
Cuba is rum. Here's how to make the 'perfect' mojito....
Start with fresh mint. Remove the stems and place in a glass. Next, cut a lime in half and squeeze both halves on top of the mint leaves....
Pulverize the mint leaves into the lime juice-
Add rum, way too much rum, up to the groove in the glass. Add ice, a little water, stir and voila! And to think I don't even like rum!
Another Cuban drink is the Catarra which is made from aguardiente, a liquor distilled from grape remains. It wasn't my favorite -
Havana is full of beautiful, old cars -
Hemmingway is everywhere, except in this restaurant where the workers wear t-shirts that read - "Hemmingway was never here!"
Popular taxis are the egg shaped tuktuks-
The Malecon is an 8 km route along the ocean-
The Maine Monument was erected in memory of the USS Maine, a battleship that mysteriously blew up in the harbor in 1898. Originally, it had an eagle on top but was decapitated in 1959 during the Revolution-
Plaza Vieja or the Old Square was laid out in 1559 as apartments for the rich. It was a place for public spectacles, including executions. Recently, it's been restored-
Before and after-
And the after-
Another example of the restoration-
And the result-
The finest stained glass in Havana can be found here-
There are thousands of beautiful buildings throughout the city-
The Gran Teatro de la Habana was recently renovated. It is neo baroque style and was built between 1907 and 1914. It has 2000 seats-
More fancy windows on just a random building-
Balconies, arches, color... This is Havana-
There are few parks so soccer is played in the street-
Music blasts from many apartments. These people were having a party down a corridor which led to a mass of apartments-
A game using tiles was played outside this home-
This is, unfortunately, as close as I'm going to get- :( (This was a closed restaurant, not a bike shop!)
The Capitolio Nacional is an example of neo classical architecture. This style developed in the mid 18th century in Europe to contrast the gaudiness of Baroque. It includes bold symmetrical lines with a return to the purity of ancient Rome and Greece. The Capitolio Nacional is similar in style to the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C. It was built in 1926, took 5000 workers 3 years, 2 months and 20 days to complete and cost US$ 17 million-
Construction of the Prado began in 1770 with the intent to mimick any boulevard in Paris. Bronze lions, added in 1928, guard the entrances-
Supper was a mojito and tostones rellenos - shaved beef in a pastry cap-
I walked miles today and have nickel sized blisters on the balls of both feet! Not sure what tomorrow will bring! Loving the blue skies, warm sun and friendly, smiling people!