Bus Tour - Pt 1
Our Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour of Havana – Part One
After our snack we bimbled toward the tour bus stop, got offered all kinds of taxi, horse and cart and bicycle tours. We sat and watched the world go by listening (but not understanding) several ol’ boys – Fidel or Che lookalikes - probably talking about the good old days. The double-decker bus came, we paid 5 Cuc’s each and off we went, sitting upstairs in the sun. An interesting lady born in Grenada, but educated in London sat behind us and was a font of local knowledge. On our two hour circuit the guide really only pointed out hotels, the zoo and the cemetery, with the help of Google we found out a bit more.
The Gran Teatro de La Habana. The building known as the Palace of the Galician Centre was demolished in 1914 to open the way for the one that currently exists, initially named The Great Tacón Theatre, built in the German neo-baroque architecture Havana. The theatre is adorned with a stone and marble statues. There are also sculptures by Giuseppe Moretti, representing allegories depicting benevolence, education, music and theatre. The construction of the current building began in 1908 and was opened in 1915 with an opera season offered by important lyrical figures of the time. It was not until 1985, and at the initiative of the prima ballerina Alicia Alonso, that the building was renamed and became the Great Theatre of Havana.
This aging theatre was covered in giant ants during an arts festival.
The University of Havana or UH is a university located in the Vedado district. Founded in 1728, the University of Havana is the oldest university in Cuba, and one of the first to be founded in the Americas. Originally a religious institution, today the University of Havana has 15 faculties (colleges) at its Havana campus and distance learning centers throughout Cuba.
The José Martí Memorial, the national hero of Cuba, located on the northern side of the Plaza de la Revolución in the Vedado area of Havana. The 358 feet tower, designed by a team of architects led by Enrique Luis Varela, is in the form of a five-pointed star, encased in grey Cuban marble from the Isla de la Juventud. The design was eventually selected from various entries put forward from a series of competitions beginning in 1939. Entries included a version of the tower topped with a statue of Martí, and a monument similar to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. with a statue of Martí seated within. The fourth competition held in 1943 resulted in the selection of a design by the architect Aquiles Maza and the sculptor Juan José Sicre. In order to proceed with construction of the monument, the Monserrat Hermitage, which occupied the proposed site, had to be demolished. Various impediments to the acquisition of the Hermitage by the state led to delays in the demolition and the start of building work, so by 1952 – when Fulgencio Batista seized power in a coup – work on the construction had still not begun.
Eager to garner popular support after seizing power, Batista committed to pushing ahead with the construction of a monument to Martí; but rather than proceeding with the competition winner, he selected the design that had come third, created by a group of architects headed by Enrique Luis Varela, Batista's Minister of Works and his personal friend. The selection of this design caused something of a public outcry, and as a result the design was modified to remove the statue from the top of the tower, and to instead feature Juan José Sicre's statue of Marti at the foot of the tower. Construction of the tower began in 1953 on the 100th anniversary of José Martí's birth. The right to compensation for local inhabitants forced to move to make way for construction caused further problems; their case was taken up by a young Fidel Castro. The monument was finally completed in 1958 during the final days of the Batista dictatorship.
Bear loved the Traffic Boxes.
El Capitolio, or National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, was the seat of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Completed in 1929, it was the tallest building in Havana until the 1950’s and houses the world's third largest indoor statue.
The Embassy of Russia (architect Aleksandr Rochegov) is a striking constructivist building in the Miramar district of the city. Some liken it to a sword, others to a syringe; we think they are being somewhat kindly as eyesore springs to mind. The site is nearly ten acres. Construction began in December 1978 and was completed in November 1987. The embassy opened as the Soviet embassy, in an era when Soviet influence in Cuba was immense and transitioned to its status as the Russian Embassy.
The Colon Cemetery was founded in 1876 in the Vedado neighbourhood of Havana on top of Espada Cemetery. Named for Christopher Columbus, the 140 acre site cemetery is noted for its many elaborate memorials. It is estimated that today the cemetery has more than 500 major mausoleums, chapels and family vaults.
Colon Cemetery has a 75-foot high monument to the firefighters who lost their lives in the great fire of the 17th of May 1890. As baseball is a leading sport in Cuba, the cemetery has two monuments to baseball players from the Cuban League. The first was erected in 1942 and the second in 1951 for members of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.
In February 1898, the recovered bodies of sailors who died on the USS battleship Maine were interred in the Colon Cemetery. In December 1899 the bodies were disinterred and taken for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
With more than 800,000 graves and 1 million interments, space in the Colon Cemetery is currently at a premium and as such after three years remains are removed from their tombs, boxed and placed in a storage building.
ALL IN ALL FOR SUCH A LONG TOUR, VERY LITTLE HISTORY