Bus Tour - Pt 2

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Thu 24 May 2012 21:43
Our Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour of Havana – Part Two

BB Havana on Bus 116


The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is an historic luxury hotel. It was designed by the famous New York firm McKim, Mead and White and features an eclectic mix of architectural styles. It opened in 1930, when Cuba was a prime travel destination for Americans, long before the embargo.

Among its first illustrious guests were artists, actors, athletes and writers such as Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Keaton, Jorge Negrete, Agustín Lara, Rocky Marciano, Tyrone Power, Rómulo Gallegos, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando and Ernest Hemingway. The hotel's reputation as a deluxe host is backed by patrons such as Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, scientist Alexander Flemming, and innumerable Ibero-American Heads of State and European monarchs. Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura stayed at the hotel while visiting Cuba on a trade mission in 2002.



BB Cuba Bus and Fort 099


The Christ of Havana is a large sculpture representing Jesus of Nazareth on a hilltop overlooking the bay. It is the work of the Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera (after she won the commission in 1953).

The statue was carved out of white Carrara marble, the same material used for many of the monuments of the Colon Cemetery. The statue is about 66 feet high including a 10 foot base. It weighs approximately 320 tons. The statue was built from 67 blocks of marble that had been brought from Italy after being personally blessed by Pope Pius XII. The figure of Christ is standing with the right hand held near the chin and the left hand near his chest. Facing the city, the statue was left with empty eyes to give the impression of looking at all, from anywhere to be seen.

The sculpture, located in the Havana suburb of Casablanca, in the municipality of Regla, was inaugurated on La Cabaña hill on the 24th of December 1958. Just fifteen days after its inauguration, on the 8th of January 1959, Fidel Castro entered Havana during the Cuban revolution. That same day, the image was hit by lightning, and the head was destroyed. It was subsequently repaired.

The sculpture is 167 feet above sea level, rising to a height of 259 feet, allowing the locals to see it from many points of the city, sadly today covered in scaffolding.



BB Cuba Bus and Fort 098


The Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, or Fort of Saint Charles, is an 18th-century fortress complex, the biggest in the Americas, located on the elevated eastern side of the harbour entrance, the fort rises above the 200-foot hilltop, along with Morro Castle (fortress).

Construction of La Cabaña began in 1763 by King Carlos III of Spain, the controlling colonial power of Cuba, following the earlier capture of Havana by British forces (an exchange was soon made to give Havana back to the Spanish in exchange for Florida). Realising that the city was not well enough defended and fearing further attacks following British colonial conquests in the Seven Years War, they now moved to build a new fortress to boost the defense of Havana. Replacing earlier fortifications next to the 16th-century El Morro fortress, La Cabaña was the second largest colonial military installation in the New World by the time it was completed in 1774 (after St. Felipe de Barajas fortification at Cartagena, Colombia), at great expense to Spain.

The fortress served as both a military base and prison, over the next two hundred years, for both Spain and an independent Cuba. La Cabaña was used as a military prison during the Batista regime. In January 1959, rebels led by Che Guevara captured La Cabaña, to use it as a headquarters and military prison for several months, while leading the Cuban revolution. During his five-month tenure in that post (the 2nd of January to the 12th of June 1959), Guevara oversaw the revolutionary tribunals and executions of suspected war criminals, political prisoners, traitors, chivatos (informants) and former members of Batista's secret police. The complex is now part of a historical park, along with El Morro castle, and houses several museums open to the public. From there, every night a cannon shot rumbles at 21:00 as the so-called "El Cañonazo de las 9", a custom kept from colonial times, signaling the closure of the city wall doors.



BB Cuba Bus and Fort 071


The Bacardi Building was designed by architects Rafael Fernández Ruenes, Esteban Rodríguez Castell and José Menéndez, for the Bacardi rum company. The art deco landmark was completed in 1930 and was at the time the largest building in the city. After the Cuban revolution and the departure of Bacardi from Cuba, the building continued to be used for offices. At the end of the 1990’s it was renovated by the city historian's office. (This beautiful building I had to take from the side as the front was covered in scaffolding.)



BB Cuba Bus and Fort 060  BB Cuba Bus and Fort 067


Talking of scaffolding, we saw the first picture and thought, Oh that’s been there a while, but the second shot we feel worthy of ‘One Careful Owner’. Compared to the bus in the bottom right hand corner the structure is massive.



BB Cuba Bus and Fort 051  BB Cuba Bus and Fort 052





BB Cuba Bus and Fort 089

A regional meeting of taxi’s