We made several trips into the island’s capital city Havana, but still only had time to see a fraction of it. It is very much like any other capital, busy, noisy, colourful, but with an air of decay and neglect and a sense that time has passed it by. Crumbling buildings lined many of the streets, even in the ‘newer’ part of the city, and roads and pavements were broken up and uneven. A few modern cars could be seen, since Cuba has begun to allow the import of cars, but they are far outnumbered by old US and Russian ones, some dating from the 50’s, held together by who knows what, but still managing to go. We rode in a few of them, and each time it was an experience!
Very old cars abound in Havana… …some have aged better than others!
More recent old cars. We saw a Ford Anglia too!
There is evidence that some restoration work has begun in the city, but in many of the places that we saw the buildings were beyond economic repair and the best way forward would be to bulldoze them and rebuild from scratch.
That aside, the city has a lively character all of its own and the people were friendly and helpful. The streets felt safe to walk on and we wandered at will on several visits, enjoying the sights, sounds and (some of) the smells.
Some of the better-kept buildings in the old town.
We enjoyed seeing the landmark sights of the city. The Capitolio is a loose copy of its namesake in Washington DC and was the home of government until the Revolution in 1959.
Parque Centrale with Capitolio in background. Gran Teatro de la Habana.
The Plaza de la Revolucion is a huge open square surrounded by office buildings. Originally the Plaza Civica, in the centre is the memorial to Jose Marti, the national hero who was a major contributor to Cuba gaining independence from Spain in the early 1900’s. This is where Castro addressed the masses in the first rallies following the Revolution in 1959, with the consequent renaming of the square.
Jose Marti memorial in the Plaza de la Revolucion.
Buildings in the Plaza de la Revolucion display messages to two of their heroes.
We particularly enjoyed the old town.
Catedral San Cristobal. An apothecary’s shop, still with ceramic jars for the drugs.
Just about every eating place had live music, and of course we had to visit the Museo del Ron – the Havana Club Rum distillery!
Lunchtime at a restaurant in the Plaza Vieja. Learning about the distillation process and aging of the rum in barrels.
Despite its air of neglect, we liked Havana, and hope that eventually it will be restored to its former glory before the ravages of time make it impossible to do so.