Few observations about Havana:
Having eyes closed you can recognise you are in Havana by it’s smell. It smells of heavy fumes of the retro 50s cars, and it also have the sweet stink of rotten food, or rubbish exposed to a hot, humid climate.
Cuban men are quite difficult to get rid of, and pretty much every single one of them – regardless of age – will try to chat to you. On some occasions it could be useful, for example when you want to ask for directions. All you need to do is to ignore the cheep compliments and questions about your husband, and get straight to the point. Confused by your fluent spanish with slightly unidentified accent, and complete lack of embarrassment, they will politely answer all your questions and even walk you to where you need to go. As they do, they are likely to come up with a marriage offer.
Havana itself looks like a post-war city. This must have been how Warsaw after Nazi’s bombarding looked like. Pretty much all the buildings are very beautiful, but in complete ruin, literary falling apart. Heaps of rubble on every second street just adds to the climate. First thing I did in Havana was obviously go to where I shouldn’t, namely: to suburbs and districts where normal people live. Stop number one: meat shop. Empty walls took me back to times of my childhood in the communist Poland, which I scarcely remember now, but empty hooks in the butchers are unforgettable. Stop number two: pharmacy: standardised brown bottles, with paper labels around them. No fancy packaging and advertising. No vitamins, but heaps of fresh fruits on the streets. Regular people in Havana live in an extremely basic conditions, which is nowhere near to European standards of poor. Missing doors or windows are standard. Most of houses are crowded, tight spaces looking at the street through metal the bars, often featuring car’s back seat as a sofa or a chair made of strings of wires. Beauty of such life is that literary nothing gets wasted in Cuba.
Things are bought out of deep necessity. Now can I please ask every single one of you who read this blog, to look around you, and reflect on how many things you bought out of our greed to posses, things you would not use even once. Starting from food, clothes to the electronics and other items, which ‘might be useful one day’. Now shame on you!!! Speaking about shift-made taxies (see the image below), the seats could be taken from: old cinema seats, bus chairs, old armchair or just a bit of wire. At the end of the day: is chair not just a thing you sit on, regardless if it’s in a car, house or a steer?
Another observation: regardless of 36 degrees heat (which feels like 42), it is almost impossible to buy a bottle of water in Havana. All the tiny local shops sell rum, rum and rum. No need to mention what happens to you if – in act of desperation – you decide to take this measure to avoid dehydration in that heat… Maybe that’s why all Cuban man are so talkative and tireless…?
DO ask if the price you see is in local currency or the convertibles (tourists’s cash). Places which are unlikely to see tourists can be a nice surprise. I paid equivalent of £0.70 for a fat book about Cuban cinema and few magazines about Cuban cinematography. Money well spent.
Cuba advertises on the street. There are some interesting sale offers:
…and educative offers (not sure I would send my kids to that school…;)
There is also a celebration of 1st of May, the celebration of working efforts, we know it all too well…
Now, boys and girls, there is a looooot more to say. But as you all know perfectly well, Internet is rare commodity and an expensive luxury in Cuba. Few minutes cost more than a decent mojito in the very heart of Havana Vieja. And If I have to choose between internet and mojito, I definitively go for the latter one. So appreciate my effort and don’t expect to hear from me anytime soon. Till then!