The heartbeat of Cuba - Havana Vieja
Havana Travel Blog› entry 112 of 134 › view all entries
The capital of Cuba didn't dissapoint. The two days we had were well used and my shoes were well worn after the city tour. The advantages of taking an organised tour were immediately apparent as we got a flavour of the city, it's people and the heritage from our local guide Abel who told us the official version as well as his, often conflicting, version.
Havana Vieja (Old Havana) is the historical centre of Havana. Filled with atmospheric streets, 1950's architecture (both crumbling and restored), plazas and places of interest, it's an incredible place to walk around. We started at the Museum of the Revolution, where the Granma boat that Fidel bought and sailed with Che on from Mexico back to Cuba is displayed in all its glory alongside other actrual vehicles used during the revolution.
The historical centre is filled with incredible architecture. Crumbling and decaying in a lot of cases as rich and poor live side by side here. When Fidel won the revolution every person was allowed the right to buy the home they lived in. However, they lost the right to sell it under socialist rules.
We strolled for hours around Calle de los Officios, Calle Obisdipo, Plaza de San Francisco where the slaves were first bought and sold, Plaza de la Cathedral. It was tiring work and so we retired to Hotel Ambos Mundo, where Hemmingway used to drink Mojitios. In the home of the Mojito it was only right and proper that we tried our first here.
We also visited Partagas Cigar factory, where iconic cigar brands Cohiba, Monte Cristo and Romeo and Juliete are made. Everything is done by hand and nothing is wasted. There are 4 regions in Cuba where the tobacco plant is grown and each characteristic is bespoke to a particular brand, from the combination of flavours down to the colour of the tobacco. Each part of the process is completed underneath one roof. It was as if we'd stepped back into the early 1900's walking through the factory.
It was an awful lot to take in during the course of the day. Characters and places from photos became a reality. The Cuban cigar smoke mingled with the sights and sounds of the city and created a hazy reflection of it. There is so much to understand, i think if i can make 40% i'll be lucky!