One thing I keep seeing is PARTS of otherwise crumbling buildings fixed up and repainted
LaGatta, yes -- we were struck by that as well. There are government regulations that must be met in order to legally rent out ones apartment to tourists, but I don't know if the fixing up of part of the outside is because of that or simply to draw attention to a place for rent. I say that because so many of the gussied up buildings (or portions) did have the little official rental sign on them. But since individual apartments are bought and sold, some of it must also be for personal preference.
Adding in my pictures of our first Malecón walk, with views of the skyline of Vedado ~
That endless "soda fountain" counter really made me wonder whst it was like in its heyday. At the moment, it is about 4 or 5 different places to order food and drink (none of which appealed to us), but it was a stunning discovery on the former main street of commerce of Havana -- and both of our apartments were situated on the same street.
Wow again. Those children look so happy in their red uniforms. I hope I'm allowed to ask a practical question: was it very hot and humid while you were there? I'd love to go (for a tour of the island during our winter) but I can't stand heat and high humidity.
Probably Kerouac's answer will be more in line with what you need to know, Amboseli, since I love humidity and can take a lot of heat.
I'd say if you go, you should probably avoid summertime, based on what I've read. We arrived on November 14, the day before the official end of hurricane season. We did have a couple of hot days, but the constant sea breezes meant that being in the shade was usually enough to keep relatively comfortable.
Both apartments had big windows, and the first had a small balcony, so we were able to enjoy real air and not have to be sequestered in air conditioning all the time.
The weather in November was totally delightful this year. Tourist season begins in mid-November in any case when "hurricane season" is deemed to have ended its threat. I never found the temperature to be too hot, even though air conditioning in one's room might be appreciated and just about all standard accommodations seem to offer it. As Bixa said, the places where we stayed had plenty of breezes blowing through, but then again both locations were open to three sides of the building as well as being on a higher floor, which would not be the case in many other places.
In 12 days, there were only two major thunderstorms, which both lasted less than an hour. And there was a bit of rain on two or three nights, nothing major.
It should also be mentioned that there were no mosquitoes or other annoying insects, except for some flies buzzing around piles of garbage in certain streets.
The air smelled fresh and heavenly first thing in the morning and a walk of a couple of blocks had actual sea spray blowing in our faces.
Some streets had appalling amounts of garbage on them, so you can imagine the stench in that climate. There were also groups of dumpsters on some streets, usually blocking the way from the sidewalk to the other side and they added their garbage aromas.
It sounds awful, but the sea breeze in the morning and evening, combined with that special light off the water, made me think I'd never want to be anywhere else.
I have only just looked through quickly - planning a proper read at the weekend. The things that struck me from this first run through is how interesting are your different takes of various sites; 1+1 definitely = more than 2 . Also how great is it that AP has brought you together as travelling companions ? I suppose in some ways it has busted some stereotypes ( those of my own I mean) but confirmed others - wow those old cars. Casi said
This woman told me that had he been treated in Cuba the Drs. there would have nailed it right away and given him the best of care. Something that most people would ever guess was the case.
This reminded me of something in relation to healthcare in NHS from years ago - I don't know if that Cuban life expectancy data / healthcare budget per capita etc. is still true today.
Thanks, Lugg! Meeting other Anyporters is always interesting and seems inevitably to lead to friendship.
It would be interesting to see how much of that article still holds true. We did notice the kind of obesity that results from a starchy diet. Coming from Mexico, the low quality and quantity of Cuban produce was shocking, although maybe that was just true of the city or because we didn't hit the markets early in the morning. The one foodstuff to be found in abundance and in a variety of shapes and brands is pasta, which might mean it's become an everyday mainstay.
It was amazing to see all those cars of my childhood still in operation.
I'm going to just keep going here to finish up the photos I took on November 15, our first full day there. You can see we were motivated to walk and walk, as there was something fascinating no matter which way we looked ~
I love this era of architecture ~
We were trying at this point to work our way over to a particular building, and a forest of posts loomed up in that direction ~
The US embassy was having heavy new fencing installed and was heavily guarded by Cubans, all of whom yelled at us "Get away! No pictures!"
Taken from the flag post plaza as we continued to be warned off ~
This is me, immortalized as I stood my ground in front of the embassy ~
Well I'm totally surprised! One thing we can count on is to be fed amazing destinations by both of you. Your photos are wonderful - the good, the bad and the ugly make up a visual story of what Cuba is all about. I am reminded of Mozambique when I look at the decaying structures. Once vibrant Lorenzo Marques fell into stagnation during the war years and remained that way until slowly but surely tourists and business investors crept back as landmines were cleared away and new resorts opened. About the squalor, and people not even noticing it. I look at the photo of the cucumber seller. He is sitting right in the puddle, his cart is tired and worn, and his chair looks like it may break at any minute. He doesn't care a hoot. That is what he is used to and sees no reason to upgrade. Actually, I wouldn't mind betting he keeps it that way so people don't think he is making too much money! If only he knew that rusty old scale would fetch a fortune in London as a piece of obje d'art in a posh shop or house. It is no different here in Africa. People create waste and live right in it. For those who have had a strict "cleanliness is next to Godliness" upbringing it is mind boggling. I must say the streets look pretty litter free. A culture of No Maintenance is everywhere here too but not from lack of money - It is not that important because when it breaks we will just get a new one. Better to have the latest big TV screen than fix a leaking roof!
And those cars!! Mr. Tod will drool when I show him your finds. And I will get to hear for the umpteenth time "My dad used to have a Chev like that"...
Please keep giving us the low-down on different aspects of your trip. Narrative always makes one understand the photos so much better. I would like to know more about your lodgings. The cost, what you got for your Euro, and did you try and prepare meals or was the apartment just to get more space?
Great report so far and I am looking forward to lots more.
A culture of No Maintenance is everywhere here too but not from lack of money - It is not that important because when it breaks we will just get a new one. Better to have the latest big TV screen than fix a leaking roof!
That works if you have the money to get a new one and/or the thought of what is more important to you if you have a limited amount of money. What I come across in many places is more the attitude of if it is working, I'm not going to do anything to it. A bit like workarounds on the computer. There is a fault, but if I can keep doing what I want to do by another method, then that is ok. Plus, if things are ok but not perfect, then that is ok as well until it stops or becomes unbearable. There is often no motivation to improve anything and it is fine as it is.
If the road is bad, but not impassable, then it can stay like that. It won't be made better. If the electricity supply only goes off infrequently and I have a back up generator, then it can stay like that. If I have a full belly, then why should I go out to try and get/grow better food? If the building is still standing and I can live there, then why should I improve it? Plus, if what ever I do doesn't benefit me in the short term, I won't do it. Why should I do something that is more expensive than I can afford now for a quick fix, if only my children benefit?
There is a road here that for 70km is very bad and it is on a main artery to the south. It won't be fixed while the council in that area is of the opposition political party when the rulers are another. Very few will invest in solar energy here even when they have the money, because the benefit from it isn't short term. While they can manage with the infrastructure as it is, then that is fine. No motivation to make things better in the long term and things will only be done when something breaks down irretrievably, be it a house, a car, a system or anything.
If it doesn't benefit me now, I'm not bothered. If it still works, no matter if it is poorly, but still functions, then that is ok. Plus....... in a number of countries, if what I do benefits the opposition party, or a different tribe, or a different race in the same country - I'm reluctant to do it. It, like Havana, may not always be about money - but attitude as well.
I'm not yet sure if I'm attracted or repelled by Havana but it's absolutely fascinating. ~ Mick, that is completely how I felt the first couple of days. I learned to really like the place, but cannot say that I have a handle on it.
Your photos are wonderful - the good, the bad and the ugly make up a visual story of what Cuba is all about. ~ Thank you, Tod! Remember that we're seeing most of each others pictures for the first time, so are following the thread along with everyone else. And thanks for getting why an "impressions" thread was needed.
And those cars!! Mr. Tod will drool when I show him your finds. And I will get to hear for the umpteenth time "My dad used to have a Chev like that"... If you want to convince him to take you to Havana, tell him about this.
Great report so far and I am looking forward to lots more.[/quote] ~ Oh, believe me when I tell you there will be lots more! So far there are only three threads going: a practicalities one, a highlights one, and this one. Who knows how many more there will be in order to show everything.
More of what caught my eye as we went along ~
There were quite a few of these carts. Now we know when onion and garlic harvest is in Cuba ~
This was a cute little park with Sancho Panza and lots of cats. I hated it both times we went, though, because of the evil monster selling puppies there.
This may be a really dumb question but, who are the people portrayed in the mural? And, what is the history on it?
Also, any story or whatever of the wrought iron woman's head?
Here is the story of the mural:
This approx 300m2 mosaic mural on Mercaderes Street right across the Marqués de Arcos mansion is made up of 52 panels that depict 67 outstanding figures in the history and the arts in Cuba. The artist of the mural, Andrés Carrillo, used a novel material in Cuba that includes natural rock soaked in acrylic resin to make the small tiles. From four basic colors (brown, coral rose, black and beige), he obtained 13 shades. Many people participated in this work of art, including architect Jaime Rodríguez, sculptor Nicolás Ramos Guiardinú and students from the San Alejandro Art Academy.
And here is the story of the head sculpture, straight out of Granma dared from June 2015:
Seven months ago, the lead dancer of the Cuban National Ballet helped him to define the pose and the form of the neck of Primavera (Spring), as he baptized the eight meter high, A huge woman’s face looks out to sea from Havana’s Malecón and its sculptor, Cuban Rafael San Juan, reveals that he was inspired by the movement and spirit of Viengsay Valdés recycled steel sculpture, for the 12th Havana Biennial.
“Study of the movement of Valdés conveyed the spirit of the piece to me and then her explanation of her concept of the Cuban woman captivated me. One of the suggestions she made was not to have her looking down, as here women are strong, they confront happiness, work, problems head-on,” San Juan told Prensa Latina.
Given the suggestion of the renowned ballerina, the sculptor assures that while Primavera does not reflect any face in particular, rather a combination of many, the spirit of the piece comes from Valdés, a tireless worker and admirable Cuban woman.
The train station area is in major decline although the abandoned station itself is undergoing renovation. (Another station a bit farther from the centre is being used for rail services.) We learned a few days later that China will be providing new trains for the Cuban rail system.