Hemingway is an iconic writer, known by almost everyone 😉 and worshiped by all that can read. A novelist, a journalist, a short story writer and a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. I know Hemingway from the elementary school, as The Old Man and the Sea was one of the obligatory reading books. But what stayed in my memory is rather influenced by my mum (a philologist, literature teacher and a member of “Hemingway, yeah” fan club) than the real legacy of Hemingway. Being brought up among “Hemingway, yeah” propaganda, I had no choice but to dedicate one of the days we will spend in Havana to the author. But before I could even start planning our Hemingway’s Trail, I found out that my husband, a scientific mind and a brilliant physicist, had no idea who Hemingway really is… “OMG!” I thought. But then, I found out about German school education system, especially about the history of literature, which German pedagogic staff decided to reduce to only German writers (surprise, surprise, “we’re the best f… the rest”). I decided to give my husband a break and eliminate the gap in German education by introducing myself Hemingway to my world literature virgin.
My choice fall on the classic The Old Man and the Sea. Is there a better way to introduce a master than with his masterpiece? After writing the draft of The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway said: “the best I can write ever for all of my life.” Well, Hemingway himself left me no choice. Before going to a new country we usually try to find out as much as we can about its history, literature, music, and cinematography. As well before our travel to Cuba we did cinema evenings with screening anything that was shot in Cuba or has anything to do with the country. Therefore The Old Man and the Sea I introduced to my husband in the form of, wait for it…: “a 1958 American adventure drama film directed by John Sturges.” In reality it was almost two hours torture of “nothing is happening movie.” The movie reminded me, that all those metaphors and hidden meanings (Santiago’s fight with a fish as a metaphor of a struggle to achieve ones goal or fighting with sharks as a symbol of dealing with problems and overcoming adversity) are in reality not so brilliant but rather obvious. I was wondering if Hemingway has always been like this or did I get simply spoiled by, let’s say, Bulhakov or Cortazar. I’ll probably never know.
Despite all my doubts, we still decided to follow the footsteps of Hemingway in Havana. At the end, there has to be a reason why he is worshiped by so many. I remember one of my birthdays on Prophet Elijah’s day (Liyasha) that I usually spend in a small village called Morze in Podlasie, Poland (read simply: at the end of the world). We were sitting at the table with our beloved family members – hard working farmers, not philologists. It was almost midnight when my uncle stood up with a glass of vodka and made a toast: “nehay Hemingway voskresne” (which in our dialect means: “May Hemingway rise from the dead”). So you see, Hemingway is worshiped by everyone 😀 Time to start our Hemingway’s Trail:
It’s one of two bars often visited by Hemingway. It is on the corner of Obispo and Monserrate streets. El Floridita is known as the cradle of the daiquiri (“la cuna del daiquiri”) – a cocktail with rum, citrus juice and sugar. Because of its close location to the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway maintained a room between 1932 and 1939, El Floridita became one of the most frequently visited bars by the author. Today the bar is visited by many tourists who, like their hero Hemingway, come here for a famous daiquiri. In the corner of the bar stays a statue of the writer overlooking his loyal enthusiasts. We’ve been there in the middle of the day. El Floridita was filled with tourists, probably like usually, and there was a band playing some Cuban music. Although crowded, you could still feel the glamour of this place.
Address: Obispo No.557
Opening hours: 11am to midnight
Phone: (53-7) 867 1299 (for reservation).
Hotel Ambos Mundos
Hotel Ambos Mundos is mostly known for its 5th floor and room 511, where Hemingway is said to wrote From Whom he Bell Tolls. The Room 511 is preserved the way it was, when Hemingway stayed there in the 1930’s. To enter Hemingway’s room/museum you have to pay 2 CUC per person.
We decided to skip it, as the hotel itself with omnipresent pictures of Hemingway, drafts of his literary works and personal belongings, was definitely enough for us. If you are already in Hotel Ambos Mundos, don’t forget to drive with the old-school Otis screen-cage elevator to the rooftop restaurant. The ride is free and you can have the view of Havana and the Harbor from the top of the building, the exact same view that Hemingway had, and all the other guests, too 😉
Address: 153 Obispo, La Habana, Cuba
Phone: +53 7 8609529
La Bodeguita del Medio
That is the place, where Hemingway used to have his mojitos. The bar is well-known not only due to Hemingway but as well other famous people that visited it, such as: Fidel Castro or Nat King Cole. All celebrities left their signatures on the bar’s wall. Whole La Bodeguita’s walls are covered with autographs of the guests, but don’t get your hopes up: the walls are repainted every few months, so your signature will be probably gone by the time you will visit La Bodeguita next time. Nowadays, the place is full with tourists and looks definitely less glamorous than El Floridita. We haven’t tried, but mojitos here are claimed to be nothing special, and definitely overpriced.
Address: Empedrado 207, La Habana, Cuba
Phone: +53 7 571375
Day 5: Vedado
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