Time to start day 2 in Havana and discover La Habana Vieja.
La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a major tourist attraction in Havana, and one of the most beautiful places in the capital of Cuba (though if anyone would ask us to pick the most beautiful place, it would probably be Centro Habana, which is less touristic and more real).
So let us start with a day walk:
- Calle Obispo: We’ll start our walk with Calle Obispo, one of the most touristic and lame streets in Havana. Apart from the renovated buildings, fancy shops, and heartless restaurants/bars, you can meet here lots of shmucks. Why to bother? Well it is this standard thing that you have to see to know that you wouldn’t have missed anything if you had skipped it 😉 Still worth noticing are the buildings on the southern part of the street. They are the oldest townhouses in Havana (from 1570s). There are as well many souvenirs “stalls” on the way (people are often selling souvenirs simply in staircases). However, don’t bother, we’ll send you to a souvenir heaven soon 😉
- Calle Mercaderes: Another cobbled, car-free pedestrian street similar in its character to Calle Obispo. Calle Mercaderes connects Plaza Vieja with Plaza de la Catedral. On the way you’ll pass many shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
- Plaza Vieja is called by Lonely Planet “Havana’s most architecturally eclectic square” (whatever it means). During its history the square served as the site for fiestas, processions, executions, and a market place. We liked it because of PE classes. Whole bunch of kids doing exercises and throwing a ball in the middle of the square in Old Havana. Where else can you see something like this! Zosia was thrilled to observe all of the things happening around us.
- Plaza de San Francisco de Asis with Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asis. Next to the basilica there is a statue of Fray Junípero Serra with Juaneño Indian boy. This is one of the most disturbing statues I’ve seen in my life. First of all, if this wouldn’t be a priest standing close to this naked young boy, I swear I would make a proper comment. Second of all, the statue honors a missionary work. (In general, I’m against all missionary work, because of many mistreats of ingenious people, destroying their unique traditions and in result depriving them from independent existence.)
The square itself is facing Havana harbor. On the eastern site of Plaza de San Francisco de Asis stands Terminal Sierra Maestra – the cruise terminal.
There are many tourists here, as well as models dressed in traditional Cuban clothes. Usually for 1-2 CUC you can get an original photo with them. During our walk we found as well our THE most famous Cuban woman with a cigar. This story goes back to the times when our daughter was just born and she hated to have her diapers changed. So to make it more interesting for her I stuck to the walk at her changing board three pictures: parrots from Brazil, kids from Dominican Republic, and a Cuban woman smoking a cigar. One year later we saw the same woman in Havana 🙂
One year later ….
And one more legend: the famous mural of Che from the cover of Lonely Planet tourist guide to Havana is as well here. That’s the thing about Cuba. Whatever you have seen on the pictures, you can easily bump into on your way.
- Plaza de Armas is Havana’s oldest square with a statue of Carlos de Céspedes in the middle of it. There is a secondhand book market here. Close to the square there is Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (from the late 18th century; now a hotel) and Castillo de la Real Fuerza (one of the oldest existing forts in Americas).
- Plaza de la Catedral – the last of four main colonial squares in Havana Vieja with Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana. It is a perfect place to sit down on the stairs, relax, and simply enjoy Old Havana.
- In the Footsteps of Ernest Hemingway: Havana Vieja is like the Mecca for Hemingway lovers. Read more about places connected with Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway’s Trail in Havana.
Those are all standard tourist information, with all the words like “the oldest,” “the most,” “the…” The truth is: you don’t need any of that, because in the most of the cases amazing things happened to us the moment we took side streets instead of the ones mentioned in tour guides. The most beautiful thing about Havana is that it is the most photogenic city we know. If you are looking for a postcard picture, it is enough to take out your camera, have good light and the blue sky, and make a picture of any street or building you see. Voilà, a perfect picture. An old car, a school, street workers, street vendors, bicitaxis, beautiful old buildings, and people talking, working, living… In Havana it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. The real treasures you’ll always find on the way.
Day 3: Between life and death
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