I’ve been struggling to put into words my experience of Havana. I absolutely loved it – the culture, the activity, the bustling streets. But I also found the city really challenging. As two women travellers, Claudia and I were continuously hounded by people on the street, catcalling to the most prevalent extent. At some points, it felt like everyone wanted something from us, whether that be our sexualisation or a product. We couldn’t do anything without catcalls following us down every street – which was really a change from the friendly Wellington streets.
However, Havana was still the most wonderful city, full of history and culture. We loved our visit to the Revolutionary Museum – a decrepid building that still has some trace of its past grandeur. It was where the offices of the President were for many years, pre revolution. We were able to see some of the politics that surround the revolution- an image of an plane shot down by the US was captioned “this action from the self titled “motherland of human rights” or something along those lines. The dated exhibition was extremely interesting, as we were able to see aspects of the revolutionary government that they deem as a success. They seemed to love the fact that they could perform 5 eye surgeries at one time, with a photo of 5 patients all lined up in a row ready for surgery! It will be so interesting to see how the city changes after Raul Castro’s planned resignation next year.
We stayed in Vedado, a beautiful suburb a few kilometres out of the city. Although we did walk into the city several times (a good hours walk), it’s much more fun to hail a cab off the road. The process is one that I think we should adopt in Wellington – you stick out your hand like hitchhiking, tell them where you’re heading and negotiate a price. If you are Cuban, chances are you’ll pay only 10 pesos. But as two tourists, we paid 5CUC between us for the ride (with 25pesos to 1CUC, that’s a massive increase). You get to ride in some fabulous old cars – they definitely look better on the outside than the inside! There were a few cars decked out with new sound systems, one with a screen playing music videos!
Havana isn’t somewhere you travel to eat good food, and I don’t really mind that. The best thing we ate in Havana were our daily breakfasts by our casa owner, Jorge. (There aren’t any hostels in Havana – instead you rent a room in the house of a local – a lovely way to experience more of what living is like there). Everyday we were greeted to a massive array of fruits, toasted bread and an omelette each, a feast that would last us until at least mid afternoon.