La Habana, Cuba. December 2019
You are warned, Cuba is a place where stones float and logs sink. Expect to see a different world to what you are used to, and even then keep yourself alert to different ways of doing things. This is a place where there is no extreme poverty, no one starves to death, everyone has a roof to sleep under, all citizens receive food from government, healthcare system is free, education is free and obligatory up to 9th grade, there is a paid job for everyone who wants to work, people lives deeply in communities, and likely, it is the safest place you’ve ever been to. All that is 100% true, but before you idealize the perfect place, keep in mind that some resources are extremely scarce and the majority are non existent.
We stayed at the old Habana for 3 nights to do some sightseeing and cycling preparation before tour cycling around the island. We probably should have hired a tour guide but instead we just guided ourselves with local info, the Lonely Planet, and our own research. It’s easy to be guided by the live music in La Habana vieja and stop every now and then to drink, eat, and just watch people.
More of La Habana and around.
We assembled Spaghetti for first time in Cuba, our tandem bike, and went around La Habana all the way to Fusterlandia. A flat ride from La Habana vieja through all the Malecón and then the 5th avenue. José Fuster is using all kind of mosaics, tiles, plumbing and electrical parts, glass, and any other kind of waste to convert it into public-art.
Our AirBnb landlord, Jose, -Aguacate 512 #105, La Habana email@example.com – with whom we immediately became good friends, helped us to find places where locals go to. We were invited for coffee and New Year’s Eve dinner at his place and were immediately adopted as part of his family.
We had pork (Valentina and I haven’t had pork in years), rice with beans, yuca and other veggies. Everything was amazing! He had an extensive culinary background and proved that right away. Born and raised in Mexico and Italy we both are used to long table conversations after dinner is over. Not here. A few of us were still eating dessert when the table cloth was pulled and the improvised table disassembled.
We were ready to leave since the meal was finished -or our food driven culture suggested that-. How wrong we were… Tables and chairs were removed leaving a large, empty room right at the street entrance to create a make-shift dance floor. Everyone in the family started dancing salsa. We eagerly participated, and everyone noticed our skills -or lack thereof-. Our joints needed some grease, that’s all.
It’s apparently good luck to throw water on the street of La Habana on New Year’s Eve. (or any liquid you may have with you) That also includes garbage and eggs. Their tradition to celebrate the New Year lasts around 30 minutes and starts at 12:00am sharp. It is wise to wait until 1am to walk home through the center of the streets. It was an unexpected and fun way to celebrate the new year, and was a night we will always remember!