Havana, the capital of Cuba, one of the last communist countries and on the verge of change. Havana mixes UNESCO heritage sights, restored grandeur, classic American cars and areas where decay has created an atmosphere that reminds of a movie set for an apocalyptic film. I visited Cuba as part of a three month trip though Middle America and Cuba.
This plaza was once the habitat of Havana's richest citizens and the stage for executions, processions and bullfights. The plaza is lined with colonial architecture dating from the 17th until the early 20th century. All is restored nicely and the Cathedral de San Cristobal is a gem. However, this cruise passenger attraction also is a bit of a tourist trap. Visit early and canvas the area around the plaza.
Prado (Paseo de Marti)
This boulevard features colors, space, trees, palms and some nicely restored buildings. The Baroque and neoclassical buildings bear witness to a wealth that must have rivaled the most elegant European cities in the first half of the last century. Watch out for the decorations of the facades. Slightly further afield there are the magnificent Gran Theatro and El Capitolio, a slightly larger and richer decorated remake of the US capitol.
Apocalyptic, perhaps this word best describes my first impression of downtown Havana. Crumbled and near endless rows of houses, with small or shuttered windows are bathed in diffused sunlight reflected by dust. There are no billboards or any other advertisements, no shop windows and there is no music to be heard. Soiled white and brown tones predominate. The lightness of Salsa and Mochito's is hard to find. Still it is a fascinating place to wonder around, admire the old battered cars and the colors of decay.