Cuba: an introduction

In today’s world, even the possibility of a place where one will not see the same brands, the same cafés, the same hotel chains make the traveler curious. So I was one of them who went to Cuba to see it before the wind of change, already started to move things, got stronger. I arrive in Havana on a December morning the first impressions: a hot air without an A/C at the airport, officers who check your passport looking with eyes as if asking ‘What the hell these people come here?’; they look...

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Plaza de las Armas and Palacio de las Capitanes Generales

This is the oldest square of Havana, dating back to the construction of the city in 1520. There used to be a church in this area which is today occupied by Palacio de las Capitanes Generales. The square has a lot of bookstores. Postcards of Che and Castro one can come across everywhere; in the centre of the square, a marble statue of Céspedes, the figure who started the independence movement. The square offers a view of the shore down the road; you can also take a side alley that leads to...

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Looking over el Capitolio and the City

The Cuban Revolution of 1959: it is a landmark in the history of every place here which has a ‘before’ and ‘after.’ This was the parliament house until the revolution: the place where the government ruled the country until then. But was there a country then after all? Or more precisely, was there a Cuban identity then? This building which was inspired by the Pantheon in Paris is a perfect replica of the one in Washington, but its architecture is even richer. The money from the exploitation of...

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Museum of the Revolution

After visiting Capitolium, we continue our journey to re-live the grandeur of the pre-revolution Cuba. We are in the Museum of the Revolution which used to be the Presidential Palace. Its construction took 7 years between 1923 and 1930, and its interior decoration was undertaken by Tiffany of New York. Today it is the Museum of the Revolution: the exhibition, starting on the top floor, of Cuban history, from the pre-revolutionary period to the revolution, the blood-stained uniforms Che...

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Castle of Fortaleza de San Carlos de Cabaña: The Old Town from the Castle on the Other Side

You have strolled through the streets of old town. Would you like to view this city now from the other side? Take a tuk-tuk to travel to the Castle of La Cabaña: from the old town, this place looks like an area enclosed by walls, but when you enter it, you find yourself in an area larger than you expect. It was built by the Spanish in the 18th century, out of the fear and anxiety of the British troops which took over the city briefly. It was ranked the second biggest military fortification...

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Plaza Vieja: A Coffee and a Few Postcards before Bidding Havana Goodbye

Plaza Vieja, which means ‘Old Square’ in Spanish was originally named ‘New Square’ when it was built, because the city’s oldest square, Plaza de las Armas predates it. Plaza Vieja was used for formal celebrations for a while, and then served as a market place. Today it is still the best-preserved looking among the squares in Havana and it is on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. After the old town changed with a series of renovations, it is now second to none among European squares. The...

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Plaza de la Catedral

One of the five squares in the old town of Havana, and the one that was built last is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of them. As soon as you reach there you notice how beautiful and elegant it is and you feel like you want to spend more time there. At one side is the Cathedral, a fine example of 18th century Cuban Baroque. The other three sides of the square are surrounded with houses of the 18th century Cuban aristocracy. One of the most picturesque is the Casa Bayona, a stone two floor...

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Viñales

You arrive in the most peaceful place you will ever see two hours distance from Havana. This is the state of Pinar del Rio: the mountain tops here were flattened due to the limestone erosion and there are caves in most of them which you can visit taking a boat tour. These lands are also the place where the best cigar tobacco plant grows due to its climate: it is a part of the tourist package to visit tobacco factories and watch the Cuban girls sitting in a line and rolling cigars. Famous for...

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Cienfuegos

Cienfuegos is the only city in Cuba built by the French: it is a coastal city where the streets are larger than those in older cities. There are colorful houses along the roads, their terraces facing the road; a Malecón on the seaside, similar to the one in Havana; shabby ships; at the square called the New Town, Thomas Terry Theater with its squealing wooden seats; people forming a queue in front of a cart, which is a shuttle that departs when it is full; peddlers who carry bunches of garlic...

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Trinidad

After Havana Trinidad is the most impressing city in Cuba. Much more smaller and touristic, this is a Spanish colonial city founded in the 16th century: it thrived on the trade of sugar cane and it is one of the best-preserved old cities in the Caribbean area. Its streets are colourful: losing one’s bearing in its stone streets, looking back and watching different reflections of the same places in sunlight, desiring to get lost in here, that is what you experience in Trinidad. As in the rest...

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Malecón

This is the shore line with stone jetties which starts from Old Havana and goes on for 8 kilometres to the modern neighbourhood of Vedado. The city folk come here at dusk to end the day. Although it is an ‘egalitarian’ country, obviously people from the lower strata of the society gather here. The houses on the other side of the road looking over the ocean look shabbier than the buildings in the town which were renovated and look better now. This place has an intrinsic sad and poetic quality...

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Those Who Travel to Cuba for Hemingway: His Days at Hotel Ambos Mundos

Did Hemingway bestow fame onto Cuba? The American writer travelled to Havana in 1939, when this small island was a small fishing town no one knew about. He had lived in the room number 511 for seven years before he moved into a small ranch outside the town. That house, Finca Vigía is located aprox. ten kilometres from the old town and is open to public as a museum. He spent nearly twenty years in Cuba. Hemingway lived in Paris while he worked as a journalist, went to Spain to fight in the...

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A surprise in the streets of Havana: Italian political figure Garibaldi

As I’m walking in the old town in Havana from the Plaza Vieja to Plaza de las Armas along the Calle Mercaderes road I see this text on the way written on a stone at the entrance of a building: “In the memory of 130 years of Italy’s liberator Garibaldi’s stay in Havana the city of Rome dedicates this commemoration to José Marti, who encouraged the idea of independence of Cuba.”… Here is an interesting life story…The political leader, Garibaldi Giuseppe, the founder of the Italian Union has an...

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