TRAVELOGUE
Cuba

Havana - Playas del Este

Finally Havana! Interesting parts of Havana for a tourist are (from east to west): the harbor, Havana Vieja, Centro Havana, Vedado, Miramar. On the east and west of these quarters Havana is connected with its suburbs by tunnels (on the eastern side there is an underwater tunnel).

Havana Vieja - Plaza de Armas
Havana Vieja - Plaza de Armas
Havana Vieja is the old city center, full of culturally interesting sites. A part of Havana Vieja has been renovated recently, so it can be compared to a European city center. On the north of Havana Vieja there is a beautiful Spanish embassy building (it's nice to see it in the night when it's illuminated), while the southern part of Havana Vieja is very poor. On the western side the esplanade Prado divides Havana Vieja from Centro Havana.
Centro Havana
Centro Havana
Centro Havana is a poor quarter that looks like it suffered a heavy bombardment recently. Some of the buildings are not far from collapsing, the misery is overwhelming. In Centro Havana there is Chinatown, where one can eat affordably. Otherwise, Centro Havana is not too interesting for the tourists.
Capitolio
Capitolio
On its southern edge there is Capitolio, a small copy of the American Capitol. Today it's a museum. For 5$/hour one can use an *extra slow" internet connection here. South of Capitolio there is the railway station. East of Capitolio, Obispo Street leads to a cathedral in Havana Vieja. West of Centro Havana there is the residential Vedado quarter, with its hotels and tourist casas. A decent accommodation can be found here (my case also). There are a few skyscrapers here too. The streets that go in direction east-west are marked with numbers and those in direction north-south with letters. For example, the hotel Havana Libre is located on the crossing of streets 23/L. On the western side of Havana there is Miramar, where aristocracy once lived. Today it's a quarter with embassies and hotels. State ministers and foreigners that work in Cuba live here too. Miramar is at a 10 km distance from the center of Havana.

On the other side, some 10 km east of Havana, Playas del Este begin. It's a long series of nice sandy beaches - a great place to spend a hot day. A taxi costs 13$ to get there, if you fix the price with the taxi driver before the ride. On the exit of the eastern Havana tunnel there is something that looks like a pay toll on the highways, but in reality is just a police control site. The police don't allow private taxies from transporting foreign tourists. Once I arrive on Playas del Este the endless "amigo, amigo" from local jineteros never stops. My ex-roommates from Trinidad have met a Cuban guy here, who tried to steal their purse by hiding it in the sand! Luckily they managed to find the purse, once they realized it was missing.

When you get tired of the beach go to the end of Prado, sit on the Inglatera hotel terrace and have a cocktail here for 2-3$. Beware, **** hotel doesn't mean **** service! Don't sit too close to the road, because of the annoying jineteros that never give up.

History of Cuba

Cuban revolution
Cuban revolution
The island was a Spanish colony until some 100 years ago when the Spain loses the war with USA. USA takes control over the island, giving Cuba a declarative independence but keeping the right to intervene militarily on Cuba whenever it wishes. Investments are being made on Cuba, but one dictator is being replaced by another. Somewhere in 1930s USA arranges a 100-year concession on Guantanamo Bay, and it installs a military base there. In 1950s dictator Batista comes to the power. Castro and his comrades start a guerilla campaign against Batista (even in the time of Spanish rule guerilla resurrections used to occur), win and install the "communist heaven" on the island. The USA imposes a trade embargo, which still lasts. The Russians try to install the nuclear weapons on Cuba which causes the Cuban crisis. The economic crisis follows in 1990s when USSR disappears, along with the Russian economic aid to Cuba. In 1998 Papa arrives on Cuba and in 2003 I arrive too.
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Cuba: Varadero
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