Day 4 – early morning, a city void of tourists

For some reason, now that i do not have to get up to go to work – which has always been a struggle for me – I find myself wakening up at around 6.30 am. And it's not even that I'm jetlagged really as I fall asleep around midnight without any problem and sleep through the night like a kitten.

This morning, I again woke up that early and decided to catch the sunrise over the Malecón (the wall protecting the city from the waves) as it is supposed to be really beautiful. The sky was indeed slightly pink outside my room, but the time I made it out the sun had already risen. So, sunrise spotting and pictures will have to wait until another day.

I might have missed the sunrise, but I witnessed the rise of the city instead.
Parents walking their kids to school, kids and teenagers in their pristine school uniforms (they look really quite classy, albeit the girls wear what looks like miniskirts, but are actually shorts disguised, but still very short for school setting), people on their way to work, fishermen lining the Malecón... It was also still cool outside, well comparatively, and the walk into the old town was a real enjoyment.

At this time of the day, people still stare at me, but there are no hissing/kissing noises or anyone trying to speak – they are all too busy getting along with their daily business.

Arriving in the old town, I bumped into Plaza de la Catedral, a beautiful old square dominated by the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana. This is an impressive church with massive church towers of unequal size (according to Lonely Planet, the discussion is still hot today among historians as to why these towers were constructed differently). My breakfast attempt at El Patio on this square failed as they only opened at 10(ish) and although I had been out walking for almost two hours, this was still some 30 minutes away. I instead put the internal 'gps' for one of the agricultural markets, where farmers are allowed to sell what's left of their produce after they've sold the set quota to the government. This is the place where the Habaneros go to spice up their basic ratio food with some fresh fruits, vegetables and spices. The market I chose was the one in the old town. A fairly big market with what looks like quite a good selection of goods, at least compared to the shops I have seen in Havana. Full of people, choosing their goods and putting the purchased goods into their own bags (Cuba lacks plastic bags, as so many other things due to the embargo and relative poorness of the country, hence bags as most things are reused over and over. This is probably also one of the main reasons for all the old cars on the streets. Things are old which seems picturesque to the tourist eye, but it must be a real fight living here.)

It's flagrant, walking through the old town of Havana, the clash between the living quarters and the more touristy renovated streets. The same street might go from being newly renovated, clean, with some 'nicer' looking shops and fairly empty, to full of Cubans, but void of tourists, with buildings falling apart, garbage dumped in the middle of the street and small hole in the wall shops with massive lines outside.

My morning exploring ended with a really tasty cheesecake with guava at Café El Escorial in the Plaza Vieja. At 1.20 CUC it was more expensive than a sandwich off a street stall, but the beautiful surroundings, comfy chair in the shade, it was for sure worth it. I then headed back to the Casa for my Spanish class looking as a real Habanero with my umbrella up against the sun ;)


Anna said…
Helena, you an early riser!?!
Thats like a miracle I never thought would happen but apperently it has;.)
It´s so nice to see that you no longer are home sick and that you are enjoying your visit in Havana now. Keep on having a good time my darling doughter! Lol mamma

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