Saturday, 18 September 2010

Losing myself in Havana

I like to 'loose' myself the first day in a new city.
Basically, walk out the door into the unknown streets and just start walking following my instinct of what might be an interesting road. Very often this technique has meant that bumping into cool places I would most probably never have discovered if just following the guidebooks. For the return to the hotel/casa/flat, I rely on my usually very good sense of direction that guides me at least towards where I came from. As a backup, I carry a map, but I prefer not to have to consult it in public.

Havana however is tricky. Built around the sea coast, it doesn't follow any logic that I'm used to and taking the wrong street, just 2 blocks away from the street you should have taken, can mean ending up 10-15 blocks away just a few minutes later. So this first day, I didn't just 'loose' myself. I actually got lost! Adding more than an hour walk to my already nice 4h walk, as I somewhere took a wrong turn and ended up walking in a circle for an hour. Only realized this when I suddenly recognized a cafe where I had sought refuge an hour before...

 So a big fat circle around Centro Habana, with huge blisters on my feet (my super comfy walking sandals, for some reason are not as comfy in this humidity), one that split wide open later that same evening after another hour of walking (with other shoes) and that I then had to care for carefully during the next 3 days. Ouch.

So I got lost. But first I did enjoy this walk through Centro Habana, an area not high on tourists agendas although it is situated right between the two most important tourist areas of Havana (the old town and Vedado). Hence for several hours of walking around, I only saw tourists three times – in a horse driven carrier, in a cocotaxi (scooter taxi) and in getting into a normal taxi. But walking the streets? Never!




It wasn't the normal touristy stroll around as I did not really see anything important enough to qualify its space in a guidebook – well, I did bump into Plaza de la Revolución with a famous Che sculpture , but I prefer this square at night when the sculptures are all lit up.

What I saw was, people going around with their ordinary everyday business. People eating at food stalls – I had a yummy pane con croquettas sandwich from one for 5 pesos nationales, about 0.20 CUC or USD -, having an ice cream, waiting and waiting and waiting for the bus, hanging outside their houses to escape the oppressing heat (in my casa we luckily have a very noisy but mostly functioning air conditioner, plus a fan over each bed), and staring at the bizarre blond foreigner walking around their neighborhoods ;)


A good day all in all – exception made of the bleeding wounds on my feet.


In the evening, the crazy, lovely, extremely lively Cristina came to stay for an overnight between the West and East of Cuba. As she had already spend a few days in Havana previously, she brought us – me, the 2 UK girls staying in the casa at that moment, and a UK guy who's travelling for 3 years, and an Aussie guy – to the old town for a taste of the only home-brewed beer in Cuba at La Taberna de la Muralla in Plaza Vieja in the old town. Reminding me of Les Brasseurs in Geneva.

1 comment:

anst said...

“A good day all in all – exception made of the bleeding wounds on my feet”.
– Hello there my dear Helena! Haven´t we talked about this, never to use new shoes in before you “walked them in” (Swedish saying)? I do hope your blasters are better now, so that you will be able to go on exploring Havana in your usual way with a smile on your lips!