On April 23rd we arrived in La Habana where we had booked a “casa particular” in the old part of the city (Habana Vieja). A “casa particular” is an inexpensive accommodation provided by private owners who rent one or more rooms of their apartment; something similar to a B&B. When we started walking through the narrow streets adjacent to our place, we had quite contrasting impressions between the elegance of the old buildings and the state of maintenance and cleaning of some of the streets. Most of the buildings are in neoclassical style dating back to the XIX century and beautiful examples of Art Deco are also present. Proceeding further towards the main square, Plaza Vieja, we were pleased to see many buildings greatly restored, taken back to their original beauty. The whole La Habana is in fact under a process of renovation, though only some areas take good advantage of it.
Similarly to other cities in Cuba, music is everywhere and at any time of the day. Small bands play traditional Cuban songs in many café and restaurants, as well as in the streets, spreading a contagious joyful atmosphere involving both locals and tourists. We spent 4 days in La Habana, deepening our understanding of the Cuban history and culture through some key museums and relevant sites; we enjoyed both a music concert at Teatro Marti and a traditional show at the Cabaret Parisien where we celebrated Clara’s birthday.
In general, we found La Habana a fascinating city, where – more than in other places in Cuba – you can experience the contrast between the past and the projection toward a future that is still under definition. One key example is the double currency system, the “CUP” for the Cubans and the “CUC” for the tourists, an attempt to cope with very different purchasing capabilities which is creating enormous disparity between people working with tourism and other workers. As an example, a medical doctor earns in a month less than what a taxi driver makes in a day.