The Lonely Planet Getting Started section says it all really:
"Cuba is a unique country with many distinct characteristics.Travel here not only requires a passport, money and a good sturdy backpack; it also requires flexibility, creativity, good humour, patience and a healthy sense of adventure."
The place is mad.Traffic everywhere, vintage cars, cigars, rum, poverty, rationed food, empty shops, large women in incredibly tight clothing, men leering at you at every option, dilapidated buildings, the worst cuisine on this planet and Che absolutely everywhere.Good job he was a good looking man.
Havana itself is a really large city.3 main sections but most of the interesting stuff is in Havana Vieja - where we were staying.We thought this was a good idea until we saw the Casa Particulares and the back alley it was in.The Lonely Planet describes the area as a place to see the real Havana if you are brave enough to go.The taxi driver wanted paying in the car as it wasn't safe to be paid in the street!The building was a combination of crumbling concrete and exposed wiring.The hallway smelt like a toilet and later we realised this is because that's what the locals used it for!Are you getting the picture?The room wasn't much better and I really wondered what I was doing.We decided the streets were so unsafe we shouldn't go out in the dark so I even had to go to bed without dinner.This was not the greatest start.
However Havana is a lovely city.It has some beautiful squares, cobbled streets and a coast line.You can walk for hours admiring the old buildings and the beautiful cars.The Chevys and Cadillacs are beautifully preserved.There is a real vibe here.Music blasts out from bars and restaurants, where you can sit and people watch as you drink a refreshing mojito.At the Central Square you can watch a huddle of men chatting about baseball, in Revolution Square you are blown away by the larger than life images of Che and Castro on office blocks, Plaza Vieja you can relax by the fountain and at Plaza de Armas you can wandered round a second hand book market.The latter only useful if you can read Spanish!
Women wear really bright colours and very tight fitting clothing.It wouldn't surprise me if they had a national day to mark the invention of lycra - this country must be the biggest consumer of the stuff.The women are not small either - they have a traditional shape - large breasts, stomach and bums.They look like a large S.This does not stop them showing off their midriffs.It's often not a pretty sight.The men tend to be in jeans apart from the smoothies who are dressed head to toe in white with their white umbrellas.
It is obvious there are issues.Many foods are rationed.The shops sell very little and when you go in everything is in glass cabinets.It's pretty much you go in to see what they have rather than going to get what you want.There are often queues outside shops when people have heard that something they need is in stock!So strange.The lack of food also contributes to the dreadful cuisine.The best food is the peso pizza which I finally got try.So yummy.Unfortunately only discovered on my last day!
Baseball is big here.Kids play it everywhere with sticks and bottle tops.During our stay the local baseball won the league.The City went mad.There were fireworks at 2am in the morning - I thought it was a riot so turned over and went back to sleep.It seemed the safest thing to do. The next day there were scores of people on the streets in the baseball team shirts.One crowd was just walking around the city with flags and whistles.We did a long walk that day and we seemed to find them round every corner.There was so much energy.At one point we got swept up in the crowd and were surrounded by people salsa dancing in the street.