Hola Habana! Legends and Sketches

Lost somewhere in time. My first feeling when I found myself in Cuba. Though, 2010 has already arrived I was feeling myself somewhere in 1989.

Cubans do homage to Soviet Union. Even in 2010 their streets were full of old russian cars. "Lada", "Moskvich" or "ZIL" trucks have been their favourites since early seventies. Older people spoke Russian fluently.

Locals worship Fidel Castro and Commandante Che Gevara. I have been observing them everywhere. On the walls for example.

"Commandante" has been the most favourite Cuban song for ages.

Habana's history goes back five centuries. This ambient city worth giving a week or two for careful exploration.

Habana was my love at first sight. I was soaking up every little corner. I was savouring the smells of those streets. I have already sided with the heartbeat of seaport town. I have been enjoying some Habana smells for a while. A bouquet of smells was in the air. Salty sea fragrance, some tobacco aroma and mint flavour mixed in unreal fusion.

I was feeling comfortable with Habana. This old "Beltran de Santa Cruz Hotel" fitted in with the whole city scene. The little corridores and arch roofs were evoking memories of old Spain or Hemingway. Mr. Ham was everywhere. His spirit was invisibly roaming on every street or staring from the photo in any Habana bar.

I took my guide's Nicholas advice to start with the Habana Vieja. Plaza de Armas was our first stop.

Place where Habana began in XVI century. The Spanish colonial army parades were held there somewhere in 1520-th.

This was just a bookish story. The real one was another. It was created here. On this little Avenida. Between all those coloured houses with their naked windows and blue shutters. There were just simple people who had been creating the history for all these years. Barefooted children, that old guy with his yellow straw hat and old Cuban woman with a thick cigar in her mouth.

  • Hola! Russo Turisto! Photo? - I was feeling myself as a child. This woman was an exotic one for me.

She was also a little bit excited. Her name was Kamilla. She lived and studied in Moscow in 1967, so she spoke Russian not so bad. Five local dollars and I became her best friend. To be honest, I had just paid for one legend. Years ago she knew personaly the main character of the "Old man and the sea" novel.

  • May be he had sucked at fishing. But thу old scoundrel got some good money with his memories.

I was struck. The case was of Santiago. The very unfortunate fisherman of the most known Hemingway's novel. His real name was Gregorio Fuentes. He had lived out the famous writer for forty one years and passed away in January 2002.

It was about time to proceed to Plaza De Armas.

May be it was a massive city heart in XVI century. In 2010 it became a pretty fleamarket, hipped with local youngsters and ragmans. They were selling their old books and photos. Even old vinyl records. A subject of mine.

I was looking through a bunch of records for a while. Old man showed me some local bands and lot of Soviet "Melodia" stuff. Alla Pugachova, Black Coffee, Samotsvety...I felt a patriotic drive. Russian musicians were popular here, on a Carribean Island.

Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash

Nicholas gave me a note to go. We had grand plans to explore the historic part and some Hemingway places. I have been intrigued to be turned out on a crowded Obispo street where Mr. Ham had a walk looking for an inspiration. We intended to land up in "Floridita". A bar where the Writer had his everyday mojito. We were going to see the glorious Capitol - pride of the Cuban people.

We've made a stop near cute old chapel.

El Templete was founded in 1828. The Spaniards were told to be the Habana founders right here three hundred years before the chapel was built.

Nicholas told this place to be magic one. A huge 600 years Seiba spread its branches over the chapel yard. As per legend anyone should walk around the tree and make a wish. It would have become real.

I didn't know if it was true or not. But I felt a sense of serenity in the air. This old chapel, this big tree where I could hide myself from the burning Cuban sun...Just a sence of tranquility.

Some rest and it was time to leave again. We were making for new impressions. Our way was running through the silent narrow street. This everyday local life was a revelation for me. Young dark-skinned girl was hanghing out her coloured laundry. A little bit toothy she was booting out a little grubby boy.

Suddenly I heard the driving sounds of Salsa. This music was coming from a green "Moskvich" have been parked on other side. Some stricking young girls were dancing without paying any attention to others. They were melting in their Salsa swaying.

Cubans seemed to be always happy. Inspite of their powerty. For ages they had no money but they had never lost their love of life. This was the contrast between them and gloomy Russians.

Having been strolling to "Floridita" I was looking over 1950-th American cars. I have been adoring them from early childhood. All these big and graceful "Chevrolets", "Fords" and "Buicks". That moment I forgot that I was 25-year old man. Having been as happy as a child I was gazing them open mouthed.

Cars of my dream were close to me. Running about old city streets. It was possible to touch it. Or to make some cool pics.

Did You know that vintage car owners turned out to be prosperous people?

No? Mee too. Nicholas told me a story of American cars while we were striking to Habana Capitol.

I'm gonna share it in my next post.

Keep in touch :)))))))