Fascinating Havana

By Kai Rambow

 

Licking a delicious mojito sorbet was just one of many contrasts that make Havana fascinating.  We were snacking at a private ice cream shop, thanks to our tour guide.  To really discover Cuba, learn the story behind the story – it’s fascinating.

Havana is much more than old cars.  Despite major challenges in getting parts and supplies, many classic cars are in beautiful condition.  If all the historic buildings were restored, people all over the world would be flocking to visit Havana.

The contrast between restored buildings and dilapidated buildings next door is stark. After the revolution, people were allowed to keep two properties: one in the city and one in the country.  The rest were confiscated by the state.

One property in the city did not mean an entire building. For example, one home, a three-story building would be divided into three apartments.  Just divided: no additions (think communal bathrooms), no upgrades – nothing, just divided spaces.

Some families would have money for maintenance, others would not, resulting in no maintenance being done at all. It’s ironic that in a socialist system, no HOA and no collective maintenance exists. The result: run-down buildings, many of which require major restoration work.

Socialism vs Capitalism 

There is an absolutely fascinating system in place for small businesses.  There are restaurants throughout Havana. Getting reliable supplies is a challenge. A restaurant may have a menu, but if short on supplies they will simply inform you an item is not available that day.

When the Cuban government allowed some private enterprise, they set things up to the state’s advantage. The state actually owns and operates restaurants at a competitive advantage. State run restaurants are able to buy wholesale and set up in prime locations. Private restaurants must buy supplies at retail prices from state run grocery stores. They cannot even get a discount based on volume. The last challenge: the state-run restaurants pay no taxes; private restaurants pay hefty taxes. Here’s the great news: despite these obstacles, private restaurants are flourishing.

How can you spot the difference? A restaurant in a great corner location, offering comfort food, such as pizza is government owned and operated. A restaurant on a side street with mostly locals will probably be private.

My mojito sorbet was a first-rate product in a little private ice cream shop. Want to really help Cubans?  Let your guide know that you know the difference, and ask for a really good private restaurant.

 

Cuba Again?

This first trip to Cuba was enlightening. The obvious is hundreds of years of history, deep cultural roots and tasty food. Add in being more beautiful than imagined, more fascinating than thought possible with wonderful people and I would not only recommend a cruise here, but will take the opportunity to revisit in the future.

 

Tips for a Great Trip

Invest in Private Tour: In Havana you have three options: Take a cruise ship excursion;  use the hop-on-hop-off bus tour; or hire a private guide.  Havana is a 500-year-old city with narrow streets; a bus tour will drive past major sites.  If you really want to learn about Havana and Cuban life, a private guide is worth the investment.  Develop rapport, ask great questions and gain insights you simply can’t with the other options.

Our private tour involved walking large sections of Old Havana and included two hours touring in a classic convertible. Tip: Maybe you need a stop for a quick bite, but leave any shopping until after your tour.

Booked with Cubaoutings Tours. Payment was in CUCs upon conclusion of tour. Note: Even with tips, this was less expensive than the cruise ship shore excursions.

Water and Snacks: Be sure to take water, you’ll need it. Cuban authorities will let you take water, if they are in unopened bottles.  Snacks, also in sealed packages, are permitted as well.  Both can be helpful.  The walking is not strenuous, but covers quite a bit of ground.  If temperatures are hot, you’ll need the water and snacks.

Special thanks to Jayne Kirse and Teresa Olson at Sun City Center Travelworld, for their invaluable assistance.

 

Cubaoutings Tours Company

www.cubaoutings.com

Helad’oro La Habana

(ice cream / sorbet)

Calle Aguiar No. 206e

Empedrado y Tejadillo

La Habana Vieja

Tel: 56236942

 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

SCC and KP Amateur Radio Clubs

SCC and KP Amateur Radio ClubsReady to Help in a Community EmergencyBy Paula Lickfeldt Five days a week, Monday through Friday you can find members of the Sun City Center Amateur Radio Club in their "club room," which is in the hurricane resistant...

Bob’s Vets

Bob’s VetsA Breakfast Get Together for All Veterans, Their Spouses and Their FriendsBy Diane M. Loeffler Thursday mornings are special for veterans who are within driving distance of the Ruskin Bob Evans restaurant. A large area is set aside for veterans...

Veterans Pay Tribute to Departed Comrades

Veterans Pay Tribute to Departed Comrades By Frank Kepley, CAPT USN (Ret.), News Military Correspondent   The Military Veterans Organization of Sun City Center sponsored a Memorial Day Tribute to deceased veterans on Monday Morning at 10 a.m. at the...

Celebrating Independence Together

Celebrating Independence TogetherBy E. Adam Porter The first week in July, every year, my extended family gathers at the beach in my hometown for a weeklong reunion. It’s a wonderful, relaxing time of sharing life together, filled with the familiar aromas...

The July NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… SCC honors its veterans, especially those comrades we lost in the past year. We get to know Bob’s Vets, meet the Pickleball players who did SCC proud in international competition, and hang out with puffins in Newfoundland. Find...

Back 2 School Supply Drive

Back 2 School Supply Drive The Boys and Girls Club needs your help!   Supplies Needed Black pens, blue pens, red pens, blunt-tip scissors, bottled glue, glue sticks, colored pencils, disinfectant wipes, dry erase markers, erasers, hand sanitizer,...