I was so proud this morning: I had a little plan for my day! I was heading to tour the Capitol Building and the Teatro, and then meander down the little park running down the middle of the boulevard in front of the Capitol and browse more closely the stunning artwork I glimpsed in passing on Saturday.
[Editor’s note: I just reread this entry and it doesn’t come off as very chipper, so maybe skip it]
*clears throat* turns out no buildings are open for touring on Lunes (Monday, today) AND, atleast at 10am, there wasn’t a lick of artwork in sight. All this came hot on the heels of the street vendor lady over charging me for my pan con queso y café (sin leche because there wasn’t any). Of course, when I say over charging me, I ended up paying 0.50CAD instead of 0.25CAD. But it’s the principle. I bravely argued with her a bit but her Spanish just got faster and louder and she had the advantage of simply refusing to give me correct change. A bit of a disappointing morning.
Anyway,I let it all go and got on the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour Bus. This is not a bad deal in Havana. 10CAD to ride your chosen route all day. It takes you to to all the further out destinations (Independence Square and the Necropolis). Walking it would be a situation.
I got off at the Cementario de Colon because I adore graveyards. Especially Latin American ones, usually. This time… skip the next paragraph if another diatribe against the Cuban .. “system” is too much.
First things first, I am charged 5CAD to walk around the graveyard. At first this didn’t bother me so much. All of Cuba is a money grab and frankly it wasn’t so different in Chile or Bolivia. It wasn’t until I was walking around and it became apparent to me that the cemetery was an allegory for the current Cuban government that I started to get testy. The government is charging me for walking around structures that they didn’t build, and are not just doing an atrocious job of maintaining, but I suspect are actively pillaging! A little cheeky but in line with the rest of Havana. People come here to admire the architecture, all of which was designed and financed by foreigners. The only contribution from the communist regime is the severe decrepitude and impressive inconveniences.
Atleast 40% of the graves are open, and full of garbage. This is a big “What the fuck?” on multiple levels.
The “sprucing up” that is happening (presumably in preparation for the 500th?) is ugly and being done poorly.
I suspect the government is stealing the marble (and maybe the statues? Although that is harder to see evidence of, obviously) to furnish their renovations in the centre. (Because of the missing marble all over the cemetery and, theoretically Cuba isn’t able to import any products from the western economies and EVEN IF THEY COULD, how would they afford it?)
Alright. I’m done. Final comments on the bus tour: it is really a tour of the major hotels, ie a way for the fancy pants to get into Habana Vieje. But you pass through more neighbourhoods than you could hope to see on foot and it’s an experience. They’re all so … similar. And yet. You can tell you’ve passed into new areas each time. They’re full of classical style architecture cheek by jowl with Gotham-City style buildings. (I’m sure there’s a name for them but I have no idea, modernist? Maybe?). You pass by the National Aquarium. Empty. You pass by hundreds of fountains. Empty. You pass by a mini golf course. Empty. Derelict. So far as the “tour” aspect of the bus goes… you’d better be an expert loud-speaker-crackled-Spanish translator, otherwise, this is a visual tour.
I am typing this while seated at a restaurant that thinks quite well of itself, 5Esquinas. I decided I would spring for tourist food every four or five meals. The service has been laughable. It’s all muscle bound hulks for waiters. I asked for lemonade when I sat down and when I said I needed more time to decide (I’d had 1.5mins) he jabbed his finger at the fish lasagna and said he recommends that. (Fish lasagna? Wtf? It isn’t a mistranslation either, it’s not shrimp). When I ordered Blue Cheese Soup w candied fruit (delicious, Aidan will be stretching his Chef wings when I come home) to start and said I needed more time to decide on the segundo he said, “Not the fish lasagna?” Like, not in a joking way, in an affronted way! Anyway, I sat with my menu, parched, curious about my drink, and finally decided on the simple pasta w olive oil, garlic and pepperoncinis. After ordering this, my waiter asked what I want to drink! My temper ran out, “I asked for lemonade when I sat down.” He had the grace to grumble out a sorry as he stalked off. All of this will cost me 15CAD.
Did I mention my breakfast from yesterday? There is a man that lives around the corner from my hostel, his name, and his breakfast joint’s name, is Tommy. As is the film about him, actually. He was a ballet dancer, and is a SERIOUS hoarder. Breakfast was cheap, 3CAD, and included cold instant coffee (I have yet to have proper coffee in Cuba) but the cold part was sad, fresh puréed guava juice (no sugar!), unlimited good white bread, unlimited butter and jam, slightly off papaya, delicious bananas (all bananas in Cuba are amaze balls, something to be said for getting them at the source), slightly rotted tomatoes, sliced cabbage (??), and, if you can stomach it, wierd processed ham (which is the only sort of ham that exists here, for “everything is exactly the same everywhere” and “this is the cheapest way of disseminating protein” Communist reasons). ANYWAY, I left plenty full and I’m sure most of the time the fruit and veggies are in better shape. In fact the group that came in after me got fresh fruit, I saw the guy run out and buy new. And you’re going for the ambience.
I checked the “art boulevard” again. Nothing. I’ll check again tomorrow, if nothing, I guess it’s a weekend thing and I’m SOL for Cuban artwork.
Speaking of tomorrow’s plans: I’m going to try and go to this: (!)
And I’m going to try and get to the fortress for sunset and the cannons firing at 21h00.