The two faces of Havana

The two very different faces of Cuba

CARDBOARD stepping stones laid out to help people cross recently tarred streets.

Stuff lowered to and from the street from upper apartments using a bag on a string.

Entire streets dug up and the rubble piled high until who knows when.

Parts of Old Havana and it's neighbouring Centro district look like war zones.

Potholes and dugout pipes make streets difficult to navigate.

The dilapidated buildings are covered in mould, often with trees and other plants growing from the upper levels of those abandoned.

The locals sit on their stoops watching the world go by as the kids play in the street.

They don't seem to be lamenting their rundown surroundings, rather just taking in life around them.

Wandering the streets of Cuba's capital is fascinating and eye-opening.

One can't help but wonder what will happen as the United States continues to ease trade restrictions.

 

The Museum of Revolution is a fascinating insight into how Cuba remains in a time warp. It was once the presidential palace where Fidel Castro's ministry took charge. This is a photo of the main office.
The Museum of Revolution is a fascinating insight into how Cuba remains in a time warp. It was once the presidential palace where Fidel Castro's ministry took charge. This is a photo of the main office. Rae Wilson

Will the golden arches suddenly compete with the green of America's most recognisable coffee franchise to pollute the now brand-free city landscape?

Will the roads be flooded with newer car models, diluting the number of classic cars and bombs now charming wide-eyed tourists?

Only time will tell.

People aren't wrong when they say Cuba is stuck back in the 1950s, it's like a time warp.

Classic cars, dilapidated buildings and the absence of global branding are among the most obvious signs.

But the communication is far from the 21st century.

You will see people - tourists and teens - crowding around the few places with wifi.

 

Cuba is as charming as it is frustrating. The streets of Havana are just as complex - from stunning colonial buildings to dilapidation akin to a war zone.
Cuba is as charming as it is frustrating. The streets of Havana are just as complex - from stunning colonial buildings to dilapidation akin to a war zone. Rae Wilson

There's just a handful of hotels, even in Havana, that have wifi and to say it's slow is an understatement.

Make sure you have a Lonely Planet or some other guide book handy because you cannot Google things to do and see let alone check where you are on Google maps.

But you can spend days just wandering around the streets and still not see everything Havana has to offer.

A classic car ride along the Malecon is a must - for the best selection of colours head to the streets around Parque Central.

If you're not fussy, flag one down wherever you are.

The two-hour tour will cover a huge number of sites outside the old town but visit our handy guide for more info on prices.

You can visit sites like John Lennon park and buildings with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro art pieces adorning them.

There are tourist buses available from Parque Central - one will take you to similar sites as the classic cars for $10CUC hop-on, hop-off and the other will take you to the castle, fort and beach for $5CUC.

 

Havana, Cuba.
Havana, Cuba. Rae Wilson

A CUC - the currency tourists use in Cuba - matches the US dollar.

If you want to soak up some Cuban history, and find out more about why it is so antiquated, then visit the Revolution Museum.

Not all of the museum has English translations but there's enough to get an insight into the revolution that saw Fidel Castro and Che Guevara running the country.

It's incredible to read they ordered all renters could take possession of the homes they were living in to try to even out the huge gap between rich and poor.

Havana, Cuba.
Havana, Cuba. Rae Wilson

They also nationalised oil and other global companies without compensating the owners - which is how the US trade bans came about.

Cuban food can be rather bland after spending time in Mexico but the ropa vieja- one of the country's best dishes which raises shredded beef to an art form - is outstanding at Dona Eutimia. Don't try one of the more inferior attempts at restaurants in the same alley.

La Bodeguita del Medio and La Floridita are generally packed with tourists thanks to their links to Hemingway but they are worth stopping by anyway.



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