Your heart is in Havana
Havana, the heart of Cuba [2/5]
From Matanzas to Havana. We arrive in Havana around noon - after a two-hour bus ride with the Viazul. It's raining cats and dogs. When getting off the bus we are besieged by a huge horde of smugglers (the so-called Jineteros) who want to offer us a casa particular. We try to free ourselves and fall straight into the first trap. A rickshaw driver would like to drive us to the casa particular. We make the mistake and don't negotiate the price beforehand, so he would like to have 15 euros for a 2-minute drive. We discuss wildly with him when he leaves and finally give him 10. That is almost a whole month's salary for a Cuban.
We know that we should not accept any of the casas offered by the smugglers. The smugglers demand a commission from the casa owners, which is then added to the room rates. So be careful not to be chased into a casa. You then give the house owners the impression that you came at their instigation and then pay the surcharge for the mediation. We leave we prefer to use our travel guide (Cuba, Michael Müller Verlag) and let a rickshaw take us to a casa particular of our choice. In Cuba, every casa particular must be marked with a blue anchor on the house. (“Arrendador Divisa” is the name). Therefore, the accommodations are quickly recognizable there. You can find the label on almost every house.
Casa Particulars on every corner
We are welcomed by a lovely Cuban woman who is currently coloring her hair and telling us that it is fully booked. She calls your niece directly, who then has a room for us. So we spend the next three days in Havana. Havana is the capital of Cuba and has a population of around 2.1 million. The capital can easily be described in a few words: weathered baroque buildings, colorful Cadillacs, lots of music, rum, salsa, curious Cubans and the smell of diesel. It seems as if time has stood still here and the decline can hardly be stopped.
The classic cars were once status symbols of capitalism. Today they are a Cuban cultural asset and enjoy very, very loving care from their owners. On the first trip I have a queasy feeling. Not only does the old sheet metal rattle loudly, it smells unbearably and dark gray clouds cough out of the exhaust pipes - inside the passenger compartment there is only the bare minimum. The outside is partly polished to a high gloss, but inside the lack of spare parts becomes clear. The inner lining is usually completely missing and the seat cushions (if present) have large holes. The whole city smells of gasoline and exhaust fumes from the old sleighs. The drivers chauffeur guests through the area for little money. In the best case scenario, they'll even reveal the city's secrets to you. After three days, our taxi driver Adolfo takes us from our accommodation to the Viazul bus stop and tells us more about Cuban history on the way there. He shows us Fidel Castro's apartment. Adolfo speaks very good English and for the first time we have the opportunity to ask more details. He tells us that the Cubans can now leave the country - but can never afford the flight for almost 1,000 euros. On average, a Cuban earns 15 euros per month. So an exit is as impossible as a planned lottery win. He would like to trade with us around the world, he tells us. We get sad. When we arrive at the bus stop, he helps us buy tickets and waits with us until the bus arrives. We find it difficult to say goodbye to Adolfo. After the short time, we have taken him very deeply. He gives us his phone number and if we get back to Havana we'll call him - we promised him that.
More about Havana
Havana, or Villa San Cristóbal de La Habana, is the capital of Cuba and is located on the northwest coast of Cuba. With around 2.1 million inhabitants, it is the largest metropolis in the Caribbean and is one of the most culturally rich centers in the world.
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