Havana Cathedral, Piazza Vieja, Stock Exchange, Arte Colonial, Car Museum, Christ Statue, El Moro, Salon Rosado.
26. March (Monday): Today we walk around town to visit some more sights of Havana.
You can enter the Castillo de la Real Fuerza for relatively unspectacular views of Havana from it's ramparts
The interior of Iglesia y Monasterio de San Fransisco de Asis
Inside Havana's Car Museum
We try the Cathedral for a second time, hoping to get in. It's nice but unspectacular. The Car Museum nearby is housed in two large rooms and has lots of historic cars, including "Che's Chevrolet". There's also a collection of historic motorcycles in a cordoned-off corner of the museum which grabs Annewien's attention. Unfortunately, that part of the museum is "not safe" and therefore off limits, as parts of the roof come down now and then.
Amazingly enough, it is safe enough to park historic motorbikes there!
Museums in Havana mostly cost a 2$ entrance fee, the odd one costs 1$ and Museo de la Revolution is 4. In many places, there is an additional camera or video fee.
We are amazed at the beauty of the colonial buildings in Havana Vieja. The pomp, grandeur and style are impressive. The 'patina' of crumbling unrestored buildings give them additional charm. This is a capital city as I have never seen before! As expected, there are so many famous old-timers, mostly American cars of the fifties, in the Havana streets. Many of them are unofficial taxis with yellow 'Particular' number-plates.
Habana Vieja house entrance
This is the ferry across the water to Moro Fort
A view onto Havana's Harbour
Moro Fort across the water as seen from the Malecon. I recommend the view of Havana from the lighthouse
The large Jesus Statue looking over Havana
In the afternoon we decide to give the El Moro fort across the river another shot. We walk to the place from where the ferry starts and wait in line. There are only Cubans here. They pay with a few Peso coins, but I don't have any, only dollars. I don't have any dollar change either, so I present the cashier a Dollar bill. He quickly grabs it (he must have thought "wow, today's my lucky day!") and returns my a load of light aluminium peso coins as change.
The boat has mostly standing room only and the trip across the river is uneventful. We walk up a small hill to a large white Jesus statue somehow similar to the one in Rio. Later, we decide to walk to the fort of 'El Moro' nearby. There is no marked path to it so with some hesitation we walk down a path along some high old defence walls which had a sign indicating "no entry". We are alone on it, no one else is to be seen.
Suddenly there are shouts from a distance and we see a person high up on the ruins of the fort yelling at us and telling us to go back. We are uncertain how to proceed and I yell back. I would like to continue. After some further yelling between us, we see a soldier descending towards us. He is friendly enough (I had suspected otherwise!) says we are usually not allowed to go down this path but says we may continue.
Eventually we do reach the fort and buy extra tickets for climbing the lighthouse as well. The fort is well taken care of and interesting, although the views of Havana and the Malecon both from the fort and particularly from the high vantage point of the lighthouse are more interesting. It's definitely worth the climb to the top of the lighthouse!
We take a taxi back to Havana, which drives through a tunnel under the river. The tunnel had been built by the French and one of the two lanes is currently under repair.
In the night we decide to visit 'Salon Rosado', which had received high marks in a Salsa Dance review of Havana. It's apparently quite a distance from where we stay, since it is not to be found on our maps. We decide to take a taxi at Capitolio and I start bargaining prices. Unsure what it would cost, I stick to something like 4 dollars, but most other want 6 or 7. Suddenly a guy pops up and says 'ok, 4 dollars' and steers us in the direction of a huge old American old-timer. The car has me hooked and I decide to try it. I notice that Annewien isn't quite at ease with this option, since there is an additional person sitting in the front seat next to the driver, and both don't look like very friendly types. Moreover, one of them had just passed the person who clinched the deal some money. It was a Jinetero, a person who hustles tourists and steers them towards all sorts of services, for a price.
We drive and it is quite an experience for me to be riding in such a vehicle. It huffs, puffs and growls deeply and the engine makes sounds indicating it's unwillingness to be reliable. We have a beautiful drive along the Malecon.
Very near Hotel St. Johns we suddenly pull over and one of the men says we are here and 'Salon Rosado' is just around the corner. I KNEW that it couldn't possibly be here, but at that moment I was kind of surprised not to have recognized that Salon Rosado could be so near to where he had been and got out.
We pay and walk around the corner. In large bright red letter we see 'Salon Rojo'. Well, there is a big difference between Rojo and Rosado, we'd just been duped by these Cubans! I'm nerved that we need take a taxi all over again! One taxi driver who happens to be there offers to take us to 'Marina Hemmingway', saying they have a great place playing music there, but the price is steep and we decline.
I'm determined to go to Salon Rosado, so I find another taxi. He actually does take us there, but the place is closed, as it is a Monday. Somehow I had expected this. He offers to take us back - for a steep price - and we drive back to Havana Vieja (Hotel Sevilla). We try to find a bar to drink something, but the Hotel Plaza bar is already closed and he have a morose drink in the lobby of the Golden Tulip. This was not a very good ending to the day and it was a silent walk back to the room. I must have gotten quite tired from our hectic schedule and not noticed it.