What else happened during my first actual day in Havana besides my struggle with the mean and annoying jinteros who tried to rip me off?
Well, since I did not change a lot of money at the airport, I still had to go to a bank. Luckily, I found one quite quickly. I tried to enter the bank and the first thing I saw was the security guy opening the door for me and asking me what I wanted. I told him that I just wanted to change some money: Euro into CUC. He nodded and let me in. The entire waiting area was completely filled with people. They were not standing in a line or anything but they just sat on chairs. But… how would I know when it was my turn? No clue. The security man probably saw my clueless face and he helped me. He pointed at an elderly man and said ”el ultimo.” (the last one) Ahh, now I remembered. Every time in Cuba when you want to enter a shop or bank or Etecsa (internet cafe), then you always have to ask ”Quien es el ultimo?” (Who is the last one?) And then you know that after that person it is your turn.
Anyways, at day 1 I still had no clue about this system. I observed the scenario in the bank and it was very interesting. Some people went to the counter with bags filled with paper money. I assumed that they probably changed their Moneda Nacional’s into CUC’c. What a strange system. People are getting paid in MN’s but most things are being paid in CUC’s. Strange.
So, my ”ultimo”-guy was done and it was my turn. I started walking towards the vacant counter, but then the security guy came and told me that I cannot go there since they are not responsible for changing foreign currencies. Ah. So, only two of the 15 counters could help me. Great. Couldn’t he have told me this earlier?
My whole bank adventure took about one hour.
After this bank adventure and with fresh new money, I changed at my casa (I was completely soaked in sweat due to the hot weather), and then I went on the streets again ready to discover Havana. As I was quite done with the random-walking-on-the-streets because of the heat and the annoying jinteros, I decided to do something for my education and go to the Museo de la Revolucion (Museum of Revolution).
The Museum was quite nice and it covered the basics of the history of the Cuban Revolution (I summarized the most important points of Cuban history here).
I enjoyed the cool temperatures in the nice building and it was just nice to be alone and to read a bit and look around without being disturbed by some annoying guys. Next to the museum, there was also a collection of military vehicles outside which was random. But well, Cuba. The museum was packed with propaganda and hardcore promotion of the government. And it showed quite well the revolutionary spirit which amazed people all over the world.
I already mentioned in one of my entries how much I ”love” (please note the sarcasm) The United States of America. This was without any doubt my favourite poster of the museum:
It says something like
”Collection of Idiots”
1) Fulgencio Batista. We thank you for triggering our revolution.
2) Ronald Reagan. We thank you for keeping our revolution alive.
3) George Bush sr. We thank you for strengthening our revolution.
4) George Bush jn. We thank you for making our revolution eternal.
Since I could not stay my entire day in the museum, I decided that I should just try to forget about the heat and the pollution and that I would have to make the best out of my stay in Havana. So I thought that I could just go on with the revolutionary spirit and walk to the Plaza de la Revolucion.
The Plaza de la Revolucion was situated in Vedado, in the West of Havana, while the museum was situated in Centro Habana in the East. I had the idea to just walk along the Malecon (promenade next to the sea) in order to get to the direction of Vedado. A thing which I should mention at this point: My sense of orientation is more than lousy.
I walked along the Malecon and enjoyed the sun. And due to the sea the air was much better and I was breathing in the fantastic salty smell of the sea. Oh, and I took a selfie (I normally hate selfies) so that the world could see that I, myself, have really been to Havana.
I started walking. And I walked. And walked. The atmosphere at the Malecon was just much relaxter than in the crowded, smelly city. And as you can see in the picture, it is also empty and there are not really many people. Every now and then I crossed some people who were playing music, but other than that I mostly saw tourists. And literally all of the tourists were couples holding hands and enjoying the romantic atmosphere of the Malecon. Duh. In such moments, travelling alone is hard as you are being reminded that you are, well, alone. A sense of melancholy passed my thoughts but instead I just tried to concentrate on the buildings on the other side of the street which one day probably must have been beautiful.
I kept marching for ages. And at one point, I was exhausted, my feed hurt and I had no clue where I was. Of course. Then, I decided to get help. The good thing about Cuban cities is that whenever you are desperate and your feet give up then there are always the Bici-Taxis. Bici, meaning bikes, and Taxi should be clear. Those Bici Taxis are bikes with three wheels with a large seat in the back where two people can sit. And the taxi driver has to sweat in order to bring you to your destination like a Tour-de-France athlete. For the first time, I sat in such a vehicle and it was so much fun. I had a nice conversation with the driver who like the taxi driver from the day before just wants to leave Cuba. After about 15 minutes we arrived at the plaza de la revolucion. The $4CUC were totally worth it. I also got more confident every hour regarding my Spanish! But still, some people were quite hard to understand. Simple questions like ”how old are you?” are just not understandable in this strange Cuban accent.
After my trip to the Plaza de la Revolucion, I went back to the centre, also with a Bici. (The driver was a guy who of course, was hitting on me and wanted to take me out to teach me how to dance Salsa. I said that I didn’t have time (lie). He told me that whenever I changed my mind that I could come to his taxi and then he would take me out to dinner and to a club .haha)
It was not time for dinner yet, so I decided to just have a drink first in a bar, watch people on the streets and to write in my diary.
So, I ordered a Bucanero beer (”strong” Cuban beer). A live band was playing songs of the Buena Vista Social Clubs, on my right side I saw a building with a huge Cuban flag and on the left side I saw the bar with a poster saying ”La revoluction es invicible.”
In front of the bar on the streets I saw an old man with a wheelbarrow who was fishing in the garbage can for beer cans.
I took a sip of my cold beer and just enjoyed looking around. Maybe, Havana wasn’t that bad after all. A sip of beer can change your whole perception and turn a bad day into a nice day. Halleluja