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Old Posted Jun 6, 2018, 2:01 AM
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Tuba Libre: Havana, featuring the tubas of Nassau

It has always been a dream of my partner's to visit Cuba. God knows why, because it had always seemed to me that the biggest thing to do in Cuba was watch Cubans standing around being Cuban. Whoo.

Let me reiterate: Whoo.

Anyway, when the opportunity arose to live the aforementioned (tee hee, I said "aforementioned") dream, we had no choice but to jump on it. We jumped on a ship, in fact. We rode said ship from Miami to Nassau, and then from Nassau to Havana. We've been to Nassau enough times to not get much of a thrill from it anymore, but it so happened that we arrived in Nassau on Bahamian Labour Day. That was an interesting insight into The Bahamas, primarily because the Bahamians celebrate Labour Day with a four-hour-long parade. At least, that was how long we stood and watched it -- for all I know it could still be going on. And, featured in the parade were what I estimated to be every tuba in The Bahamas. You might not think of The Bahamas when you think of tuba-lovin' nations, but you would be wrong not to. It turns out that Bahamians love nothing more than some rockin' tuba tunes.

Behold:

(But before you behold, let me apologize for the shitty cellphone camera pics. We had wanted to pack light...)

(Also note that if you must watch a parade in Nassau, try to watch it from the balcony of the Greek Islands Restaurant on Bay Street. Try the Greek frappe -- it's delicious, a wonderful blend of bitter and sweet.)

And of course, musical accompaniment:

Video Link






































This driver appears to be underage...







You thought I had forgotten the tubas...























But of course, man cannot live on tuba alone. After Nassau we made our way to Havana.









By now you are asking yourself, what is Havana like? Havana, I can answer authoritatively as someone who spent nearly an entire day there and am therefore an expert, is what you would get if San Juan and Detroit had an ugly baby.





On a more serious note, Havana is filthy. Rainbow slicks shimmer on the water, and whenever you walk by the water you see floating drifts of trash long since dyed black by all that oil. You will also see people fishing and pulling their catches up through the garbage.







Now, obviously the best way to get to know a culture up close and personal is to careen through it, sometimes driving up onto the sidewalks if necessary, on a tour bus. You will be relieved to know that in the event of an emergency you merely need to break the glass. The sticker on the window will remind you several times over the course of the next great many pictures.

































The American embassy:











Plaza de la Revolucion:







As both a cemetery buff and an admirer of classical sculpture, I have to admit that the Columbus Necropolis made my knickers more than a little sticky:















































The University of Havana:









The view from Christ of Havana Park:





Christ of Havana. It bugs the hell out of me that you can see up His nose like that.









The view from Morro Castle:

























They're renovating the train station.



The bus dropped us off at this little market because we -- and everybody else -- had been thwarted from shopping at the Almacenes San Jose, the main art and craft market. Why? Because someone had been thoughtless enough, without even considering that American tourists might want to purchase coffee and trinkets, to murder someone else at the Almacenes San Jose. The criminalistics vans had been lined up outside the main market as we passed by. The gates had been closed and a large clot of very agitated shopkeepers and stall holders had been clustered around the vans.





Another note about the filth of Havana. The entire city smelled like shit although, I know from my experiences in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Miami Beach, that all the best cities tend to here and there. In Havana though, you walked through a constant fug of poopstank. You also walked across runnels and pools, some of them fizzing and some of them not, of milky fluids, none of which one would wish to inspect too closely, oozing through the streets.

When there were streets to walk through, mind you.











It was in this park that we made the acquaintance of an absolutely lovely young Cuban lady who, after it was established that we were not interested in renting any of her bodily orifices, led us to a restaurant that served the most delightful fried chicken you could ever hope to find.





Havana seemed more a city of stray dogs, whereas San Juan is a city of stray cats. When you did find a stray cat, like this one sporting a raw red socket where its right eye should be, it was much the worse for the wear.



Marvelous fried chicken. Although, for an idea of how differently things are done in one country versus another, in Cuba it's perfectly fine for your restaurant's bathroom to vent into the kitchen.





















When it comes to street art, Havana brings it.

































Kids were running around this fountain in Plaza de San Francisco, playing.







Meanwhile, back on the ship the light had changed.











Christ of Havana is less distracting when you can't see up His gigantic marble nostrils.



That building with the sphere atop it is the Cuban weather service building. The sphere holds the radar apparatus.



























Goodbye, Havana.



Now, you may ask would I return to Cuba? Abso-fucking-lutely. It takes more than vast tracts of ruins, oil spills, foothills of litter, shit and mystery fluids coursing through the streets to turn me off to a town. Why, I'd love to go back and see the Museum of Chocolate. Shop at the art market whenever someone hasn't just been killed in it. See the Capitolio with the scaffolding off. Walk the Prado and count the bronze lion statues. Yes, I'd delight in going back to Havana -- even though my heart will always belong to San Juan.
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Last edited by hauntedheadnc; Jun 6, 2018 at 2:13 AM.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2018, 8:22 PM
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Other than hearing the aforementioned (two can play this game) tubas, I think I could have skipped the parade.
Havana is on my short list of places I want to visit. Thank you for posting the great photos and colorful descriptions of the sights (and smells). I'm not sure if this thread has dis- or en- couraged me from wanting to go there. I would love seeing all the classic cars but be very frustrated by the stunning architecture crumbling.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2018, 8:51 PM
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Well you sure didn't attempt to hide your disdain for the place.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2018, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by (four 0 four) View Post
Other than hearing the aforementioned (two can play this game) tubas, I think I could have skipped the parade.
Havana is on my short list of places I want to visit. Thank you for posting the great photos and colorful descriptions of the sights (and smells). I'm not sure if this thread has dis- or en- couraged me from wanting to go there. I would love seeing all the classic cars but be very frustrated by the stunning architecture crumbling.
I doubt you're alone in being able to forego tubas. However, I posted the parade pics for a couple of reasons:

1. I'm a former band nerd, however abysmally I played the trombone, and it was a balm for my abraded soul to see an entire city turn out to scream their heads off for four straight hours for a couple dozen brass bands.

2. It was touching, if not outright moving, to see people celebrating how bloody hard they work. Kissing tourists' asses is miserable, thankless work, and to see these people marching down the streets getting the adulation they deserve was wonderful.
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Last edited by hauntedheadnc; Jun 6, 2018 at 11:39 PM.
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Old Posted Jun 6, 2018, 11:34 PM
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Well you sure didn't attempt to hide your disdain for the place.
What's disdainful? Havana Harbor really is basically one big, garbage-strewn oil slick, and the entire waterfront really is lined with oily black garbage. People really do fish from the waterfront and they really do pull their catches up through the trash. There really is sewage running through the streets, and the city really does stink -- if you aren't smelling human shit, you're smelling animal shit. There really are thousands of buildings across Old Havana that have either collapsed or are getting there fast. We passed more than a few buildings whose facades had collapsed, leaving the structures behind displayed like dollhouses. There really are drifts of trash along the streets, and people casually toss their trash onto them as they walk down the streets. There really are craters and trenches in the streets. Somebody really did get killed at the art market. We really did meet a hooker in that park, and had lunch with her, and we ate in a restaurant whose bathroom did vent into the kitchen -- I know, because I waved at the cook while I was using it. That restaurant really did serve some of the best fried chicken I've ever eaten.

If you took offense to the comparison of Havana to what would result if you took San Juan and gave it a dose of Detroit-esque ruin, then consider what's probably a better description: Imagine what Paris would have looked like had Hitler decided to give it the London look with a years-long Blitz. Add palm trees. You now have Havana. Old Havana was magnificent and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that. Grand boulevards, including the Prado, which is lined with elegant lampposts and four big bronze lions at each and every intersection. Imposing monuments -- the city is littered with them. Tens of thousands of elegant buildings, some freshly polished and others on the ground in pieces.

I really do think that on the eve of the revolution in Cuba, Havana was likely far and away the most beautiful city in the Americas -- but the revolution was not kind to it, and time has been crueler still. That's not being disdainful at all. That's just the truth.
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Old Posted Jun 7, 2018, 3:50 PM
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Originally Posted by hauntedheadnc View Post
What's disdainful? Havana Harbor really is basically one big, garbage-strewn oil slick, and the entire waterfront really is lined with oily black garbage. People really do fish from the waterfront and they really do pull their catches up through the trash. There really is sewage running through the streets, and the city really does stink -- if you aren't smelling human shit, you're smelling animal shit. There really are thousands of buildings across Old Havana that have either collapsed or are getting there fast. We passed more than a few buildings whose facades had collapsed, leaving the structures behind displayed like dollhouses. There really are drifts of trash along the streets, and people casually toss their trash onto them as they walk down the streets. There really are craters and trenches in the streets. Somebody really did get killed at the art market. We really did meet a hooker in that park, and had lunch with her, and we ate in a restaurant whose bathroom did vent into the kitchen -- I know, because I waved at the cook while I was using it. That restaurant really did serve some of the best fried chicken I've ever eaten.

If you took offense to the comparison of Havana to what would result if you took San Juan and gave it a dose of Detroit-esque ruin, then consider what's probably a better description: Imagine what Paris would have looked like had Hitler decided to give it the London look with a years-long Blitz. Add palm trees. You now have Havana. Old Havana was magnificent and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that. Grand boulevards, including the Prado, which is lined with elegant lampposts and four big bronze lions at each and every intersection. Imposing monuments -- the city is littered with them. Tens of thousands of elegant buildings, some freshly polished and others on the ground in pieces.

I really do think that on the eve of the revolution in Cuba, Havana was likely far and away the most beautiful city in the Americas -- but the revolution was not kind to it, and time has been crueler still. That's not being disdainful at all. That's just the truth.
The commentary to me just came across as condescending especially from a person of relative privilege, as if the locals are relishing in and carefree about living among such urban decay.
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Old Posted Jun 7, 2018, 5:40 PM
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Ignoring all the obnoxious rhetoric in this thread; Havana looks gorgeous, I absolutely must see it one day.
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Old Posted Jun 7, 2018, 6:54 PM
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Great pictures of one of my favourite cities. I need to go back as I haven't been there in about 15 years now. It is one of the most genuine Latin American cities I've been to.
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Old Posted Jun 7, 2018, 8:05 PM
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It's a fascinating city. Thanks.
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Old Posted Jun 7, 2018, 8:43 PM
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By now you are asking yourself, what is Havana like? Havana, I can answer authoritatively as someone who spent nearly an entire day there and am therefore an expert, is what you would get if San Juan and Detroit had an ugly baby.
Hahaha! I was trying to suss-out a similar analogy, the beautiful architecture, the seeming time warp in certain areas, the classic Americana, the tropical feel with Spanish & Caribbean influence. Tie this in with economic stagnation & decline plus the societal effects this has on a area I can get the joke which seems to be dripping in sarcasm.

I would only add in that Leningrad carried the baby after artificial insemination. Hah

Seriously intriguing place, I'd like to visit there some day as well.
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Old Posted Jun 8, 2018, 1:42 AM
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The poor kitty cat.
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Old Posted Jun 8, 2018, 12:42 PM
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Great pictures of one of my favourite cities. I need to go back as I haven't been there in about 15 years now. It is one of the most genuine Latin American cities I've been to.
I don't think that Cubans have much of a choice but to be genuine. From what little I interacted with the people of Havana, it seems that Cubans neither need nor want anybody's pity (which seems to have been expected by some readers of this thread), and are more concerned with getting by and getting along. I did notice that they seem to have taken to their measure of capitalism quickly and well, though... All the souvenir shops sold exactly the same mass-produced things, like in The Bahamas or anywhere else in the Caribbean.

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It's a fascinating city. Thanks.
That it definitely is.

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Originally Posted by Docta_Love View Post
Hahaha! I was trying to suss-out a similar analogy, the beautiful architecture, the seeming time warp in certain areas, the classic Americana, the tropical feel with Spanish & Caribbean influence. Tie this in with economic stagnation & decline plus the societal effects this has on a area I can get the joke which seems to be dripping in sarcasm.

I would only add in that Leningrad carried the baby after artificial insemination. Hah

Seriously intriguing place, I'd like to visit there some day as well.
The analogy of a bombed Paris actually seems more and more apt the more I think on it. Havana must have been indescribably beautiful back before the Revolution. There are all these broad boulevards, grandiose monuments, baroque buildings like the national theater next to the Capitolio... Seriously, picture Haussmann's Paris and reduce about a quarter of it to ruins and you've got Havana.

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The poor kitty cat.
It bothered me too.
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Old Posted Jun 8, 2018, 3:01 PM
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I would love seeing all the classic cars but be very frustrated by the stunning architecture crumbling.
Most of the "classic" cars running the streets are amalgamated hunks of 1950s steel (a Chevy might have a Chrysler grille or an ill-fitting, welded-on Ford back door, for instance... or maybe even an old refrigerator handle in place of a passenger-side door handle) spewing black soot from their Russian or Korean or diesel engines (some even have diesel boat engines powering them). These jalopies are actually far more interesting to me, as both a car and history buff.

The shiny ones you see are usually state property and strictly for tourists. The irony of cruising along the Malecon in a shiny Cadillac convertible pretending you're back in romantic, glamorous 1950s Havana, while the actual 2000s Havana is crumbling and people don't have enough to eat... uh, yeah... just feels kinda dirty and stupid.

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The commentary to me just came across as condescending especially from a person of relative privilege, as if the locals are relishing in and carefree about living among such urban decay.
What hauntedhead says about Havana is true (though relating the killing in the market is not indicative of a normal occurence; crime exists of course, but it is rare... especially violent crime; extreme penal codes kinda dissuade that). And I highly doubt after being there, that he would think the "locals are relishing in and carefree about living among such urban decay". It's quite apparent that life is difficult there... the people are simply beaten down, not carefree. Spend some time in Cuba and you'll find that it's a fascinating place, but it's also an incredibly frustrating, backward, dysfunctional, depressing one. What 6 decades of a communist dictatorship does to a once-beautiful city and culture is on full display. It's pathetic and sad.
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Old Posted Jun 8, 2018, 3:13 PM
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See the Capitolio with the scaffolding off.
Supposedly next year... but they've been saying that since 2015.
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Old Posted Jun 8, 2018, 3:23 PM
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It seemed like all the tubas were in the parade because they really were. There are Junkanoo groups all across the islands, like there are a bunch of Mardi Gras krewes in New Orleans, or Mummer groups in Philadelphia. All of these groups come out in force when they have parades.

I heard the same thing about Cuba from my barber, who went there earlier this year. It's very polluted, and there's human feces and garbage in the streets, and the old colonial buildings are collapsing before your very eyes. He also mentioned that the city is not livable by our standards. For instance, there's no toilet paper in the city, just like in Venezuela, and he held it in until he was back on the cruise ship that he was staying on.

About how old was the prostitute? I heard that women selling themselves was big down there, mainly as an entrepreneurial decision. I'm curious as to how prevalent it is, and if even the best-looking women resort to selling themselves as a way to make a living.
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Old Posted Jun 8, 2018, 4:51 PM
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I was dying to see a photo of the fried chicken though.
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Old Posted Jun 10, 2018, 6:05 PM
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I heard the same thing about Cuba from my barber, who went there earlier this year. It's very polluted, and there's human feces and garbage in the streets, and the old colonial buildings are collapsing before your very eyes. He also mentioned that the city is not livable by our standards. For instance, there's no toilet paper in the city, just like in Venezuela, and he held it in until he was back on the cruise ship that he was staying on.
They advised us to bring our own toilet paper with us as well.

Quote:
About how old was the prostitute? I heard that women selling themselves was big down there, mainly as an entrepreneurial decision. I'm curious as to how prevalent it is, and if even the best-looking women resort to selling themselves as a way to make a living.
She was 22, and over the course of talking with her we learned that her other gig, as it were, was a job in a daycare center. I can't say how prevalent it is, but I will say that she was quite an attractive lady. Very matter-of-fact, too. I thought she was kind of badass.
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Old Posted Jul 9, 2018, 3:21 AM
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This is truly an inspiring monument that celebrates the beauty of all cultures joining together.
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Old Posted Jul 22, 2018, 3:46 PM
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El Capitolio is still covered in scaffolding? Luckily I was there prior to its erection.


For photos of El Capitolio WITHOUT scaffolding please take a look within this gallery of Havana photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpcu2BT

Some quality shots in there, but I am biased.
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