In Havana you’ll find today’s decay sitting right next to the ancient glamour.
The buildings, the people and the streets, they all bear witness to a fragile dream of the future, a problematic pride in the present and a nursing and nostalgic patina of “once upon a time…”.
I was in Havana to get a feeling of the city, and I spent most of my time in the Havana Vieja looking at “stuff”, talking to people and listening to the Cuban rhythms coming from everywhere.
In Cuba every town has its Casa de Musica and in Havana Vieja every street has a bar, a restaurant or a backyard luring you with live music.
To many, music alone would be sufficient reason to visit Cuba. The Caribbean and African roots mingle in ecstatic rhythms and it would be as impossible as it is unthinkable to leave Havana or Cuba without relaxing under the influence of those catchy tunes.
Even in the mid February winter, Havana is still so hot that you don’t want to spend an afternoon sightseeing without using a sun block. At the same time the nights can be chilly enough to demand an extra blanket.
Havana is filled with museums, music and people, and downtown, there seems to be cars everywhere.
The air is saturated with petrol fumes from poorly incinerated gasoline, and you can’t help wondering for how long the majestic buildings will withstand the attack from busses, taxis and from the water-trucks that deliver their precious drops to the hotels; so that the tourist, unlike many Cubans, can flush and brush without a care in the world.
The Cubans you meet on the streets are friendly, helpful and interested in making a difference to your holiday.
They will try to help you in every possible way, explaining about the sites, giving you a tour of the area or even inviting you to their homes.
It's worth to remember, anyway, that it's often combined with an entrepreneurial drive. After all, what you may think of as petty cash, the Cubans call a day's, a week's or even a month's earning.
Havana is a city of contrasts. On the multi-lane, modern highway leading to the Jose Marti Airport, you can see a “prohibited sign” telling you that horse-drawn carriage and tractors are not allowed.
Or let’s take the Plaza Vieja - on the north side of the Plaza you find beautifully restored buildings and on the south side - well let’s just say: They haven’t really gotten around to that yet.
In the narrow streets near the Plaza you’ll see - what we could call “Housekeepers” - designed to keep the lovestruck buildings so brutally apart.
But Havana is of course much more than the Havana Vieja. After all, it’s a city of over 2 million people.
If you take a walk to the west, via Chinatown toward Vedado, the buildings are somewhat more modest, and the further you get, the greater is the chance to catch a glimpse of the ordinary Cuban daily life.
Or you could walk to Vedado along the Malecon - the seafront.
If you rest for a minute to enjoy the sea-view, you’re destined to be approached by curious and entrepreneurial Cubans bursting with questions and suggestions aimed at your heart, at your mind or sometimes just at your wallet.