CUBA - July, 2016 - by Kathryn Gadbow

Day 2 - tour of Havana in the rain and a Russian Ballet

 

   The city tour had to take place on a bus due to thunder and lightning. We got to see the main sights of Havana. The picture above has the face of "Che" Guevara who was a major part of the revolution in Cuba. His face was plastered everywhere. In my ignorance, I thought it was Fidel Castro. When I asked about this the Cuban bus driver got mad and said that everyone hates Castro.  However, the driver offered to take the bus by Castro's house, if we wanted.  Unfortunately, the bus was moving too quickly to get a decent shot of the house. All you could see from the street was 5 armed guards standing at the entrance of a long driveway. The house and everything else was surrounded by trees. 

 

This market was in the middle of a once fancy neighborhood. The people of Cuba receive a “coupon book” that they can use for groceries every month. They are allowed 1 chicken, 5 eggs, and a sack of rice and beans per person every month. I eat at least 2 eggs a day! The older people of Cuba don’t seem to mind though because they say it is at least better than times before the Revolution.

 

 This was one of the hospitals in Havana and the only one the tour guide said was worth going to. The cutting edge research/specialty of this hospital is skin care for acne and a “new” pill to reduce high blood pressure.  All I have to say is I am glad I stayed healthy during the trip. 

 

Here is one of the “palaces”.  In its heyday I am sure it was outrageous. There were streets and streets of houses like this. Most of these house were not inhabited or were turned into mini hotels. Many of the rich Cubans left for the United States during the Revolution and are not allowed back.

 

A big fort to keep out pirates. 

 

The ballet was wonderful. If you look closely at the ticket you can see that the “not” for not valid for tourist was whited out. Apparently, it is incredibly hard to get tickets if you are a tourist but we causally asked at the hotel and these appeared at the front desk. 

 

This is the steps into the opera house where the ballet was held. We saw Don Quixote and I have to say it was much better than the movie. There is a heavy Russian influence in Cuba because of the presence of communism and the absence of US influence for so long. Many hotels and businesses were Russian run. The same is true for the Cuban ballet. Despite my lack of knowledge in the ballet world, I do know the Russian ballet is world class. The Cuban ballet did not disappoint and ended up being one of the highlights of the trip.  Alicia Alonso is a big name in ballet, kind of like Joe Paterno was for football at PSU for a long time. She was in attendance and did this swan dance thing as she entered. Mind you, she is 80ish and blind.  I have a new appreciation for ballet! 

 

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