fbpx
Top

I wanted to write a few tips on things to do in Havana first, but I just couldn’t wait to tell you about my lovely tour around the city and the transportation in Cuba in general.

So, we will start with a sidecar motorcycle. And Hemingway. And some colorful street art… You don’t think that they have anything in common? Well, think again.

Transportation in Cuba

Driving along Havana streets

I was so eager to visit the house where Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. He lived here for 20 years, after buying the house in 1940 for a bit over 12,000 dollars. Everything about Cuba was just perfect for Hemingway – the sun, the fishing, the rum. Oh, that was such a “must-see”.

Cuba-Havana-Glimpses-of-The-World

Passing by the Revolution Museum

Transportation in Cuba

So, I went downtown to find a taxi, since the house is about 15 kilometers away from the city. The settlement is called San Francisco de Paula, and the house Finca la Vigia. (Hemingway named it, meaning “the lookout house”.)

Cuba-Havana-Glimpses-of-The-World

One of the squares in Havana

As I was approaching what seemed to be an improvised taxi station, I remembered how they advised me back at the hotel about the transportation in Cuba, “not to hire taxis without the official tag”, since those were probably “illegal” and “you can get tricked in so many ways”. I saw a few motorbikes on one side of the parking lot, with some improvised taxi signs taped across the shield. “I don’t need a motorbike, a car would be better”, it crossed my mind.

Cuba-Callejon-de-Hammel-Glimpses-of-The-World

Callejon de Hammel alley

“Step in, please”

Going among all those cars and all sorts of, well, “vehicles” Cuban style (more about the means of transport in one of the next posts), I saw a gentleman with glasses, smiling, welcoming me to his taxi, waving and pointing to his – motorcycle sidecar?!

Cuba-Callejon-de-Hammel-Glimpses-of-The-World

Colorful phone booths

Don’t get me wrong, I only saw those in old movies, mainly related to World War II. I didn’t know that they still existed. And that’s transportation in Cuba for you.

I didn’t know how to react. And while I was amazed by the sight, my driver ripped the small paper saying “Taxi” to pieces since he thought he was no longer available. What choice did I have?

Cuba-Havana-Callejon-de-Hammel-Glimpses-of-The-World

Enormous mural in Havana

“Step in, please”, he said. I needed a few instructions on how to board this vehicle (while being in a skirt), and sat in the small cart with some kind of rubber around my feet. (That thing was pinching my knees from time to time.) And before I knew what was happening, my taxi driver put on his helmet, took a glance at my book (I was showing him where I wanted to go), and we took off.

Cuba-Callejon-de-Hammel-Glimpses-of-The-World

Havana street art

A hitchhiker

Although I felt every little hole on the road while we were bouncing like crazy, my hair was messed up and my knees turned red, I had so much fun. Just imagine that annoying sound of a small bike (luckily, not that loud so that we could talk), going around town, people smiling and waving to you… I was like a little star, well, the one with a bad hair day and red knees.

Cuba-Havana-Callejon-de-Hammel-Glimpses-of-The-World

Another old car in the alley

My taxi driver was informed and knew a lot about the world. It was easy to see that he was well educated and this was his way to earning some “hard currency” on aside. His regular job at some administrative office got him less than USD10 a month.

Cuba-Havana-Callejon-de-Hammel-Glimpses-of-The-World

An Afro-Cuban sanctuary

While we were chatting about the world, a woman waved and we stopped to say hello. She was my taxi driver’s friend, coming from work, and given the poor public transportation in Cuba, she was hitchhiking. She looked at me and asked “if it would be too much trouble” to give her a lift. And now, there were three of us on that sidecar, creaking down the road.

Cuba-Havana-Glimpses-of-The-World

A nice lady who came along

After we got to know each other, she said she wanted to give back the favor. We were nice enough to give her a ride given that the transportation in Cuba is quite challenging, she said, and she was going to take us to a place “I’ll fall in love with”. We turned around another corner and got into an alley – covered in murals.

Cuba-Havana-Callejon-de-Hammel-Glimpses-of-The-World

Homage to African roots

An artistic alley

We parked that small sidecar and three of us went strolling around the place. They were explaining that it was called Callejon de Hammel, and was a kind of Afro-Cuban sanctuary.

Its name derives from legendary French-German resident Fernando Hammel, a wealthy merchant who took the entire quarter under his wing. The colorful 200 meters mural, a beautiful Havana street art for which the street is now famous, represents the work by naive painter Salvador Gonzales. He wanted to pay homage to his varied cultural roots by representing all the religious cults and movements of African origins that are still active in Cuba.

Cuba-Callejon-de-Hammel-Glimpses-of-The-World

Another detail from Callejon de Hammel

Oh my! I was stunned by the scenery, so many colors on the walls, a bright red car, and a blue phone booth. It was just beautiful. I was going around saying “wow” all the time, and the lady said that it would be easy to meet the artist if I was interested. I strolled a bit more instead, didn’t want to disturb the man. I took so many photos and went away with a few more “wows” when I was told that rumba shows are organized here on Saturdays, popular with tourists and locals alike. People just gather and start dancing. Well, it’s Cuba after all.

Cuba-Havana-Glimpses-of-The-World

In a motorcycle sidecar at Hemingway’s gate

And what happened with Hemingway’s house, you wonder? We are on our way there, don’t worry, that’s the next stop.

But first, imagine a swimming pool, the one where Hollywood actresses took a plunge decades ago.

Next: STEP ONTO HEMINGWAY’S BOAT (3)

The full CubaΒ SERIES

Cuba travel blog

0

Comments:

  • 22/08/2017

    I love reading about Cuba vacations. We have family there so it’s always nice to see how people feel after visiting.

    reply...
  • 22/08/2017

    That sounds like a fun cab ride! I’m eager to read about your visit to Ernest Hemingway’s house πŸ™‚ He is one of my favourite authors!

    reply...
    • 22/08/2017

      Oh, if that’s the case, come by on Friday and Tuesday. There’ll be a lot of interesting details regarding his stay in Cuba in the next couple of posts. πŸ™‚

      reply...
  • 22/08/2017

    I loved reading this post and was saying ‘wow’on thise photos of the mural art. Can imagine how you feeled when you saw all in live. And I loved the experience you had with locals. Cuba is my number one dream country and I need to get there asap

    reply...
    • 23/08/2017

      I’m sure you’d have an amazing adventure yourself. I don’t think it’s possible to go to Cuba and stay indifferent. πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for your kind words!

      reply...
  • 22/08/2017

    Love all of these pictures!! Cuba is such a cool country. Almost like stepping back in time!

    reply...
    • 23/08/2017

      It makes it even more interesting when you remind yourself that you can’t see this anywhere else in the world. πŸ˜€ Thanks!

      reply...
  • 23/08/2017

    Cuba is such a bucket-list destination to me ! In would have been the same infront of those colored walls Wows all over the place.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this and greetings
    Amelie

    reply...
  • 23/08/2017

    LOL, you made me laugh this morning! This sounds like so much fun! Hope you have a better hair day today, lol!!!

    reply...
    • 23/08/2017

      Oh, yes, I didn’t run around looking for motorcycle sidecar, so my hair is fine! That was like a scene from the movies, believe me. πŸ˜€ So glad I’ve made you laugh, thank you! <3

      reply...
  • siddharthandshruti

    23/08/2017

    Wow! Love the colours. What an interesting experience. I would have never imagined sitting in a side car. Cuba is on our bucket list. We hope we get there soon.

    reply...
    • 23/08/2017

      Hey, thanks, so nice of you to stop by again. <3 Well, what can I say, I could have never imagined it, but it did happen after all! πŸ˜€

      reply...
  • 23/08/2017

    I love seeing your perspective of Cuba. It looks so beautiful. I bet you had a great time

    reply...
  • 24/08/2017

    I’ve always wanted to ride in a sidecar! I’ve convinced myself it is safer than being on the actually motorcycle.
    Cuba is high on my list of places I want to visit. Thanks for taking us with you on your ride.

    reply...
    • 24/08/2017

      Oh, really! Cuba is the place for you then. πŸ˜€ It wouldn’t be hard to find such a taxi, and it’d certainly be once in a life time opportunity, right! πŸ˜‰ So glad you’ve enjoyed the post, thanks. πŸ™‚

      reply...
  • 26/08/2017

    My grandad (in the UK) had a bike with sidecar, so I used to travel that way all the time as a kid. But, in CUBA! That must have been such fun!

    reply...
    • 27/08/2017

      In Cuba, and today?! That’s what’s interesting – a trip back in time! πŸ˜€
      Oh, and I can only imagine what it was like to drive around with your grandfather. It sounds like such a nice memory! πŸ™‚

      reply...
  • roff555

    26/08/2017

    This sounds even more fun than Hemingways house! The blue side car is so cool and what a wonderful local experience to be taken to the street with the murals! Thanks for sharing

    reply...
    • 26/08/2017

      Hehehe, thanks! So glad you’re having fun reading Cuba series! That’s such a compliment. Thank you! πŸ™‚

      reply...
  • 26/08/2017

    What a fun adventure! My friend is going through a serious Hemingway phase right now, and I think she would love that you were on a mission to see his house. I would love to visit Cuba. Just the colors of the street art and the vehicles and the buildings are enough to capture my imagination. Thanks for sharing these glimpses of your trip!

    reply...
    • 26/08/2017

      Oh, yes, I agree, a lot to see, Hemingway’s house is just one additional stop to cover.
      Say hello to your friend, I understand the phase, had one myself once. πŸ˜‰

      reply...
  • 27/08/2017

    Such a cute car – love the vehicles in Cuba! Great article, I didn’t know that Cuba has so much nice street art!

    reply...
    • 27/08/2017

      This is only a part of it, since it’s only one alley all covered in murals and statues etc. But there’s a lot more to be found all around Cuba, separate pieces in different areas.

      reply...
  • Aleah | Solitary Wanderer

    27/08/2017

    I have been reading so much about Cuba in the past few weeks that it has really made me want to go there! I know it’s expensive, I know internet’s a bit problematic, but looking at your post makes me realize it’s very much worth it. I would love to get on such a car too. Gorg!

    reply...
    • 27/08/2017

      I’ve been seeing a lot of posts from Cuba lately too. Oh, what can I tell you, maybe it’s time for you to finally go! πŸ˜‰

      reply...
  • 28/08/2017

    I want to go to Cuba so bad! Your photos make it look so amazing. I’m putting it high on my bucket list!! I want to go before it changes too much.

    reply...
    • 28/08/2017

      I’m so glad if my Cuba series made you even more impatient! πŸ˜‰ It’s a lovely island, you’ll see. Hope you’ll manage to go soon. Thanks! πŸ™‚

      reply...
  • 29/08/2017

    Havanna has been at the top of my list for about 8 years now. I fell in love with Hemingway’s writing as a college freshman and have been dying to see the city that inspired him so much! It looks so amazing and I want to get there before too much changes. It’s truly like a step back in time. I had no idea, though, that there was so much amazing street art in the city! Thanks for sharing your experiences and making me want to of even more!

    reply...
    • 30/08/2017

      Oh, yes, this alley is amazing, also it’s pretty famous, so it’s not going to be hard for you to find it. Hope you do go soon. πŸ˜‰

      reply...
  • 30/08/2017

    Oh my what an adventure. It’s a tiny side car, I can’t believe there was room for one more. How wonderful that she shared with you her special place with all that fantastic street art. Inside local knowledge just can be beat.

    reply...
    • 30/08/2017

      Our new friend actually sat behind the gentleman on the motorcycle, while I stayed there in the sidecar. But believe me, it was “crowded”! πŸ˜€
      Oh, yes, they were just lovely, such nice people, both of them. I feel fortunate to have spent a day with them. πŸ™‚

      reply...
  • mags

    30/08/2017

    I’m so jealous! i can’t wait to get to Havana. Some day soon!

    reply...
  • 03/09/2017

    What an awesome adventure to have! These kinds of impromptu experiences are really what make a trip so special. Meeting and talking with locals always ends up with discovering hidden gems like this!

    reply...
    • 04/09/2017

      I’m with you there, so true! These encounters are the true Glimpses I had in mind when thinking about the blog’s title. Hence, these are some genuine Glimpses of Cuba that I just love to remember. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

      reply...

post a comment

If you need a freelance travel writer or you would like to see your country, city, flight, etc., presented on the blog, drop me an email.Β 

Find our more on Freelance Travel Writer page.

I am looking forward to working with you.

Danijela ćirović

Slide

GET TRAVEL EBOOKS

Great stories in one place - eBooks, digital brochures, and postcards.

INSTAGRAM

Share