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Havana (25/2/07 - 1/3/07)

Cuba is an interesting place. The first thing that one notices is the apartheid. This is not like the apartheid that poisoned South Africa many years ago, no. This separation was between tourists and ordinary Cubans. For a start, there is a whole different economy associated with tourists, complete with its own currency - the CUC - Pesos Convertibles. One CUC is worth about 24 normal Cuban pesos. So, while Cubans get a relatively good deal on all the stuff they buy (although, to be fair, there isn't much) all foreigners have to pay prices similar or, in some cases, more expensive than what we would at home (unless you live somewhere like Norway where everything is stupidly expensive).

Havana, a city of contradictions. Here we observe a fairly spiffy apartment block in amongst some not-so-spiffy apartment blocks. The one closest to us is missing a balcony or two.

The vehicles in Havana are generally quite old and quite charming. However, they probably aren't good for the quality of the air.

Well... we're in a communist country. We subsisted better than this most of the time... but on our first night, we were quite hungry and bought some bread from a local bakery (which was a complete rip-off, but only because we were foreigners) and used our own penut butter to make ourselves a bit of a meal. For ordinary Cubans, one can obtain 50 rolls for five Cuban Pesos. We paid six Convertible Pesos for our six rolls. So... we basically paid about 250 times the normal price... just because we were tourists.

Every Cuban gets a ration card. They get rations every 10 days or so from a ration distributor, which are scattered throughout the city. Its quite a spartan existence, but Cubans are, on the whole, quite healthy as indicated by a much higher average height of the population. Nick didn't feel quite so out of place as there were, fairly frequently, people of similar height.

We bumped into some random people who decided to take us to the "Callejon de Hamel" a very arty spot where all sorts of random things were for sale from CDs to strange paintings.

This monument was very interesting. Originally dedicated to the victims of a ship called the "Maine", it originally sported an eagle on the top. After the revolution... the eagle mysteriously dissapeared and the inscription was changed... now it reads "To the victims of the Maine who were sacrificed by voracious imperialism in its desire to gain control of the island of Cuba".

On the subject of modifying monuments, here is a statue of... WAS a statue of a man. Now only his shoes remain.

This very grand looking collection of buildings is the Universidad de Havana.

These little signs were everywhere. Highly suspicious...

Hmm... looks like Guinness, tastes like Malt.. interesting. An acquired taste... and one which I haven't yet acquired.

Now... for the museum that you've all been waiting for.

We managed to arrive just in time to catch a group of schoolgirls on a field trip. The presence of Cuban schoolgirls is characterized by very short skirts and equally long... *cough* stares. Rather curiously, the uniform for Cuban schools appears to be the same wherever one goes. Nick later mentioned that he thought that this particular group of girls might have been from a ballet school because of their slender builds and hair tied in buns. Good thing I didn't notice, otherwise I might have tried to pick one up... dancers are very light you know...

The apartment where planning of the revolution took place. Maybe someday, you'll walk into a museum to find the floorplan of your favourite solstice/equinox party venue on display... I can see it now "... Apartment 118 at the corner of Spring and Latrobe streets, Melbourne..."

The words of the great man himself - Fidel Castro.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara was apparently something of a military genius. A great leader in battle who always led bravely from the front, a good guerilla fighter and mastermind of the battle of Santa Clara (just trust me, its a very impressive battle to be named the mastermind of). However, for me, the achievement that stands above all this, is the fact that he organised the battle with the assistance of his trustry radio (pictured above) which was almost as tall as me, and nearly as fragile. Now THAT takes an outstanding soldier.

The uniforms of the revolutionaries had to be improvised somewhat. The armband simply reads "Libery or death, 26th July, Column Number 2".

My Amnesty comrades can learn alot from this - this is a PROPER collection tin. This particular one was used to publicise the agrarian reform which took place shortly after Castro seized power.

The United States, always eager to interfere with Cuban affairs did much to try to counter the revolution. Fortunately, the Cubans had a trick or two up their sleeve to counter the Americans right back

The Capitolio building in central Havana. Closely resembles the Capitol building in Washington D.C. as it was, indeed, designed by someone who was rather fond of America.

Everywhere you go, instead of massive billboards screaming at you to buy cars and home loans, you get billboards like these, which are far more pleasant.


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