Luxury Travel Blog + trip

In A Forgotten Land

We travelled to a country once ruled by a certain Fidel, and once forgotten as a destination in the Caribbean. For a week, we immersed ourselves in the beautiful, old city of La Habana (the official Spanish name and spelling) in the country of Cuba. La Habana was founded sometime in the late 15th and early 16th century, and continued to expand throughout the centuries, as witnessed in the eclectic architecture found all over the city. But don't expect picture-perfect Disney-esque colonial buildings of the western world. Most structures are abandoned, dilapidated, and curiously turned into tenements for Habaneros (inhabitants of Habana). With the abundance of grand buildings in La Habana, few are saved or restored to their former glory. Only through the vision and continuous work of City Historian Leal Spengler, did the old city enjoy a meticulous restoration. And inspite of the state of disrepair of many of its constituents, La Habana manages to percolate with romanticism, somehow leaving one in a surreal time warp.

The old Chevrolets and Fords that chug along the wide avenues of Centro Habana, the horse- drawn carriages that ply the streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana), the cobblestone streets of the old colonial city, the sea-battered edifices along the seaside promenade that is the Malecon, the old forts that guard the mouth of Habana harbour, the treacherous blue of the Straits of Florida, and the distant memory of a certain American author named Ernest Hemingway-- all set the stage for the wondrous La Habana. A city bejewelled with exemplary architecture spanning the Spanish colonial, Mudejar, late Baroque, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco eras; along with a history associated with Europe, the United States, the former Soviet Union, and now with China and Venezuela. La Habana was the beneficiary of an artistic and ideological explosion that endured centuries of turmoil.

Then came the tres comandantes with their cries of revolution and reforms. Cuba is not a slave to anyone; a free country meant economic independence and freedom from the greed and corruption that arises from free enterprise. And only through armed revolution can power be restored to the people and its government. This call to arms literally released Cuba from the clutches of a superpower, the United States, and consequently landed them in the wings of another, the Soviet Union. Suddenly, La Habana found itself germinated by Soviet severity and a Marxist ideology. So, for a very long time, grand old La Habana closed its door to the world outside, not by the people's choice but by political mandate. Until the fall of the Iron Curtain wreaked havoc yet again. So, then came a time of periodo especial (Special Period) when the entire country was to endure shortages, rations, and blackmarkets. Yet not even that could take away the richness of a past proudly infused in Spanish, African, and Native Indian heritage, that is just now in its debut onto the world stage.

Here are some lovely photographs from the forgotten land. I took close to 500 photos and would need time to sort through all of them. Some of them need a bit of TLC from Photoshop, as the Havana sun was blazing all day! I will post more in the days or weeks to come.

architecture, bars, Cuba, Havana, market, romantic, travel, and more:

In A Forgotten Land + trip