Housed in what was the former Presidential Palace up until 1959, the Museum of the Revolution is located in Old Havana, just a short walk from our hotel. It is listed as a “must see” for Cuba, and was included in our tour. The museum details the time frame when Cuba’s president Fulgencio Batista was in office, through the Cuban Revolution when Castro took control, the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The admission fee was low (approximately $6), but they did charge extra if you wanted to take pictures inside. The building when in its prime was lavishly decorated, in part by Tiffany’s of New York.
The overhead ceilings were colorful and elaborate. The stairway still shows the original bullet holes from a failed attempt to assassinate President Batista.
Many of the displays were written in both English and Spanish, however some were only in Spanish, and if you are not bilingual, you miss out.
I definitely felt it was written being slanted pro-Cuba and anti-USA, but I still found the information interesting and informative.
The outside includes an Eternal Flame lit in 1989 by Fidel Castro to honor the “eternal heroes of the new homeland” flanked by an honor guard, the boat used to bring Castro and Che from Mexico at the start of the revolution, and some military equipment.
And what about those cars???
Under the current law, Cubans can only own cars that were on the road prior to Castro’s revolution in 1959. Now that does not mean there are not newer (mainly Russian or Korean) cars to be found, but they are owned by the state or government.
That equates to a constant car show in every direction. And these are simply their daily drivers! Many of the nicer classics have been turned into taxis.
Probably even more of a symbol of Cuba is the cigar…
Americans can not legally buy, smoke or bring back any Cuban cigars or other tobacco products. In fact the only souvenirs we were legally able to purchase and bring home were artwork and music. That did not prevent us from touring through a cigar factory. Making cigars is quite an art form itself and I considered the tour a highlight. I was sad that no photography was allowed inside.
Later in the week we took a bus trip up to the Vinales area where we visited a tobacco farm. The fields were beautiful, and even though I am anti-smoking, I could still appreciate how healthy the crops looked.
Vinales is primarily an agricultural area located in the northwest portion of Cuba in the Pinar del Rio province. The Vinales Valley has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999 and our view from above was truly magnificent.
Other points of interest in this area include the nearby caves. We visited Cueva del Indio. We walked in, but then boarded a boat on the underground river.
We continued on to Dos Hermanas (Two Sisters) “mogotes” which are residual hills of limestone that are honeycombed with cavities to view one of the worlds largest outdoor natural paintings known as the Mural of Prehistory.
One final stop on our way back to Havana was at a small village that happened to have a carnival in full swing. I loved that food, rides and fun are universal!
In my next post I will tell you about Varadero Beach (one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited), as well as share the pictures taken in the emergency clinic we visited there.
So, what do you think of when “Cuba” is mentioned? Castro, vintage cars, cigars or something else? Please leave me a comment below and let me know. I’d love to know what your impression is.