It seems as if everyone in the western world is in a panic with media and tour operators broadcasting, “Visit Havana – now!”. With the opening of the country to US-American companies and tourists, they are predicting that all the beautiful nostalgia will go down the drain – the classic cars, the ramshackle charm of the city, the we-have-worries-but-are-still-dancing mentality of the inhabitants. Anyone who wants to see Havana in a preserving jar must hurry.
We, too, say that now is the time to visit Havana … but for very different reasons! The bustling capital of Cuba is, in fact, at a turning point that makes it as exciting as Berlin in the ’90s. Without anarchy but with wit and creativity, we Habaneros arouse our city from her slumber.
The real highlights are not waiting for visitors at the spruced-up squares and Hemingway’s legendary but hopelessly overcrowded drinking troughs “Bodeguita” and “Floridita”. You can find them in the backstreets of Old Havana where clubs, salsa schools and galleries have been established – some in spacious doorways and others in revamped buildings where the original incredible beauty has been removed from the old structure.
In stylish developed countries “Airbnb” has to serve as the hip alternative to standard holiday packages to enable the traveller to enjoy waking up among the real down-to-earth life of the locals. But it is not needed in Havana – we still offer the old (and, in our opinion, the best) way to travel here. There is private accommodation available called “casa particulares”, lots of them and all very different – and I really mean every single one. We Habaneros are so proud of our city and the surprises that you will encounter at every turn that we can give our guests the best insider tips along every step of the way.
Even when booking it will be by direct contact because the option “book online – pay online” does not apply here! There are relatively few internet connections in the country and usually none at all in private households. So email or even make a telephone call in the lovable old-fashioned way and arrange your holiday personally. We can check for emails on our mobile devices at the few public wifi points in the city.
It is the unfinished, the things that are different from the rest, that arouses the curiosity of the visitor and it is the art of operating charming bars and restaurants with few resources but lots of style that generates admiration. Independent businesses go that extra mile for their customers and are flourishing here.
Oh, and as for the car enthusiasts amongst you, don’t be concerned that our road cruisers may disappear from the cityscape in the near future! Quite the contrary, they now serve, freshly painted and immaculate, as an attractive substitute for the typical ordinary city tour buses that are usually found in every other metropolis.
In fact, you must come to Havana now to feel the atmosphere of change in a city that is releasing herself from the shackles of frozen stereotypes. It is as if we Habaneros must clap with tied hands – it does not sound loud and perfect, but the rhythm is unique!
P.S. The saying “We may be poor, but we are sexy anyway” originates from a line from the former Berlin Mayor, Klaus Wowereit. It was a quote from an interview he gave to the magazine, “Focus Money” in 2003. Later, “Berlin – poor but sexy” became an advertising slogan for the German capital.