Apr 18, 2013

An exercise in Cuban carelessness - Following Hemingway's steps (Part 5)

For breakfast we go to the Ambos Mundos Hotel, where for some time have lived Ernest Hemingway. We go to rooftop via an old iron Otis lift and in front of us is revealed the magnificent view of the city and mainly of the near buildings – on a rooftop a man slowly, without overworking, simultaneously smokes and hangs out the laundry; a large baking pan with bread buns sits on a balcony, whether it is to finish the baking or to dry out the buns, I can't say.
Three generations of tiles cohabit on a nearby roof.
New role
A large part of the former defense cannons once again are on guard protecting the pedestrian streets from vehicles.
Smoking laundry
A man slowly, without overworking, simultaneously smokes and hangs out the laundry.
Laundered buns?
A large baking pan with bread buns sits on a balcony, whether it is to finish the baking or to dry out the buns, I can't say.

After we finish our breakfast, we decide to get lost along La Habana Vieja with its narrow streets, small cafes, green vegetation and vividly painted buildings.
La Habana Vieja
Colorful moments 1
Colorful moments 2
Just for bulls

On Plaza de San Francisco we see (and keep aside from) three grannies, colorfully dressed and with even more colorfully painted lips, giving away kisses to those who wish and to those who don't really wish. We see one of their victims to clean himself thoroughly, while his friends are having truly fun with the traces of the trio. As we walk around the square, a substantial quantity of pigeons fly off and I decide that I want to take a photo of them in flight. I find a trash bin and use it for support and urge one of my friends to chase the birds off. She starts running toward the pigeons, but they do not pay attention and get almost run over by her, but not a single bird gets in the air. A second try follows, as I double the scaring staff, but the result is the same, only the laughs are stronger. Just as I give up from the darned birds, a loud music starts from somewhere and the stupid pigeon-extras fly out as they have been given an order and start going round the square. Finally, I manage to take a photo of them. From the street where the music comes, appear lots of people dressed in colorful clothes and walking on stilts, shaking for the so familiar uno peso or whatever you give us, por favor.
The most successful photo of the stupid birds brought to you with the kind assistance of the people on stilts.
People on stilts 1
People on stilts 2
David and the Goliaths
A small David starts chasing the Goliaths on stilts, but as our ways depart, the end of the battle remains unknown to us.

We visit a very pleasant art gallery with some strange artworks – chair made of charcoals, paper people lying on a hammock, and one meter tall stone eggs.
Laundry pin
Unknown giant has forgotten his laundry pin in the garden of the pleasant gallery.
A poster for a dance festival in Havana

We meet with the rest of the group and head to the Ambos Mundos Hotel to visit the room that Hemingway used for a significant period of time. The curator explains to us that the original interior is preserved, just the photos and some of the exhibits are changed every year, as the current theme is bullfighting, since the writer was a fan. Under a glass cover is exhibited Ernest's typewriter, as well as some pages from "And the sun also rises". On one of the walls is hung the only picture of Fidel and Ernest, made in the 60s during a fishing race, in which Castro, of course, wins most of the prizes.
"The bullfitht is not a sport in …"

We leave the room and head to the next place connected with the writer – his favorite bar, La Bodeguita del Medio, where according to him is made the best Mojito, and according to our guide – the most expensive. We pass on the bar, since there are too much people, but we find another Cuban celebrity – Mrs. Graciela Gonzales. Her talent is in fact her looks – thick prescription glasses, almost toothless smile, enormous cigar and a feeble leg, which she puts over the legs of the one who dared to take a picture with her. For a peso, of course, otherwise she doesn't feel shy to curse at you.
Graciela and I
Photo: Delyan Ivanov.
City still life
City vista
City arm of coats
A time for carelessness 1
A time for carelessness 2

We leave the extravagant granny and head out to the next pleasant square, Plaza Vieja. As we are little bit tired, and it is lunch time, besides it is very hot, we go to a restaurant across the plaza – La Taberna de la Muralla. The specialty of the place is the cerveza, or that amber-colored drink, made of malt, hops and yeast. Here we get the chance to enjoy cold fresh beer in large test-tubes, the first nice Mojitos, delicious food and very nice live Cuban music, from the very playful ones.
La Taberna de la Muralla
What more a man can need?
Mary Carla
Side-street Cuban stories
A door with history

As I am used to always looking around for something interesting, I don't need a lot of time to find it here. Or rather it finds me – a stray Cuban dog (here, all of them are from the same scraggy kind), which passes through the square and draws instantly the attention, or at least mine. The dark grey dog is going somewhere, dressed with a red and grey turtleneck sweater with rolled up sleeves and is being in a hurry, probably it is late for work and will miss to earn some peso.
The dog with the turtleneck 1
One of the most extravagant inhabitants of the old square.
The dog with the turtleneck 2
It will cost you a peso, if you want to take a picture of me.
The dog with the turtleneck 3
I'm late for work.

Not long after the dog, the next interesting personas come to the square – a bunch of Cuban school boys carrying two soccer gates. They put them in the opposite end of the plaza and after a 30-40 min warm-up, they start playing under the supervision of their teacher-judge. One big boy plays barefooted, most probably he got hungry after the long warm-up and reinforced himself similarly to Charlie Chaplin with what he found closest. Their little co-students from the specialized school for young revolutionaries "Marx and Lenin are brothers" follow the game and wait for their moment of fame. Soon the older boys finish their game, they take the gates and head back to their classrooms, and the little ones start playing.
Physical Education 1
The pupils from a nearby school come to the square for their Phys. Ed. class.
Physical Education 2
The teacher-coach-judge gives instructions.
Physical Education 3
The substitutes are bored.
Physical Education 4
I will make it …
Physical Education 5
... I won't make it.
Physical Education 6
The fans are also bored.
Physical Education 7
End of the Phys. Ed. …
Physical Education 8
... but not for the younger ones.
Fierce fight/game

We have to leave this very lovely square, because we are going to Hemingway's villa, which is 15 km out from Havana. It turns out that we cannot go inside the house, however all of its doors and windows are wide open and we can look around the whole house. As one might guess, in almost every room there are shelves with books, various hunting trophies and many artworks. We also find some conserved in jars creatures, and a wooden head with a scalp glued on it. Among some of the strange facts that the house preserves is the obsession of Hemingway to have his weight measured almost every day and to write it down on the bathroom wall. The guide explains that for the writer's well-being were looking more than 100 servants. Next to the house there is a three storey building, where Hemingway isolated himself to write or to observe the far-away Havana from the roof. A little bit on the side there is a pool, rather large yacht, as well as four little graves of some of the numerous cats he had – Black, Negrita, Linda, Neron. It is time to leave, since the house is closing down and we are forced to go back to the beer tavern.
Hemingway's villa
The dining room and some of his hunting trophies.
The kg/lbs diary 1
The bathroom, the scale and the measured weights.
The kg/lbs diary 2
ExcerptJan 24th, 1960 – 91 kg/201 lbs.

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