Timeless Havana

What could make a US customs and border protection officer roll her eyes in disbelief? A bunch of Eastern Europeans with US B1 visas traveling through Miami to Havana under the "Support for the Cuban people" program, and then back from Cuba to the US to conduct temporary business needs. And as if that weren't enough, the trip coincided with the US administration's announcement that Cuban travel restrictions will be further tightened.

We cleared customs nonetheless and soon boarded the nearly empty Delta plane for a short but bumpy flight to Havana. Once at Jose Marti International, it was our turn to roll our eyes in disbelief at the lines of people waiting to pass the security check. It had never before occurred to me that security screenings might take place before entering a country. Most of the border officers were women and, boy, did they check baggage thoroughly.


About two hours later we finally exited the airport and into something that resembled a parking lot. The hot, humid air quickly started to suffocate us while taxi drivers were coming from every direction to offer us a ride. In Havana, everyone that has a car is a taxi driver, and to taxi drivers, tourists are like walking wallets. For someone like me who doesn't like to haggle over prices, I immediately knew that taking a taxi will become an awful experience over the next several days.

P1001285_1.jpg The grandfather used to have the very same model Lada, which we sold for $300 when he passed away. I was mind blown when I learned that the very same car costs about $30,000 in Cuba.

For the price of $25, a newer model Lada with air conditioning took us to the casa particular, which we had booked through AirBnB. The apartment was located on a noisy but dark street close to one of Hemingway's favorite places in Havana. A sporadic smell of cesspit hit my nostrils, and I couldn't help but feel a bit intimidated by the eyes in the dark that were fixed on us.


The apartment itself was rather utilitarian - it had two bedrooms with old mattresses, working electric outlets, a small kitchen with a wooden table and a fridge, as well as a tiny bathroom where hot water was provided through an electric shower head heater. I could see the semi-exposed wires that were connecting the heater to the electricity network, and that made me not want to take a shower after the long trip. On the plus side, there was a rooftop where we could relax in chairs made of wrought iron and enjoy the lovely view of the national capital building.


This is how our Cuban journey started. We were to spend 4 days in Havana, 2 in Varadero and 2 in Trinidad before flying back to Miami.


While in Cuba, I rarely took the camera out of my bag, thus returning home with less than 30 photos. You may think (and rightly so) that I am crazy for not taking advantage of this photographic opportunity but at the time, I decided not to have any distractions. I wanted to immerse myself and soak up all I could of timeless Havana and the Cuban culture.


All photos posted are copyright of Daniel Slavov unless otherwise stated.


Wow! Timeless is right. This looks like a walk into the past. Except for the last guy's jeans which could be anywhere. So little traffic on the street. And the price of the car is outrageous. The Cuban people must be strong for such hard times. But they have Airbnb! Such a strange world we live in.

Your photos are so wonderful. I'm sorry there are not too many more, but glad I could see these.

The Cuban people must be strong for such hard times.

I think most of the Cuban people are fantastic DIY engineers :) Take those cars for example - even though they look old on the outside, most (if not all) of their original parts have been replaced with parts from other manufacturers. The last taxi that we took was a 50 years old Ford with a Nissan turbo diesel engine.

Glad that you enjoyed the photos @bxlphabet and thanks for commenting!

Nice shots! 30 photos does seem like very few for such a photogenic place, though!

It would be fascinating to see all of those old vehicles on the roads. Because of the trade embargo, the island hasn't been able to get up-dated automobiles. That's also why they are so expensive. Apparently, their mechanics are like miracle workers, too.

Were you able to talk to the cabby at all? From what I hear, most people on the island have higher university degrees. Education is free. It isn't uncommon for a cabby to have a degree in orthopedics or engineering.

I would love to see La Habana but, as you know, my government doesn't keen on the idea. Maybe we'll be back on the road to normalizing relations after the next election...

A lot of the cab drivers that we met were either doctors or engineers, which understandable if you think about the numbers. A taxi driver usually earns the monthly salary (if not more) of a doctor in just one day. In a way, it's similar to my country where medical workers are underpaid, but that's a whole different topic :)

Do you have a Spanish citizenship? If you happen to move back to Spain one day, then you could easily visit Cuba. I don't think there are any restrictions if you travel from Europe.

Sorry about the delayed response. I only have USA citizenship, which makes going back to Spain very difficult. I've been trying to find a way back for years, without much luck. Some of my Spanish friends went to Cuba and it looked amazing from the photos.

With China, I believe University education is free. There are only so many openings for professionals, so it's not uncommon to have a barber with a PhD. Cuba has one of the most educated populations, if not the highest.

The closest I've gotten was when I got to chat with one of Fidel Castro's go-to interpreters. That was fascinating, though.

Not at all! I think your observation on the mindfulness of photography is spot on. As a matter of fact, I'm finding that when I take less images, I focus on each images' quality that much more. And if I may comment, the fifth image is my favorite, a sign you may've reached a similar conclusion. Looks like Cuba was rewarding in all ways except customs, Dan!

Thanks for stopping by, dude! Cuba was amazing, though whenever I think about it, the time spent there feels like a distant dream. I can recall everything that happened but it's almost like through the eyes of someone else.

Have you ever experimented with film photography? :)

They look so vintage! Cuba must be a very beautiful place... :)

It's so good to have you back ♡

Beautiful photos. I'm glad you also mentioned the smells, and the energy of the place. There is so much more to the experience of traveling than the exotic photos. I think you balanced those all very well. Thank you.

Hey, nice to see you again, I see you're getting serious about Steem :)
Good to see you and I'm looking forward to your interesting photography.

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Damn nice blog. Looked like a crazy cool trip. This post gives me motivation to start dedicating more time to Steemit again so thanks.

"50 years old Ford with a Nissan turbo diesel engine." so badass!

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