… and that’s how I ended up in a more hidden part of Havana, in Vieja. Like the real Havana, I felt. More picturesque, more romantic, more beautiful place, and these words can’t describe it well. Perfect and unique. It catches you in your heart and never let you go. You feel like you’ve found the Paradise on Earth. There’s poverty, it’s obvious. But you can’t feel it, because it’s hidden by the atmosphere, the attitude of the locals. It’s not like everyone is sitting on the street and crying, looking out of their eyes without any life goals or things like this, not a single bad word. Here, everyone is happy and joyful. They’re standing at the door, sitting on the terrace and talking to each other, even if the other one is 3 blocks away, that how is you grandson, everything is fine with your TV? Nobody seems angry because there’s no internet, what else, they’re happy about it. And to say the truth, I wasn’t missing it at all, but I got freedom, literally. The phone wasn’t ringing and beeping in every second minute, no notifications, no messages, no calls. Just the silence and the natural noise of this beautiful city. Maybe it’s a less developed country, but it doesn’t bother them at all, and I was simply amazed by this attitude. The kids were playing football and baseball on the streets, playing hare and hounds, husbands repairing their cars, wives hanging the fresh-washed clothes on the ropes between the houses, water is flowing across the streets, royal smells flew out from the kitchens, and from some TVs and radios, Cuban and Latin music conquered the hearts, souls and bodies, and brought them to dance, and again from other places, the noise of a family lunch came to the street to wonder around. It was like in another civilization. I was walking on the streets without any destination, and the kids gather together for a picture for me. A few steps later, a lady offered the same, I can take a picture of her. Okay, it’s something really beautiful. I mean not the lady, I mean not that way, for sure she was very pretty. Nice smile, kind attitude. Something fell out from an elder women’s basket. I was walking behind her, so I picked it up for her. Then she, for a total stranger: “Muchas gracias, senor!” and she gave me a hug. And I was standing there like a statue, I couldn’t say anything, tears came to my eyes. She wasn’t like just a “Thanks” without betting an eye on you, but she was thankful, I could see it in her eyes. Maybe it was just me, but still, that was something fantastic. I was touched 😊 After that I was wondering a little bit more in the city, and another local guy, this time a young kid, came to me with the same question. What’s my name, where do I come from. What am I searching for, how long I’m going to stay, etc. He told me go with him, he’ll show me a cool bar. I said okay, why not. And then it figured out – what a surprise – that his parents are working in the same cigar factory where the other guy is working. Let’s go upstairs, he’ll show me some of them and I can buy a few under the market price. I told him no thanks, now I’d miss it… Okay, no problem, just follow him. I asked him to show me a place where I can dance tonight. Okay, okay, just go after him, he knows an excellent place. A few minutes later we’ve reached the main square, just a few blocks away from that house where I was at first with The Boss. But luckily, we stopped on the side of the square, and he pointed at a huge building.
– Tonight, Buena Vista Social Club will play here, if you want, come and dance.
Sure, okay, I’ll be here. Than we had 1-1 mojito in the bar next to the building. He knew the owner, they were friends. The mojito was good and tasteful, but it won’t be my favorite drink. After I finished with my drink, our ways separated, and I went back to the port and planned to head home. But on my way, I found the Havana Club Museum.
I’m sure you know the name from somewhere, and also tasted it. Yes, this is the Cuban rum’s name. A human being doesn’t walk by this place every day, so I took my chance and stepped inside, bought a ticket for the next tour in English. Until the tour guide came for us, I went for a little shopping in their shop. I bought a 3 years old Havana Rum in a fancy-box and a Cohiba cigar, also in a fancy box. And just when I stepped out from the shop, the tour guide arrived. He called the group together – about 30-35 people –, asked one guy to ring the bell, and we were on our way. First stop was on the first floor, where we could meet the whole Havana Club family:
- The 3 years old, mainly for easy and simple cocktails
- The 7 years old, for higher and more difficult cocktails
- Tributo, who is 25 years old
- Blue Label, who is pure rum, nothing added to him/her
- And last but not least, Maximo, in the biggest bottle, with the price of 1700 CUC, which is around the same in Euro. Deal with it!
But let’s go forward, next to us there’s a little dark room, where we could watch a movie about the producing history of the Cuban rum. Next station is a scale-model about a factory and its surroundings. The closest life-size one is not so far from here by the way, only 2 hours. By car. But this model is precise, and the train – the only one thing that wasn’t made here, but in Germany, Nurnberg (surprise?!) – was functioning and going around. One room away, we could see the three steps of the distillation, and he tells us the name of the first product in different languages: in English, Spanish, German, French, and yes, I’ve hear PALINKA!!!!! And then I pushed up my hands to the air, yes, they know it here as well, that’s why it’s good to be Hungarian. In the end of the tour, we could taste the 7 years old Havana Rum. I’m not a specialist of these spirits, but this was tasty. It burns you, not so much like my grandfather’s weaker palinka, but you can feel it. Most of the visitors got goosebumps and start shaking from its taste, but for me it is fine. Next to the counter, on the wall, a picture is hanging with a few cocktails and their instructions, how to make them. I took a few pics of them, maybe I can use those later 😊. Oh yes, I almost forgot. Due to an old tradition, when they open a new bottle of rum, you should poor a few drop on the floor first, they say it brings good fortune. Okay, I got it! I said thank you for the guiding, and directed myself to home, or at least this was the plan. But on my way – as usual – I went down from my path, turned to the left and right, and found the hotel where Ernest Hemingway used to stay. And, not to miss, I found the African House as well, where they performed a show. Of course, it wasn’t an African show, but a Cuban one in Spanish language, local dancers and live music – the dancers were the musicians. And the show itself, oh my God! That was just phenomenal! Everybody was dancing on the dancefloor – doesn’t matter if the singers invited them or not. Video later about it. To assume it, an elder lady from the first row went to the dance floor and moved amazingly – the surprise, miracle is, that she left her walking stick next to her chair. An amazing show, a wonderful performance, you couldn’t stand still, they made you and your soul to move. Unfortunately, it had to end as well, so after them I went toward. And when I found myself lost, I saw a huge crowd in front of me. I looked up, and saw the next sign:
That’s the bar! Yes, for sure this is The Bar! I’ve heard about it a lot of times, I can’t miss it this time. I’m going to wait in the line, I don’t care how long it will take for me, but I’ll wait here until I get one mojito. Papa Ernest used to come here often, and they have a lot of pictures about him, and, although I didn’t see it, maybe this is the place where he wrote the perfect mojito’s recipe on the wall. Unfortunately, to get into the bar is almost impossible, because once someone is close to the tables, they stay there and I can understand it why. No problem, I wait outside, and 10 minutes later I got my drink! The barkeeper made 15-20 mojito in the same time after each other – everyone ordered this, so it’s easy – and gave out one by one. I went out to the street with my mojito, and how good idea it was! The thing what welcomed me there, was the thing I was missing from my list. A local woman, dressed up nicely – what nicely, she was sparking – in her 60s, 70s, her beautiful brown skin was hided under the amazing local white-red dress, with a cigar in her hand, between her claws – they were like 15 cm long – and dancing, and teaching the crowd how to dance. She’s smiling, talking with everyone, taking selfies with the tourists, and she enjoys it, that’s the most beautiful part of it! The next surprise came a few minutes later. An elder man, in white trousers, brownish jacket (!!!???) and with a beard like the Santa has, under his French hat with white Rasta-style hair, with a giant cigar in his hand, and with a beer in the other one came into the picture and started to talk with everyone, and then, when the music started, he caught the lady for a dance. I thought that they know each other from somewhere. But if not, it doesn’t matter either. That dance what they made there, OMG! The moves, the leading, their faces, eyes and smiles, the whole air around them. Those are the things, what you can’t learn in a dance school, no matter how much you practice. I’m sure if I could live here and learn from them personally, I still couldn’t do it. You must have born for it. It must come naturally, from deep inside, or it’s nothing. There is no third way in the middle, that yes, I’m close, but not there yet. This is it, or not. They didn’t force anything, it was so smooth and natural for them, like I’ve never seen something like this before. And they were just keep dancing, like there is no world around them. Just to compare, when I was writing the original, Hungarian story about it, I was listening Every Little Step from Bobby Brown, and I thought, okay, Bobby Brown is a talent, a personality, and he can dance! But to compare with them, this guy could hide somewhere deep in the forest. This couple was frenetic. The music has ended, but the guy asked a tourist to dance with him, he’ll count the beat. And still, naturally, like he didn’t change the partner, they continued dancing. I could watch them all day, all night long with respect, love, joy and happiness. I can’t put it in words, pictures or videos. They were together and alone, nobody could bother them. A few minutes later unfortunately I had to walk away, in a direction of my place. Then I realized that I ran out of money, and I can’t use the public transport here like at home, just to show my season-ticket and I’m at home. So, I had to walk back, and since this was the only choice, I went down to the El Malecon, next to the ocean. The sunset was breathtaking, the pavement was full with life and music, the water was rough and came out, over the wall, and hit the road on the other side. “The whole sea has revolted, the nation in full spate”, just to bring some poetic tone to my story. Everyone was running from the waves, like in a game, where you have to wait until the wall is gone, then you can run for a while, and you have to stop again to stay in the game. It was funny to watch them, and okay, sometimes I’ve got some water in my back as well. Until I get home, I could take a shower, if I would have my shower gel with me. But I hadn’t, so I had to take the shower at home, and when I finished with that, I jumped, fell into the bed and fell asleep immediately. I didn’t care about music, dance. I did 25 km walking, my legs were out of order, only attached to me… There’s another day tomorrow, so see you soon! 😊