Cuba is a fascinating case study in several veins–economically, politically, patriotically, musically–Havana especially feels like a capsule of otherworldly vibrance. Pastel and vivid colours dance amongst buildings with architectural influence from several different eras, somehow withstanding the unending sun and frequent thunderstorms. Languages from all corners of the globe bounce from corner to corner, filtering through hotel bars and cafes donning palm leaf awnings with teak and bronze ceiling fans.
Tourists book day tours with capable and amicable guides that tour through the hard working city, usually in mid50’s and mid60’s family cars like Plymouths, or tiny soviet creatures like Ladas which crawl through Havana like sea turtles. The beautiful thing about visiting sun scorched nations is the necessary size of your luggage shrinks measurably, because all of the garments needed for your trip will be paper thin. The small Streamline in yellow greets Havana in familiar tones, and is light enough to pick up and carry should the cobblestone get unruly. Better yet, the Urbo Backpack and Tote will keep your belongings safe while you jostle from cafe to cab and across Havana’s busy streets.
As a visitor in Havana, Cuban life happens quickly and from every angle—and it’s magical to watch the city function as a fly on the wall. Homes knit into one another, lining narrow alleys filled with people and cars, vespas and vendors. Being quiet and compact with your belongings will allow you to see the city from amazing vantage points–as usual, straying from the touristtread path is a good decision so long as travellers are respectful of the people and neighbourhoods around them. Around one corner is the very wellkept and tourist oriented La Floridita, a favourite of Ernest Hemingway. A few blocks over, his favourite spot for daiquiris, Le Bodeguita del Medio, is teeming with people eager to sip coffee where the late writer spent countless afternoons.
Cuba is unshakable in so many ways, and as visitors, it is necessary to respect the volatile, tumultuous path that has brought Cuba to its present day. The island nation still rattles with political growing pains but is lined with a fierce devotion to its history and its beliefs. It would be a mistake to visit Cuba and not spend time learning about the incredible history of the island. Charged with political unrest, famine, devastation after the fall of the Soviet Union, and communities that in many ways had to forge onward with nothing. It's clear upon trekking through the uneven streets of Havana that the city is beautiful not despite its unrest but because of it: a legacy that the country is proud to bear.
Written and photographed by Megan Jenkins