Have you ever had a Hershey chocolate bar? Have you ever heard of a small village called Casa Blanca, in Havana?
Casa Blanca was one of the destinations of sugar produced on Hershey´s mill in Cuba. Chocolate bars were filled with sugar manufactured in Cuba until 1959! Can you believe it?
Peaceful and rundown village giving way to the popular monument of El Cristo de la Habana, is the landing spot of a passenger ferry connecting the two sides of Havana bay since early 20th century.
As you disembark the harbor ferry, keep straight up the stairway in front of you! Then, get ready for a 10 minutes uphill walking and you will be rewarded by a splendid view of Havana shared by a humanized statue of Jesus Christ! Sculptured in 1958 by Cuban artist Gilma Madera. Do you know that El Cristo de la Habana was a request made by wife of former president of Cuba from 1952 to 1959, Fulgencio Batista?
Casa Blanca and Hershey Chocolate Company
I forgot to tell you a short story about Casa Blanca and its relationship with the chocolate company. The small village houses the western terminus of the only electric train in Cuba, ``Hershey´s railway´´. This railway was used to transport to the port of Havana and Matanzas, the sugar that later was shipped to pots in the US.
Let´s keep walking to the Spanish fortresses
Leaving El Cristo de la Habana behind, one of the first structures you are going to run into is a military barrack from the first half of the 20th century, La Cabaña. Still a military facility. A display of weapons used over the missile crisis in 1963 is on route. A legacy of the Cold War! Memories will return to those ones who lived those days! Younger generations will get a piece of history of the Cuban Revolution!
Pirates and privateers
I´m sure, you have seen Pirates of the Caribbean or at least one of its parts. The 17th and 18th centuries were the time of the pirates and buccaneers in the Caribbean. All of them struggling to capture the Spanish fleet that set sail once a year from Havana to Cadis, Spain, with all the gold and silver from South and Central America! Therefore, the most important ports of the Caribbean were garrisoned with fortresses. The most famous ones were built in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and San Juan, Puerto Rico, but the largest in the Americas was built in Havana, San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress. Once you pass the display of weapon collection from the missile crisis, you will be right in its main entrance.
UNESCO declared Havana a World Heritage Site in 1982 due to its well preserved old quartier and the well-designed system of forts built by the Spaniards in the new world to protect the city against the attacks of pirates and privateers.
Today the fortresses of Havana are part of a system of culture and art institutions. Museums, art galleries, souvenir and cigars stores, bars and restaurants are among the things to discover, plus lots of history from the old colonial period. The entrance fee to theforts goes around 5 to 6 € per person.
As we continuous this Havana adventure, we will be reaching out the very entrance of the bay of Havana and El Morro fort, finished construction in 1630, is one of the three oldest forts of Havana. From this spot you will also enjoy one of the best views of Havana.
Something you might not know about El Morro Fortress is that a chain of wooden and bronze rings was stretched tight to the other side when an enemy ship was on sight to close the entrance of the harbor.
Getting back to the old Havana…
How can we go back to the old Havana from here? A choice, which I always recommend if you are willing to have a unique experience, is that of taking a public bus throughout the tunnel of the bay of Havana. Yep! , any route may take you there at a reasonable cost!! Just one bus stop and you are off the bus. Cross the street and you will be welcomed by some nice outdoor bars! Have a Mojito or a cold local beer, a Cristal (my favorite!) or a strong Bucanero. Which one would you like?
This is one of the tours in Havana I recommend the most! In 3 hours you will get a lot of insights of the Cuban lifestyle, culture, history and fun!
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