Friday, June 1, 2012



The guides decided to leave at 0930 today since everyone was up late at the dinner show last night. Hank, Jim, and I got up early and took a cab (a beat up old compact Russian car) to the colon Cemetery. Named for Christopher Columbus, the 140 acre (57 ha) cemetery is noted for its many elaborately sculpted memorials. It is estimated that today the cemetery has more than 500 major mausoleums, chapels, and family vaults. Alejandro told us they have about 20 funerals a day there. Hank and I hung out at the chapel while Jim was taking pictures and watched three funerals come and go in about 45 minutes.
You can see the people gathered around the door of the chapel...the hearse would pull up, put the casket on a roller, wheel it inside the foyer, the family/friends would gather around it, a priest would talk for about 10 minutes, the casket was wheeled out and put into the hearse, and as it drove away the process was repeated for the next one. One thing we noticed is the people did not seem overly grief stricken--no weeping and wailing.

While we were walking out we saw two more funeral processions driving in. Alejandro told us they would pick us up at 0945. the heat was already stifling. A convenience store across the street from the cemetery sold ice cream bars that were delightful. There were also several flower stands.

Jim wandered around with his camera while waiting for the bus for a few more photos.

Our first stop of the morning was Revolution Square. It is notable as the place where many political rallies take place, and where Fidel Castro and other political figures address the people of Cuba. 

There are images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, two revolutionaries, on two different buildings.

There is also a memorial to Jose Marti', a nineteenth century revolutionary.
Next stop was the home of artist, Jose' Fuster. He obviously has a wild and crazy imagination.

The itinerary included several more stops, (they skipped the "literacy" stop-yea!) 

The first "cultural" stop after lunch was in the Afro Cuban neighborhood where we saw children in costume dancing.

A short stop at a farmer's market was very interesting.

no alcohol or cigarettes sold to anyone under 16

The last stop was at an old shop where, in the early '50's, a group of young adults started an American jazz club. The surviving members still get together and swing away and look like they are having a lot of fun. 

One of them even got Hank going!

We had a few hours to relax at the hotel before we skipped dinner with the group and ate at a Palodar. A palodar is a higher class restaurant run by a family, and is located in a housing building. Annie made reservations for us. An old beat up Russian compact car was our taxi into town. We got some nice seafood-it was good, but nothing overly special. 

The ballet was the evening entertainment. Nobody was too excited about it, but since we paid for it we decided to go. We thought we might be close enough to the theater to walk, but after asking several different people where it was we got the same reaction, "Get a taxi!" We were hoping to get one of the old '50's taxis. As we walked toward the main road it was evident there weren't many taxis out. I saw an old convertible stoped at a light and started yelling, "TAXI!" He eventually heard me and drove over by us asking us if we needed something. Hank asked if he was a taxi, and after giving us a skeptical look, said yes. He let us in and told us the theater wasn't too far away, so he would take whatever we wanted to pay. It was a quick ride, but fun. The driver told us his car was a 1955 Oldsmobile and still had the original engine. It was a quick ride, but fun, and left us wondering if it really was a taxi. 
The ballet wasn't too bad, but the theater didn't have any A/C so it was hot! After we got back to our room we packed and got ready for the trip home tomorrow. It was a great experience!

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