Cuba 2003 IX... Santiago - With Cannons and Missiles (50 B.)

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ronik24

Proud Earthling
Hi,


To the previous trip report part:
Cuba 2003 VIII... Good Morning, Santiago! (50 p.)
http://www.railroadforums.com/forum...Cuba-2003-VIII-Good-Morning-Santiago!-(50-p-)


February 24 2003

We return to the interesting streetcar-crossing in the city center of Santiago de Cuba, detailed information already was provided in the previous trip report.
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In the streets you still could sense some flair of the pre-revolutionary period.
More about the city: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago_de_Cuba
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Not only patched-up old US street cruisers could be found on Cuba, some beautifully restored vehicles were offered as tourist cabs. We found ourselves on Santiago's main square, Parque Cespedes, named after a 19th century freedom fighter. The oldest Cuban mansion can be seen in the background, Casa de Don Diego Velázquez, built in 1516 by the founder of Santiago.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diego_Velázquez_de_Cuéllar
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The courtyard of the ancient house, nowadays a museum.
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These finely structured wooden windows were especially fascinating.
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View at the cathedral.
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City hall, from this balcony Fidel proclaimed the revolution on January 1 1959.
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Window perspective.
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Wooden ceiling and "room cannon"...
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Nice viewpoint on the roof terrace of Hotel Casa Granda (yes, "a").
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The situation had remained unchanged in port.
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At the main station the stabled cars did not seem to have moved an inch since morning.
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The elegant layout of the square.
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We explored the city further, here a "city bus".
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Family transport.
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Once more plenty of propaganda - should you still be under the impression Cuba was an egalitarian paradise: by our visit to the railroad booking agency this bubble would burst completely. I had planned to take in some more of Cuba's rail system and tried to find out if a return from the eastern part back to Havanna by train would be possible. In the city center the rail office could be found, we encountered the following scene: a larger room, several rows of folding chairs most of them occupied by locals, in the background a large table, behind it some female clerks.
In front of it two empty, tacky leather armchairs.
As soon as we tourists came in, we were shown straight to these pieces of furniture - stared at by the crowd - , and sat down feeling slightly ashamed. Of course we were served immediately, I do not want to know how much time of their lives some of the Cubans had spent here. However, sadly even this luxury treatment led to nothing as so often on Cuba. Finding information - almost unthinkable - , receiving timetables - ridiculous. Upon my question if it was possible to get from Las Tunas or surroundings to Havanna the day after the next, the only answer was "No!"
Oh well, that was it for my remaining railroading dreams on the island...
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"Revolution means construction".
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City-truck featuring 12 places to sit and 8 to stand. Fares: negligible.
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The Moncada Barracks are a national monument and museum nowadays, here the (failed) first revolution attempt of July 26 1953 had started, symbolized by reconstructed bullet holes. Unluckily it was closed at the time and guarded by an especially fiery dragon.
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Sizeable monument for José Martí.
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At the Cafeteria La Victoria you were still wished a Happy New Year - by rather grumpy service personnel.
"Santiago - once rebellious, now hospitable, always heroic" - the official post-revolutionary town-slogan.
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Welcome to Little Harlem!
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Precision sewing in front of the "service market".
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Inside the "service market" - featuring anything from washing hair to electronic repairs.
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Radio repair shop, models brought in still were originating from the GDR.
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Very dangerous area, home to murderous dogs - and children.
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Playing domino - who do you think was being called "Gorbachev" by the others? ;-)
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We noticed that Cuba was no secret destination anymore as my relatives subsequently met a friend from their small home town by chance.
Late afternoon we drove to one of the main attractions outside the city, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, also known as Castillo del Morro. From land it looked quite harmless.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_de_San_Pedro_de_la_Roca
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However, the location high up guarding the entrance to the bay makes this fortification one of the most spectacular sights on Cuba. A crab had crawled all the way up.
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Ferry across the Bahia of Santiago.
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We waited until evening for the ceremonial pulling down the flag with cannon salvo.
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The tension was rising...
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The crowd waited...
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The flag was pulled down... and what happened?
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... Nothing! The cannon did not fire, disappointed the guardsmen (commanded by women) marched away carrying the flag.
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The sun went down at the perfect spot.
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Hardly anything more comfortable can be imagined.
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Driving home on a dark rural road we saw this in a field near the airport! - You could not discern if it was real or a mockup... ;-)
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Next morning I said goodbye to the railroad for the following 1 1/2 days, so also for the next trip report part.
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Still, it would pay off as we followed the spectacular coastline along Sierra Maestra where more new adventures would await us! :)
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