On my first visit to Cuba, I had already seen those vintage cars for which the country is famous. I had even driven in several, which in one case turned to be an adventure because the car broke down. Now, I am in Havana for the second time, for the first time in fifteen years. Soon enough, I realize to my surprise that the same old cars are still driving around the city - as if time stood still. Certainly, newer cars are now added: with the opening up of the economy, some people can afford to buy a foreign car. But the classic models are still used by many. Walking the streets, it becomes fun to spot the different models, and I notice how well careful the owners are with their automobiles. Many make sure that their pride shines in the Cuban sun, and look as bright as decades ago.
The obvious question is, of course: how is it possible that these vintage cars that would be in a museum in other parts of the world, are still widely used? After Castro came to power in 1959, the economic relations between Cuba and the US were frozen by an embargo, and importing items from abroad became impossible. Cars that where modern back then, were never replaced, and that is the reason why we can still see cars from the 1950s everywhere. What you cannot see, of course, is the inside of the vehicles. The Cubans are supposedly mechanic miracles, as they managed to maintain and fix their vehicles with spare parts from Russian cars that were allowed into the country. There is a new interest in keeping the fleet of vintage cars up and running, since tourism is growing, and one of the things to do for visitors is to tour the city in one of the classic cars.
We walk the streets of the old town, where we see many brands and colours of vintage cars: Chevrolets, Buicks, Chryslers, Fords, Pontiacs, and many more. Then, we come to a parking lot which is full of old American cars. Drivers cautiously park their wide cars backwards, making sure they do not touch one of the parked cars. Drivers can often be seen with piece of cloth in their hands, to polish their cars. And then, the sheer sound of the cars, the deep humming - a sound that is a far cry from modern cars (let alone electric ones). At the end of the day, we cannot resist the temptation, and take one of the many cars back for a ride to our hotel. Immediately, we note the interior space that is much bigger than in modern cars. It is almost a pity that there is no traffic jam: we would have loved to stay longer in this red beauty. Some people may think that vintage cars will disappear from the streets of Havana, but this might take more time than expected, if only because the number of people wanting to take a ride in these elegant classic cars will only grow.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
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