Touring Cuba: 13 WREX travels to Havana - – Rockford’s News Leader

Touring Cuba: 13 WREX travels to Havana


For decades the island of Cuba was a forbidden territory for Americans.

Over the past two years tourism between the two countries eased up. But recently, President Donald Trump has brought back some restrictions on travel to Cuba. That move happened right after 13 WREX traveled to Havana to show you what it's like on the island.

It is a country rich with history and culture that has remained relatively unchanged for the past six decades. That's why in recent years, some Americans jumped at the chance to check it out. We ran into several Americans during our week in Cuba, eager to see what the country has to offer. Our tour of the city's capital started in New Havana.   

There we found history reaches beyond what you'll find in museums. You'll actually see it in the streets with classic cars.

"Oh my God the cars are awesome! I thought that was almost like something people played up. But seeing the cars everywhere you go, it's so picturesque," said an American named Mandy who is from New Orleans, traveling on an educational visa.  

In one spot, there are rows of classic cars lined up at a taxi stand. That's what a majority of the cars are used as. The taxis are privately owned and the drivers will take you pretty much anywhere for one peso, which is equivalent to $1. And the cars range in age from 1959 Pontiac Catalinas, to 1950  Cadillac Debutantes.

"The favorite part is, in any case the old town, we like the cars very much, the lifestyle here," said Thomas Jung, a tourist from Germany.  

It's just not Americans  traveling to Cuba. People from other countries have been vacationing there for years. We ran into a couple from Germany who was on their honeymoon. They're advice for enjoying Cuba?

"You should be relaxed, no hurry. It's slow motion," said Thorsten Jung.

The Cuban people are in no rush whether it's driving through the downtown near the Capitol building or walking along the streets. It's a laid back atmosphere, albeit a crowded one, especially in Old Havana.

The streets of Havana by the Capitol are incredibly busy with cars. But the streets of Old Havana are very busy with people. That's because there are shops lining up and down the road, and not much room for cars. Those shops sell a variety of items, all for reasonable prices compared to what we'd pay in America.

"A bottle of water is only a dollar cheaper than he nicest cocktail I've had," said Linda Powell, a tourist from Birmingham, Alabama.

A breakfast plate of ham, toast and eggs was just $3 at a downtown restaurant. And some incredible excursions in the country -- are completely free.

"The Hotel Nacional, it is historic and they have bunkers underneath it from the Cuban Missile Crisis. And we got to go in it," said Powell.

The only time with world was on the bring of a thermonuclear war was in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. One of the bunkers used during that crisis is now open to tours just outside one of Havana's most famous hotel, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

The tour only takes a few minutes, and a volunteer guide takes you around for free. Although it is customary to tip. It weaves all around- making a complete circle, and is filled with history. There are display cases of artifacts from the 1960s, including old Cuban Army uniforms, a piece of an American plane wreckage after it was shot down, and old cannons.

After groups are done touring the bunker, they can experience more history at the Hotel Nacional, a place where many well known American celebrities have stayed, including Mohammed Ali, Michael Keaton and Robert Redford. But that's not all there is at the hotel.  Aside from the ornate decor and the exotic animals walking around there's always some kind of music. In fact, you run into some kind of musical performance nearly everywhere you go in Havana.

Restaurants, bars and even the open road are full of people playing guitars, maracas and drums. A typical sight for Cubans, but not for many tourists, who often stop to enjoy the free shows.

From old cars, to historic bunkers, to upbeat music. The culture in Cuba is vibrant and the experience is unlike any other.

Click here to view a collection of photos from this trip.

For information about American tourism to Cuba, Click Here.

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