Day 16 - Monday, December 13, 1999

Today's hitchhikers are a guy who goes to a military school and two girls, all of them bound for Havana just like me. It's an easy drive along the Autopista Nacional. The only time I really have to pay attention where to drive is when a dozen or so turkey vultures are having a feast scraping the remains of some dead animal from the rightmost lane.

My passengers do not quite understand why I laugh when we spot someone on the median strip holding a large strand of ajo that he tries to sell. This is one of the moments I wish my Spanish would be better, because then I could explain that if this were Holland, it wouldn't be too long before either the police or representatives from the funny farm would put the man in a safe place. And what the hell are you supposed to do with cloves of garlic when you're out on the highway?

As we close in on Havana the traffic becomes denser and denser. At one moment I count at least four vehicles on the next one-kilometer stretch of highway :) My plan is to drive straight through to the Malecón, but in order to avoid getting tied up in the crosstown traffic of Havana I want to go there via the Vía Monumental. One of the girls convinces me that she knows a route through the city that is más cerca and also more convenient for them to get out. It leads us to the Capitolio, and when they get out and thank me they tell me I really should pay this building a visit.

U of HavanaJosé MartíHotel Capri, former residence of US mobsters. It's kind of shabby, but it makes for a good base to do the Vedado walking tour according to LP. I remember Ricardo warning me to be very careful when walking around in Havana, so I decide to leave my camera in my hotel room for once and just remember what I want to take pictures of. The police are everywhere - my personal safety is definitely not an issue. Frankly, the sights of Vedado do not really impress me. The entrance to the University of Havana is nice, the Plaza de la Revolución is a must and the Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón is worth the stroll, but other than that...

Some things never change. On my way back down Calle 23 I see a girl sitting on the steps in front of a house and she notices me. As I walk past her she whispers to me the immortal words, Amigo, ¿psst, psst?