Once we reached the other side of the bay, our first stop was Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro, or, 'El Morro'. Erected between 1589 and 1630 to protect the entrance of the harbour from pirates and invaders, it withstood many attacks from Dutch, French and English privateers before falling to the British in 1762 during the Seven Years War. However, the British only held onto Havana for 11 months before trading it back to the Spanish in exchange for the Spanish colony of Florida. Since then, the fort has been rebuilt and added to, and another, larger fort (that we visited later in the day) was added to ensure that Havana was not taken again. A detailed account of how the British took the fort is on display there, told through a series of paintings.
El Morro's passageways, walls, and a lighthouse were great fun to explore and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. It seems not many tourists make it to the other side of the bay. The views from the top of the lighthouse were spectacular, though we definitely needed a head for heights.
It is interesting to note that the price of admission for locals and foreigners was the same, except in different currencies! Cuba has two currencies: Pesos, and Cuban Convertible Pesos, or CUCs, with one CUC equal to 24 Pesos and one CUC also equal to one American Dollar. Cubans get paid in combination of the two currencies, with Pesos used at stores which sell basics such as food, while CUCs can be spent in "dollar stores" where you can pick up non-essentials. It's a pretty confusing aspect of the country, and the confusion is used by some to scam tourists. Apparently, this system will be phased out in the next couple of years.
And so ended our last day in Havana! It was a great city to visit, and we can't wait to go back and see how it changes in years to come.
In case you missed them, here are links to our previous blog posts about this trip:
5 Days in Havana (Part I)
5 Days in Havana (Part II)
Viñales Valley Wednesday
And here are the rest of the posts from our trip:
And here are a few more pictures from our last day in Havana :