Luis Rondón Paz
HAVANA TIMES – I left Havana on Friday July 8th at 2:45 pm with a tremendous hysteria, shared with part of the group of Cubans traveling abroad for the first time.
The plane we boarded to Moscow was of immense size. Inside it was divided by two areas: first class and economy, the latter with 9 seats per row, and each equipped with audiovisual technology that would ensure passenger entertainment during the 11 hours of travel.
When we arrived at Moscow airport at nine o’clock on Saturday morning, we moved almost two kilometers to board another plane to the city of Prague in the Czech Republic. This second trip lasted two hours and thirty-five minutes. Airport departure was hardly felt, but the landing was awkward. The duration of the maneuver as the plane descended gave me the feeling of arriving at Santiago de Cuba in the middle of one of those peculiar products of turbulence and bad weather.
Finally, with the grace of fate, we reached our destination without further complications.
There we were greeted by one of the staff of the NGO that sponsored the scholarship in Prague. This person worked out our lodging, gave us a card to use in public transport, and a SIM card for each member of the course to be reachable because the workshop exercises are to take place on the street.
In addition, each student received a budget that covers the cost of breakfast and dinner. Lunch was guaranteed by the organizers of the intensive workshop.
As we arrived very tired from the trip, we had Saturday and Sunday off to get used to the time change and to seize the opportunity to explore the city, which we did with the help of a Cuban resident in Prague, who informed us where we could find literally anything at very low prices.
The next day we got on the subway that took us to the very center of the city, there we walked around the plaza around the National Museum, a place that at a different time in history (1969) saw the death of two young men who set themselves on fire in protest against the communist regime .
Years later that same building was witness to the greatest political transition in the history of the Czech Republic: The fall of communism in 1989.
I took a ride on the tram, which for me only existed in magazines, movies and countries like England. I was amazed with the architecture of the city and its civic culture: people do not speak loudly, there isn’t a dirty street, the whole area we visited that day was covered with trees. I didn’t see a beggar on the street and felt safe.
Of course the idea of excellent public transport, always on time, is an issue that impressed the Cubans. Another thing that caught my attention was almost not seeing any Police on the street. I also learned about the laws that ensure the protection of animals and nature, which exceeded my expectations.
To be continued…