Castillo De La Real Fuerza
Upon arriving at Havana's Castillo de la Real Fuerza, one cannot help but marvel at the beauty and ingenuity of its construction. Considered to be one of the oldest forts in the Americas that is still standing, this star fort is located on the west side of the harbour and was originally meant to serve as a lookout and line of defence against invasion from pirates and ill-faring outsiders. Unfortunately, the fort was still not far out enough to provide any real protection against intruders due to the lack of technology and weather conditions that made it difficult to see what was coming until it was much too late. Regardless of this, Castillo de la Real Fuerza is still a history-rich fort with interesting architecture and sprawling grounds.
Intriguing and enduring fortress
The fort was constructed using mined minerals, and was predominantly made using limestone, which has stood up well to the elements over the past four centuries. It also features many intriguing features that many European fortresses utilised as a means of security such as drawbridges, a moat, and impenetrable walls. The design may have been attributed in part to the fort being manufactured by French prisoners who laboured over the Castillo for almost twenty years before it was fully completed.
Museum for maritime lovers
Those who are always intent on visiting museums during their travels and love nautical history will appreciate the recent addition of a maritime museum within the walls of Castillo de la Real Fuerza. There have been many offices and official libraries held within the fort prior to the millennium with the newest collection coming in 2010 with maritime artefacts and exhibits that include a large model of the Santisima Trinidad ship, which was built to scale in addition to a tribute to the Royal Shipyard of Havana, and an observation deck for enjoying spectacular views of Havana and the water.
Along the watchtower
One of the most talked about attractions within the walls of Castillo de la Real Fuerza is its infamous Watchtower, or Mirador de la Torre, which is situated in the west wing of the fort. The tower was not added to this massive installation until 1634 and is crowned with a bronze weathervane, La Giraldilla: a figurine sculpted to resemble the figure of Inés de Bobadilla who inherited her husband's post as Governor when he became lost at sea after setting sail for Florida. There is a haunting tale related to La Giraldilla and its imagery of a woman's figure perpetually scanning the ocean in search of her lover. However, the original weathervane has since been removed with a replica standing in its place. The original is kept in on display at the Museo de la Ciudad inside the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales.
If you're interested in touring the massive Castillo de la Real Fuerza, there are many tours and group showings of the star fort with multilingual guides. You can also enter on your own and drop in at any of the approved visiting areas on your own time. Whether you opt for joining a tour group or walking around its multiple layers and levels on your own, this is a fort in Havana that simply must be visited in order to absorb some of the rich culture and history of the area.
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Visitors to the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in Old Havana, Cuba will be delighted by the history, artwork, and acoustics of the Basilica de San Francisco de Asis, which is home to the Museo de Arte Religioso and Camerata Romeu (an exclusive female orchestra). Catch one of the amazing musical performances or tour the convent to see memorials of notable people of the past and truly appreciate the grand columns and stone flooring in this Catholic Franciscan place of worship.
At the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and at the end of a short hike from Gran Piedra (Santiago de Cuba), Cafetal La Isabelica is an open air museum dedicated to Cuba's important coffee production. Learn how French farmers fleeting Haiti turned Cuba's south-eastern provinces into the main coffee growing region of the island.
Some 16 kilometres south of central Santiago sits the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, often called el Morro but not to be confused with the similarly-nicknamed fort in Havana. The structure is now home to a fine museum, but it's even more widely recognized for its ambitious design, its striking placement bordering sheer cliffs, and the mesmerizing views it offers of the bay and out further to sea.
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