I know, second post titled by an Indiana Jones quote, but what’s a girl to do? NOT quote Indiana Jones? I don’t think so.
Either way, KSue and I left Austria at around 1 am on the 2nd of April and arrived in Venice later that same morning thanks to our overnight train. I, once again, had the pleasure of staying on the top bunk, which wasn’t pleasurable at all. I had this romantic notion (most likely inspiring by Anastasia) of travelling across the world on a train, where you fall asleep in your personal car to the rhythm of engine chug-chugging along. Instead, I found myself cramped and in the dark, praying to the universe that I don’t fall off the slim top bunk seemingly designed for a person with half my body mass. We did make a friend in our four person compartment from New Zealand. (The second Kiwi of many to come on the trip. The first was our bartender in Salzburg, Tony.) I’m sure we would have also made friends with our fourth companion had she spoken English or had we spoken Italian. I quickly learned that I cannot speak any Italian. At all. I can’t even pretend to pronounce things like I did in France, Spain and Austria. It’s a serious issue as we were to be in Italy for 10 days.
The first thing we notice about Venice when we arrive is the water. It’s amazingly blue, it’s everywhere and it takes the place of asphalt. There are no cars, only boats (GONDOLAS). This is cool and novel to us until we have to navigate to our hostel. Venice is extremely complicated to navigate due to the fact that its main road is not actually a road, but a large canal, and certain paved routes are actually just small alleyways. You can get lost by just standing in the same place for too long. I know this. It happened.
Third issue: bridges and their stairs. I love bridges. They’re romantic and tragic and all sorts of symbolic, but when you are carrying heavy rolling suitcases, they become less poetic and more of a pain. I lost count of the number of bridges, big and small, of which we had to drag our suitcases up the stairs. You can’t walk across the water, so you must walk over the bridges. Finally, we made it to our hostel located, appropriately, right on a canal. We checked in, waited for the cleaning people to leave, and crashed in our own little bungalow. (It was a four person room, but we were the only two in there for now.) We even had our own bathroom! Glorious.
We weren’t in Venice very long (one full day, not including the first one), as we were warned by Doug and Rob that there wasn’t much to do or see. Either way, we got cracking on being tourist. This included shopping, a lot of shopping, getting lost very easily, turning corners to discover grand buildings containing columns, and generally admiring this sinking city.
Each building is colorful and falling apart. I was surprised at the overall deterioration of the city, and yet it was nonetheless beautiful for it. The city is cramped and perhaps claustrophobic, with paved walkways and alleys like capillaries flowing between buildings that lean in over you, creating an atmosphere of pointless escape until you burst out either into a deserted square or blue canal. You still don’t know where you are, how you got there, or how to get back, but for the moment you allow yourself to be haunted by the ghosts emanating from the faded buildings of a city once resplendent.
Masks and glass are big cultural items in Venice, and every other shop sells them. Venice also marks the appearance of what Doug and Rob call “gypsies” and I call “bothersome people who try to sell us pointless things.” Generally in Italy, there is more of a street culture. (I attribute this to it being warmer in Italy than in England.) Shops, restaurants and cafes spill onto the street, while paved squares are abound and street markets can be found on every avenue. In Venice, a little city that is almost completely reliant on tourism, everyone is trying to sell you something. We mainly bought gelato.
We mainly just walked around Venice, stopping in stores and museums along the way and checking out famous places that occasionally flood. I, of course, had to find the library featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I was successful.
Beautiful as Venice is in the daytime, at night it can get a bit freaky. Walking home from dinner was a challenge. We were far away, there were no street lights, and one wrong turn can seriously diminish your sense of personal safety. For instance, getting home required us to go down a small road, that would eventually lead out on to the grand canal. This small road turned out to be a narrow alleyway. 200 feet down the alleyway, KSue and I decided our chances of getting kidnapped by the mob were too high to go any further, and taking the long route was best.
The next morning, we met our roommates, two Mexican guys travelling Italy. We had very brief interactions before we headed off again to explore. Luckily it was sunny! Our second day in Venice was our first warm day since traveling to Spain in February. So of course we got more gelato.
We also managed to find the Venetian Courts. We basically walked right in, as they had no security, and through to their personal dock on the Grand Canal. I’m pretty sure we weren’t allowed out there, but no one told us to leave, so we sat there for an hour with our feet dangling above the water waving at the tourists in gondolas and vaporettos as they went by.
The day was so beautiful, we decided to go down to Piazza San Marco and walk along the coast for a bit. We sat there and people-watched for a significant part of the day. People-watching was quickly turning into one of our favorite activities. Whenever we sat down, we tried to pick out which country people were from, as we could usually tell by their clothing and style. If they got in earshot we could try to pick out a language. Americans stick out like a sore thumb and not for any bad reasons, we could just always tell. They just emanate patriotism, I guess.
We decided to take the public transport back.
It was boats.
That night, we stopped at an Irish pub located conveniently near our hostel and made some more friends, though not like the friends in Salzburg. Two countries, two Irish Pubs. Another meaning of two for two.
We left the next day for Florence at 12 by train, but not before registering for classes back at AU and killing time by sitting on the steps into the canal singing (and harmonizing to) any song that popped into our heads. (We did this for at least an hour much to the amusement of the water-taxi drivers near us.) And finally it was time to leave.
We were only in Venice for maybe two days total, but I really loved the city because of its unique atmosphere. It was a bittersweet mix between grand, modern, and tattered. It has a particular feel to it that is distinctly Italian, and yet completely its own. It is bright, it is colorful, and you will never get tired of finding a hidden canal that leads to a grand, marble building that was once of great importance.