Bowled Over by Venice

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April 7th 2015
Published: April 7th 2015
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I'll confess that when Christopher posted on yesterday's blog post that he was "jealous" about me going to Venice, my first thought was, "but it's just Venice." True, I'd never been there, and I know that lots of people go there, and there are claims about its beauty, yada, yada, yada. But I can honestly say that nothing prepared me for my experience as I exited the train station and got my first look at the city of canals.

I'll also confess to being a pretty cynical person when it comes to most of the overblown exhortations when people gush over places they've visited, like they're boasting about their own travels more than the places themselves. So when I say that Venice went above and beyond my expectations, take that for what it's worth. It takes A LOT to impress me, so consider me impressed.

I left my "hotel" this morning in Bergamo and gladly boarded a train out of there. I wasn't particularly looking forward to Venice; that is to say, it was more of a "check off the list" kinda place for me, what with all the tourists and hype. I wasn't even upset when my train to Venice was a few minutes late - less time to be disappointed yet again, I thought. But when I checked my luggage at the station (I wasn't going to haul that all over town), I was very curious about what I would find outside. It took one look and I lit up - finally, something really new for me. And that's why I'm on this trip - new things, new experiences, trying to find something that invigorates me again. Venice did the trick.

I bought a map for 3 euros, and after about 10 minutes of navigating with it, I stowed it in my bag and proceeded to get lost. One of the best things you can do in a place like this is get lost. It's an island, after all, so you can only wander so far before you get to water. And then, if you're really lost, you can work your way around the coast. It also helps that there are conspicuous signs that are (usually) helpful, pointing the way to places like the train station, the bus station, the Rialto (a biiiiig bridge), and San Marco, the last of which is where most tourist want to go. And let's face it - without tourism, Venice would probably have been allowed to sink into the sea a long time ago. It has a proud heritage, for sure, but unless a place like that is making money, the government won't be shelling out all their own money to keep it up to code.

Where can I begin with my meanderings? First of all, once you get over the whole canal thing, you simply have to keep looking up. People get distracted by all the shopping potential - and there is loads of it - but the real gems are above eye level. Some of these buildings haven't changed in centuries. Some of the most common souvenirs are masks, I'm assuming because Venice has always been famous for its wild Carnivale. I decided that I wanted one, but they're all so fragile, and there's no way they would make it back with me to America in the intervening 7 weeks. So I opted for a little pin of a mask for my travel hat - my only souvenir from the town. Wandering the streets aimlessly - or aimed, if you follow the signs - took up most of my afternoon. And in reality, I only had about 5 hours in the city. This was just enough time to fall in love and decide that Venice is a place I will visit again.

I got to San Marco and found that indeed all the tourists had been flocking there, and most of them had already found it. The line to get into the church itself was massive, and since I didn't have the whole afternoon to wait, I decided that the exterior would have to do this time. Another reason to come back. I had promised myself a boat ride, but they were all massively expensive. Even the vaporetto, or water bus, ride was 7 euros for a single trip. Again, another reason to come back. My feet were doing pretty well, so I wanted to take advantage of that. Plus, it's impossible to get lost in a vaporetto. There may be some great pictures from the canals - kinda like in Cambridge a few weeks ago - but I wanted to keep the romance alive. I found a place to eat that looked out across to the Lido, another island that has the beach where Venetians go in the warmer months, where I enjoyed a good pizza and had the opportunity to write my postcards.

After lunch, I made my way back to the train station as slowly as possible. An elderly couple asked me to take their picture in front of the Bridge of Sighs - the real one, Eno, not that thing they call the Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge. I got some more gelato. This time, I tried tiramisu and some concoction of cherries and vanilla, but different from what I had in Bergamo. Still divine. But my feet were letting me get away with my meanderings, so I ducked down a few deserted alleyways, found some more canals that I hadn't seen yet, and every now and then I would meet back up with the main flow of tourists. They were following the signs, and I figured if I met up with them often enough, I would be fine. And I was.

When I got back to the railway station, I decided I didn't want to leave just yet. Plus I had another hour before a train I could use my ticket on. So I walked down to the canal and up another bridge, where a young Italian couple asked me to take their picture. That happens often enough if you carry a decent camera of your own. It turns out, they wanted me to take a picture of them kissing, so whatever. I did, and they approved of my skills. I walked around a little more and then went back inside the train station to retrieve my luggage.

I ran into an Irish lady and her son, whom I had met at the Bergamo train station Monday morning. They were frustrated with the system, so I had given them some help. It turns out they were going to Venice today, too, so we swapped stories about our Venice experiences before parting ways. Nice people. Then on the train, I sat amongst a Russian family travelling to Trieste, too. They slept most of the way, like me - Venice is a tiring lover, but it's a good kind of exhaustion.

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