Thursday, June 13, 2013

A ride through the sinking city.

As I haven’t had internet (or rather I refuse to pay 3 euro for 1 hour of Wi-Fi at our small hotels for a week and a half) I realize you readers  get to read all of these posts at once, which I personally don’t find fair, but I shall give you a taste of my adventure just the same.
After a 3 hour train ride from Milan, we gathered our belongings, and our wits, and set out to find the front of the train station. Even though we had passed over a good chunk of ocean on a long bridge before the train station, the fact that we were in Venice hadn’t truly kicked in until I got my first glimpse of the Grand Canal. The excitement I felt to finally be in Venice was indescribable. Granted, when you are hot, sweaty and trying to carry everything you own with you down a large staircase… the excitement is a little less visible. But all said and done, it felt amazing to see the water. After a good 20 minute mass “stroll” through the streets of Venice with everyone dragging at least 70 lbs of luggage with them, we arrived at our hotel.
To be honest Venice was my favorite place we have visited so far. I really didn’t like Italy a whole lot until we came to Venice. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful!, but I wouldn’t have been sad if I never saw it again. After spending two days in the sinking city, I am almost positive I could live there for the rest of my life. The sea gives it such character with its changing moods and tides, and the lack of street traffic is a definite plus. Although Venice does not have cars and trucks, it does have all the same modes of transportation, just in boat form! 

They have buses, taxis, cars(peoples personal boats), bikes(gondolas), delivery trucks, refrigerated delivery trucks, ambulances, construction trucks… its really amazing to see all the different boats and how they work. I got to ride several as we traveled in between islands. While in Venice we visited St Mark’s Cathedral and square, as well as the Doge’s(Duke’s) Palace, the prison, Murano(famous for the glass blowing), and Burano(famous for the lace makers). It is truly a LOT bigger than people think!
I mostly just loved being on the water, watching the gondoliers, and soaking it all in, but let me tell you my two most favorite parts. 
The first was my first, and probably last, gondola ride through the inner canals of Venice. We all got in groups on our second day to split the cost of the most amazing memory ever.

I never caught our gondoliers name, but he took us to see all the famous palaces, Marco Polo’s house, and the bridge of sighs(where prisoners would get their last sight of Venice before they were executed). 
We asked him lots of questions while he explained the ins and outs of Venice to us. Apparently there are only 425 gondola licenses for all of Venice. Training is different for everyone, but it can take up to 3 years, where you have to know 3 to 4 languages as well as many other things. He told us that out of several hundred applicants every year, only about 2 or 3 are chosen. When you are chosen a gondola is custom made for you according to your height and weight. You see the gondolas are not made symmetrically, because the gondolier always stands on the same side of the boat, and it must be balanced perfectly. All the gondolas are made identically by gondola makers, and they cost around 35,000euro($50,000). That is one nice boat! The ride was incredibly relaxing, because although the canals are very narrow, our gondolier was so skillful that we never hit a single corner. 
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed our time on the water, and was very grateful to the kind man that gave us such a wonderful memory.

My second favorite memory happened early on the last morning of our stay. I got this crazy idea to get up super early and take pictures of Venice while it slept in its watery grave. Thankfully my friend Meredith was willing to accompany me, and we set out at 6:15am to see what we could see. I had been hoping to find some fish markets to photograph, but what I found was probably much better to frame in the future. We wandered into the Jewish Ghetto taking pictures as we found the occasion to. The perfectly still, quiet waters stirred something inside me, and I soaked in every second of silence I could. As we wandered, more and more people got up and got ready for work, hurrying by us and disturbing the calm quiet streets. After about an hour we headed back, but I have not lost that amazing quiet rest that I soaked out of the reflective waters and bobbing boats. What a wonderful way to spend the last morning of my stay. 

I have been using my time on the Austrian trains well, and I have completely finished another blog! We arrive in Salzburg in about 30 minutes, and we will be spending 2 nights and 1 day there. Next on the list is the Sound of Music Tour and Mozart’s house! I will be back in the states in 4 weeks exactly!
Blessings from the train!

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