Last night I didn’t sleep well on the hotel train, and it wasn’t for lack of being tired. The first 5 hours went by quickly. Ironically this south Korean guy I shared a car with on my way from Wien to Budapest had the same room as me this time and we chatter about what we could. His English was about as good as my French, which isn’t saying a whole lot after how much I’ve forgotten. Along the way we skirted the shores of a really beautiful lake which made for some great views. The sun set over the water making the sky a really bright red, which was very relaxing and wonderful. After the sun went down I ate the dinner I had brought with me, bought with my last HUF. The problems then began when we tried to go to sleep. We had to cross the border from Hungary to Croatia, and the border with Croatia, and Slovania, then the border of Slovania and Italy, and at each border was a passport control check, and whats worse is the check by say the Hungarians and Croatians were about 30min to a whole hour apart, so it seemed like we could never really sleep.
I arrived in Venice at 7am with a bunch of new stamps in my passport, and very tired. I had more or less all of the time I could want to wander around Venice. I think my being so tired might have effected how well I could appreciate the city, but it was still wonderful, one of the bright spots in my trip.
I started off by heading down to San Marco plaza, which is a major tourist point within the city, pretty much everyone goes there when visiting. Mostly its just a large square with a bell tower flanked by expensive shops and the San Marco church. I found it a bit underwhelming, possibly because I was tired, or maybe it wasn’t that interesting. On my way to the Square, I had taken my own route, not the one with signs, and had wandered in the general direction through back streets, small alleys, and over little bridges. This was a lot more interesting to me. All of the buildings backed as closely as can be together. Most of the rooms on lower floors have been turned into expensive stores and restaurants. Once you get away from the more touristy areas its not as bad, and you can actually get a feel for how the Venetians still living on the island live. Most people living in “Venice” live off the island in the Maestro area to the west. Every once and a while you run across a small bar serving breakfast or an open air cafe. I bought a small sandwich at one of these cafe and sat down for a while watching people walk past.
One thing I noticed is that everyone seems to have a dog in Venice. You see them walking around following their owner without a leash. This leaves a bit of a problem, there isn’t much room for grass and dirt for the dogs, so they just poop all over the street, and the owners don’t bother picking it up and throwing it away. In France you see little baggy dispensers at parks, and that seems like something you need to see every so often around Venice.
The city itself has an odd feel, like a bustling town moving at a slow pace, which is a complete contradiction. Perhaps its the tourists running about hoping to see what they can see before they have to leave, and the people making deliveries, moving goods one place to another and trash out of the city that makes it feel bustling. There is for sure a lot of action going on. But on the other hand you have these relaxed cafes, and the locals themselves seem for the most part much more relaxed living at a slower pace. Its a very strange mix.
Everything in Venice is incredibly expensive, and that made it a big sink for me to throw money into, though I somehow managed to keep my costs at $107 for the day, which is just above my budget. I looked at taking a gondola ride, but amazingly it costs between 70 and 100 euros for a 50 minute ride depending on if you have music or not, and that’s with 5 other people!!!! In USD thats around $95 and $135…
After San Marco I just walked off in a random direction, eventually heading back towards the water. I found myself to the far east of the island looking out at Lido, and 3 other islands. I walked around for a bit eventually finding my way to a park. I didn’t expect to find a park in a place like Venice, but here it was, children playing, dogs running around, lined with jasmine. Very pleasant. I found a park bench and took a nice 1 hour nap. No clouds in the sky.
I stopped to buy Italian ice cream or gelato, and found a nice cafe to sit at again taking time to relax and move slowly. I picked out a hazelnut ice cream this time, its fun to try different different flavors like you wouldn’t find at home. I think my favorite is still the sweet potato ice cream I found in Okinawa last winter, but I’ve really enjoyed all of the ice cream flavors I’ve tried here in Europe.
After my nap I kept walking, eventually going as far as I could before the Venetian navy base taking up a corner of the city kept me from going all the way around. I decided it was time for lunch about noon, and sat down at a small cafe and ordered lasagna. The cafe happened to have internet, but my laptop was out of batteries, only 12% left. I was able to quickly check my email, and found a message from UCSD telling me I had to send in some proof of residency to be considered for financial aid by the 15th. I hadn’t seen anything about this before, and later would check my emails, but still didn’t see anything. Luckily I managed to get an email off to my mother asking her to fill out the form and send it in over night.
I kept walking around town, heading where ever I felt like, making my way slowly towards the north and eventually back to the train station. I decided however that since I couldn’t afford to go on a gondola, I could go with a much cheaper boat, the ferry. It cost 6 euros, but was a nice way to go through town along through the grand canal. Looking at the gondolas though I’m glad I didn’t go on one of them, they were getting bounced around so much by the ferries and water taxis, and it really didn’t seem all to pleasant, though its one of those things you think about when you think about Venice, and it seems like a shame to pass by, but that’s a lot of money to be spending, it would be a whole extra day in expensive countries like France or Italy, or even more in countries where it doesn’t cost nearly as much to spend time.
Arriving back at the train station I found a train to Verona leaving in 10 minutes with reservations optional. I hopped on board and found a seat in the non-reservation section easily, I expect most people would be headed to Venice around 2, not leaving, but having already been in the city since 7am, I had 7 hours of time in the city. Arriving in Verona I headed to my hotel, which as it turns out is in the middle of no where. I fell asleep around 6pm, really early because I was so exhausted.