Venice: Canals and Crumbling Buildings

August 26, 2011 - 10:49 pm No Comments

Today is a big day for Frank, as he is of Italian descent, and this will be his first time in the motherland. He plans to trace the roots of his grandfather by going to the town he came from and talking with the locals. Pretty cool.

Leaving Bled, we met a group of English girls on our train who thought I look like Matt Damon. Not the first time I’ve gotten that. To thank them for what I perceived as a compliment, I taught them how to play a simple mind game played with three rows of crumpled up paper balls. When they pushed me to name the game, I told them to call it “Jeff’s Balls.”

While on the train, Tomi was supposed to let us know when we crossed the border into Italy. He didn’t, and when we got off to change trains in Gorizia, we found out that the reason Tomi has seemed a little nervous and timid lately was because this was the first time he’s done this itinerary. He’s familiar with all of the cities, but he’s never run this route before. In any case, the signs were in Italian and police sirens had a different sound. Just like that, we were in Italy.

Our train came stopped in Mestre, the urbanized mainland district of Venice. We parted ways to find our various hotels, dropped our bags, and then met up again at the station to catch a train to Venice. From Mestre, a short bridge connects the mainland to the islands of Venice. We arrived at the station in Venice and met up with Christian, Tomi’s boss, for a quick orientation walk.

The Train into Venice

Venezia Santa Lucia

Founded by a small population seeking to escape invasions on the mainland, Venice is an archipelago of 122 different islands, ironically shaped like a fish when viewed from above. The islands are connected by bridges, leaving you with hundreds of scenic canals and alleys. The buildings of Venice are old and crumbling. Many have a slight lean to them, either because their foundations were built on soft and unstable silt, or intentionally, to fall away from other, more historic structures in the event of an earthquake. There’s a bit of graffiti here and there, but overall, the urban decay gives Venice a certain kind of elegance.

Grand Canal from Ponte Scalzi

San Giovanni Evangelista

Colorful Decay

Plants in Windows

Italians look, well, Italian. Their appearance is well-known, thanks to movies and fashion magazines and stereotypes. There are guidos and douchebags, all of them very thin, very tan, wearing big sunglasses, and sporting the latest Italian fashions. They all exude happiness and quiet confidence.

After the orientation, we wandered around St. Mark’s Square. It’s truly packed with tourists and the tamest pigeons I’ve ever seen. Kids don’t need to chase them. They need to only kneel down, and the birds jump onto their arms. The famous St. Mark’s Basilica closes at 5pm, but the doors slammed in my face at 4:56pm, preventing me from taking a look inside.

Piazza San Marco

St. Mark's Basilica

A few of us took a ferry to nearby St. George’s Island for a quick walk around.

View of Venice

It was another scorcher today. Banana and stracciatella (chocolate chip) are a magical combination for gelato.

Today was the last day of our tour. As the sun began to set, we sat down for our farewell dinner. My sea bass was disappointing and strengthened my resolve to find authentic, hearty Italian food in Venice.

With raised glasses, Frank and I each said a few words, thanking Tomi and the rest of the group for making this such a great trip. A perfect ending.

Frank Says a Word

Cannaregio Canal at Night

Even though the tour is over, I gave myself an extra day in Venice to roam around by myself. Lots of exploring to do tomorrow.

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