March 23, 2011

Venice Pt. 1!!!

This past weekend, Nyon Basket Feminin had off from basketball. Knowing this, I’d decided a few months ago that I’d take the opportunity of an off-weekend to visit another European city I've been dying to see: Venice. Like all the places I've been traveling to this year, Venice was a new mark on my map, and I had been anxiously waiting to see the sinking city. I boarded my train in Nyon, with my typical Swiss-looking comrades, eager to get to my destination. I had two train changes, one in Brig and then again in Milan before making it to Venice Mestre, where I had one final train switch, taking me to the St. Lucia station in Venice (or as I call it, the main island).

As soon as I got off the train at St. Lucia station, I swear the collective height of my riding companions dropped to at least a foot shorter than it was at the beginning of my journey (and I thought I stuck out in Switzerland :-0). The number of animated talkers, however, increased tenfold. I immediately thought of my Italian friends from home, and I can now say that seeing first-hand Italians definitely explains some of their mannerisms a little bit better :).

First View of Venice :)
My friend Dani, who plays professional bball in Germany (and luckily, also had the weekend off from basketball) and I, decided to conquer the city of Venice together. Unlike my trip to Paris, I was looking forward to a) having someone to help me when I was bound to get lost, and b) be able to talk to someone in my native language! Needless to say I was super excited for Dani’s train to get in. While I awaited Dani's arrival, I slowly ventured further and further out around the train station. I'm always weary of new places, and it usually takes me a while to convince myself that the odds of doing something illegal and getting thrown in jail are slimmer in reality than they seem in my mind (although seriously, you never know what the laws are in all these different countries). As I cautiously exited the train station, my first view of Venice was breathtaking. The almost SuperMoon (Wikipedia says this is when the moon is new or full and is at 90% or greater its mean closest approach in its orbit around earth – oh and also makes people do crazy things, but more on this later…) was shining down on the Grand Canal with lampposts and building lights sparkling off of the water.
Now, I want you to picture a little boy throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of a supermarket. You got it? Good. Please add thirty years to the boy’s age. Give him a telephone. See his arms flailing in the air. Make him Italian. Get rid of the supermarket and add the backdrop I just mentioned. And finally, make the now thirty-year-old Italian man pace back and forth along the square in front of the train station. Awesome. You are now envisioning the exact scene I watched while waiting on the steps in front of the train station for Dani's train to arrive. If you are wondering, the answer is yes; I have this on video.

When Dani's train pulled in we purchased our discounted (woohoo I'm still recognizably younger than 29!) three-day vaporetto passes and boarded the water bus (Side note: it is normal for the vaporetto bus to hit and shake the platform waiting area; I advise people to prepare for and anticipate the impact). After forty minutes on the water seeing nothing but darkness, we got off at San Marco Square and used the online directions I wrote down from the hostel's website to try to find our way. Naturally, since I was leading, we got lost. But I decided, after much thought, to claim that it wasn’t my fault. Apparently, there is more than one vaporetto stop for San Marco counting three bridges (which is what the directions said) and then trying our luck at going over the fourth to find our hostel was unsuccessful (FYI: two bridges was the way to go). Anyways, after following a random man who helped us stumble across our hostel, we checked in, mapped out a game plan for Saturday, and hit our pillows after a long day of traveling.
Dani and Me on One of the Many Bridges
We rose Saturday morning with the game plan of hitting up San Marco Square, Doge’s Palace (which I didn’t – and still don’t know how to pronounce, so I re-named it the “Puppy Dog Palace” and referred to it as such), to get lost in the back streets of Venice, eat gelato, and whatever else we could fit into the day.
During our research about Venice before our trip, we found that the location of where you stay is everything. Some people try to save a few bucks by staying off the main island and coming in on a train in the morning, which can add up to be just as much as staying on the island anyway, but also adds hassle. Plus, if you stay in a very touristy area you are likely to get touristy (a.k.a. not real) Venetian food. Everything we found said the best way to find good food was to get lost in the backstreets of Venice, where the year-round residents lived and had businesses. Casa Linger (our hostel) was about a five-minute walk from San Marco Square, but definitely in a more residential area. We stopped in a cafe right outside our hostel, waited five minutes for the people working to stop ignoring us (I guess our height, fair skin, or uncertain feet-shuffling gave us away as foreigners), and then stood at the bar drinking our coffees and eating our croissants.
After our coffees we headed out towards the Grand Canal to make our way to San Marco Square. The Venice I saw by day was nothing like the Venice I’d imagined the night before. First of all, Venice is not laid out like any major city I know, it physically can’t be. The canals twist and turn throughout the city, making it impossible to lay a grid out in your mind. You can see where you want to go and try to get there, but then a lack of bridge or walkway forces you to turn around and recede inwards to come out at a different opening and try again. We successfully (probably because Dani was now leading) found our way back out to the Grand Canal. We crossed bridge after bridge over mini canals, taking a second along each one to realize how incredible the city on the water truly was. We eavesdropped on a tour guide who explained that the slates of metal along the bottom of doorways was there to keep the water out of the buildings, although we did see a number of abandoned buildings where it looked as though the water had won the battle.
San Marco Square was already filled with people waiting in line for the Campanile di San Marco (the bell-tower) and to get into the museums, so we decided to walk around for a bit and cross ‘get lost’ off our to-do list. The shops around the San Marco area of Venice were absolutely ridiculous. Armani, Gucci, Prada, Versace, and tons of other big-name designers were around every corner (I was definitely gawking at all the beautiful clothing, bags, and shoes sitting in the windows and told myself that maybe one day I’ll maybe be able to own one of them). After forty-five minutes, we headed back again to San Marco Square to situate ourselves so we could find the information center.
San Marco Square & Bell Tower
I don’t remember what I was talking to Dani about as we headed back towards the square, but whatever it was had enough of my attention to distract me from the ONE STEP that led into the square in front of me. Down I went, all six-foot-three of me, in slow motion none-the-less, in San Marco Square, in Venice. I mean it wasn’t so bad that I was sprawled out and Bertha (yes I brought her on this trip too :)) spilled all her contents, but it wasn’t so graceful that the people walking behind us didn’t look stunned and couldn't help but feel the need to express their concern about whether or not I was okay. So what if maybe there was a little blood shed? I checked my scraped knees, reassuring Dani (and myself) that I was okay, and trucked onward.


  1. You fell?!?! :( it sounds like everyone was mean there :(

  2. Haha, aww...just wait for part 2! ;)