Venice is probably delightful in the summer......
03.08.2010 - 03.11.2010
Our books told us that Venice was hauntingly beautiful; a strange surreal place where everyday life seems more dramatic than anywhere else. This, we found, is 100% true. We arrived in Venice and immediately got lost. This was very easy to do here seeing that Venice was built on 117 different islands. After finding some directions online we got onto the waterbus and cruised on the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal snakes around Venice and is the major highway for every form of transportation and business that is done in the city. It is about the width of a two lane road in the US and is lined with beautiful buildings, side canals and gondolas. We made it to our hostel which is a palace, turned museum, turned hostel. We were greeted by an American (who we now call Florida). This hostel is like the Nursery Rhyme about Little Jack Horner... "and when it was good it was very, very good, and when it was bad, it was horrid". The building is beautiful. Marble floors cover the entire space and ceramic molding is around every door and on every ceiling. The walls are still painted with the original paint and each room boasts a beautiful antique wardrobe. Other than our beds, a desk that looks like its straight out of a Jason Borne movie, a few orange Ikea couches and some plastic kitchen tables the place is empty. During the day its a little creepy to hear your voice echo but in the evenings the lighting is soft and the hostel fills with tenants, their accents and stories from far away lands. We made our reservations and were quoted a price online but, when we arrived we were asked to pay a bit more as well pay a fee to rent sheets for each night. We were a bit sketched out by this especially since we arrived during the day when it looked more like an abandoned mansion with Florida squatting as the only tenant.
After dropping our bags off we decided to explore Venice but after realizing that there isn't much to see directly around the hostel, we invested in a few bottles of vino and came back to the hostel to be inside. I took a siesta while Cat wrote in her journal and by the time I woke up people had either checked in or had come back from their daily activities. At this time we were able to meet Mateo *who owns/runs our hostel and his friend that we now call Angel (because later that evening we found out that he wears the women's perfume Angel). Mateo & Angel have dream jobs for any 20 something year old. They, however, are in their early 40's. They get to sleep all day and wake up to a new good looking crowd of international girls each day. While Florida, (their only employee) does the grunt work. Around 8:30 Mateo & Angel cook dinner. It is so much fun to sit around the table and have a gourmet, hot, family style Italian dinner and exchange stories with everyone. After dinner Mateo, Angel & Florida take everyone out to a bar. Walking behind them reminds me of another story from my childhood, the Pied Piper of Hamlin. About 30 of us from all over the globe followed Mateo like the Pied Piper through the winding streets and beautiful vacant plazas of Venice.
Our first night in Venice we ended up at a little crowded local bar. Florida recommended a typical Venitian drink called a spritz for only €2. We are unsure of what was in this drink but they were delicious and encouraged us to sing the American songs that we knew a little bit louder than usual and dance with our hosts and some crazy Spanish girls. We noticed a HUGE man when we walked in. We'll call him Gigantor. He was so big that we were sure that he was on steroids. Later in the evening his friend approached me and told me that Gigantor was his body guard. My reply was "okay" but then I resumed the conversation that he had interupted. Shortly after, Gigantor grabbed my hand, put it on his chest, flexed and said in a deep Italian accent "you like?" I replied with a stunned "Sure". He then proceeded to lift up his tshirt to showcase the tattoo's on each deltoid, his chest and his uh... *David* muscles. Luckily we were saved by Florida who offered to walk us home. He could probably tell that Cat and I haven't gotten out much in the past 3 weeks and seeing muscular Italian man was like putting a lamb in front of two very hungry lioneses. When we arrived back at the hostel Cat took advantage of the huge, shiny, marble floors by demonstrating what she and her roommates in Georgia used to do... plate spin. She sat on a plastic plate, wound her legs up then did some amazing hip hop spins.
The next morning Florida, the hostel's bitch (sorry if you read this Kagen), made us breakfast. I was able to experience Nutella for the first time, then we got ready and took off. When we arrived at the Waterbus station there was no attendant to buy a ticket from nor was there a machine to buy a ticket so we hopped on with the intention of buying a 24 hour pass at our next stop. It wasn't until just after I saw a sign that informed us that *you would be fined €44 for not telling water bus personnel that you didn't have a ticket* that the water policia found us. This man, we'll call him Robert (after the new spa manager that I hate) had clearly been stuffed into an Italian locker as a child and probably received a swirly in a squatter toilet at some point in his life. He obviously enjoys ticketing people as much as Cat loves Justin Timberlake! He spoke to us in slow, insulting English, rolled his eyes and was talking smack about us in Italian to a Venitian lady with bad teeth and a bad Louis Vitton knock off. It wasn't till a nicer, female, back up water policia came that we were able to talk our way out of the €44 (each) fine in slow, insulting, Italian. Ha ha ha, we evaded the European policia again!!!
At this point it was cold, bitter cold. The wind was coming off of the canal at just the right speed that it was nearly impossible to hide from it. We got off of the Waterbus and walked directly through Plaza San Marco to the very narrow winding streets behind to find an Irish pub that had been suggested to us by a friend of Cat´s. After filling our bellies with warm pasta and thawing out a bit we were able to check out the Basillica of San Marco. Yes, it was another beautiful cathedral but this cathedral was adorned with different colored marble and mosaic tile floors. Many ceilings are lined with gold and you can´t help but be in awe of such an architectural and artistic masterpiece. After seeing the basíllica we walked next door to the Dodge´s (duke´s) palace. The arches that lead from the basillica to our next stop filled with hundreds of pigeons and other foul. For those of you who don´t know... I am terrified of birds. Especially with the wind factor... you never know where they are going to go. I saw the movie *The Birds* and I have no intention of getting the Avian bird flu after my bout with Spanish Influenza. Cat has elected herself my bird bodyguard so, she walked in front of me kicking at any bird that got too close. The Dodge´s palace was of course beautifully adorned with paintings, furniture and tapestries but what we found coolest was a small bridge that connects the palace to the prison cells. It was super creepy to be walking through the palace with richness all around then transition to The Bridge of Sighs. Named because of the sound the condemned would make after receiving judgement at the palace then taking the long walk to their cells. The legendary lover Cassanova once had a breif stay in a tiny cell here although they are unaware of which one. When winding down at Plaza San Marco we decided to head back to the hostel since it was cold enough that the Gypsys weren´t even there begging or selling anything.
It probably doesn´t surprise anyone by now that I went back and took a nap. Our hostel, being so old, is not well insulated and after waking up and putting my warm post nap tootsies on the marble floor decided that staying in bed was my best option. Cat joined me and we drank wine, painted my nails, and read from the *Texts from last night* web site aloud while sitting Willie Wonka style in my little twin size bed. We emerged from our nest only when we smelled that Mateo & Angel´s delicious dinner was ready for us. This night it was Risotto which was so so so good. When the Pied Piper invited us for another night out we politely declined after someone mentioned that it had started snowing.
I woke the next morning to "Holy s#!t... Aud get your a$$ out here". Starting my day to a blizzard will put me in a bad mood right off of the bat but, knowing that we planned a night train and had to leave the hostel by 3pm with our bags in the blizzard made me even crankier. We intended on maximizing our backpack-less morning. We started bý walking to a church that I had read about named San Stefano. This church has been deconsicrated 6 times due to bloodshead within its walls. Cat wanted to see actual blood on the walls, that didn´t happen but, there was a very eeire feeling there. We had planned on doing more and seeing more but we decided that being warm was more important so we grabbed a latte at almost every cafe between the creepy church and our hostel. We popped back into our hostel to say our good byes and grab our bags then headed to make our 24 hour waterbus deadline. We had already avoided ticketing once and we didnt want to chance it again.
Here´s where our trip to Venice got really fun. I checked the weather right before we left the hostel. It was 20 degrees ferenheight plus a wind chill factor. Because of this Cat and I each put on as much clothing as possible. We were each sporting 2 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, a sweatshirt, A coat, 3 pairs of socks, 2 scarves and hats (underneath our hoodies) . We looked terrible but, on the bright side wearing everything made our packs a bit lighter. There are two places to sit at the Venice train station. One in a cafe (this place closed 10 minutes after we got there at 3:30pm) and then there are the benches that are covered but still are open to the cold air. We ended up sitting by a rotating parade of homeless drunk singing bums for hours, clinging to our ipods with our makeshift mittens (socks) for 6 hours total. When our train arrived I did a happy dance as we got into our car. I was happy dancing till we realized that our car was the only one on the whole train that didn´t have a heater. The Italian train people were not helpful and told us that Austrian train people would be onboard shortly that could help us. The Austrians couldnt change the temprature so we ended up moving to another car. The heat was kind of working so we were happy until a big Italian woman with 3 huge suitcases joined us at the Austrian border. Long story short we had a very uncomfortable, cold, unforgettable night on the train from Venice to Austria.
Overall I have decided that we had a unique visit to Venice. Not everyone can say that they were in Venice when the Grand Canal almost froze over. I want to come back one day when its warm and sunny. It would be fun to ride a gondola into the sunset with someone special in this hauntingly romantic place.
Austria is cold too so far but at least we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We actually decided to come to Vienna because of the friends we made our first night in Madrid. They are going to school here and offered to show us around. Otherwise, Vienna hadn´t really crossed our minds. Its a very new unfamilliar language so it will be a adventure all around! We´ll keep you posted.
ba ba (bye bye in Austria)
Audrey (and Cat)