Venice, Italy

In Italy, the fastest trains of 1-2 hours are easily found to be 100 euro+, while the cheapest can be 10-12 hour rides and 20-40 euro. We tried to find something in the middle that was not miserable and still fit our budget. Our train ride to Venice was interesting in that we had to switch trains, with a 6 minute window to do it. The trains here are almost always on time, and they wait for no one. We arrived sweating and out of breath at the platform after running through the under passage with our heavy backpacks. We missed the connection by about 60 seconds, and so did about 20 others. A woman named Cammi explained our ticket was valid for any regional train at the same price and another was coming by in 20 minutes. We chatted for a bit, thankful for her guidance until the next train. Our lodging was across a bridge on the mainland in a town called Mestre, a short 10 minute tram ride to Venice, or Venezia San Lucie.

The trip to Venice was short, lasting only about 2 nights, but would definitely require more than that for a return visit. Upon stepping out of the train station, my eyes adjusted to the grey rainy skies and focused on the deep green waters of the Grand Canal. I had seen pictures and always heard of the landscape of Venice, but nothing had really prepared me for it. Small boats outfit as white taxis with light wooden trim navigated from port to port, as well as large “water buses”. One of the first moments I will always remember was watching a bright green boat trash compactor using a small crane to pick up trash bins from shore and dump it into the holding area of the boat. As the boat driver finished placing his crane arm back, he plugged his mobile phone into an aux cord to play some music before his next stop. It was surreal and made me laugh out loud. Later in the day, we heard the off key wail of an emergency siren. A water ambulance was in high gear, navigating its way through one of the canals to provide emergency medical care. I did not see a single car in Venice, everything was done by boat.

Venice is a city of canals and alleys. When we weren’t walking beside the lapping waters of a canal, we were brushing arms with strangers traversing tight dimly lit alleys between large squares. A city like Venice is in constant war with the elements. It is a coastal town that not only adapts to the usual waterside salt spray, but also must handle the decay of its foundations as the buildings walls are often down in the water, and not on discernible land. In the rhetoric surrounding global warming and melting polar caps, the “sinking of Venice” in X number of years is a typical example given, and I can see why. I hope for the rest of the world that it does not, it is one of a kind.

Hannah and I elected to take the “poor man’s gondola”, as she put it. The water buses were significantly cheaper than the gondola ride, which was about 80 euro. We sat in the bow and zipped our jackets up as the sharp wind and cold rain pelted us as the boat trolled along. Despite the weather and “soggy bottoms” as Hannah eloquently called our pants, it was an excellent way to see the canals and city from the water for about 75 minutes. Venice did have an alluring romantic aura about it. Its old yellow and dusty red walls collect penetrating vines as its brick foundations held up its timeless charm.

In each alley connected square, there are deep-rooted Catholic churches nestled between apartment flats, restaurants, storefronts, and museums. At 12PM, my ears heard the familiar ringing of church bells, but this time was different. I could not decipher where the bell’s origin was, as there were numerous different bell tones clanging at once from several different churches. It was another experience I will not forget. It was directly reminiscent of the Muslim 3PM call to prayer that we experienced in Skopje, Macedonia. This time, white clothed nuns in hair covered habits made their way through the maze of churches, just as the Muslim women in their flowing black draping traversed the Bazaar. This reflection made me draw pause, perhaps we aren’t as different as we have been led to believe.


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