“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty – this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.” – Thomas Mann
(writing from Saint Marks Square)
After our last long stretch of train rides, we arrive in Venice. This will be a whirlwind visit because we will only be here for one night.
Even from the train station, Venice is unmistakable; water everywhere…of course. It looks exactly like it does in the pictures no matter what corner of the town or street you are on. So much so, that I don’t feel like I’m here, but watching a movie!
We immediately hit the town since we don’t have much time. On the water “bus” I get a fantastic view of the Grand Canal. We are dropped off in St. Marks Square where my anxiety kicks in. The pigeon capital of the world. My oh my oh my…
At first glance I don’t see the pigeons right away, I see a million and two tourists flooding the square. I admire all the glamorous Carnivale masks and imagine what a festival that event must be. I shall try to attend someday. Turning the corner in the proper square, I am suddenly met with the pigeons I feared. Standing directly behind Ryan I try to keep my cool, but then they fly too close and seemingly multiply!!! I cringe and even scream once. WTF?! How embarrassing. I don’t think I’ve ever actually screamed in my life. Oy. Stiff upper lip, I make my way through. We skip the line to the Basilica with a handy Rick Steve’s tip of checking our bags in the neighboring building. Straight to the front of the line, VIP in Venice. 🙂 I admire the gold speckled indoors of the Basilica and think to myself for the millionth time how amazing the architecture in Europe is. (As I write this, there are two pigeons bobbing around by my feet freaking me out…lazy scavenger birds!!)
I decided to tour Doge’s Palace and Ryan and Arlene head to the famous glass-blowing Murano Island. We choose a meeting point and time and separate. Doge Palace is filled with grand consul rooms. I can imagine the elected consuls of medieval Venice meeting in these rooms to decide laws and fates of Venetian citizens. The “Golden Stairway” leads you to the Doge’s Apartments and the grand finale is the largest consul room in the Palace! I learn that every Venetian family sent its patrician representative here for meetings. Lines and lines of chairs would fill the room. I can almost hear the chorus of voices, the gavel, the whispered plotting in the corners.
On the way out, I am led through the Palace Prisons. The ceilings are suddenly lower. Only someone my height (5″5) could get through without ducking. Even though the sun is out and the weather is gorgeous, the prisons feel dark and damp. There is a chill down amongst the stone walls. On the way out I pass over the notorious Bridge of Sighs. Some say lovers would cross under this bridge and sigh at the beauty, when in reality, the name comes from prisoner’s sighs of finality as they are sent to the jails.
I now sit in the Square waiting for my friends. Around me, children are chasing pigeons; I hear a saxophone and piano playing at the cafe across the way. Young girls in carnivale masks pose for pictures, check them and take more. People with cameras are everywhere and flood the square. Even though there are so many people, everyone is so engrossed in the beauty of Venice, shopping, and taking pictures that it feels like I’m alone. Nobody notices anyone else…not really. Everyone is into their own business and the noise just drones into a hum with the random squeal of a child piercing through the air. I can’t wait to see this all at night!
If it wasn’t for the *@&#!$ pigeon scares I keep experiencing, this would be quite a pleasant place.
That evening we got lost and came across a fun piazza with the help of my trusty map. We enjoyed a multiple course meal with our fun waiter, did rock-paper-scissors again to decide if we get red or white wine, and polished off a couple carafes of vino bianco. Highly buzzed we wandered the romantic streets of Venice back to the hostel. Venice at night is quite beautiful even though every little river and walkway looks the same!
Early train to Florence in the morning!