Venice is unreal. No seriously. It looks fake…like a movie set. All of the alley ways, the canals with their miniature golf-like colored water (a blueish-greenish cloudy color), it’s quite a site. It’s like something that Disneyworld put together and those little creepy puppets are going to pop out and start singing “It’s a Small World.” Never the less, Venice is a beautiful city with beautiful…men. What? Yes, that’s right, the men are gorgeous…much prettier than their female counterparts. They pluck their eyebrows, they go tanning, they rock diamond studded nose rings.
Okay enough of the jokes…Venice is quite the city. The city doesn’t stand on stilts (as rumored) but stands on the natural land. The main (and only means) of transportation is by boat. Water taxis, a water tube system and gondolas dot the surrounding waters and buildings dating back 900+ years that look like they used to be carnival rides lay the land.
I forgot to mention this, but this was my first trip by myself. Okay, not totally alone (I just said that to sound like the bad ass adventurer-type). By alone, I mean with out anyone from Temple or anyone that I knew previously. This trip was one that I found through a program called ISH (International Student House) that takes students from all over the world on various trips. An itinerary is prepared along with accomodations…all you have to do is show up at the ISH building at 4 AM to catch the bus to the airport. So, that is what I did.
Upon my arrival, I was introduced to 11 other students (ranging from ages 19-29) including the dean of students and “his friend.” 2 kids from India, 1 Indian born who lives in Singapore, 2 Malaysian born, 1 Nigerian born who lives in the US and 4 American born and raised (this is America!). All very nice, all very interesting. My favorite person by far was a kid named Dave (totally not his real name) who was Malaysian born, studying Mandarin but majoring in Architecture, that smelled like lead pencils and looked like Kumar from the Harold and Kumar movies and sounded like Apoo from the Simpsons. With a great sense of humor and a great accent, Dave was by far the life of the group.
We touched down right outside of Venice at Marco!…Polo!…Airport around 11:30 AM and took the airport shuttle boat (naturally) to S. Zaccaria (sick)/San Marco Square (water)tube stop where are hotel (finally done with those effing hostels) was located. Being almost Winter, the Venice weather wasn’t what I originally anticipated. I didn’t see the sun once and clouds are non-existent…just a misty/foggy atmosphere. The water, which I stated earlier in a lame-ass joke, is the bluest water I’ve ever seen, which is sad because it’s a weird chemical-like blue (I was waiting for a yellow mini golf ball to be bobbing along at some point). The buildings are old, nothing extravagant or breath-taking, but unique to say the least.
Okay, so after finding our hotel and getting settled in our rooms (3 to a room) we had a walking tour to get acclimated with the city and then a group dinner at night (another accommodation that was already paid for…hoo haa, free food baby). The walking tour was very informative and we learned a lot about the Venetian people (only 270,000 actually live in Venice) and the most popular site in Venice, San Marco Piazza. The Piazza, which is known for its bell tower, masquerade-like basilica and (probably the most famous) its pigeons, is a tourist death trap with kiosks containing “I Heart Venezia” t-shirts (totally unoriginal) and masquerade masks (I don’t know how all of those business stay afloat…no pun intended…because they all sell the same shit). Dinner was a ton of fun because we got to meet everyone on a better level and…oh yeah, the dean said he’d cover all the wine (hoo haa, free wine baby). Pizza and pasta was naturally everyone’s choice of dinner and we finished day one on full bellies.
Day 2 started off with a tour of the Doge’s (the Doge: Venice’s Head of State that makes no political decisions nor leaves the walls of the palace, but basically acts as the old ass that looks sweet on a thrown…the Queen anybody?) palace. The palace, however, did have all of the political rooms inside of it, including the prison. After, we decided to head over to another part of the island called Murano where all of the glass blowing factories are located (another thing Venice is notorious for). There, we watched a demonstration of someone hand blowing glass (that didn’t come out right) then we did a little shopping at the 458 stores that sold the same blown glass products. Later, a few of us decided to take a boat ride down the grand canal…this is where we got to see how beautiful Venice actually is.
When lit at night, Venice is truly stunning. The ride was about an hour long and instead of taking a tour boat, we decided to just use public transportation (which was hectic, but manageable). There were a ton of beautiful homes right on the water front, including a casino and train station (where I spotted the first car). While on the Grand Canal, a man hopped on at one of the stops, sat behind me and began to sing loudly in I-talian…the stereotypes are all so true.
On our last day, the group checked out the Peggy Guggenheim art collection. I must say, modern abstract art is not really my forte (most of it looks like a 6-year-old put as much paint on his/her hands and smeared it all over the canvas). However, I did enjoy a lot of the impressionist art, which included the works of Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Yves Tanguy. There was a painting by Picasso as well…oh yeah, and some sculptures as well (see below).
Next we headed to the St. Mary of Health Basilica for a prayer/candle burning ceremony thing (apparently, there was some sort of festival this weekend that the locals make their way over to the basilica and burn candles in prayer and remembrance). And lastly was the most touristy thing that you could do: a gondola ride through the canals. It amazes me how those guys can paddle through the 6 ft wide canals, with 7 people in their boat, while smoking a cigarette…the gondolas were a neat experience. At night we went to a Venetian Opera (did I say that the gondolas were the most touristy thing to do in Venice?). I’ve never been to an opera, so what a better place to experience one then Italy. This wasn’t a typical opera, but one that had bits and pieces of popular arias of various opera’s…a nice little introduction to the world of opera.
Well, that was my trip to Venice. With all that said though, I am experiencing a bit of cultural overload. I’m kind of getting tired of being a tourist. Don’t get me wrong, all of these places are amazing…but being mostly popular tourist areas, I’ve experienced a lot of ticked off locals, over priced…everything and cultural barriers. Speaking of cultural barriers, one thing that I have noticed is Americans (or at least the ones I’ve traveled with) inability to adapt to other cultures. Rather, they try to force foreign cultures to adapt to their own. I don’t agree with this. Hence, the reason many Europeans have negative opinions towards Americans. Sadly, the most intolerable, ignorant people who were in this group were the Americans. Of course I am not saying that I am some cultured person who knows everything about the world because I am definitely not…I have my own quarrels toward some of the views and things that the Europeans do. But, in my opinion, if you are somewhere foreign and out of your comfort zone, just keep your mouth shut and do your best to adapt. Plus, I think it’s more fun that way…Anyway, Scotland (December 4) should be a nice way to end this journey…No airplane, no language barrier, just rolling hills and guys in skirts…two of my favorite things.
Well, that is all from me for now. Today is officially the 80th day of my trip…20 to go. I am sure we will be talking before Thanksgiving, but if not, I wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I am definitely going to miss spending it at home.
I blame Europe for my newly acquired addiction to cappuccino.
Tisin- Check out the sculptures I found of you below.
Erika- Honey Bunches of Oats must be the cereal of choice in Italy…another weekend of unlimited golden greatness :-).