Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Eurotrip Diaries - Venice

Day 10.

Problem: Train leaves at 7 am. Hotel serves breakfast at 6 pm. It takes 15 minutes to walk to the station. Have to figure out a way to maximize eating breakfast without missing train.

7 pm. Somehow we make it!

9.15 am. Brig!

Grossmunster

Small hill station connecting Switzerland to Italy. All trains to Italy pass through Brig. We are surrounded by the Alps. It's really pretty - mountains everywhere whose peaks disappear in puffs of clouds.

We feel a bit sad that we are leaving Switzerland. It's one place on our trip we left our hearts in - everything was just perfect in Switzerland. We begin to hear a lot of Italian being spoken around the station.

2.30 pm. A long ride later, Venice!

3.30 pm. We are reminded just how polite Canadians really are. There's no queuing here for the water bus (called vaporetto), and no one even told us we were waiting at the wrong bus station for 30 minutes! (to be fair, we didn't, er, ask - I thought I knew everything - one has to impress the wife!)
vaporetto
Our vaporetto arrives.

Buildings
Buildings on Water

Venice
Heading to 'downtown' Venice

Venice

Venice

4.00 pm. We arrive at San Marco. Our hotel is a mere walk away, recommended kindly by Elena.
Venice
Arriving at San Marco, the heart of Venice.

5.00 pm. San Marco's square is exactly like the movies. After settling in, we venture out to explore.

Venice
Doge's Palace.

The Doge's palace is an interesting fusion of Eastern and Western designs. The arches are clearly either Roman or Islamic (Arab) in origin, while the cross clearly is Christian.

Venice
St Mark's Basilica.

Surprisingly there's not much line at St Mark's Basilica (or Basilica di San Marco a Venezia in Italian). Or maybe there was.. there was lots of breaks in the line and we just got in! :-)

Seen Casino Royale?

Venice
The view out to sea

It's just like the movies show Venice to be. At any point I expected Bond to show up.

Venice
St Mark's Clock

This astronomical clock in Venice was created from 1496 to 1499. The original clock had concentric rings that showed the positions of the Sun, Moon, as well as the relative positions of Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury and Mars. The Roman Numerals show the hours of the day.

Venice
Crowd of diners at San Marco's

The food here was so expensive! I think we spent more on Venice then any other city (and we were here only two days!)

Venice
Pigeons in San Marco. Unlike London, there's no restriction in feeding them.

The square and surrounding areas are full of Bengali vendors - and they are quite aggressive too! I saw one placing a flower in a girl's hand. The girl thought it was a gift and walked away, and that's when he started asking for 4 euros. I think her boyfriend ultimately gave 2 euros and they went off.

We took care not to speak in Bengali loudly - as soon as they heard Bengali they were ready with their sob stories (most likely true) on how they were tricked to coming to Europe and now are trying to work off their debts.

6.00 pm After the square, we decided to walk all the way to Rialto Bridge.This was possibly the best way to see Venice - on foot.

Venice
A very typical Venice "street" scene

It's a very different city, every vehicle that should be on land is on water!

Ambulance
An 'ambulance' in Venice!

Venice

The Rialto Bridge is busy! There's tourists everywhere in Venice. This must be some peak season.
Venice

The Rialto Bridge is beautiful. If not for the bustling tourists, one could be forgiven for thinking Venice was a laid back city. Around 8.30 pm the vendors were starting to close their wares and people did not seem in a rush to get anywhere, unlike London or Paris.

Venice

We are quite cautious with our belongings. I guess being originally from Bangladesh helps in these cases. To me, Italy was the Bangladesh of Europe, especially after coming from Switzerland. It was beautiful, serene, but also very, very crowded and I saw some shady characters (I also have a very hyper imagination!)

Venice

We always were aware of our surroundings, kept sure our wallets were in secure zipped pockets and always made sure to carry as little cash on us as possible. All in all, if you are careful, you won't be mugged, and you will have a grand time!

Day 11

9.00 am. We are ready for our guided tour to Murano. Our guide is named - Giovanni. What a typical Italian name. I guess Marcello was not available.

Venice
Street outside our hotel

10.00 am. Off by water taxi to Murano.

Murano
Murano

10.30 am A guided tour of the Murano glass factory includes a small show of how sculptures are made.

Murano

Murano

Murano
It's a horse!

Murano

Then they pressure you to buy really expensive sculptures. $1000 for wine glasses!! We did buy some of the cheaper souvenirs though.

12.00 pm. Back in mainland Venice. Walking about Venice was too much fun. We kept discovering empty squares, tiny little places right next to super crowded streets.

2 pm. After lunch, we decided to do Doge's palace.

Doge

Doge

Doge

Doge
Me: "Vasco de Gama ka gun."
Wife: "Kiske mama ka gun?"
(fans of Andaaz Apna Apna will get this)

Doge
A view of the bay (and the sudden rain clouds) from one of the palace's upper floors

Doge
A view from the Bridge of Sighs

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice out the window before being taken down to their cells. The Bridge connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace.

5 pm. And now, we did what most couples who come to Venice do - get a gondola ride!
Gondola

In our talks with 'Liya she had told me how expensive these rides were, but it's something you HAVE to do when you are here! (As an aside, as a business school graduate I wonder at the amazing branding job Venice has done)

Gondola

Gondola
Our gondolier. He was named Massimo. Everyone in Italy seems to have such Italian names. And this guy sang very well!

Gondola

We did see some huge families pile on to gondolas - they can take 5-6 passengers at a time - but I have to agree - it's not the same when you go as a couple.

All in all, Venice was a very unique city to visit. Have never seen canal driven cities like this before, and as a tourist, lot of fun stuff to do in those two days. Once again, I was glad I didn't buy a preplanned tour package and instead did our own thing - most packages I saw had one day marked for Venice. We took our time to explore and experience the city.

Venice was also where I had the most delicious Italian food. They don't make pizzas and Fettucini Alfredo anywhere like they do in Venice!

6 comments:

'liya said...

Memories! Ah, I loved Venice, and now you're making me want to go back to see it again :)

As for your previous post, the photo with the mountains and lake is stunning!!

mezba said...

Liya: Liya, Venice was one of the most unique cities I have been to and I truly loved it there - it was just a different and very interesting experience! And such a small, scenic, beautiful city - love cities you can do on foot!

Farah said...

Venice remains one of my fav cities - I have been there twice and each time I loved it - wouldn't mind going back!

What did you eat there? Venice isn't exactly known for halal options!

Have to say your pics of Switzerland are simply too good.

mezba said...

Farah: In Venice we didn't spend any time looking for halal food, just stuck to veg and seafood - but the food was amazing. Fetucinni alfredo, penne arabiata, and even pizza.... just finger lickin good. They probably made the best pizza I had, ever!

lovetodaydream said...

LOL about Italy being the Bangladesh of Europe hahaha...

Great pics!!!!

mezba said...

Love-to-day-dream: Thanks Elena! You should check out the Pisa and Florence pics - I just loved the color of the blue sky and clouds in the background. Just posted Pisa on facebook and about to post Florence and Pisa on the blog.

Thanks for the hotel tip - we had booked something and then it got canceled in the last minute and we got the one you recommended and it was great!