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!
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!)
Our vaporetto arrives.
Buildings on Water
Heading to 'downtown' Venice
4.00 pm. We arrive at San Marco. Our hotel is a mere walk away, recommended kindly by Elena.
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.
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.
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?
The view out to sea
It's just like the movies show Venice to be. At any point I expected Bond to show up.
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.
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!)
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.
A very typical Venice "street" scene
It's a very different city, every vehicle that should be on land is on water!
An 'ambulance' in Venice!
The Rialto Bridge is busy! There's tourists everywhere in Venice. This must be some peak season.
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.
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!)
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!
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.
Street outside our hotel
10.00 am. Off by water taxi to Murano.
10.30 am A guided tour of the Murano glass factory includes a small show of how sculptures are made.
It's a horse!
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.
Me: "Vasco de Gama ka gun."
Wife: "Kiske mama ka gun?"
(fans of Andaaz Apna Apna will get this)
A view of the bay (and the sudden rain clouds) from one of the palace's upper floors
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!
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)
Our gondolier. He was named Massimo. Everyone in Italy seems to have such Italian names. And this guy sang very well!
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!