Venturing in Venice

There are way too many things I want to say about Venice. I don’t even know where to start! So I guess we’ll do this in chronological order…

When we arrived in Marco Polo airport, I didn’t have many expectations. This airport was literally the smallest airport we’ve been to so far – even smaller than the Orly Airport in Paris. Clearly, Venice isn’t a city that receives a lot of business. It’s also around 30 minutes away from the actual city, so along the way I observed the countryside scenery. Not much going on, just lots of grass… the typical European countryside.

We got to Piazzale Roma, got off the bus, but we were still in the middle of a square. There were lots of buses and people, not much else.

Then, we walk a few steps away, and already you see it. The water. The canals. The narrow streets. I couldn’t wait to keep walking, and as you do, you get more and more mesmerized. This city is beautiful!

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And then, the fun starts. In every new city that we go to, the first step is finding the place that we’re staying at. For the most part, I haven’t had too much trouble with this yet. I always make sure I have directions stored in my phone, and an offline map donwloaded, so I can pull it out without any problem. That’s how this one started… until I got to my destination, and I couldn’t find this B&B. My map led me to some very narrow alley with no signs on the front door whatsoever.

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After starting at the map and also the address of the hostel, I started to doubt myself. I thought I was in the wrong district. At least I figured out that Venice is split into a bunch of different districts… but my offline map didn’t show me the boundaries of each district. My address said Santa Croce, and a series of second doubts told me that I was probably in San Polo. What’s worse, that area was a little quiet… there was no buzzing plaza, and not a lot of places I could ask for directions. There was, however, a vaporetto (water bus) stop. I didn’t know where we were going, but my intuition told me to find a place with more people so I could at least ask. So that I did.

I got off somewhere random, found a plaza, and asked someone for directions. Probably not a good choice to ask someone at a souvenir stall… this guy pretended to not know what I was talking about, and then he said “maybe I can help you better if you buy the map”, and once I did, he immediately spoke perfect English. All I can say is, it only takes 3.5e to see this city clearly.

I had Google Maps on my phone already, but there is a limit to what I can do with my offline map. I have to say, this hard copy map was somewhat useful – at least it told me that I was originally in the correct district. Unforunately, the directions of this guy wasn’t awfully helpful. He told me “go in this direction”, but I didn’t know exactly where. It wasn’t entirely his fault though; the addresses in Venice are pretty confusing (more on this later).

(On a hard copy map, the districts are quite clearly labelled).

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So anyway, I started walking back in the direction of Santa Croce, and then all of a sudden, I remembered. I had a working SIM card in my cell phone, which I had put on airplane mode for the trip to Venice! The entire time, I had been completely concentrated on finding a Wi-fi signal to search for directions. (And yes, it’s quite hard to find McDonalds for free Wifi in Venice). I didn’t even think about looking at this from another perspective, with literally the exact same tools on hand. When I realized that, I felt so dumb for not calling the hostel in the first place. I called, they picked up, and they told me that their address was “1964”. Really?! I asked for something else, they said “near San Stae”. And then I saw it on the map. It was where we originally were.

Anyway, a one-hour wild goose chase later, we finally made it to our place. The entrance really was in that back alleyway, but once we were inside, we realized its quite nice. And it’s next to a vaporetto station, so that’s convenient; although with Venice being so small, I’m sure we’ll get to most places on foot.

Of course, these experiences really are what define your trip. This will be so much more memorable than any other day in Europe!

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As for the “1964”, they really meant 1964. There are street names, but every street is so short that I don’t think anybody cares. Not to mention that a lot of the street names were originally painted on the walls of buildings, and are now mostly faded. I’m sure there’s some sort of numbering system that assigns a unique number to each building in Venice. While I was walking around, I already noticed a huge range of numbers, from 1100s to 1900s. For the most part, the district and nearby plazas/large buildings are probably your best bet for identifying a location.

Here’s an example of another house number. The address? Literally just “1752”.

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So anyway, by the time we had dropped off our bags and rested a bit, it was already 6 PM. Of course we would go back out! We stopped by a souvenir store, and got a few postcards. The owner of the store saw that we were Asian, and asked us if we were interested in the Triangel. So apparently, tons of tourists from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore look for places to buy the Triangel – undoubtedly because of the popular TV series 衝上雲霄. What’s even funnier is that the store owner said he had never heard of the Triangel until tourists started asking for it. I’m at least glad to hear that the Triangel really is an original Italian product; just that it’s not a tradition or folk tale of any sort.

To be honest, I wasn’t that interseted in it, but after taking another walk around the streets of Venice, I decided to get it for photography purposes. Plus, that store owner was quite nice, so I purposely went back to purchase it from him. He helped me change my impression of the Venetians from that previous guy we had asked for directions.

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On our way out, we also stopped by a gelato parlour for a cup of Italian gelato. For 1.5e, we tried this interesting combination of ricotta + honey + sesame. It was delicious!

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For dinner, we had pizza and pasta… how typical. Food is so much cheaper here than in Switzerland. We were paying at least 20 CHF per meal per person in Switzerland. Here, you can easily find good food for under or around 10e, and Euro is about at par with the Swiss Franc right now.

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We then took another walk around Venice, watching as night slowly fell down on the city. As the sky grew darker, the city grew more and more beautiful. I just couldn’t get enough of it.

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From the tip of the Dorsoduro district, we took the vaporetto back along the Grand Canal to our place. At 7e per ticket, the vaporetto is actually quite expensive! It’s also not really that necessary for the most part; Venice isn’t that big. You can easily walk from one side to the other in less than an hour. But we were tired enough from our surprise adventure, so we decided to be lazy for once. And besides, it feels more worthwhile when you’re actually taking it for transportation, as opposed to most of the tourists who take it solely for the scenic cruise.

Just for the record, here’s what a vaporetto stop looks like:

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There’s an outdoor standing area, then an indoor seating area. This is the view from the inside:

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Thoughts… Venice captivates me. I am completely mesmerized. It’s similar to some of the other cities I’ve visited already, but yet so different. Amsterdam is also full of canals, but Venice has way more canals. You’re literally cornered by canals all around! In terms of old and rustic, I guess that’s kind of like Paris, but that part of Paris makes it feel… well, plain old. Venice is old and even quite dirty, but I’d say it’s what makes Venice looks nice. I’ve been to the Venetian Hotel before, but after being in the real Venice, I have to say, the hotel is nothing like this city… and a large part of it is because the hotel is way too new. I guess I wouldn’t mind getting rid of some of the flies and stains all over the place, but I definitely would not trade it for the Venetian.

Out of all the places I’ve been to, Venice is definitely the easiest place to get lost. There is no competition that even comes close. The streets of this city are unpredictable. Narrow alleys, low clearance rooftops, short roads, abrupt turns… If you’re following a map, you’ll see paths on your map that you can turn into, but you completely do not expect these roads to be so narrow that you barely fit. Every now and then, you will come across a large square or a plaza, and that almost disorients you. Seriously, expect anything and everything! And yet, that’s also what makes Venice so distinctive. It’s not just the sights – it’s the experience.

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One response to “Venturing in Venice

  1. Pingback: Do As Romans Do | Adventures of a Wandering Flower·

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