I woke up to the sound of construction banging on the building next to ours this morning, and not long after came the roar of thunder. I knew thunderstorms were coming for today from my close watch on the weather, but being prepared doesn’t stop you from being disappointed. Thankfully, the storms weren’t around for long. We were able to wait it out, and by 1 PM, we were already roaming.
Our first stop was lunch. I tried a spaghetti with squid ink – pretty typical Italian food. It was delicious.
I had originally planned to go out a bit earlier so we could check out the Rialto Market. Just like in Japan, they sell freshly caught fish in the morning, as well as fruits and vegetables, and it closes at around 1 PM. When we got there, we saw all the stalls already closed and people cleaning up, so we clearly missed it. But there’s still a lot of other stores around the Rialto area to see.
We didn’t have much of a plan for today – just a continuation of our wandering from yesterday. The difference is that today, we were mostly in the San Marco district, and this place is a lot more geared towards tourists. My few hours of walking yesterday had already shown me that Venice is a city completely dominated by tourism. But after walking around today and seeing even more tourist districts, I realized that yesterday’s travels were mostly around residential areas – where the real Venetians live. The actual tourist districts have nothing but stores, and stall after stall of the same postcards, keychains, and souvenirs.
Piazza San Marco is probably the icon of Venice, aside from its canals and gondolas. It’s also home to Saint Mark’s Basilica, which you see here in the background.
God blessed us with quite a beautiful afternoon, despite the stormy beginning. Perfect weather for a gondola ride! Next thing you know, we found ourselves on a boat.
The moment I stepped onto this boat, I realized it’s a lot more shaky than I expected! It sways left and right, and I was terrified that I would fall into the disgusting waters. (The canals are nice to look at, but I don’t even want to think about how dirty they must be…). But after a while you get used to it. Triangel enjoyed the view as well 🙂
Gondola rides are actually quite pricey – 80e for a 40 minute ride, and 100e if you’re going in the evening. But you know, how often am I in Venice anyway? Better do these things while you can!
I always thought that gondolas were propelled by pushing off the bottom of the canal, because the gondolier only steers on one side of the boat. Therefore, I thought that these canals of Venice must be really shallow! After going home and consulting Wikipedia, I realized that the oar is really used in the conventional way, with a bit of unconventional technique. I still don’t fully understand it (although I feel like I should, as a lot of the vocabulary comes from my Aircraft Propulsion course), but I understand enough to know that it is not easy to charter these gondolas.
I saw this beautiful display of wax seals in one of the stores, and I was very intrigued at the gold glitter used on the letters. I have a seal myself, so I know that the glitter isn’t a natural product. I thought there must be something special about the seals that they use, and maybe there’s a special chemical reaction with the wax at certain parts? When the store owner told me that it’s literally just gold glitter that you dot on the letters after pressing the seal, I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed.
We did quite a bit more walking through the San Marco district, all the way to the Cannaregio district, and finally to the Santa Lucia train station of Venice. On the way there, we saw the one and only McDonalds in all of Venice. I was disappointed in this too, because I expected more of a Venetian twist to this one. Even Burger King looks different here! McDonalds is too much of the same.
I should probably also mention that part of the reason why Venice stands out so much is that there are absolutely no cars anywhere. There is a long bridge connecting Venice to the main part of Italy, allowing cars to get as far as Piazzale Roma, and trains to arrive at Santa Lucia Station. But that’s only at the western end of Venice. Once you step off those vehicles, it’s either foot or boat. Comparing this to Amsterdam and Paris, both cities have quite narrow streets, and highly favour bicycles and pedestrians. But neither of those are completely free of vehicles!
On our way home, we stopped by another restaurant for dinner. Again, it was pizza and pasta. We’re starting to get used to this…
I am still stunned by Venice. And yet at the same time, I’m ready to move on to our next Italian city. There’s a few reasons for this… first of all, I’ve been here for two days, and my head has been spinning for at least a day and a half. Ever since that boat ride home last night, I’ve constantly felt like I’m on a boat, floating up and down. I don’t know if it’s just something wrong with me, or if it really is the island slowly moving with the tide. I wouldn’t be surprised if Venice is easily affected by the tide – it was originally a muddy delta, and then forcefully chained together to create an island, so there really is no solid foundation for this city. But at the same time, I wonder if my inner ear is truly sensitive enough to sense such slow and small changes. Of course, it might be psychological as well… I don’t know. We’ll see if I feel any better in Venice. (And if anybody has been to Venice before and feels the same way, please let me know so I know I’m not crazy!).
The other thing is that Venice is definitely not a place that I could see myself ever living in. It is a very attractive and gorgeous city to visit, but there are so many other practical things to consider. Even in terms of aesthetics, I don’t think I would want to wake up to the old decaying city every day, no matter how pretty it makes Venice. There is bound to be one day when this magic wears off on me, and I see it as plain old.
There are still a lot of islands around Venice that I haven’t seen, and even a few of the farther districts such as Castello that I haven’t set foot it. I would love to come back again someday. But for now, I’m happy with heading off to Florence!
PS. As a follow-up from last post, here’s an example of the house numbers in Venice. And that’s literally it – “1752” is the unique address to this house, you just have to figure out where it is yourself!