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Date: Dec 10, 2012
Location: Started at Marco Polo airport in Venice, finished back in the good ol Praha Apartment.
Weather: Flooding in Venice, snow in Prague.
Mood: Satisfied

On Wednesday, my friend Kelsey posted on facebook: “Just because I don’t have anyone to go with, doesn’t mean I should stay at home! Single-lady trip to Venice this weekend!”

No, Kelsey, you mean double-lady trip to Venice. I asked if she was set on going alone or if she’d like company, and tickets were still pretty cheap, so I bought them and off we went! Her mom was kind enough to foot our hotel bill and I had a few euros left over from Paris, so without a guidebook, map, or plan, we headed out Friday morning.

….Unfortunately our flight wasn’t till Friday afternoon. We had misread the time on our boarding passes. So we killed some time at an airport cafe, talked about life and our goals for the weekend (“Um, what is there to do in Venice?” “Piazzas? Pizzas? Gondolas?” “I heard the gondolas are expensive.” “Okay, well walking around, and pizza. And taking pictures.”) Eventually it was time to board and after a short hour-and-a-half flight, we were touching down in Venice.

Nota bene: If you go to Venice, you need a map. Don’t scoff at the guy who sells you a bus ticket when he also tries to sell you a map for 3 euros, and assume you can get a free map at the hotel. Yes, you can probably get a free map at the hotel, but whether or not you will get to the hotel is up for grabs.

In Venice, like most European cities, the definition of a ‘block’ is vague or totally non-existent (Kelsey had to explain to a Polish friend what a ‘block’ was, because they don’t really have them here.) Most streets go on for 100-150 feet and then abruptly end. In Venice, chances are decent that ending will be a canal. That may or may not have a bridge over it.

We stopped at what looked like a mom-and-pop restaurant (nota bene: “trattoria” means family-run restaurant. Supposedly. Also, Italians eat at or around 8pm, so if you’re looking for dinner at 6, you’re going to get a tourist rip-off menu. Oh well.) and eventually found our way to the hotel. (Thank you so, so, so, so SO much, Kelsey’s mom!!)

The next morning, instead of “wow, this city is really confusing, with all these little streets and canals and it’s dark and where are we,” Venice gave us more of an impression of “wow, this city is amazing, these canals are so cool, why didn’t we study here, let’s get some pizza.” A much better reaction!

Piazza St. Marco

Piazza St. Marco, one of the most famous sites in Venice. The church/cathedral/basilica was closed on the days we were there.

Gondolas

Gondolas are everywhere- luckily it’s the low season for tourists, so we didn’t get harassed by gondola drivers.

Bridge/room over a canal

…a canal, I guess. [EDIT: We didn’t know this at the time, but my mom, a Venice aficionado, just  informed me this is the “Bridge of Sighs,” that connected interrogation rooms to an old prison, and prisoners would sigh at the beautiful view of Venice on their way back to their cells. But also, if a couple kisses while riding a gondola under the bridge, they’ll be eternally happy. Thanks, mom and Wikipedia!]

I seem to always find strange lions.

Long-lost cousin to the lion in Budapest?

Canals are EVERYWHEREAnother canal… They are all gorgeous and picturesque.

Most of the day Saturday we walked around, getting lost and un-lost (thanks, 3-euro map, compass, and directional signs.) We also saw a neat museum: some Titian, Bosch, things like that. We took pictures. (Nota bene: I’m really enjoying ‘nota bene,’ but what I meant to say is, I took over 200 pictures this weekend.)

We also ate some pizza and some pasta.

On Sunday, we had decided to do something other than get lost and take pictures of canals, so we contemplated boats to Murano and Burano. Murano is a nearby island (or archipelago connected by bridges, the Venice area kind of blurs the distinction) with famous Italian glassblowers and glass factories. However, we’d heard that most of the workshops wouldn’t be open for demonstrations on Sunday. Burano is traditionally where fine lace was handmade, and features a lace museum, but it’s more commonly known for its super-colorful houses. So off we went!

Burano-1 Burano-2 Burano-3 Burano-4 Burano-5 Burano-6

Yes, it was necessary to include 7 pictures of this lovely little island, and no, they still don’t capture its’ beauty. The light was weird and my camera isn’t all that great, but basically, if you have more than 12 hours in Venice, go to Burano. It’s worth the 45 minute vaporetto (water-bus) ride.

Oh, Venetian masks are also a big thing… this is where Carnivale comes from. Every store and t-shirt stand has a collection of sparkly, feathery decorated masks, which on day 1 I called creepy. By day 3 I had bought 5 of them- one as a gift, 4 to wear or decorate my apartment with. Since the gift one is secret, here’s my four:

MasksThe far right is my favorite: It’s a traditional Plague Doctor mask like the ones used in the commedia dell’arte, old Italian theater. This particular one was hand-painted by the wonderful young lady who sold it to me on Burano… now the question is… will it survive my super-compressed packing style and the trip back to Nashville? If it does, it will have a place on my wall. The center one is a laser-cut metal mask, not traditional at all, and the ones on the left are touristy and cheap, but I like them all the same.

We eventually went back to the mainland for… you guessed it… more pizza and pasta. We wandered around taking more pictures and went to bed relatively early because on Monday we wanted to get up early to see….

Acqua Alta-1

Acqua alta! Because Venice is so close to sea level, when the tide comes in (during fall/winter/spring, as far as I can tell, maybe that’s why tourists normally come in the summer/early fall) there is a little bit of flooding. They set up these walkways so you can still get around, but it didn’t inconvenience our day much- by the time we were up and moving, it was more like ‘big puddles’ than ‘flooding.’

Acqua Alta- 2

Still, reflections make for some good photography, right?

Acqua Alta-3 Acqua Alta- 4

Another reason I’m grateful we came in the winter was that sunrise was at 7:30. Yes, that’s terribly early for college students, but it’s certainly better than 4:30!

Unfortunately that’s all the time I had for Venice, I needed to get my bus ticket to the airport and go back to Prague and reality. I had a minor heart attack when I stepped up to the bus ticket counter and said “Hi, I need to go to the airport?” and the response was a blunt, “No.” Turns out there was some kind of protest going on at the bridge that links Venice to the mainland, and buses were stopped for the indeterminate future. “Um, I need to catch a flight…” “You may be able to take train. Go to train station and ask if they can take you to airport.” Kelsey and I just stared at each other. Sure, Venice is lovely, but I didn’t want to get stranded there.

We found a more helpful employee at the information desk (I guess the ticket desk’s only job is to sell tickets, they can’t and/or won’t help in any other way) who said I could get a vaporetto to the airport at a station “two bridges that way.” Whatever you say, lady. Again, the map came in handy and we got there thanks to Kelsey’s navigational skills. After a rocky 40-minute boat ride I was back at the airport, and made it back to Prague, where a dusting of snow, two final exams, a project and a presentation waited for me.

I’m sure there’s some stuff I forgot to write about (we did see the Rialto bridge, another of Venice’s most famous sites) but I think a 1,200 word blog post is enough for now! Ciao!

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