Pigeons, high prices, fanny packs and pretty canals...a few days in Venice.
16.05.2007 - 19.05.2007
We are now in Pula, Croatia by the way - we just arrived by bus last night. As we expected, Venice was extremely expensive (even internet was 10 bucks an hour) so we only stayed for two nights. Our first look at the city was a tantalizing view of the Grand Canal just next the the train station. There is something purely incredible about Venice, even if tourists outnumber the locals. The architecture is seemingly ancient, with a gorgeous mix of rennaisance, baroque and gothic. Flowers adorn nearly every window sill, the streets are cobblestone, the canals snake through the entire city, the public buses are noisy, bloated boats. It's certainly a sensory overload, to say the least.
We spent our days wandering the labyrinth alleyways, hopping around to the typical sites, and sampling the local fare. Our stop at the Murano glass factory was fantastic - we watched the masters blowing the glass into (expensive) works of art. Luckily for me, all the jewelery was half off...so I was sure to pick up a little souvenir.
We also stopped by the ornate Basilica di San Marco, which was certainly beautiful, but disturbingly so. Something about gilded catholic churches makes me uncomfortable. We decided not to pay the rip-off $15 entry fee, so we payed one euro to play with the pigeons instead. Although I am a firm believer pigeons are little more than (damn persistant) rats with wings, Porter and his bag of bird feed were soon drowing in them as the birds swarmed all over his arms, chest, back and shoulders. One particularly ambitous pigeon took a perch upon his head. Okay, okay, I tried it too...but they definitely liked porter more than me.
Overall, it was a pricey but lovely experience - we could have saved a bit more money if we realized that only gullible tourists actually pay for the local transportation (no one ever checks for tickets) or frequent the mildly expensive restaurants (the street food was far tastier and more affordable). We also had to leave on the once-a-day bus before I could visit the Peggy Guggenheim art collection, so I suppose I will have to return someday (a bit wiser and wealthier, perhaps.)
Soooo....we boarded a comfortable bus (nothing like Africa and India, to say the least) for Croatia, passing through a very green Slovenia and barely-there customs. I find it very strange that I've not had my passport stamped since I entered the Munich airport. They take a look at them (appearing official and mildly skeptical), and then hand them back...nothing fancy. Apparently I was too awed by the gorgeous scenery, because I managed to leave my passport on the bus - which was long gone before I even noticed.
In a mild (okay, extreme) state of panic, I found some other driver hanging around the station who made a call to the now off-duty driver of the runaway bus, who hand-delivered my passport in his BMW. He was sporting fancy shades and a ˝stupid annoying American˝ expression. Very, very close call.
Croatia has been fantastic and affordable....we're staying with a lovely local family. The husband makes his own wine and served us fresh cherries from his orchard. The wife speaks only croatian (my few phrases are a little insufficient), but she is very kind and jolly. We sat on the porch until quite late, enjoying wine and fruit and chatting with the husband and a permanant tenant - a retired naval engineer/skipper with a bad knee and a world of experience. We talked about the war, the Serbs, the croatian economy, his career memories, and his jaunts around the world (including Cuba!). We ˝ordered˝ a pizza from some local woman, chowed down in the kitchen, and went off to bed.
We awoke this morning to fresh coffee (which neither of us like, so porter downed both of our cups so as not to be rude..haha) and an extremely adorable, snorting female pug. After a breakfast of bread and jam, we made our way into town, stopping at the awesome first century ampitheater and this lovely internet cafe. I must say that I very much miss the clean air laws of the USA, as everyone...everyone smokes here. Anyway, I apologize for the stream-of-consciousness nature of this entry, but I am suffocating from lack of oxygen...I believe the only cure is a relaxing trip to the beach...
bye for now!