|18th April 2012:
Wednesday and the trip continues. Today we are off to Venice. Yvonne feels a lot better today than she felt yesterday. Was it the large desserts, red wines, or the fatty stew. We will never know. We bid goodbye to our hosts (the Norths) and good friends (Roz and Lester). One last good deed occurs when Mal takes us to the local train station for our connecting ride to Wien Meidling Haufbahn where we catch our 08:29 train to Villach Hbf. This part of the journey is the scenic route and not far into our trip we can understand why. The train zig zazzs it's way up the mountain side providing great photo opportunities of snow capped mountains, small villages, valleys of trees and small streams. Tunnels are an unwanted extra during these times. Stops are rare now we are underway,usually only at the larger regional stations. First class train travel is a great way to get around in Europe, the seating is large and comfortable, great viewing windows, toilets (although not always left in a pleasant state) and dining car providing basic but welcomed refreshments at reasonable prices. But best of all, train are fast, reliable, and frequent. Fantastic scenery continues all the way to Villach. We are nearly 10 mins late when we pull into Villach which is our changeover point from train to bus. Time is tight as we only originally had a 10 min window anyway and as I said earlier, the transport system runs like clockwork here. We race towards the exit to be greeted by the welcoming voice saying Venezia! Venezia! and pointing to us. I say yes, sie, ya. He points to a hugh double decker bus waiting outside. We understand the international pointing language and head off to the bus, bags and passport checks are carried out and we settle down for first major bus trip over here. Comfortable window seats, table between us, large windows, air conditioning etc all are great in first class. The scenery just doesn't stop. The bus trip is better than expected but as the day is getting towards 16:00 I am glad when the driver announces that we are getting close to Venezia (Venice). Now the fun starts.
There are no roads on Venice, only walkways and canals. So the bus pulls up at Venezia Tronchetto (on the mainland), the driver unloads our bags and then points to the overhead monorail system and says that is how you get to Venezia Island (after paying the 1 Euro fee each for a ticket of course). Once across the narrow waterway and in Venezia, we then have to get to the hotel via water taxi # 2, which takes us to the Rialto bridge station. Well we have no idea where our hotel is but Yvonne has been able to download a guide to finding our hotel, the Al Gazzettino, and I decide to use it, and fair dinkum, it actually worked. Finding your way in Venice is easy (famous last words).
The hotel receptionist gives us an apartment that has just been renovated that is just around the corner from the hotel. This apartment is one bedroom, kitchen, sitting room, private bathroom and toilet facilities etc. Great going although the renovations are not quite finished, close but not quite. It certainly is bigger and more comfortable than a standard hotel room and also with the kitchen we can grab some food from the market, have a snack or a meal instead of going to the restaurant all the time. We eat out,the meal is great but we get lost finding our way home (that will teach me for using those famous last words above).
It has been a really eventful day but are nevertheless glad to have been able to do it. I am looking forward to some time in Venezia too just enjoy the sights and take in the atmosphere of the place.
The weather, which has been fabulous all day, has turned to rain so it's time to head back to the hotel for a shower and bed.
19th April 2012:
Thursday and we wakeup to a sunny, cool day. Great for sightseeing. Hotel breakfast is above expectations, not a hot breakfast with eggs etc but still substantial enough food groups to satisfy most people.
We want to see the San Marco region as it has a collection of old and important buildings as well as an information centre nearby. A great place to get an english Venezia guide book and hopefully a larger map. The info centre is next to the San Marco water taxi station. Armed with a guide book (Wayne as the speaking guide) and Yvonne, the pack horse & photographer, we go to the areas of interest as listed in the book that are around San Marco. These included:
the Museo Archeologico, a museum housing great archeological treasures that, unfortunately was closed due to renovations being carried out, the Piazzetta San Marco, a small square dominated by 2 high columns brought from the East and erected there in the 12th century, one column is crowned with the stature of St Mark, the other with the statue of St Theodore,the Torro dell'Orologio, a 15th century clock with complex mechanism and a great gold and blue enamel clock face that indicates the hour in roman numerals, the phases of the moon and the motion of the sun.
The Palazzo Ducale, previously the Doge's residence and the Palace of Justice, the outside seemed spectacular but the lineup to get inside was far too long for us to think about today, maybe tomorrow.
The Basilica di San Marco, was built (10th century) to house the body of St Mark, the Evangelist. Again something I would like to do tomorrow. Judging by the hugh number of student groups crowding the Square today Yvonne thinks that school holidays may have started today in Italy.
We have lunch at the hotels restaurant. Although the food was good, the service was ordinary. However, a large Italian family group (about 10) came in for lunch while we were there and were really enjoying themselves (dancing, eating,talking, singing and drinking). They were having a good time and the atmosphere (I assume) was true Italian style. It made my lunch experience delightful.
We were able to find our way around Venice much better today and have located a small goods shop where we bought olives, sun dried tomatoes, salami & crackers to enjoy this afternoon in the dry comfort of our apartment (both yesterday and today the weather changed to drizzly & cold at around 4pm} together with some local Beer, Birra Moretti, and a wine recommended by the owner of the shop. On arrival back at our abode much to our dismay we found ourselves in the dark, due, we think to the workmen who are working on the stairwell during the day. The other tenants above us (only arrived today) are also without power. Wayne decides to check the fuse box and is able to fix the problem. The old structure of our apartment means that we hear everything going on upstairs. we are hoping they quiet down by bed time or we are in for a rough night.
20th April 2012:
Friday morning after a substantial breakfast and a phone call to let Nan know all is well, we are off to join the lines of people waiting to enter the Basilica of San Marco. We are early enough and the lines aren't too bad. Wayne has a tense moment or two when he notices a security guard is diverting all backpack holders to locker rooms which are some way off from the ever growing waiting line. He decides to place the I-Pad in my recycle plastic shopping bag rather than wear it over his shoulder. All is well and in we go. There are 5 domes decorated in splendid marbles and mosaics depicting the stories of the bible. The interior contains a wealth of paintings and sculptures and we also Pay 3euros each to see the Basilica's most prized treasures which were just amazing. In this area we also had English hand held commentary devices which provided us with the important facts and historical significance of what we had in the show cased before us. The floor was also covered in marble mosaics. The over all affect left us in ore of the fine craftsmanship needed to create this master piece. The only downside to all of this is the NO PHOTOS signs displayed at every turn. We have found this a common request at most tourist meccas here in Europe and strangely enough the exit takes us through yet another gift shop. I am sad to say that beggars are also to be found here in Venice.
For morning tea we sit down at one of the outside restaurants and ordered two cafe-lattes. These came in glass and were served up to us on a splendid tea tray with all the trimmings by a waiter dressed equally well. We sat enjoying the surroundings which included a small orchestra which we were told would cost 5.6 euros if we wanted to hear them. We didn't take up the offer but apparently others did and we found ourselves audience to a fine performance of Venetian music. The atmosphere was magical. Finally we use the free restaurant toilet facilities and ask for the bill. Wayne is in for the shock of his life. Our 2 coffees cost a whopping 28euros (the music fee was included as was 12.5% surcharge-tip). Wayne paid up and clocked it up to experience, not even this could spoil our wonderful, beautiful, sunny day in Piazza San Marco.
Next we are off to ascend to the top of the Bell Tower for a panoramic 360 degree view over Venice, but not before facing the inevitable line-up, once again. The wait was worth it and the 8 euro each it cost was soon forgotten as we soaked in the awe inspiring sight laid out before us.
Now it is time for a reality check and we are off to the railway station to ensure we can negotiate our way tomorrow morning without missing our connections from the hotel, water taxi and the 2 stations in order for us to be safely on our way to Switzerland. A decision is made and we will be up bright and early at 6am to make our connections.
After sightseeing and sorting out our ticketing, we needed lunch and found a restaurant not far away. I had (main course only) some spaghetti (with cuttlefish and black sauce), Yvonne had pasta with olives and peppers, a bit of wine and we left feeling refreshed and 45.92 euro poorer. Dessert was calling however and Yvonne bought a single cone for 5.5euros which we shared, next was the chocolate shop and another 5 euros.
Now as we know Yvonne has an eye for a bargain and sure enough she spied a 50% off sale. She had been after a watch, since the battery had died some time ago in France, and also a souvenir of Venice. 5 minutes later, out she pops with a pack of playing cards (I had been wanting to play 'Patience') with pictures of Venezia on, a watch for herself and a Venice keyring all for 11.5 euros. Way to go!
On our way back to our apartment we visited the Church of San Salvador. one of the 56 listed churches here in Venezia. A very old church from the 7th Century and reconstructed in the 16th-17th centuries. The outside is decorated with sculptures and inside we find hugh paintings depicting biblical scenes including "The Annunciation" by a famous Venetian artist Titian. A wonderful note on which to end another lovely day here in Venice, Italy.
A funny thing happened on our way home. We witness 2 gondola boatsmen arguing about parking rights at one of the hotels. The irony of this typical daily occurrence which could be happening anywhere all over the world (on the roads, that is) happening here in this fanciful setting was something that will bring smiles to our faces every time we think of it in the future.
I must say that Venezia is the most expensive place we have been to so far on our travels. We may have been spoilt by our Spanish and Czech Republic experiences just shortly before Venezia. It must be remembered that tourism is it's only source of income. Even though I thought it expensive, I still enjoyed the experiences of being here and seeing what Venezia has to offer. It is truly one of a kind City and Yvonne and I have enjoyed our Venetian experience.