Fourth Adventure: Anniversary in Venice

19 Sep

You and Nicole decide to take the free airport shuttle and catch a bus into town from the airport.  But what you don’t know is that the bus ride to Venice from the Venice airport costs €5 – exactly 10¢ less than if you’d taken the train.  You now know this for the future, though, and hey – you saved 20¢, right?  Both bus rides are fast enough and you arrive in the city just after 9 o’clock.  You choose to walk the less-direct path toward your destination, since you really don’t have to be anywhere anytime soon.  This decision proves to be both wise and foolish.  Wise, in the sense that you get to see more of Venice than you ever thought you would; foolish, since the phrase “get lost in Venice” is entirely applicable, even when you have a map.  Neither you nor Nicole have any idea where you are for approximately 2 hours, but that means you get to explore some very gorgeous empty streets, visit the beautiful main lagoon, and walk through multiple dark alleys.

There are multiple neighborhoods within Venice that were enclosed and used as ghettos for the Jewish refugees over 500 years ago.  These communities have low ceilings as you pass through the portal that was used to lock them in at night.  The walkways are just a few feet wide, but the many apartments are alive with music on the radio and clinking of silverware as the people get ready for their day.  You pass through various other dim back streets, most lined with pastry and souvenir shops, as you make your way to the basilica in Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square).  But first you find every other cathedral in Venice, including one that’s hosting part of an incredible art exhibit.  You stop in to admire the colorful picture of a man and a deer, and it takes getting within a few feet of the artwork to realize that it’s compiled entirely of individual hand-painted Ukrainian eggs – hundreds of thousands of them.  This helps reinforce why having no ultimate plans in Venice is great; if you had known where you should be headed, you would have missed this entirely.  You make your way to the main lagoon, admiring the James Bond-like speedboat water taxis and huge yachts.  You are quite certain the largest yacht must be Beyoncé’s, but she fails to invite you in for some breakfast.  Across the lagoon is Lido Island, where the Venice Film Festival is going on at this moment.  You are pretty sure that is George Clooney waving at you, but the photo comes out blurry.  You’ll visit the festival next year or the year after, and then you’ll make the connections necessary for Nicole to become a Foley artist and for you to play soldiers in films like Avatar 2 and Rambo V.

After a couple hours you do finally stumble upon San Marco.  Nicole had gotten a hot tip to visit the treasure room, but it’s not open yet, so instead you head up to the museum at the top and walk out onto the balcony.  The view is spectacular – you can see all of the square and the lagoon – but your favorites are the Golden Lions that meet the waterway (Saint Mark’s Lion is a theme throughout your entire county, not just Venice) and the gorgeous clock tower just beside the basilica.  The church itself is over 1000 years old, but some of the art inside is even older.  There are four life-size copper horses (the Triumphal Quadriga) that sat on the balcony until very recently, but now rest inside.  They were created before Jesus Christ was born.  The magnitude of this historical tidbit is astounding.  By comparison, your hometown of Tacoma is about 135 years old.  The museum also houses different Catholic artifacts – Bibles, extraordinary tapestries, musical instruments, vestal robes, manuscripts, etc.  But the most impressive part is in the inside of the basilica itself – it is almost completely covered in golden mosaics.  On every wall, many from floor to ceiling, and the entire ceiling are colorful and rich stories from the Bible brought to life.  You are incredulous at the elaborate Tree of Jesse, showing Mother Mary’s family history in precise mosaic, covering the entire wall and over 2 stories high.  Once you have visited the whole upper floor, you leave the church since it is Sunday and a service is going on.

You make your way toward the Rialto Bridge, hoping to find a cheapish spot for lunch.  The trouble with having a pregnant wife in Italy is that you can buy good wine for €3, but a bottle of water costs the same, and Coca-Cola costs €5-8.  You understand why Italians like wine so much – it’s literally the same price as water, and, especially in the case of a refreshing spritz, it tastes way better.  You settle on a nice lunch spot where you enjoy a delicious meal and share an overpriced Coke.  Nicole knows it’s tacky to get a doggie bag, but there is a lot of calzone left, so she does it anyway.  One nice thing about Italy is that tipping is not customary or expected whatsoever, so for a menu prezzo fisso (fixed price menu), the coperta (seating fee) is waived, and the price on the menu is exactly what you pay.  Still, you notice that the majority of what you spend is on food here.

Finally you come to the Omnibus bar along the Grand Canal where you will watch the Regata Storica.  You are very pleased with the service at the bar since your waiter refills your wife’s water bottle multiple times, and gladly.  This is practically unheard of in Italy – nobody else serves house water from the tap.  You wait for the rest of the group to arrive and do some window shopping before the races begin.  There are multiple regattas in Venice each year, but the annual historic regatta is the most popular.  It begins with a fun parade of boats, with people dressed in various historical costumes.  This is followed by the competitors in their boats, also dressed colorfully and in matching outfits.  You are not sure whether it is because the regatta is poorly timed or because the event is just run by Italians operating on Italy time, but there are long lags between the actual races.  First is the children’s race, and they are amusing only because they are young and don’t quite know where to start or when to begin rowing.  Next, after a long wait, is the women’s race.  This one is more interesting, as you even watch some boats get passed by others while they go past you.  The last one you get to see before having to catch the train is the men’s race.  It is very fast and the rowers are clearly very decisive.  They are gone before you know it, and it’s time to head home.  The walk to the train station is long, but since your trip leader knows where you are going, it’s not nearly as long as it could be!  There’s one last fun surprise at the train station: a brass band sits on the steps outside the station, at the end of the canal and you hear a rousing version of “Funiculì, Funiculà,” which inspires many older Italian men to snap and briskly move their arms in time.  The train ride is comfortable and uneventful and you arrive back home, happy and tired.  This is the best anniversary so far!

You know there isn’t much else in store for fall since you’ll be leaving for the majority of October for a big training event.  Continue reading if you figure fall is too boring to hear about, or go to Unadventures in Fall 2011 if you choose to recap the few months.

September slips away fast with just a couple notable events, and thanks to Operation Security procedures you can’t tell too much about jumping into Germany and your mock-war training that you received, but there’s still enough going on that it’s more interesting to read than the average daily planner!  Now go to Unadventures in Fall 2011 to know just what semi-interesting things happen.

2 Responses to “Fourth Adventure: Anniversary in Venice”

  1. Alexis Macdonald September 20, 2011 at 3:47 am #

    WOW! the experiences that you are having are so incredible and special. I am so happy for you both (all 4). You are in a beautiful country with so much historical, cultural and religious history. I am looking forward to being with you soon, to enjoy some of it, much love, Mom

  2. Cynthia September 25, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    How about some Holy Ghost news?
    With MUCH love & prayers for you!
    Your friend and sis in the Lord,
    Cynthia

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