Ah Venice...

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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Thursday, April 28, 2011

We had our first major screw up in our plans today.  We took the bus back to Florence.  It was still a pretty shakey ride, but no puke, and the countryside is great.  When we got to the train station in Florence we waited in the long line at the ticket window to get our tickets from Florence to Venice.  The guy at the window said the next train at 12:30 was full, but we could get on the 2:30pm.  No problem.  The plan was to go to Venice and stay there tonight, then spend the day there tomorrow and then take the overnight train from Venice to Munich.  We figured we'd get our overnight tickets now, just in case, and so we asked the ticket guy and he said that there were no more tickets on the overnight train to Munich tomorrow night (Friday) or any other trains to Munich until the only option of regular seats, not sleepers, on the next night (Saturday.)  If we had to not sleep that night we'd deal with it, but we already had our Venice hotel booked for tonight, and a couple days ago we booked our Munich hotel so we had a nonrefundable hotel in Munich Saturday night.  We were not expecting this.So we took the Venice tickets, got out of line, took a deep breath and before we knew it we had a new plan.  I feel like at that point after travelling so far we could have gotten into an argument or just been overwhelmed, but instead we sat down and figured out a new way to get to Munich by Saturday.  We had to cut our time a little short in Venice, but we got bus tickets for tomorrow afternoon from Venice to an Austrian town called Villach.  Then from there we got train tickets from Villach to Salzburg, Austria.  We will have to stay in Salzburg overnight, but that's ok since it looks like a great town and we were hoping to make it there at some point next week if we had time anyway.  Then we booked tickets from Salzburg to Munich for Saturday afternoon.  Crisis averted.  We had to use up some extra days on our rail pass, but we should still have enough.  We had to wait in line again for all of this and luckily we got a nice English speaking person, but it was kind of lucky that we didn't get on the first train to Venice because it all took a while.  When 2:30 rolled around we got on the train to Venice we were excited to be going there.  We had heard from quite a few people that they didn't really love Venice and that it's super busy and touristy, but we were still excited.  I spent most of the train ride reading.  Jacki had talked me into buying a book called Pillars of the Earth while we were in Florence and it's pretty addicting.  Jacki worked on her journal.  She's keeping a great hand written journal/scrapbook of everything.When the train stopped at the Venice station we hopped of the train and onto a water taxi that took us around to the other side of the city to where our hotel is.  It's a good thing we had printed directions for where our hotel was because Venice has no car roads, just little walkways between the old brick buildings and of course the canals, which only made things more difficult since they zig zagged everywhere cutting off the roads.  Like I said, we've heard a lot of negative things about Venice, but we loved it!  No cars honking at you, quiet side streets, lots of little artsy shops, and of course- the canals.  Our first impression was that it looks EXACTLY like the fake Venice at the Venetian in Las Vegas and at the Disney World we were at in Tokyo.  I honestly half expected the sky to be fake when looking up.  The building were very very old, but still painted brightly and the churches had stone facades right on the canals.  We didn't have a lot of time in Venice, so we wanted to make the most of it and started wandering around as soon as we got checked in.  Our hotel is on a tiny side street.  There is a big old wooden green door with a heavy iron lion knocker in the middle.  The passageways were dark and the stairs very narrow and winding.  The room was huge (for Europe) and very nice though.  The whole area where our hotel was reminded me of the French Quarter in New Orleans.  Old and unchanged. At first we had a destination, and that was to find the Grand Canal, which cuts through the center of the city, and the Rialto, which is a 500 year old big stone bridge that crosses over it and is in the middle of town.  Surprisingly we had no trouble finding it.  The bridge is lined with stores selling the normal tourist stuff, but there were also mask stores that are unique to Venice.  I've been to a million towns that do the whole mask thing, but I think these were the coolest.  They go all out with bright colors and crazy faces, usually with long crooked noses.  The mask shops are usually filled with extravagant old costumes and dolls.  Pretty cool.The grand canal is also lined with restaurants and cafes with tables right next to the water.  The canals are swimming with black gondolas with huge fancy chairs in the middle of the boat.  The gondoleers actually wear the red and black striped shirts and often they would have a guy singing in the bow or playing the accordian. After leaving the Rialto we just wandered off, and in a couple of minutes we were completely lost in the back streets, which is kind of what we were looking for.  Every few blocks we would either run into a canal or a plaza.  We stopped for coffee in one of the plazas and I couldn't believe my eyes.  They had basketball on.  It was a playoff game of Denver vs. Oklahoma City and apparently it was taped because they cut out all of the time outs and half time, which is awesome and makes the game fly by.  We stayed until the fourth quarter then took off.  It started getting dark so we wandered a little more until we found a pizza place for dinner.  European pizza is nothing like American pizza, but it has it's place.  The best part about European pizza is that it has a really thin crust that they cook on the grill, and because of that everyone gets their own full pizza to themselves.  During dinner the owner of the restaurant was a little loud and goofy.  He made sure everyone knew that he was Venetian and not Italian.  There was a middle age couple behind us from the United States (we could just tell) that seemed a little uppity.  The lady got some sort of clams and pasta then when it came she asked for cheese to put on it.  The owner flipped out and said that the cheese will ruin it and overpower the taste and that she might as well put chocolate sauce on it.  She didn't seem to happy.  I thought it was funny. By this point it was dark and we were pretty lost.  There are only a couple bridges aross the grand canal and we couldn't seem to find one since everytime we found our way to the canal we had to go back into the labrynth because there's no street that runs along it, just houses right on the water.  Eventually we found a bridge over but it was the wrong one, so we took advantage of it and stopped at St. Marco's square which was a little out of the way, but we were planning on going to anyway tomorrow.  It was pretty cool at night.  The square was pretty big and there weren't too many people there.  On two different sides of the square were fancy restaurants with competing orchestras playing classical music.  The area was lit by lights that look like candles in front of all the windows in the buildings that made up the sides.  It was very Venetian seeming, if that makes sense.  A good way to end the night.We were pretty exhausted but eventually found our way back without too much arguing.  Tomorrow we'll wake up early and hit all the stuff we missed today since we aren't leaving until the early afternoon.
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