Once out of the plane the customs officer did not even look at me twice or ask any questions. I wondered if he would have cared more if I did not have a Visa, and if the hassle that I went through in order to obtain one was worth it. My baggage came off of the carousel fast. The baggage carousel was painted to look like a roulette wheel and there was a sign in Italian that explained the game. I could not read it but thought it was a clever idea. I immediately changed my money to euro and got on edge in preparation for the enslout of gypsies, I was warned about repeatedly, that was just to bombard me as I exited the baggage claim.
What I found was a wall of Italians waiting for their loved ones to get off the plane, just like in the Atlanta airport. I quickly got in line for the bus tickets and got one for 3 Euro. The bus pulled up, no one knew exactly what to do and no one had luggage. I asked the busdriver "a Venezia?" and he shook his head and did not utter anything the rest of the trip. As we were crossing the bridge to the island, on my left I could see the old church steeples and domes over the red rooftops, on my right I saw a huge parking garage and new hotel on the edge of the island. I thought, if Venice is sinking why did they build more on it... seems like a loosing battle.
Once we got to the island I got off the bus and started to get my bags and prepare for the gypsies. All that I found was an elderly German woman who said to me "I think you left your book on the bus." I dropped my bags and ran onto the bus to find my book with the directions to the hostel. I came back and no one had touched my bags and were more interested in throwing them away because they were trying to get on the bus. Bags in hand, I began to go towards the heart of the island following the map. I was stopped dead in my tracks when I found my first step bridge. Now remember I was carrying/dragging in total about 130 lbs. I contemplated turning around right there and finding a hotel back on the main land, but knowing that I paid a lot of money for my hostel I was determined to make it work. I thought "Someone has to have been in this situation before."
I tried a few different methods to get my bags over the first bridge. I tried lifting the bags up but i could not hold them for more than a step. So I ended up tieing them together and pulling them up step by step. Going down was the easy part as they pushed me. After 3 or 4 bridges I found my hostel check-in office. The lady at the desk was a nice girl who gave me 5 keys to my place and a map how to find it.
I proceeded to my hostel trying to find the route which required the least amount of bridges. Along the way, I found no gypseys, only Venicians who were tired of tourists clogging their streets and a German father who I could tell was muttering about how many bags I was carrying to his sons. Finally, I found the gate to my hostel went in and could not find the apartment, it looked like a normal residence. I was able to ask a woman where my room was and she was nice enough to try to help. I figured out where it was from her hand motions, not her words and got into the correct building. Once inside I decided to use the tiny elevator and could hardly fit everything in. I got into my
room and could not find the light switch, it was pitch black and the light switch was no where in sight. I found the Tv and tried to turn it on but I could not get enough light. Finally I felt around what I thought was an electrical socket, and viola, the lights came on. I had made it to my bed for the night, but I knew that it would not be easy to traverse the bridges again in the morning and get to the train station. I took a hot shower, which quickly turned cold, and went into Venezia to find something to eat and scout out the train situation.
By this time it was 5pm and I had about an hour or two of sleep. I found a spot to eat, got some pasta, a salad and what I thought was water, turned out to be sparkling water. Then I went to the train station and bought my ticket for the next day. Once at the train station I got in line to get a ticket and was able to make a comprehensive Italian sentence saying that I would like a ticket to Trento. The man responded and I of course did not understand, he knew some English and asked me when I want to go, in Italian I said "Tomorrow around 8" and
then I said something which I thought meant morning, "giorno". I know now that it actually means "day". (The word for morning is "la mattina") He became a little confused and confirmed that I wanted a ticket for the following day and I said yes 8 in the morning in english. And then to trying to make myself clear I said "in il giorno" again. He kind of smiled and gave me my ticket. It took me a few days to figure out that I was saying the wrong word for morning, I can just imagine if I was working at a ticket counter and someone came up to me and kept repeating "day... day .. day", it would take a lot of patience and restraint in order to give them what they want and need. However this is a trait that I have noticed with Italians, they are very patient and able to decipher even the most broken Italian.
After getting a ticket I left the station and figured out that I could get take a water taxi for 6 euro from near my apartment to the train station. Now it was 7 and too late to go to a museum. I went back to my room and got a map of Venice and then went out to get at least a taste of the city. I should have left the map at the hostel because it was no help. As soon as I started walking south I was lost. I just wandered around following the streets and kind of just following the people in front of me. When I was getting worried about being lost I would follow the sound of tourists walking on some of the more major "streets". They are not really streets, just narrow cobblestone spaces between buildings that sometimes extend over canals. The canals are the real streets of Venice.
Along my way I found a Gelateria or gelato stand and bought a black cherry gelato. The gelato there tasted similiar to the stuff I had in Atlanta in the Virginia Highlands, but had a sweet after taste of whipped cream which I really liked. After my walk I was exhausted and went back to the hostel, on my way I wanted to get a glass of white wine but it was 20 euro, I opted for a can of Italian beer from a corner store for 1 euro and set on the side of the canal and tried to read a pocket book of common Italian phrases. I got back to my hostel and went right to sleep.
I awoke early the next morning, with a nervousness that I would not be able to take the water taxi or I would miss my train. On my way to the taxi, I crossed one small bridge and bought my ticket. I was only approached as I boarded the taxi asking where I was going, it is the policy of the water taxi that you are only allowed one bag, I was carrying three. I got some dirty looks from the locals who knew I should not be allowed on with so many bags but quickly brushed them off, because I was not going to pull my bags over the step bridges again. Inside the train station I found my train and boarded it. I was a little confused because there was not a lot of space for me to put my baggage. Only two racks above the six seats in each room of the train. My seat area was empty and I almost left my bags on the floor, but then considered that this was the first stop of the train and that more people will be getting on. I was barely able to lift the bags over my head and onto the racks. I got in a seat next to the window and prepared for a relaxing tour across the northern part of Italy but what I got was a little different.
The flight to Venezia (Venice) reminded me of one of the many flights that I have taken from Michigan to Atlanta, or Atlanta to New York. The length of the flight was the same and the type of plane was the same. Surprisingly I was able to sleep during the last half of the flight and was awoken by the stewardess. As we approached the landing I found myself noticing that the mainland (Mestre) and island (Venezia) was colored in a dull red tinge from all of the clay and stucco that is used on the houses and roofs, just flying overhead I could already tell that I was not in the US anymore. As we touched down in Venezia Marco Polo Int. I was greeted by my first taste of the Italian language. The pilot said his farewell in English and then followed it in Italian. I was only able to pickup a few words because I had just heard the English translation. I sounded like a tidal wave of sound had just crashed on me. I knew that it made sense to someone, but caused my mind to overload and eventually give up translating. I remember saying to my self "Well... here goes nothing." concerning the fact that I would need to handle these waves on a regular basis.