Archive for November, 2015

Water World

November 4, 2015

Venice can never be summed up in one word; it would be even insulting to try. My first steps tasting the Vencian air is like inhaling life. How incredibly warm the breeze feels, how blue the water looks, how old the city truly is. I am not in Seattle anymore.

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My first thoughts of this new city is comfort. Most people I consult with when planning my trip always tell me of their difficulty adjusting to a foreign city because of the language barrier; how it throws them so much when trying to get from point A to point B and their frustration of not understanding the countless conversations happening right besides them. Not me, never me. I mysteriously felt at home when walking among the Vencians. Second thoughts of Venice? Where the fuck is Rachel and Mr. Goat? I told them the time of my trains arrival and was half expecting them to hold a cheesy ‘welcome to Venice!’ sign as I immediately got off the platform.

As I scanned the unfamiliar faces hoping to find one familiar one I started to have that feeling I would need to once again find my own way back to my final destination. Just before I was about to make a left onto the Grand Canal bridge I saw Rachel’s signature strut towards the station. I shouted ‘buongiorno!’ in the worst Italian accent I tried not to muster and was glad that no one could hear me. After I caught her eye and we made our first hellos in over a year in person I was immediately whisked away to our new flat for the next 4 days in Venice.

After a quick 5 minute nap on my back (the first in 23 hours) and a shower that washed away most of my jet-lag I felt human again and ready to take on the city. Within 10 minutes of me stepping inside the apartment we were out the door and hitting the pavement.

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As a side note, I never stopped hearing about the amount of pick-pocketing in high tourist areas of Europe. So much so that a lot of travel sites HIGHLY recommend you get a ‘money belt’ which is basically a wallet you wear around your neck or tie around your waist underneath your clothes. I however took a different approach. I purposely bought 7 cheap leather wallets and a bunch of fake US currency and planning on having one on my person when ever I go outside. I keep the wallet in clear visible (and easily pick-able) sight to truly test how easily one can get pick pocketed.

St. Marks Square

The most popular tourist gathering in the city and our first stop in Venice is St. Marks Square. Despite being in a completely different country, I still saw a lot of home – american brands, american stores, american tourist, ect (at this point I haven’t gotten that ‘culture shock’ everyone keeps talking about). There were still Venicians here and there but the city at that moment felt…empty; like a shell that a hermit crab once called home. Surrounding me were a million copies of me; tourist with a camera around their necks and always looking up.

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Religion is a big thing here (literally!) but I found a new religion tourist pray to – the ultimate shot. So many people bending their bodies in odd shapes just to get that angle right for the shot that they’ll later brag to family and friends about that a million people before them had already taken.

I know this is getting a little morbid so lets change the setting – after the square we wondered off to…no where in particular. Mr. Goat said we are heading to a place for dinner but the journey to get there took nearly an hour. We made several stops along the way of moments that we felt must be photographed – pause and click! – and then we’re back on our way to dinner. ‘Dinner’ as I later found out was basically bar hopping from one place to another. We would arrive at a counter that serves wine and small appetizers and after we finished we go out to the next one. We kept the first day I was in Venice slow, nothing too big or drastic – just something for me to get a grasp of, sleep it off then start fresh the next day.

Day 2

First stop, coffee. I am NOT a coffee fan and I don’t think I’ll ever will be. I know, shocker right? A true-blue Seattlite not a coffee drinker? Well a change of city will not get me to join that boat. Regardless, my hosts are and thus we stopped by the coffee shop just around the corner from the flat.

P1100149*Tip on how to order coffee in Italy: First either decided if you will drink it by the counter or at a table. Keep in mind that the shop will charge you more if you sit down. Second, know what you want before you enter the shop and order fast. The baristas working the counter want to turn the tables as quick as possible so if you hesitate, you lost your place in line. Third, finish quickly. There is a fuck ton of people behind you that just want their coffee and get the hell out (and ordering coffee to-go is almost unheard of). To summarize, quickly sip what you got, pay then get out. I tried my very first cappuccino that day and frankly, I wasn’t a fan. But when in Rome (or Venice) so I gulped the sucker down and followed Rachel and Mr. Goat down a deserted alleyway to begin our day.

P1100169FP1100173irst tourist stop of the day – The Academia of Venice. Its both a school and a museum that host an assortment of artwork. It was ok – it was a large museum but just ok. Lots of artwork from the renaissance and plenty of sculptures of once famous individuals in the past. I saw a bust of Pompey’s head, that was cool and I got to see a mummy so that’s also fun.

Honestly, the second day in Venice was kind of a blur. I didn’t really pay attention on where we were headed; I just blindly followed Rachel and Mr. Goat down one alleyway and then another and another. We headed to a couple other museums that hosted renaissance work but after a while all the Madonna’s and child paintings kind of look alike after a while. Don’t get me wrong I get it – back then if you were an artist most of the time you get a commission from the church to paint a religious moment in time but the default always seems like Mother Mary and baby Jesus. I got bored very quickly seeing the same moment painted in different styles.

Day 3

The third day was the better of than the previous two – we headed out early to explore the outer islands; primarily the two most famous ones of Murano and Burano. First up is Murano, the island of Venician glass.

FUN FACT! I later found out that apparently during the ‘golden age’ of Venice, the city-state nearly deforested the entire area just to fuel the fires to make the world famous Venician glass.

The island was fun – small – but fun. All three of us poked our heads into every glass shop (and it seems that every store on the island sold one thing – glass) and admired the craftsmanship of the pieces. After the 6th shop we realized that every store is selling the exact same thing. Exact same pattern, exact same shape, exact same price for each piece of glass. Well, at least a good 98% of them. After a good two hours of taking photos and the sights we decided to take a ferry to the next island, Burano. While walking to the ferry we came across a shop that seemed different than the majority of glass vendors. Their items seemed slightly unique (and more expensive) so we decided to give the store a better look. After an hour of browsing I ended up buying a set of earrings and a frosted glass bracelet while Rachel and Mr. Goat bought the kitchen sink of jewelry. It was amusing after a while – right after Rachel bought something, Mr. Goat would notice a pair of cuffllinks that had to be his and on and on it went. After lying to myself that the glass I bought was authentic and frrom Venice we boarded the ferry to Burano.

P1100229Well, us and everyone else within a 100 mile radius. Seriously, every. single. ferry in Venice was full. Not just ‘full’ either – sardine canned full. After 45 minutes of standing on the world’s most crowdest ferry we make land at Burano. Famous for their lace, Burano is lined with uniquely painted houses that still look as vibrant and alive as if we were in the 1600s. I already knew this but shortly after arriving on Burano, one of the locals mentioned to us in passing conversation that all the women who use to make the lace on the island have died so every piece of cloth you’ll ever see on the island will forever be made abroad (China).

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The real reason we came to Burano however was the food. Not food in general but one particular restaurant; Da Ramano. Anthony Bourdain (an American celebrity chef) made a visit here once before and now it’s a pilgrimage for any Tony Bourdain fan to visit if in Venice. The restaurant was already famous without Bourdain’s presence though. They are known for a couple of dishes but the most well-known dish is their risotto. This dish isn’t just ‘rice’ – its texture, taste and aroma are far better than any risotto you can cook up in your kitchen. Despite it being cooked in a fish broth it gave off a scent of soft-boiled chicken and it shines in the light like each gain is a small gem.

P1100231Mr. Goat was feeling particularly hungry that day so he also order their famous ‘cuttlefish pasta’ which is cuttlefish cooked in its own ink and tossed with pasta. I wasn’t a huge fan – mostly because it dyed your tongue black but also because it was a bit too oily for my liking. After the late lunch we decided to slowly head back to the main island and recharge for a bit. The ferry going back to Venice had several stops so it took a good hour if not more to arrive back and by then the sun had already set.

Evening in Venice

There was one thing that Rachel wanted to do before leaving – ride on a gondola. I joined as a third wheel so I can act as a sort of photographer and capture the happy couple in wedded bliss. Out of all the things we’ve done in Venice, this surprisingly was my favorite. I always rolled my eyes when ever I saw a someone on a gondola passing by and thinking to myself “how tacky! Typical tourist…” however after now riding in one, it was totally worth every penny. Especially at night.

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In the morning I was awoken by the sound of church bells and felt a sense of pain that I have to leave. It was a brief stay but a good start to a long and eventful journey ahead.

 

Preview on what’s ahead for next stop: Florence.

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