Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Notes of Venice

Tried to get a post out over breakfast this morning but failed miserably. Here's a lunchtime update in quick notes...

Read moreTaxi - Had the most relaxed taxi ride ever, on the way to Ferihegy heading out. Boiling hot weather but the cab was chilled to perfection. Also chilling was the music. No crass radio stations in this guys cab, just ambient tunes from his Cafe de Mar CD collection.

Planes - Great on the way there, crap on the way back. No difference in planes of course, but one and a half hour delay flying back is a killer when you're tired, hungry, thirsty and everything's at airport prices.

Hotel - Hotel was smack bang in the middle of a great area. Not the posh streets around St Mark's but just a few minutes walk from student stomping grounds of Dorsoduro. Staff were excellent. Was able to fill up for the day on the breakfast. Room was a tad small but clean-ish. Mould on the ceiling and strange smells brought the mood down a bit though.

Walking - Who needs boats? Found that the best way to get around was by foot. Everything easily reachable in decent times. Walking also allowed us to take in all the buildings and atmosphere. A bit tiring going up and down all the steps of the bridges but worth it.

Labyrinth - The whole of Venice is just like a huge labyrinth. Half expected to see a Minotaur charging down the streets. Very easy to get lost and definitely need a good map. We stuck with our guidebook and just wandered.

Buildings - A lot of the buildings appear to be falling apart but all look beautiful. You can tell that this place really was rich (10 times richer than France at one point, and just think of the difference in sizes). I don't know how they did it, but it just looks right. All the proportions, all the facades, the statues, the squares, everything.

Gardens - You'd think that an island with an incredibly limited space for building would stick houses on every available plot, but no. There are no high-rise buildings and better still, there are quite a few (private) gardens about.

Masks - Lots of shops making masks and costumes for the Venice carnival and I guess there's quite a bit of souvenir trad as well. I didn't realise there were so many shops selling this stuff. Also saw the shop that provided masks and costumes for "Eyes Wide Shut".

Boats - Okay, so we didn't walk all the time. Thought about buying a 3-day travel pass for the water buses but ended up getting just a single day. It's actually 24 hours so we used it over a couple of days just to take the weight off our feet and watch the world go by. Got to see some of the other big boats and realised that there are some seriously loaded people visiting Venice.

Students - We dubbed it "our square" as it was so close to the hotel. Similar to Liszt Ferenc ter in Bp. A happening spot with a good dose of bars, restaurants and ice-creameries. While we were there, several students were saying goodbye to their university days. They were humilated in all sorts of costumes before drinking through the night with friends and family. Lots of cheering and singing. A bit like a stag / hen do but with better manners.

Spritz - The drink of Venice. Absolutely everyone was drinking the bright orange or red drink so I had to have a go. Bitter and sweet at the same time. Perhaps a distant relative of gin & tonic. The proper receipe is here.

Bridges - Plenty of bridges wherever you go, though only 2 without handrails / sides. It's actually hard to look down around and not see a bridge. There's a big bridge near the bus station where you come in to the island, from which you're meant to be able to spot 13 bridges. We counted 12, so maybe need new glasses.

Rivers - Rio this, rio that. They twist and turn all over the place. No idea what it must be like to take a driving/boat test on these waters. Also, there's quite a bit of traffic on them so everyone's going slow and shouting "Oi!" when reaching a corner. Water didn't look too bad and not at all smelly except when the algae was above the waterline.

Streets - Paved streets everywhere with the water running underneath most of them. Easy to find yourself at a dead-end, either reaching a courtyard with no other way out or suddenly at the side of a river and have to turn back. Some streets were just narrow, claustrophobic paths. You'd need to be pretty slim to get through the narrowest; Ramo Salizzada Zustro at just 85 cm wide. Boats moored to the sides of the streets with steps going down to the water. Though while we were there, it was only one step away from the water, so about 30cm / 1 foot.

Markets - Was surprised to find "our square" that had been so happening on Friday night, turned into a market for Saturday. Plenty of markets around town selling fresh fruit and veg. Also selling them from boats of course. Oh and there was the main market we visited that also included a smelly fish market. Wouldn't have been so bad but they chuck out the bits of fish they don't want to the rubbish where the seagulls pick over it.

Pigeons - Loads and loads of pigeons. Especially around St Mark's. They sell food for the pigeons for 1 euro and a lot of tourists have great fun letting the skyrats pigeons sit on their arms and eat straight from their hand.

Fish - Yes there are fish in Venice and not just in the markets. We were sitting down on some steps to a river when we spotted them darting around. A good sign.

St Mark's - The only place we went into was St Mark's Cathedral. Free to go in and then a few euros for various things. Lots of gold everywhere. Saw the original gilded bronze horses (taken from Constantinople in 1204) and went up to the balconies to look down on the square. Great views and you can relax for a few minutes while you're up there.

Smells - Heard that it might be smelly but wasn't too bad. The only bad smells were i) the mould in the hotel room ii) rotting fruit near markets iii) algae above the waterline iv) dog turds

Litter - Also heard that Venice was a fairly dirty city. There did seem to be a lot of crap around but it was tidied away quite quickly. Mind you, it's replaced with more crap soon after. I guess that's the problem with so many people (both local and tourists) in a small area.

Dogs - Okay, so there are gardens, there's even a (very) small park or two, but everything else is paved. So why do you want a dog in this place? Dog crap was prevelent. Mind you, the dogs have their hearts in the right place (their stomachs).

Food - Food glorious food! Tried the pasta, the cakes, the biscuits etc but the best is the pizza. Thin, crispy, tasty. So simple but so good. Not expensive either so we had our fill.

Gondolas - How much?! Actually we never asked. We overheard prices of 70 euros but also saw a group get ripped off for 100 euros (coming down from a truly horrendous 120). Nah, not really that bothered by it. Happy to just walk about thank you very much.

That's it for now. If something else pops into my head about Venice (like how I'd still like to be there instead of at the office) then I might do another upate. I'm not bothering to put all the photos in the blog but for a good selection I suggest you try my flickr account.


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