Friday, October 7, 2011

30 Hours in Venice

I realize it’s been awhile but life has been keeping me busy these past couple of weeks. 

I want to tell you about one of my favorite international destinations recently visited.  It’s a place that falls on most people’s list of top dream destinations and that is the beautiful water/canal city of Venice, Italy.  I had a weekend to do as I please (Friday afternoon through Sunday night) so I was torn between a couple different options: Croatia, Kosovo, or Venice.  In the end Venice won out because of time constraints with the travel options available to me.  I likely could have made either of the other two work out but my time there would have been even more limited than what I ended up with in Venice.  My location was near Graz, Austria, and with train travel so prevalent in the area this was going to by my primary source or travel for the weekend.  Flying was too expensive and really didn’t gain me a lot of time with the flight times available.  I made a reservation at a hostel in the city online before leaving so I’d know I’d have a place to stay Saturday night and then took off with a backpack and my “purse” (more or less it’s a messenger bag).  I traveled to Graz by train and then went to the information office there at the station to get tickets for the remainder of my travel.  I had a pass that allows me to travel by train in Austria without purchasing a ticket so I mainly just needed to know availability and times for the trains into Venice.  I was able to have guaranteed seating to Klagenfurt but from there I had no guarantees and was told the night train (that traveled from Vienna to Venice) was sold out.  Figuring there would be more options available I went for it knowing I could always spend the night in the station there if it came down to it.  Upon reaching Klagenfurt I noticed the next approaching train was scheduled through to Rome with a stop in mainland Venice so I ran around to the other side of the tracks and asked the train official waiting at the doors if there was room available to Venice…getting conformation I hopped on and bought my passage from him before winding my way through the cars to find an open seat.
Canal through Venice
Thankfully, I managed to be a light sleeper for once in my life and woke up just before we approached the Venice station at about 4:00am.  I have to admit that the next hour and a half was a bit on the creepy side of things.  One, I don’t know Italian.  Having some generic language background and familiarity with German and French I could guess at some of the things being said around me, but I would probably not suggest arrival as a solo female traveler at 4:00 in the morning when you have to wait until about 5:30 for the first train out to the station on the island/s.   I will say that I was incredibly excited to arrive in Venice and stand on the bridge out in front of the station and watch the sunrise over the city.  I think the only thing that might beat that was if I had gotten there early enough to walk around to the east side of the island and watch it come up over the ocean-but either way it was absolutely gorgeous and something I will never forget.  J
Sunrise over Venice
I walked around the city for a few hours finding some bread for breakfast and learning my way around the main streets/bridges for easier navigation later.  I then found my way to the hostel so I could check in and dumped off one of my bags taking only necessities with me as it was a hot, sunny day in Italy.  Acquiring a map at the desk and some helpful hints on where I should go and what to see I set off for my day in Venice.  I enjoyed walking the streets with windows full of leather, glass, and beautiful masks.  One could never tire from the sight-it’s fascinating!  I walked the famous Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) over the Grand Canal, watched gondoliers floating along the way, and marveled at the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square).  There is a reason that Venice is a desired destination for most people and I now know that for a fact.  Rather than having a meal for dinner, I snacked my way through the morning and afternoon on fresh bread, gelato, and different Italian treats and then headed on a water taxi across to Murano where I watched a glass blowing demonstration and wandered around completely enthralled with all of the handmade glass products available.  It really is marvelous what one can do with the stuff.  J

Glass Display on Murano
The afternoon held a bit more adventure for me as I was caught unaware in a brief downpour (as were most of the people there).  I sought shelter in a little boutique and ended up finding a couple really nice shirts I bought.  Emerging out into the streets again I decided to make a quick stop back at the hostel to drop off my accumulating purchases, grab my umbrella, and seek some suggestions for a good supper restaurant.  *Take note that wearing flip flops on wet stone streets is NOT a suggested travel tip.* I walked back to my “sunrise” bridge to watch night fall on the city before setting out for the suggested restaurant that was a little off of the beaten path (walking alone on the “streets” of Venice at night may be a bit uncomfortable for some as it is more or less walking single file alleys with very little lighting).  I found the restaurant to be a nice little cozy place where most of the patrons were true Venetians and I and one other couple (also Americans) were the only tourists.  *Thank you hostel worker for your outstanding recommendation!*  I had an amazing real Italian pizza that left me stuffed beyond belief with a lot left over (and sadly nowhere to keep it, though I have to say I don’t know if asking for a box would be frowned upon there or not).  Needless to say I spent my one and only night in Venice sleeping very well.  I had experienced a wonderful day in the city and met some wonderful people along the way.

Nightfall over Venice
I got up the next morning with every intention of taking the train back the entire way only to find that the train schedules did not overlap enough for me to make my connections and get back to my little Austrian city in time.  I was left scrambling for a way home.  *This falls under one of those times where my spontaneity can cause problems.* I ended up buying a ticket for a bus to Klagenfurt later in the day but traveling by train to Udine, Italy, and then managed to catch the earlier bus to Klagenfurt.  This allowed me to barely-just barely-catch the right train connections to get me back to Graz and make the final train out of the city to my little town in the countryside.  I walked quietly into the house shortly before one on Sunday night/Monday morning brimming with excitement from the experiences I had had and also exhausted knowing I would be up bright and early the next morning to start working again.   

Piazza San Marco

Anyone who wants to plan a trip to Venice I would love to give you some specifics, it just gets to be a lot to type them all out on here.  Maybe another time…