Friday, July 12, 2013

If we had blogs in 1997: I'm sorry Mario, but your princess is in another palazzo

The student goes to Venice and observes life in boats. She makes no attempt to explain what she is seeing, except for a brief mention that San Marco's church is built on the burial site of St. Mark, nothing about the city's gothic architecture or its connections to the Byzantine Empire or the Islamic world or the Venetian Republic. She didn't know what she was seeing, but she did observe the lives of the Venetians. As always, spelling, grammatical, and factual errors, as well as inane commentary, have been preserved.

30 Oct 1997

Last night I tried to go to bed early but some obnoxious Americans in the room next to me kept me up. Then the girl in my room came in. At first I thought she was an American but she came from Toronto. Her name was Joewel (I asked if it was like the singer) and she had been traveling for a year. She had started off in Australia and was about to finish up in Greece. She took odd jobs to make money. She had already graduated from college and was putting her career on hold to travel. We talked for probably two or three hours about everything. She was going to Rome in the morning, and I told her how much I hated it. She talked about being a Canadian, about her travels, and I mostly listened toward the end because it was getting late and I was really getting tired. But I told her about how embarrassing it was sometimes to be an American over here. She left a pretty big impression on me about confidence being alone. I still didn't have the guts to go to a sit down restaurant alone. So I had no pasta in Italy - I lived on gelati - mostly pistacchio & malaga. Gelati is the plural of gelato, apparently. How can ice cream be plural? I had it three times a day, though today I had two pieces of pizza. No matter where you get pizza in Italy, it's good. Even if it's been sitting out all day. Even if it gives you food poisoning, which it did?

Joewel was supposed to catch the 6:45am or 8:15am train to Rome, but she woke me up at 8:00. Good thing, because I would have kept on sleeping, since I had gone to bed so late. (Since I have no alarm clock. She had hers stolen as well.) I caught the 9:37 train to Venezia. It was a beautiful train ride through the mountains, despite the fact a quarter of it was through tunnels. I don't know what is the accurate figure, but one of the tunnels is over 18km long. While looking up this info, I came across this TripAdvisor question from some woman who is "deathly afraid of tunnels." She ended up not going to Venice because of it. Sad. I'm pretty afraid of flying, but I do it anyway. Why miss out on life experiences because of irrational fear? After Bologna though, it mostly was flat, dull farmland. It felt like Southwest Ohio. Somehow I doubt this is true. I got to Venice about 12:15. I was going to take a canal taxi to San Marco but it was about $15 so I decided to walk. I loved the Venetian glass sculptures. I'd like to decorate my house with it. Venice was beautiful. The canals were as magnificent as I thought they would be. I walked to San Marco through the winding alleys. It took about 40 minutes.

The church was beautiful, but San Marco Square is covered with disgusting pigeons. If you're Princess Cruises, they are "doves." This is how they embellish. Why would anyone want to take a cruise? St. Mark is supposedly buried on the site of the church. I decided to hunt for a piece of pizza that wasn't L5000 a slice. Ha. Not around San Marco. Not around anywhere I searched. I bought some gelati and took a stroll through the residence alleys. I didn't have a map, just started walking. I encountered a tower that was leaning (not as much as Pisa's), and a palace made of red brick (and now I understand why all the castles in Super Mario Brothers are made of red brick.) I don't know what building this refers to. I have a faint recollection of the building but can't find an image of it on Google. It's probably not a palace.

Main Street
I ended up walking around in a circle, and then headed back to San Marco and then tried to make my way towards the train station because I had seen cheaper pizza along that way. (Imagine that - food is cheaper near the train station.) I walked around in circles until I found the right path back. Along the way I stopped at La boutique de gelati or something like that because Let's Go recommended it and I had never eaten at a Let's Go place. I kept walking and bought some postcards for only L300. Then I finally found L2500 pizza and got a piece. It was wonderful. Then I headed back to the train station. I had run out of stuff to do. Actually, there isn't much in Venice to do except shop. And walk around. I had done a lot of that. It was really cold. I'd love to walk around when it was warmer. Nothing to do? Well, perhaps that is true if you had "free" to the statement. Museums, music, bars, restaurants...they all cost money. I missed out on a lot during this whole week. But I got a lot out of it, too.

Traffic in Venice
I sat up at the train station steps and watched the people for awhile. Then I walked the other direction and found a spot where I could watch the boats. I could have sat there all day and watched them. I saw the paramedics load a lady onto the ambulance boat. There were taxi boats, police boats, tow boats, and regular boats. Venice does have cars, but they have a large parking garage to put them all in because there is no way to drive them through the city. I loved it. And I still do. I could sit on those steps right now and be as amused by the ambulance boat as I was on this day.

I walked around a bit more in a last ditch effort to find an Italian flag, but did not succeed. I collected little flags from the countries I visited in Europe. Well, theoretically. I only got them from Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and UK, missing Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and France. I meant to buy an Italian flag when we were there in March. I forgot. It was dark by the time I got back to the train station, so I sat down, or maybe that's when I got my pizza. I sat outside on the steps again and watched the people. This Italian guy comes up to me and says (I think) that I was sitting there since 4 o'clock. He must not have known I had walked around for an hour after the first time I sat there. But it soon got too cold for me. I went inside and got gelatti one last time. Then I got my bag and sat down on the ground because there were no seats. Then some crazy french guy came in and sat down next to me. I think he was a con. He told me he had a girlfriend in Moscow and he didn't know if she loved him or not. He asked me what I thought and I said she did and he kissed me on the cheek. Then he asked if I thought he was good looking. What was I supposed to say? Then he asked if I knew anyone as beautiful as he was. Then he told me he had no place to sleep. I asked him why he didn't get a hotel and he said he had no money. That was my chance to con the con man. I told him I had used all of my money and had nothing but a train ticket. He left me alone soon after that.  Then the security guys came and told me to get off the ground.

I sat on a seat for a second but then got on my train and listened to some obnoxious Americans. I had to go check because I thought they might be Miami students. They weren't, but they were embarrassing me. American tourists are often loud, rude, and think they're entitled. Canadians often sew Canadian flag patches on their backpacks so they aren't mistaken for American. Back then in the pre-George W. Bush years, this was largely due to the obnoxiousness of Americans rather than policy-oriented reasoning.  I was alone in my compartment until the conductor came and sat there. Then 3 people got on at the next stop. Then the conductor and another person got off. Now I am in the compartment with a woman and a shady guy. I really need to watch my stuff, he scares me. Joewel told me that a couple of weeks ago, Italy had an earth quake and they've been having aftershocks for two weeks. Italy doesn't have earthquakes. How apocalyptic is that? Not that it has anything to do with the guy across from me.

Remember plate tectonics?
Italy doesn't have earthquakes? Boy, I was dumb. In 1117, Verona had a massive earthquake that destroyed most of the city's medieval buildings. Sicily had an earthquake in 1169 that killed 15,000 people. In 1343 an earthquake caused a tsunami that destroyed ports along the Amalfi Coast. In 1693, an earthquake in Sicily killed 60,000, and another in 1908 killed 100,000-200,000 people. Italy had two last month! The country has had frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions for 12 million years - it's located on the edge of the Eurasian plate that collides with the African plate.

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