September 20th, 2008 – by: Stevie_Wes
On the final approach to Venice Saint Lucia train station the woman the other side of the isle suddenly chirps out ‚ÄúAre you American sir?‚ÄĚ. I inform her I‚Äôm not but English. ‚ÄúOh‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ Disappointed. ‚ÄúDo you have any American friends back home?‚ÄĚ I inform her sadly not. ‚ÄúOh‚Ä¶it‚Äôs just I‚Äôm out here for the Democrats campaigning for Barrack Obama‚Ä¶just tryin‚Äôa get those overseas votes in ya know‚ÄĚ. Jeez, what kind of a ticket to ride is that?! I can see just about eeeeverybody‚Äôs hand reaching into the air when Barrack‚Äôs aides are handing out these gigs.
‚ÄúSo who wants to canvas overseas votes in Baghdad?‚Ä¶ uh, ok, no takers on that one. Uhh, Venice anybody?‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúME ME ME ME ME, PLEASE SIR, PLEASE SIR!!‚ÄĚ‚Ä¶‚ÄĚNO ME SIR, I GOT MY HAND UP BEFORE JOHNNY SIR!!‚ÄĚ. Jeez these politicians have got tooooo much money to burn. Yeah, ya better get those crucial Venice swing votes in guys an‚Äô gals. Your holiday could make aaaaall the difference come election day. Whatever!
Anyho, movin‚Äô on. It‚Äôs 10.30 in the a of m. I‚Äôm in Venice and the sun is blazing right on cue!
From the moment I step out of the train station onto the Ferrovia bank of the Grand Canal I just feel utterly transported to another world.
There‚Äôs happy bustle everywhere, a large white stone bridge spans a waterway just as busy with activity as the promenade with boats and other water-borne conveyances of all shapes and sizes zipping up, down and across it.
(Gondola) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
For the one and only time I allow myself to use a map today I guide myself over the bridge and through countless meandering paths, canal banks and alley ways as I head towards Fondementa Zittare, the waterside promenade where I will catch my first Vaporetto, the innumerable and highly convenient water-buses that move on and around Vencie‚Äôs waterways and islets all day long. It‚Äôs to Giudecca I must get where the Venice Youth Hostel International is located. Giudecca referred to as ‚ÄėThe Spine‚Äô of Venice is the large island that hangs to the south of the main body of the city.
Have no fears of the Hostel being off ‚Äėthe main land‚Äô as the Vaperettos leave most stops every 10 minutes or so. For a price you are best off paying for a 1 or 3 day unlimited travel card called a ‚ÄėRolling Venice‚Äô card. For 3 days it‚Äôs 31 Euros for those over 30 years old, and a bargainous 22 if you‚Äôre under. Well worth buying as although one of the greatest pleasures (I think anyway) to be had in Venice is endless rambling and directionless plodding through and along the infinite calles, campos, cortes, fondementas, palazzos, viales, palisades and ramos of the city labyrinth you will also want to hop around on these fantastically convenient little buses as much as your time and inclination permit. Bear in mind these passes will also get you out to all the surrounding lagoon islands too including Murano, Burano, Torcello and the famous Lido beach areas (immortalised in Thomas Mann‚Äôs ‚ÄėDeath in Venice‚Äô) as well as others.
The Palazza Duccale and the side of the St.Mark's Basilica.
One vaporetto skip later and here I am, the main promenade (by the Palazzo Duccale and Piazza St.Marco), today absolutely rammed with happy tourists, but it never feels too oppressive. The day is so perfect, so glorious that everyone‚Äôs just happy to see each other happy and magically transported within this place. THERE THEY ARE! ‚ÄúWow!‚ÄĚ, there really is something great about setting eyes on your first real Gondola bobbing upon the sungold-glittered surface if the water. LOTS of them too, some inhabited. Some not yet. A couple of newlyweds disembark. All together now‚Ä¶ ‚Äúaaah, how romantic!‚ÄĚ This place really does feel like some kind of fairytale destination that you‚Äôve been staring at in an old book, and then all of a sudden you slip and find yourself tumbling into the painting, and ‚ÄúHERE you are! Venice!‚Äú Not just your dreams, but a real place in a real world! J You may now proceed to get lost and fall in love!
I get straight on a Linea 1 vaporetto now to glide slowly up the Grand Canal, the arterial waterway that snakes most of the length of Venice‚Äôs principle ‚Äėlandmass‚Äô.
This is one of the true ways that you MUST see Venice as some of it‚Äôs most fascinating and picturesque building fa√ßades are ONLY visible from the Canal. Almost all buildings along the Grand Canal accordingly back straight onto the water, often with ‚Äėfront‚Äô doors and steps right into (or sinking into) the water so again only to be viewed by taking this trip. Try with a little cunning and patience to get into the smallish (8 seats or so) open rear areas of these vaporettos as then you have fabulous and unencumbered views of the scenery as it glides by. As the weather is so incredible I don‚Äôt want to even risk not making the most of this opportunity so when the vaporetto reaches it‚Äôs terminus I step off, and practically step right back on to its sister boat heading right back the other way. I dash out the back and again enjoy the true grandeur of the Grand Canal, however this time staying on beyond St.Marco and heading out over water to the Lido area of the lagoon.
Grand Canal bridge (abstract)
This is pleasant amusement for an hour or so. A stroll down the Grande Vialle de Santa Margaretta (or some such name) all the way to the beaches that line its far coasts. Plenty of happy sun worshippers today and I too have a great sense of pleasure and relaxation by once more being by a coastline with the sea breeze playing upon all my senses. Europe has been incredible so far but my route‚Äôs kept me pretty landlocked away from those green-blue horizon lines that I occasionally crave so much having grown up on the south coast of England.
Vaparetto number 1 again aaall the way back to St.Marco and now time to do some more wonderful maoless wandering through the streets of the city.
Something new, be it grand or the tiniest most incidental detail to capture and amuse your eye at every winding turn. Some of the little corridor/ passageways between the houses you wonder that there were ever people so diddy that they could fit down ‚Äėem! There is the famous (and overbusy) Rialto Bridge that spans one point of the Grand Canal and upon it holds many little market-shops and also great viewing balconies to look up and down the canal. Quite a miracle of a bridge actually. So many people and so much activity on such a small structure. This has always been the thronging, throbbing heart of Venice‚Äôs market area and life and turns up often in artistic representations of the city.
The Rialto Bridge (over the Grand Canal)
I drift for several hours.
I could not tell you where, in what directions or how I found mayself orientated back home. Yes, there are often quaintly ‚Äôhome made‚Äô looking arrows and signs scrawled or pinned to street corners indication the vague direction either of the Rialto or Piazza St.Marco but unless you really need or want to go there just ignore ‚Äôem and keep walking is my advice, as long as you‚Äôve the time on your hands. I chomp a gelati and a pizza slice and eventually find my way back to the St.Marco vaparetto stops for a sun-down final trip back across to Giudecca and the HI. It has been an incredibly beautiful and special day and even now, my clothes rumbling and tumbling in the laundrette down the way I sit in a happy trance by the water‚Äôs edge with my bare feet dangling over the side. Reading by street light as an old man fishing for squid for his tea shuffles towards me through the early night shadows and passes his line over my head, proceeding hopefully in the direction of where the sun was last seen being swallowed by Venetian waters.