I left Vienna on September 8th from the Westbahnhof train station. My trip was 12 hours long until I finally reached Venice-Mestre train station on the morning of September 9th. I had no clue where to go upon my arrival. The information office had moved to another location and there was nowhere to ask for public transportation information. I had the option of finding my way to the bus, or paying 25€ for a taxi (which I wasn’t going to do). I managed to find someone along my walk and they pointed me toward the tram that runs from the major station in Mestre to Marco Polo Airport. I got off at the stop that the hotel had indicated to me and finally found my way to the reception desk.
Now this is where my trip to Venice gets interesting. The receptionist, at Smart Holiday Hotel (4*) tells me that something went wrong with my reservation and that they had to move me to another hotel down the street. My initial reaction was confusion, because I had reserved my room 2 months in advance. But after that passed, I slightly freaked out. What if the hotel they moved me to is horrible? No hot water? Bed bugs? Who knows what else. Their driver took me to the other hotel and I walked inside to find something not quite as modern as I had chosen, but it had a cozy feel to it. This hotel was called Hotel Ducale (3*) in Favaro. They told me my room wasn’t ready yet but that I could eat some breakfast if I wanted and wait in the lounge. I asked if I would be paying the same price for my room that I would have paid at the other hotel, and she told me that the Smart Holiday Hotel is going to pay my accommodation for me. Wow! I was shocked. They even paid for my tourist tax. So I put zero payment forward on my hotel in Venice, one of the most expensive places in Europe.
Now the hotel was fantastic. Everything was clean, breakfast was complementary, they had hot water and great water pressure. The staff were very nice and they speak many different languages so you could always find help when needed. It was located at a major intersection so there were quite a few transportation options available. The bus ride into Venice was about 20 minutes which isn’t too bad at all. For breakfast they had croissants, eggs, salami and cheese, jam, fruit, cereal, and all the drink options such as juice, water, and coffee. I was very pleased with the place and I totally recommend it to everyone.
Alright, so after getting into my room and settling in I decided to head into Venice. I had only ever seen the place in movies, so this was a dream come true. Through my couch surfing account, I had some correspondence with a guy named Mudy, who came from Egypt a few years ago to study in Venice and he fell in love with the place. He agreed to show me around the city, and ensure I didn’t get completely lost in the process. My first impression of the city was overwhelming. The place is so old and there are so many people pouring out of every corner. We went through so many alleyways that I had no clue where we were or how to get back to Piazzale Roma. I felt we had just done 10 circles around the same bridge. The heat didn’t help my confusion either.
Now as usual with my little writing pieces, some history of Venice is needed. I definitely can’t elaborate on everything because it is so complex, but some of the major points I will mention for sure. Venice is composed of 118 islands! It’s citizens came hundreds of years ago as refugees of war who decided to isloate themselves from the mainland. Now that’s serious stuff. The city was actually its own country at one point, the Republic of Venice. It was the meeting point of the East and the West, and the influences from all the cultures can be seen in the architecture of the buildings. Venice lost its independence when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered the Republic in 1797.
After winding through all the alleyways with Mudy, we finally came into a large, open space: the Piazza San Marco. This square is so wide and is flanked by buildings with hundreds of columns. And on the one side stands Basilica di San Marco. The church is absolutely gorgeous. Its frescoes show two worlds: the East and the West. The architecture of the church even has some design elements that can be found on mosques. And let’s not forget the tourists. Thousands of tourists, too many in my opinion. But it is Venice, so the tourist situation is unavoidable.
Now Rialto is something extraordinary. First of all the number of people walking through the market is insane. Secondly, there are so many little shops to buy whatever your heart might desire. I picked up a sweet little ring that was handmade with beads. It’s a very popular craft in Venice, and I didn’t see it in any of the other cities I visited.
I also had the pleasure of walking through Campo Santa Sofia, which has a very large and bustling fish and vegetable market. The smell is overpowering and I heard many people haggling over the prices of the fresh goods. I really wish they had a market with such vibrancy in Toronto somewhere, but St. Lawrence Market just doesn’t have the same atmosphere.
Lastly, I need to describe the bus culture to those of you that have never been to Venice. So in general, in Italy, you buy your bus tickets from the Tabacchi stores right beside the bus stops. You also have the option to buy the tickets in the bus, but they are more expensive so I would really suggest getting them before you travel. You enter the bus through any door and you put your ticket into the little machine that will stamp a date and time onto your ticket. Unlike in Toronto where you pay a fare for any length of travel, in Italy you pay for the time. So one ticket might be valid for 100 minutes of travel, and if you exceed this then you have to validate two tickets. Another thing that was new to me was that even though you are waiting at the stop, that doesn’t mean the bus will stop. You have to hail the bus down like a cab so that he knows to stop. Isn’t that odd? I think it is.
Overall, Venice was gorgeous. It is alive with people, and its winding canals give the city so much character. I will definitely visit it again in the future.
© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.