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This morning I wanted to tour St. Mark's Basilica, but the Square was packed for a parade later in the morning, so I decided to avoid the square and spent more time wandering around this interesting city. I needed to find an internet cafe, so I used that as a reason to wander the area between St. Marks Square and the train station (followed a different route than I took when I arrived). I found an internet cafe recommended by the girl at the hotel, but I never did find those mentioned in Rick Steves' books. Once I got to the train station I checked out their luggage storage area, since I'll need that tomorrow, and then I got on a vaporetto (water bus) for a ride through the Grand Canal back up towards St. Mark's Square. I got on the slower boat to get more time to check out the canal. It's amazing how all the buildings are sinking into the water.

By the time I finished my Grand Canal tour the line up for St. Mark's Basilica was small enough that it was worth getting in line.

After visiting St. Mark's Basilica it was time for a bit of a break, so I headed off to the internet cafe to upload yesterday's posting and take care of a few other things. When I was leaving the internet cafe I met a couple women from the US. They were a couple school teachers who travel in Europe every year right after school is out. They indicated that this year was unprecedented in terms of accommodations. They said in the past they could just get off the trains in any city and easily find accommodations, that it not the case this year - I guess too many people have the Rick Steves' and Lonely Planet books!

On my way from the internet cafe I popped into an Italian restaurant for dinner. There were two ladies sitting next to me that kept switching between English and German as they talked, so I just had to ask where they were from. One was from Switzerland and the other from Australia and we went on talking for the next couple hours over dinner. The lady from Australia was born in Austria and moved to Australia when she was 10 but has been coming back to Europe on a regular basis to visit with friends and relatives ever since. The two ladies drove from Switzerland to Verona, then took a train from there to Venice.

After dinner I checked out the music and activities in St. Mark's Square. They are several orchestra's that duel all day long. It's interesting to see the big crowd do a shuffle from one orchestra to the next as they each take their turn playing.

Here are a few photos from today.

Here's a few soldiers on their way to St. Mark's Square in the morning to participate in the parade going on there.

This is Doge's Palace next to St. Mark's Basilica. It was the home of former rulers of Venice.

As I wandered around Venice I came across many construction sites like this one where the are making changes to deal with the every rising water levels due to the sinking of the Venice islands.

This photo gives a good idea of the peak water levels around here. I'm not sure what time of year this happens, but I image it's during the winter months.

This is the massive Rialto Bridge. I has 3 walkways, the one we see on the front here, one just like it on the opposite side, and one about twice the size in the center. The building structure is filled with little shops and there are two such structures, one on each side of the bridge. This bridge was built in 1588, replacing the previous drawbridge. Since this bridge does not open it had a big impact on the Grand Canal beyond it as it meant that large ships from the sea could no longer navigate beyond this point.

Here's the first of several photos from my ride through the Grand Canal. This one shows how deteriorated some of the buildings are in the lower floors.

The Rialto fish market is on the right.

This is a small taxi service that allows you to cross the Grand Canal at areas other than the 3 bridges. It cost 40 cents to cross.

This is a vaporetto similar to the one I am riding in.

The next 3 photos show some of the nicer buildings along the Grand Canal.

This is the San Giorgio Maggiore church on the San Giorgio Maggiore island just across the lagoon from St. Mark's Square.

You are not permitted to take pictures in St. Mark's Basilica, so here's a couple from the outside which should give you a sense for the grandeur inside. The first is of the top of a doorway leading into the Basilica.

The second photo here is of the entrance to the Basilica. I took this yesterday through the gate at one of the doorways.

While in the Basilica I toured the museum up on the second level and had a chance to go out on the balcony we see here halfway up the building.

From the balcony you get a good view of St. Mark's square and the old clock tower, but you aren't high enough to see beyond the square.

This is a close up of the bell on the old clock tower. Those two statues swing their hammers at the top of the hour to ring the bell. Actually, they do it at a couple minutes before the hour because the much larger bell in the Campanile bell tower on the other side of the square rings on the hour.

Another couple interesting features in the old clock tower are its digital read out, right in the center of the picture below, which is updated every 5 minutes and the large dial which revolves to show the hour, it takes 24 hours for one revolution.

Just one of several orchestras playing in St. Mark's Square.

I discovered today that the smells in the canals are location dependent. Some areas smell all the time, while others don't smell at all.

I check out of my hotel tomorrow and will catch an over night train to Vienna. My next posting should be from Vienna unless I find an internet connection next to the train station and have time for that before I go.