Today after checking out of my hotel I took a boat ride from St. Mark's Square to the train station to store my big backpack. The boat passed through the Giudecca Canal around the south and west side of the main group of islands. On this route the scenery was a bit different than yesterday's through the Grand Canal. Today we passed by a bit more industrial type traffic, a few real BIG ships, and a mixed bag of other types of boats. Today's boat was very quiet compared to yesterday at least at the start. It could have been where I started the trip, or it was just lucky timing. Towards the end of the trip it did get busier. A couple stops from the end I met up with a couple fellows from Montpelier, France. One of them noticed the Canadian flag on my backpack and was keen to talk to me because his wife travelled to Canada a couple times. I thought running into them was a bit interesting, since I had stopped in Montpelier on my way to Arles. These guys were part of a rowing team and where in Venice for an event of some sort (I don't remember the details).
After I stowed my backpack at the train station I took a walk over to the Venice Ghetto, the world's original ghetto. This area was set aside as the local Jewish quarter back in 1516.
From the ghetto I went off to the internet cafe to upload yesterday's posting then headed off for a tour of the western portion of Venice. I must have stopped by at least a half a dozen churches this afternoon and it was interesting to see that a few of them are used to hold concerts.
Today all of the main streets were the busiest they've been so far, fortunately you just need to head a short distance down a side street to get away from the crowds and the noise. Knowing how to navigate the Venice maze really pays off on a day like today. When I made my hotel reservation for Venice I could not find anything for today (Saturday). According to the guy behind the desk at my hotel this morning, you need to book at least 10 to 15 days ahead if you want to stay in Venice on a Saturday night.
I grabbed some food before heading back to the train station. The food here, in Italy, is ok. I've tried various dishes, but nothing exotic that you can't get back home. Pizza here is a bit different. The crusts are very thin and they don't come with too many toppings. The thing I find confusing about Italy is the multi-course dinner menu. It seems the size of each course (plate) varies drastically from one restaurant to the next. And, if you order something like a salad as a side dish, its size varies drastically from one place to the next and there is no consistency as to when they bring it out. In some places you might get the salad right away and at others they wait to bring it out with the main dish. Last night I was surprised when I got a plate with French Fries on it. The menu said potato, so I was expecting mashed, baked, or boiled but definitely not French Fries - I guess I have to asked more questions when ordering!
The best meals I've had so far were in Arles and in Lisbon. In both cases they were fish dishes.
As I leave Venice a few thoughts come to mind. It's interesting how much difference one day makes. When I first showed up in Venice (or any of the other places I visited) everything was new and a bit intimidating. Then as 24 hours or so went by, I figured a lot of things out and presto I started to feel at home. After about 24 hours it's easy to navigate almost any where and the place really does seem so different anymore. I think of this because after a day or two I find myself noticing the newbies. The folks who look like a deer caught in headlights, that gaze back forth between their map and the scenery, unsure which way to go like I would have done when I first arrived. Yesterday it was quite funny, because I was the expert providing directions to two Chinese women. They had a map that was in Chinese, so I had to compare it to mine to get the names of the places right, but at least they spoke and understood enough English for me to send them off in the right direction.
Venice makes me think about how fortunate handicapped folks are in North America. Many places I've been to here in Europe, especially Venice, just aren't really accessible to folks in wheel chairs. Sure I've seen a few people around here in wheel chairs, but you can be sure they aren't going down all those little streets in Venice with stairs at every canal crossing, nor are they staying hotels like mine which have no elevator.
Today after seeing many kids around, I started to think how visiting a place like Venice must be real crappy for them. Their parents are often stick to the main streets jammed with tourists, so the kids are stuck in these large crowds where they really can't see anything. That sure doesn't seem like fun.
Speaking of crowds, the best way I've come up with to describe the crowds in Venice is to say that the place is like the malls back in Canada during the busy Christmas season, Boxing Day perhaps.
Anyway, I'm glad I not mainly interested in the typical tourist things. I get just as much enjoyment, if not more, studying the environment and trying to understand how things work together to make the city tick. I also like to try to understanding how the place has evolved over time and how they go about blending in the new with the old. All things you can see without being stuck in a huge noisy crowd.
Speaking of old, the thing I will probably remember most about Venice is how deteriorated the place is. Given the shape of many of the buildings I just can help but wonder much longer it will be around.
That's about it for now, here's a few photos from today.
As my boat left St. Mark's Square I had a view out to the Adriatic Sea.
I also got a good view back to St. Mark's Square.
During today's boat ride there were many interesting buildings, both ones deteriorating and not, but there were other interesting things to see as well.
The most important rule of boating is that the smaller boats have the right of way (I think?), so whenever a small boat like this would crossed our path the skipper had to wait for it to go by.
As our boat pulled up to each stop one of the boat hands would lasso the pole on the dock causing the boat to come up nice and tight to the dock.
An interesting boat. It was cruising around in the lagoon yesterday.
One of the BIG ships we passed today. It was a high speed ferry.
These guys were out in amongst all the traffic in the busy canal. They seemed a little out of place.
These look like the Venice version of a dump truck.
A few rowers with the bridge to the mainland in the background.
More of the bridge back to the mainland.
The Venice Ghetto. Notice how close the floors are to each other. It would be quite uncomfortable for a tall person to live there.
A WWII Jewish memorial flanks the Jewish museum in the middle. The museum was closed today, so I didn't get a chance to check it out.
The various plaques on this wall show scenes of the holocaust.
The plaque shows a scene is of people being loaded onto a train.
Just one of several churches I visited today, it is the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari Basilica. It was so big that I couldn't photograph it all in one shot.
A view from the inside the church.
The last photo here is of a modern building I found hidden in amongst all the old ones in the west part of Venice.