Saturday, September 19, 2009

Floats My Boat: Venice, Italy


Map picture

Day One

Here is a quick quiz: where is the city of Venice located? Yeah, I know that there are many cities in the world named “Venice,” but I mean THE Venice. Yes, I too know it is in Italy, but where exactly in Italy is it located? As difficult as it may be to believe, I found myself confronting this very question yesterday, and considering that I have been to Venice many times, I felt like an idiot for not knowing. Initially I kept trying to squeeze Venice somewhere in the heel of the “boot” until I finally gave up and looked at a map. To my surprise I found that Venice is located in the very northern part of the country on its western shores at the north end of the Adriatic Sea. It is very close to the border with Slovenia to the east.

Having solved that conundrum, I can’t tell you how excited Lisa and I were to be spending a day and a half in Venice. It is one of our favorite cities in the world. It is beautiful, historic and exciting all rolled into one. It is revered as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is built on 118 islands and laced with a unique network of canals and bridges. In St. Mark’s square bells chime, violins play, shoppers stroll, lovers embrace and visitors take it all in while enjoying a cappuccino at one of the many side walk cafes.

Our ship arrived at the dock this morning around 6am. To our utter surprise, we were held onboard literally as hostages until noon. We had hoped to go into St. Mark’s square early and sit for a cup of coffee in the morning cool and quiet, but such was not to be the case. Princess would not allow any passengers who were staying over for the next cruise to leave the ship until 10:30am. Even then there was one big problem: the ship had docked at a pier way outside the city, so that walking into town was not a realistic option, or so we were told. The only way to get into the city was by water taxi and none of those were anywhere close to our pier. Princess had thoughtfully arranged for a shuttle for passengers, but not until noon. So, not to put too fine a line on it, the absolute earliest we could really leave the ship was noon, and then it was a 30 minute water shuttle ride into St. Mark’s square. Pooh!

We left our cabin around 11:30, and assumed we would be early to the shuttle. However, no one seemed to know how we could leave the ship or where we could get our cruise card to re-enter later. We finally got that figured out but then had to fight our way out against all of the people lined up to board. There were no signs to the shuttle, and in fact the stairs to the shuttle were closed off. It went on and on, but to shorten a long story, we jumped aboard the shuttle just as it pulled away. We were the only passengers who made it. All the rest were still fighting their way off the ship.

Last night had been stormy, but today dawned bright and sunny. We arrived at St. Mark’s square all revved up. The light was perfect for some great pictures.IMG_2800 Now when we got on shore it was packed. I tell you that if there were one million tourists in Italy today, then 999,999 of them were in Venice! IMG_2834 The crowds were so thick that you could scarcely move. Because Princess had shut down all food service, we decided to seek shelter from the crowds and grab a quick lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes. We dove into the first one we ran across and had an absolutely wonderful meal. The sun was out, the day invigorating, the food and service wonderful.

Leaving the restaurant I was starting to feel somewhat sick, but I chose to ignore it for awhile. Rather suddenly I could ignore it no longer and ran back to the restaurant to find a bathroom. When I got back to Lisa I told l her I was fine, but the heat started to get to me, and I guess I did not look too well because she was not buying it. I ended up running back to the restroom yet again and at that point I gave in and decided that Lisa was right, we should return to the ship. I spent the afternoon in bed sleeping after a shower, and by tonight feel better. Sadly, our long awaited day in Venice did not happen after all.


We were able to squeeze on to a walking tour tomorrow morning, so IMG_2913 if I feel up to it we will get to see some of the city. Our ship departs tomorrow at noon, so whatever we do it will be a short day.

To be continued…….

Day Two

The Gods have clearly conspired against us. We awoke this morning ready to take Venice on once again only to look out our window and find a thick fog had enveloped everything during the night, and there was a light drizzle falling. IMG_2856 Intrepid travelers that we are, we decided to take the chance anyway, and so we set out on what turned out to be an almost 3 hour walk from the ship to the center of St. Mark’s Square. The tour was billed as a chance to view up close the “hidden” Venice and would end at San Giorgio Church, where most of the rulers of Venice are now buried. They got the “walk” part of the summary correct – it was a rapid walk across much of the city’s backwaters, but when we got to San Giorgio Church, it was closed for a funeral.


Frustrated and tired with me not feeling well yet again, we grabbed the shuttle and headed back to the ship. About this time, the low overcast was clearing, and the afternoon promised to be beautiful. That actually turned out to be a good thing because when our ship departed at noon, it turned and cruised out the entire length of the Grand Canal. That offered us some really beautiful pictures of Venice which we hope you enjoy.


I did learn a few items of interest on this trip. First, I, for years, have rather naively believed that Venice actually had cars, but that they were hidden away from the tourists, and that emphasis was put on the canals for their beauty. I was absolutely wrong. Cars and trucks can only come about as far as where our ship was docked and from there everything and everyone that goes onto one of the 118 islands arrives by walking or by boat. Imagine supplying a modern city by water alone!

Next, I learned more about the continual flooding of the city. I think everyone knows that over the centuries, the city of Venice has been slowly sinking into the soft sand on which it was built. Today, it is not at all uncommon for St. Mark’s Square to flood, and indeed today, it did. Rather than stop the tourists, the city quickly rolled out elevated platforms so that people could walk around the flooded square on them. It was an amazing sight. Anyway, I always assumed that the flooding was a result of high tides combined with a sinking city. Well, that is not the case. This came up when a slight southerly wind developed while we were walking, and our guide stopped and looked up to announce that St. Mark’s Square would be flooded by the time we arrived, and so it was. When the winds blow from the south, they push the waters of the Adriatic Sea up into the shallows around Venice and that causes the flooding, not the tides, which the city very much needs. It needs the tides, to remove the sewage from the city. No kidding. Their waste goes directly into the canals. Only because of the extreme tidal flows are the canals kept clean. Without that back and forth flow, Venice would quickly become a cesspool.

This brought up a very sore point with our guide. Italy is engaged in its largest ever construction project to build giant gates that will stop the waters of the Adriatic from flooding Venice. As we departed the city we could clearly see the construction. However, if they stop the waters from flowing, then citizens of Venice are convinced that the city will suffer a massive problem from sewage. When someone in our group asked how the government could let this happened our guide angrily responded “because the government is located in Rome and our “shit” is not their problem.

On that happy note I think I will move on – we are headed to Istanbul, and from there into the Black Sea I have the pictures from Venice loaded on Picasa, and the blog page is done as well. I hope everyone is enjoying them.



PS for those who are wondering about how I got well so fast – I didn’t. I became terribly sick again today, but fortunately it was after our walk and I was back safely on the ship. I need the next two days to heal.

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