Wednesday, 9:16 am
No morning classes today, and I’m (mostly) caught up on homework, so let’s try to do this:
Going back a week and a half, it’s September 23rd and a Friday morning. An early Friday morning, and still dark out; I’m up at 5:45 to shower, roommate and I eat breakfast at 6:30, Gabriella provides us with sack lunches (good ol’ turkey sandwiches — but alas, just not the same as home ; ), and we hop on a (late) bus to arrive at the station at 7:15. Wait for late members of the group, board the private charter bus a little after 7:30, and off we go on the 3-hour trip north, with most everybody passed out sleeping.
More lateness ensues (because this was not our week for timing), and we get off the bus in Venice about 45 minutes later than intended.* BUT, we’ve got a private boat waiting for us and all is well — we eat our lunches, and we get a little tour of Venice from the water as we head for the island of Murano.
Murano is, of course, that island where the super-fancy Murano glass comes from, and our first official stop of the day was to an actual glass-blowing factory for a demonstration. Which was, in two words, quick and crazy:
^This guy, right here, was just whipping through this demo — and yes, granted that they put on this little show all the time and glassblowing is in any case a necessarily fast process, but wow. In the space of about 6 minutes, he makes first a vase and then a glass horse (pictured). Shove glass into furnace, twirl/press molten glass into proper shape, blow or twist glass into more delicate shape, done.
So up we get and we’re herded through a little door into the actual shop, where everything looks like…well, this:
And just a heads up, but if you’re going to buy Murano glass, buy it on the actual island. There are shops selling glass things everywhere, and it’s way cheaper than it is in Venice proper. (Plus you get to say that you bought your Murano glass in Murano, and that’s gotta be nice.)
About 45 minutes to wander around the town, blue skies and perfect weather —
— and then it’s back to the private boat (with more lateness) and off to our hotel.
And because visualization is always helpful, here’s Venice:
Look at the main island, at the big backward-S main canal, and then look just under it to that pointy bit of land directly facing the water. That’s where we were, and to get to Hotel Messner, you go down the ‘street’ in this first pic (we’re standing on a bridge, the open water at our backs), and then down the side alley in the second and to that white overhang:
…Venice is kind of twisty : )
So, being late, we arrive at the hotel, throw stuff in our rooms, and dash back down to congregate with the professors at the entrance. And then we’re off for the Cathedral of San Marco and a visit to the ducal palace.
And as we’re heading off (and once again because of the lateness), we decide to skip a large part of the walk** and go for the emergency gondola — which for whatever reason still strikes me as one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done. So we rush over to the crossing point — and this would be for the 50-cent-per-person gondolas that just cross the canal, not the 80 Euro ones that do the whole lovers’ tour thing — and a bunch of us pile into the gondola. And it is very unsteady, and you could tell that these were people who had never learned caution by falling out of a canoe.
Eventually the whole group is across, and we rush over to the main square, where we find the cathedral right up against the palace of the doges.
(Cathedral on the left, and we’re hooking a right just past that bell tower to get to the building that has one window and some arches visible.)
No pictures allowed in the palace, but we go in (this would be about 3:30) and get notes on the history of the government, on some sketchy Inquisatorial activity, on art/architecture/sculpture and so on.
Back out an hour and a half later, and everybody splits off into small groups for a couple hours to just wander around and see stuff and pick up any necessary tideover snacks, because we’re not getting dinner until 9:00. Most people go with gelato : )
Then back to the piazza of San Marco at 7:10, and wander around waiting because we’ve got a reservation to see the inside of the church at 7:30. But not just any reservation; the ACM group has joined up with another academic program, and has actually rented out the cathedral. So this is a pretty big deal and the result is, as you might imagine, some very happy wandering/waiting.
BUT, turns out we have a problem. The people in charge of the cathedral failed to take into account that this was a special feast day for the church, and mass would be going on until 8:30. Which automatically means that A) we’ll be here awhile and B) we’ll be very late for dinner. And they won’t even give us a discount.
The Church takes its tourist money very seriously, you know.
So, resenting them mightily, we stick it out, and finally head in around 8:45. And I won’t spoil it for anyone who’s going to do this program, but even as a fairly manufactured/touristy experience, it is magnificent : D
Back to the hotel for a late dinner in the hotel restaurant (extremely good), and, at long last, bed. (And you can tell we were all tired because, even though it was a group of 29 20-somethings on their first night in Venice, I’m pretty sure no one went out :O )
The next morning, got myself up early for something I had my heart set on seeing:
And there’s a Venice sunrise. Just for me, fishermen and joggers. ❤
I think my computer may have a heart attack if I try to shove any more pictures in here, and in any case I’ve got to get to class, so that’s all for today. I may be able to wrap this up tomorrow morning, but even if not I can promise that the blog will be completely up to date by Friday night. And anyone who has emailed me who I have not emailed back will have a response by that time.
Have good days, everybody : )
*Yes, one can drive to Venice, just as one can take a train to Venice. As it was explained to us, ‘Venice’ as a city is a collection of tiny patched-together islands, some of which have been physically joined but others of which are simply held together by bridges and such; of course, it is the former type of patching that provides the more solid foundation, and they’ve got some of those ocean-road things to get from these more solidified islands to the mainland. Also, we got a handout about how Venice was actually built, and if you’re ever bored and looking for something amazing, I’d encourage you to go read about that. Because seriously, even though the idea of water-streets becomes weirdly normal within minutes of arriving, the very concept of this place is crazy. The fact that this is not a carefully manufactured Disney themepark, that people have actually lived and worked here for centuries, is crazy. Also awesome.
**Walking can take a VERY LONG TIME in Venice. There is not a single straight street in the place, and every street that you think is going in vaguely the right direction hits a dead end at water — so the lack of direct walkways in itself complicates things, and then you’ve got to factor in how incredibly easy it is (compulsory, really) to get lost. Which can actually be really nice if you’ve got the time for wandering, as every tiny side-street and off-shooting canal offers some new surprises, but it does play hell with your stress levels if you’re in a hurry.
(P.S. — For anyone who might have heard that Venice is sinking, that was true at one point but they have, apparently, stopped it. It still floods routinely [they’ve got elevated walkways for that all the way into the heart of the city, and it just blows my mind that that can be a regular feature of existence], but it is not actively being dropped into the ocean. So if anything kills it, that would be the crushing weight of the tourists.)
(P.P.S. — Forgot to mention this earlier, but OMG THE TOURISTS. They’re *everywhere.* And there are tourists all over the place in Florence too, but Venice — with it’s tiny walkways and little bridges and very little actual ground to walk on — bottlenecks its traffic like you wouldn’t believe. It is in all other respects a town small and quiet [no cars ‘n all]), but if you want to go see something pretty or famous, be prepared to shove like you mean it.)