Monday, June 29th
Another train ride meant another early trek across a town to a train station. This time, it was a 6:22 a.m. train! Thankfully, the bus routes started for the day about 5:45 a.m. The early departure time also meant that I spent a lot of time trying to sleep on this train. The train wound through the Alps, which was a series of tunnels that offered brief glimpses of the gigantic mountains. After passing through plenty of mountains in Austria and the northern part of Italy, the land became much flatter. A surprising bit was that there were huge wash areas, large areas full of sometimes gigantic rocks that carried the water from the snowcapped peaks of the Alps in the spring. Similar to the abrupt change in architecture between Germany and the Czech Republic, the border between Austria and Italy created another instant architectural change. Suddenly, every building was stucco with a tile roof.
Seven hours or so later, the train arrived in Venice. After fighting European traffic for a few weeks, it was nice to have a break from cars. That relief turned out to be a bit short lived when you realized that many of the bridges crossing the numerous Venetian canals had uneven steps. The hostel was a ways from the train station, but it had simple directions so we didn’t think it would be too hard to find.
Venice is a labyrinth.
The directions told us to follow the directions towards San Marco. Sometimes those signs contradicted each other. Sometimes there was no sign. Sometimes they looked handmade. It must have taken at least 100 turns down various alleys and pathways to finally reach the hostel. And all of this was done in 95 degree heat with very high humidity. The hostel was housed in a university dorm. It was nicer than similar dorms at K-State, and definitely a great value compared to a lot of other places available in Venice.
Venice offered even more unique things as we continued exploring. A major one is a lack of greenery. Most cities at least had trees, and the occasional patch of grass. Venice had paved sidewalks and paved squares. I feel like window boxes full of flowers could have really made the place seem less like a stone and concrete jungle. Also, everywhere in the city felt historical. Every building felt like it had been there for ages and the facades and outsides were almost always originals, even at McDonalds.
As for the sights of Venice, besides the neat buildings at every turn, there is St. Mark’s Square. It was bigger than I expected. A large part of the square was full of pigeons, and the abundance was probably helped by the guys who would sell you bird feed. Also saw the parent of the year who was holding a baby with one arm and feeding pigeons with the other.
Tuesday, June 30th
Venice also had good, cheap neighborhood bakeries. The train station in Venice was the first encounter with a huge line at a train station. At first, I thought part of it was that trains are one of the major ways to get out of the city. Then you realize that there’s 80 numbers ahead of you in line while there are only two or three desks open. Occasionally someone will decide to plan all 239 parts of their train trek at the office and that desk will screech to a halt for 15-20 minutes. Thankfully, not all 80 people showed up when their number was called. It still took over an hour to get through the line, just to find out that it would require a later train ticket. Once on the train, it became clear that the train office wasn’t the only place poorly designed. They had abundant overhead bins like many trains, but for some reason the third or so at each end of the train car was much lower, leaving less than half of the train car with a usable bin.