The bullet train's only hiccup, thankfully was the text to speech announcer and we made it into Venice. A city hollowed out by AirBnBs and skyrocketing costs of living. Before the pandemic it got approximately the population of Canada in tourists every year. A romantic city, a city that seems only fit for secret agents or heiresses taking a break from the yacht.
Thanks for not killing us, pal!
It seems that going from Rome to Florence to Venice we've been gradually getting into smaller and more cramped streets with every jump. Rome was tight and packed but at least cars seemed to get up to a fast enough speed to do some real damage to a family of four. Florence, or at least historical Florence where we went had mostly pedestrian ways that grudgingly allowed cars, and most often just seemed to be scooters. Venice is entirely people. People and boats but a boat isn't going to run you over unless you are doing your walking tours, really, almost impressively wrong.
One gets the sensation of being in a sea going vessel. Space is more than a premium. Space is used up, boxed in, shelved over, contained, used, reused.
The world's narrowest bathroom window?
I imagine local Venetians (a rapidly diminishing population, apparently the city is losing 1k residents a year) reading articles on Kowloon city and puzzled to figure out what the big deal is, exactly.
We are only here one night, so we go for a hotel. The cost comes to about 200CAD, which, while not cheap, is not Drive Into Monaco With a Lambourghini expensive either. I'm not sure what to expect. The hallways are covered in marble, the foyer, while space challenged, is, to my middle class eye, expensively appointed.
But we just paid the amount to stay in a Best Western, in VENICE. VENICE! The mind, or my mind boggles. This surely can't afford us anything nice. Maybe a locked door and a cot. Running (non potable) water. A single, naked light swinging by a wire?
Is it legal to have this much marble outside a quarry?
They show us to our rooms, around the back, to the Apartments. Which sound... confusing? Like is the cut rate area where they stuff the budget travellers?
The porter leads us through a few narrow alleys (this is really redundant, we have not yet encountered a wide alley). Far enough away for the lovely hotel to deny any association with it. And we get a foyer with a very nice, if comically small, elevator. But, then, the wall to the right, is not promising, and honestly, probably is more than we can afford.
We wind up the stairs, clumber into the apartment, and, I don't know what to say, I'm sure we'll be hit with some Service Fee, or Polo Fee, or, I'm not really sure what. Because this place is far too nice. It might be that I have a very low bar for very nice, I'll grant you that, but I assume with Venetian inflation and cost of living, I should be paying at least one and a half lambourghinis in Monaco for one night here.
But there is not time to dally too long here, time for our whirlwind tour of Venice! We have 24 hours! Less maybe! Mrs. Owl books a free tour, and we go! We just want to see all the big, basic sites for complete newbies like ourselves. Nothing too nuanced, or quiet. Go big, go loud, take pictures, see VENICE!
First words out of our guides mouth "We will not be seeing the usual sites, this will be a quieter tour, seeing things you don't usually see on tours"
It was actually not bad, he got really into the nitty gritty of things I didn' tknow I wanted to know, but we missed entirely the massive things in Venice, Doge Palace, St. Mark's Square, the Basilica. But the guide had diagrams and in depth explanations about things like, wooden pilings and the support of Venice. Surrounding cities and their relationship with Venice as well as the number of days required to do those cities justice.
We did get to see a lovely church, but just like the Duomo, I could not go inside. It was one of the few churches that had marble inside and out, and of course, as a result, caused a bit more settling of the ground below, leading to the facade being a bit crooked. I couldn't see that of course. It was considered a lucky church to get married in with waitlists now around the 2.5 year mark.
The contrast between the smallness of the church, against the fact it was entirely marbled made it extra quaint? Although quaint seems the incorrect word for a structure that holds such a place of importance for local residents.
We learn many more things, the quieter, nuanced parts of Venice. But it was a bit like learning about an elephant for the first time, without ever actually seeing it, and being told facts about it like, "They are known to stop passing trucks loaded with sugar cane to get a treat, to which the local drivers cooperate". Fascinating, interesting, but it seems there are other facts that might be learned first. Like the fact it could just as easily push the truck over, say, or has a prehensile trunk.
We finish the tour, we get pasta, gelato. And then off to the big things. The really, really, really big things.
Wandering the streets, dodging through foot traffic, we happen upon a church! That's open! I finally stand a bit inside and just take it in. The same arcane, puzzling artifacts all about, but wrought with such craftsmanship and artistry. To my mind it's like if they redid your favourite episode of Sesame Street but at the Shakespeare Festival. Comforting, familiar, but elevated.
Just 4 feet behind me was the rabbling tourists getting to this attraction or that restaurant, and all manner of gifts to buy. Students on vacation yelling and singing. And here, inside, almost complete silence.
And then we move on. To the big stuff. I think i've heard of the Doge Palace, but... really nothing else.
Clearly, Venice was not a city we should have tried to do in 24 hours. But being naive and entirely too ambitious, here we are. Surrounded by wonders. Not a plaque in sight. And it wasn't just this dizzying, which, of course, does St Marks Square no justice. It was just across the water other wonders that I .. I don't even know what.
Tomorrow will be a wild rush to a gondola, then an overlong powered boat trip to the airport, where an really unlikely short time before we have to get out of the airport and re-enter and catch our connecting flight.