Saturday, August 25, 2012

Venice

Monday August 13th, 2012

Monday morning I had to catch a 6:50 bus from Villach to Venice. I was only going for the day which meant that I had about 5 hours in the city itself (come back on the bus to Villach in the afternoon/evening). This really wasn't ideal and meant that I couldn't plan to go to a lot of places. However, it was really the only day I could go to Venice so it was a choice between five hours in Venice and no Venice. Of course I picked the five hours in Venice.

Map of Venice and Villach. You can just see Mestre above Venice (half covered by the marker).


For some reason there is no direct train from Villach to Venice. When I tried to check train schedules online I saw that Italy would make you do three different transfers to get into Venice itself. Instead I bought a bus ticket through the train station (the bus itself is technically part of the train transportation system). The bus ride itself is about 3 and 1/2 hours long. On the bus I met a mother and daughter from the east coast of the U.S. Apparently last time the had gone to Venice they had to catch a train into main Venice itself. This didn't make much sense to me (Italian transportation systems in general confuse me).

So when the bus stopped in Venezia (Venice) Mestre, I got off with the mother and daughter. I asked the bus driver who replied "Yes this is Venice, but you must go across the water".

Me: O_o *looks at my ticket which has S. Lucia printed on it*

We went into the train station where apparently the ticket machines won't sell tickets to Venezia S. Lucia (main Venice). Instead we had to stand in line to buy tickets and barely got a train going to the S. Lucia. On the way there we debated if indeed there was a stop beyond the one we had gotten off on. The mother told me that when she had been there the week before and the train station had insisted that she had to get off at the Venezia Mestre stop.

Once we reached the S. Lucia train station we split ways but not before I was pointed to the tourist office.


View from steps of S. Lucia train station
The line for the tourist office outside the train station was unbearably long and you had to make sure you where in the right line by reading the signs. I mostly just wanted a map but also to check on my bus ticket for the afternoon. I finally got someone to talk to who spoke English (although he kept thinking I could speak German). He wasn't familiar with the bus I took from Villach but after looking at my bus ticket that had S. Lucia and Tronchetto printed on it, he suggested that the bus's actual final destination was on a small isle connected to Venice. He described that to get to this isle I would either have to walk or take a train (not from S. Lucia but another local train station located elsewhere in Venice) and wait at the isle. While this sounded reasonable (based on bus times, locations, etc.) I wasn't sure I would bet my bus ticket on trying to get to the isle (looked a little inconvenient) and then waiting for a bus that might be there. Thus I decided I would travel back to Mestre in the afternoon and catch my bus back to Villach from there (I had a train ticket back to Mestre anyway).

I also bought a map (not too expensive but I would suggest getting your own map before arriving in Venice so you can avoid the lines) and also a 12 hour water bus (vaporetti) ticket.

Map of Venice. The red arrow (upper left) is approx. where my bus's final destination should of been (according to the tourist office, although they weren't really familiar with the bus). The S. Lucia train station is circled (upper right) and St Mark's (i.e. S. Marco) Plaza is also circled (courtesy of Veniceonline.it)

I doubled back to the train bathroom which also had agonizingly long line, however I was glad I had used it because public bathrooms in Venice aren't always easy to find. I did have to pay 1 euro to use it though, which is double than what I usually pay at train stations.

I hopped on a water bus to S. Marco plaza (water bus station located just outside the S. Lucia train station). Going to S. Marco plaza was actually my only goal which was good since I had lost about and hour between the bathroom and the tourist office. I had kind of wanted to go through the back alley ways to get there but realized that it probably wasn't a good idea if I was short on time.

The water bus is pretty easy to figure out. You simply pick your direction, hop on it and then hop off when you reach your destination. There were ticket readers for the water bus tickets but no one seemed to be using them and when I tried to scan mine it didn't even seem to work. Hopping on the water bus was a little less easy. It is one of the moments you have to give up being the polite tourist and shove your way on (other water bus stations didn't seem quite this bad, which is probably because the water bus station outside the train station is the busiest stop).


Going by water bus I traveled along Canal Grande. It is quite obvious that Venice is a city to travel by boat because there are almost no sidewalks in front of buildings. I also saw many gondolas which could go into the smaller waterways (between buildings) that fed into the canal.

And now some pretty photos for you:









Finally, I reached S. Marco's plaza after probably a 20-30 min water bus ride. When you first get off you have to go down a street with a row of shops before you can enter into the plaza itself. Apparently last year at this time of month the plaza had been partially flooded (a common problem) but during my visit it was completely dry.

The S. Marco's Cathedral on the plaza
There are a few things Venice is really known for and that would be Murano glass and venetian masks. I'm not saying that there aren't other beautiful things that Venice has to offer but it was quite obvious in the shops that glass and masks were the main market.

Walking into the plaza I also ran into some music. It sounded very different than the traditional music I had become accustomed to in Austria.

video

The plaza is also filled with tons of pigeons who just walk around your feet and pretty much hang out. I read somewhere before in a travel book that it is because tourists feed them (and in turn the birds cause damage to the local architecture).


I really wanted to go into S. Marco's cathedral but I was grumpy to find a very long line outside the cathedral to get in. I pretty much learned at that point that Venice is a city of lines (except when it comes to shopping) and you have to have a lot of patience if you want to see something.

Front of Cathedral

Side of the cathedral, waiting in line
I suppose the good thing about waiting in line is that it allowed me to take lots of photos...


See, even the nuns have to wait in line to get into the cathedral




Luckily even though the line was long, it moved quickly. That being said I probably had to wait 20-30 mins to get in. The interesting thing about the cathedral is the dress code. I had forgotten that some Catholic cathedrals in europe could be very conservative (not something I ran into while I was in Austria). Luckily my shorts just touched my knees and I had a spare cardigan that I could put on to cover my shoulders. The more unfortunate people had to wear paper cloths that the church provided to wrap around their legs and shoulders (It was pretty hot that day, in the 80s/90s so a lot of people weren't appropriately dressed).

Once entering the cathedral you can see all sorts of signs saying no cameras (photography) is allowed. This didn't seem to stop the hundreds of people though from taking photos. The strange thing was is that there were security guards, but they just weren't doing anything about the rampant photography.

Entrance into the church is free but if you want to go behind the altar or up the stairs to the museum/balcony you have to pay extra fees. I decided to go to the balcony and forked over 5 euros. The museum was interesting and contained a lot of mosaics and old relics. I went out to the balcony and asked someone to take my photo (it seemed okay?).

Me in Venice, on the balcony of S. Marco Cathedral.

Famous (?) horses on the balcony. These aren't the originals but replicas. The originals are in the museum.

View of the plaza.

My illicit (?) photo in the church. You can see how a lot of the church is decorated with mosiacs.

I eventually left the cathedral and did some shopping around the plaza. I also got some limonetta gelato.

So good in the heat. Almost melted too fast on me.

All too soon I caught a water bus back to S. Lucia train station. Some more pretty photos and video for you:








video


I had a little bit of time before I had to catch a train back to Mestre so I wandered down a street by the train station.



Once back in Mestre I went to find the bus stop which I knew had to be on the other side of the street. Unlike the train station side the train stop back to Villach is almost unmarked except for the bus lamp and a paper schedule attached to it. The paper schedule put the bus arrival 20 mins after the time my ticket listed but it seemed I wasn't to only person from Venice getting on at the Mestre stop instead of the Tronchetto stop. I parked myself in a Kebab next to the bus stop because there was no seating at the actual stop.

I was a little sad to leave Venice because I hadn't been able to walk the streets with the smaller waterways, however at the same time I was insanely glad to be escaping the city. Venice is the prime example of a tourist city and it is hard to relax in the crowds.

The bus ride back to Villach was quite pretty. It is interesting how Italian's flat landscape and terra cotta roofs suddenly gives way to the alps and alpine houses. Part of the Alps actually belong to Italy but is hard to tell that in the landscape because the houses in the alps are quite distinct. If some of the next photos have weird light spots/reflections it was because I was taking them through a bus window.

Approaching the alps.

In the alps with an interesting river w/ white sand.



I took a train bus from Villach to St. Urban (the train line out to my austrian home was under repair all week so the train had a bus running instead; you would simply show a train ticket or pass to get on). Once I got back to my austrian home I had to repack and plan for being in Slovenia the next day.

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