Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Buongiorno from Venice

600km in a car is a long way to go...in a bus....it’s not too bad. The roads are highways and most of the time we are hooning along at 120km. It is a very scenic route through the Semmering Pass with the Austrian Alps looking very grand as they rise high above us on both sides of the road.  Our first stop was at a place called Kindburg which had an interesting pole in the middle of the little town. We were told that it used to be used like the yellow pages and it would record the names of the local townsfolk and their business. It was a public holiday today so the little town was fairly quiet.

We don't travel for much longer than 2hours without stopping but the Tour Director was a man on a mission today and most of us were hanging out for the next stop. It’s hard to keep up the water intake as you would not want to be caught out. There is a loo on the bus for emergencies only and nobody has used it yet and I do not want to be first.

Of course when we do stop for the loo we pile off the bus and have to line up. You have to laugh.....I spent E1.75 on using toilets today!

The Austrian Alps suddenly finish...one minute you have huge mountains on each side and then you are almost on the plains. Coming through the border into Italy a cheer went up as many have been waiting for Italy. We spend 6 days here in total in 3 different cities, so about one quarter of the tour. We sit so high in the bus and the windows are huge which makes it relatively easy to take photos. I sometimes write this blog, listen to music, talk to people or read my e book. Yes and sometimes I sleep :)

We reached our hotel at about 4pm a supposedly four star hotel but it is rather a large come down from our previous two nights....everyone is talking about it. The size of the room has shrunk considerably and so has the bed!

At 6pm we are back on the bus for those of us who opted for the optional extra of the gondola ride. If you don't go on a gondola when in Venice it’s like not seeing the Eiffel tower when in Paris! You just gotta do it. We were lucky enough to also have musicians in two of the boats that travelled with us. No sooner that the striped t- shirted one started paddling the gondola the heavens opened. Huge drops of rain fell and he tossed me a parasol. What a sight a drenched rat under a parasol on a gondola in Venice.  It was amazing to be paddling through the canals being serenaded as we went , looking at all of the diners looking at us and taking photos( I think it was the musicians they were taking photos of) even when it was raining. It really was fun.

Gondolas were once the main form of transport in the canals .Although black is the official colour, many are ornately decorated and have comfortable seats and blankets. The men have to wear a striped shirt and black pants and some do wear the hats that are such a familiar uniform of the gondolier. The rain did stop half way through our 40 min ride and were able to look at this wonderful canal based city....and wonder why????

After the ride we had some time to wander.....but not too far for a meal at our leisure (you have an hour and ten minutes!!). A few of us decided to head off for a traditional meal....if we could find one that was not going to involve a long wait and then manage the language. We found a great little place and so for the pricey sum of E8.40 it was lasagne, bread roll and a small bottle of Prosecco!  There were lots of shops still open and the shopaholics on the tour could not resist! Leather bags are stunning...there is no other word.  We have been told to wait till Florence for those ...so wait I will.

We arrived in Venice by private boat this morning as part of our tour. Our walking tour guide gave us a very comprehensive tour of St Mark's square, and its Basilica (It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture) Doges Palace adjacent to the Basilica and the Bridge of Sighs (the bridge is enclosed and made of limestone) .The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment, hence the name.

Right at the end of the tour we saw a short glass blowing demonstration and then a long hard sell on the Venetian glass. It is beautiful and synonymous with Venice. As I don't know when I will be back again I could not resist a couple of small things to remind me of the uniqueness of Venice.

Following the walking tour many of our group were going on an optional tour to an outer island for lunch. I had opted not to go on it and instead chose to spend some time wandering around the canals and exploring on foot. Like most people you are bound to get lost after going in and out and across the canals. Armed with a map I was very careful not to let it out of my sight. I was doing rather well, only stopping every now and then to check on my whereabouts.  I must have slipped a bit or been so taken with my surroundings that I ended up almost at the furthest point away from the meeting place to travel back to the hotel. It was stinking hot, little shade and with the heat rising up from the pavement I meandered my way back to where I was meant to be. By this time St Mark’s square was heaving with people so it was pleasing to have some space early this morning to appreciate it.

What a wonderful place Venice is and there is nothing in the world quite like it.

Rome tomorrow and only a short 570 km away.....so more of this......

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