Venice Part 1 – Matt gets wet feet

After the best time of the trip so far in Munich, I hit the rails and prepared for the 6ish hour journey to Venice totally physically destroyed, more alcohol in my blood than platelets. I didn’t expect to be able to sleep on the train, so I wasn’t disappointed. Truth is I didn’t want to sleep. I just couldn’t get enough of the view, crossing through the mountains. It was incredible, the kind of beauty that makes you just ache. It’s too perfect. Makes you think you might have died.

I did nothing but stare out the windows the whole way through Germany, Austria and into Italy. At one point a little cynicism crept in and I thought to myself, gee I really thought the Alps would be a lot bigger than this. About a minute later the train rounded a bend and then I was looking at a mountain that had a layer of clouds less than halfway up the thing. I was blown away. Then I saw a mountain that was higher than two layers of cloud. Unbelievable.

So I was in fairly good spirits as I left Germany. Along the way though, I started to get into my usual nervous / intimidated mood. It seems each new country brings me down a peg because I’ve just gotten used to one language and culture, and suddenly the music starts playing and I have to get off the chair again. And who knows if I’ll get a chair the next time the music stops?

Things weren’t helped by the speed with which the staff on the train spoke at me. Italian or English, they were spitting out words as fast as . So I got to Venice in darkness, a hung-over, hungry mess, and it’s always when I’m in this state that I feel really intimidated by the world around me. Following my directions to the hostel, I took the water bus to San Polo, costing me some 6.5 Euro (if you have bags they massively charge you) and was so pissed off when I discovered days later how easy it would have been to walk. I also got screwed another 2 Euro buying a map, which in Venice is about as useful as car.

So I got to the hostel and discovered it was the biggest dive imaginable. Despite being a Bed and Breakfast I was told I couldn’t have breakfast because I’m in a dorm room. Right. The shower alternates between trying to shrink my testes to the size of peas and trying to scald my skin off, and boy is it filthy. The shower curtain is less a fabric and more of a fish-print mould tapestry. I took some photos of this so that I can show them to Grazia later and teach her a thing or two about travelling.

So I hit the hay for an early start. I woke up to fairly miserable weather and no breakfast. I wandered around looking for somewhere cheap to eat and was bemused at how many of the Italian restaurants are run by Asians. The food is pretty amazing though. No more bullshit fast food for me. Though still not as good as Nonna’s, (Jimmy if you’re reading this, that’s Nonna, not Nando’s.)

So I went off to check out the Piazza St Marco and take in the tourist sights. As I walked I noticed the water was lapping over into the streets in some places and thought that was pretty cool. I got to the square to find it totally submerged. Huh. That’s awkward. Now all the wooden boardwalks that had got in my way on the way to the hostel on the first night made sense. So I took some snaps and was getting too hungry to think so I left to finally get a breakfast. I turned back the way I had come to find the streets flooded. This wasn’t good.

The Venetians in their gumboots were out in force. Some of those gumboots are total thigh-highs that go right up to your arse. Nuts, but essential it would seem. I was starting to panic. Trying to find an alternate route was useless. So many dead-ends, so many flooded streets. A mad, senseless, labyrinthine city. It shouldn’t be habitable. What will they do in a few years when it all crumbles? Already there’s leaning, crooked towers and buildings. Maybe they could put the whole place on giant stilts. That’d be cool. Or maybe do an under-the-sea type of thing.

So I was trapped, hungry and frustrated. All the places around the Piazza are way more expensive and anyway I just wanted to go home, so I had to do it, I had to wade through the water. I managed it on tippy toes. Thank God I didn’t throw out my boots yet, or I’d have been a goner. As I’m crossing a particularly deep part, the liquid finally penetrating my socks, a gum-booted, crotchety old Italian man walks past, splashing me, and mocking me in Italian. Great. I already had a nemesis.

And I do mean this. I have encountered this guy again. I was taking a photo of a statue, a typical thing that everybody does, and he starts walking past. I was waiting for him to walk out of my shot and as he passed me he muttered something quite loudly in Italian. What an arsehole.
Anyway, I made it back to the hostel, got some pizza and then returned to the hostel to mope around. I was starting to hate Italy already. Great.

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