Monday, August 08, 2005


Ten years ago today - Venice

Reaching the half way point, more or less, of my European tour. Today marks a return to normalacy in the world of 2005 (vacation is done), but for the edification of one person who has told me in person that she is enjoying these entries (isn't she kind?) and Running2K who has been reading and commenting faithfully, we continue to travel in 1995.

10:55 am, 8 August 1995
Venizia, Italia

Ah Venice. How can I describe Venice? An ancient city that shows its age as a badge of honour. Dilapidated and run down, yet still beautiful beyond description, Venice seems to me to be the opposite of the tidy, perfect towns of Germany and Austria. Venice is raw and rude and arrogant and makes no apologies; the Venitians are xenophobic and unhelpful; yet the charm here is magical.

It is an intimidating, not welcoming, city, and I think to truly appreciate and enjoy it, you cannot be timid; you must heave yourself, heart and mind, into Venice and hope for the best. I can see that Venice has much to offer: the majestic canals; the quaint, twisting alleyways; the art; the churches; the history. Venice may be indifferent to you, but you cannot be indifferent to Venice.

8:55 pm, same day
In the convent

I'm lying here on a bed in a room with 29 other beds, in a convent of all things. This is my home in Venice... at least it's safe! God, the curfew is 10:30 pm but I don't think I'm going to make it that far. I think it's a combination of travel exhaustion and homesickness that makes me want to go to bed so early... the sooner I go to bed, the sooner the next day comes. By the time I've finished dinner, I've usually had enough of the present day; what an adventurer I am!

Dinner is a real problem for me here. My "home" schedule usually has me having dinner around 6 pm, but the restaurants don't even open for dinner until 7 pm here, and no one seems to eat before 9 pm at least. Just finding a meal during the day is rough. I hate anything near formal by myself, so I eat a lot of baguettes and cheese picnic style. Eating just seems so much more complicated here, although I'm proud to say that I resorted to the ubiquitous McDonald's only once, on my "very bad day" in Salzburg. Come to think of it, Venice is the first city I've been in that has neither a McDonald's nor a Body Shop - every other city has had several of each.

I ment the nicest man on the train from Salzburg to Venice yesterday. He was probably in his early fifties... he spoke to the other couple in the compartment quite a bit about politics before addressing me, and I had him figured for a Cliff Claven windbag type. He ended up being wonderful, though. He lives in Austria, but has obviously traveled all over the world, including Ottawa and southern Ontario. He showed me the most beautiful scenery on the route, complete with a running commentary. Near the Italian border, we had to leave our car because it broke down and he made sure I got properly settled in another car. He was very fatherly, and I would have been in an absolute panic without him explaining what was going on. He translated both the Italian and German for me. All I know about him is that his name is Herman, and he made the trip excellent for me.

Italian border guards carry machine guns while inspecting the train. That's a new experience!!