Monday, 1 August 2011

Day 4: Venice I

The journey from Florence to Venice was a pretty standard affair, though the train was absoutely rammed. We'd been told by some of the Newcastle guys that we should book our train out of Venice the moment we arrived at the station, because getting trains out was a bit of a nightmare. They weren't wrong either - the overnight train to Munich that we wanted to get the next day was already booked, so we had to book on the train the day after and spend an extra day in Venice.

I'd been told by my Dad that the first view from the train station was pretty impressive. He wasn't wrong:

Our first move from the train station was to find out hostel, which we actually managed to do amazingly efficiently. For people who haven't been to Venice, pretty much the entire city consists of narrow streets which all look extremely similar, and frequently turn out to be dead ends, or don't provide bridges onto the small islands that you actually want to get to. On the bright side though, there are zero cars and the confusion and danger of pedestrian crossings is completely eliminated. The weather had also ramped up a fair bit, with it now being pretty damn hot. Florence was pretty warm, but generally not excessively hot, but in Venice it's been absolutely baking, especially in the middle of the afternoon, when we arrived.

We dropped our stuff off and headed straight back out to grab a water bus to the opposite end of the city, which was fairly pricey, but the guide book said it was a good way to see a lot of the city quickly, an it took around forty minutes, so it wasn't that bad value for the €6 or whatever it cost. The Grand Canal in Venice is a pretty mad affair. It's fairly wide, but the number of boats streaming up and down it at a fairly rapid pace was fairly surprising, especially when you've got a mix of tiny boats and huge water buses. There also didn't seem to be any particular side you were meant to stick to (the bus stopped on both sides of the river and zig-zagged across a fair bit). Coxing an eight would be an absolute nightmare. Still, the views were pretty good:

We got off at San Marco's Square, passing the Bridge of Sighs, which was pretty epicly covered in scaffolding, to the point at which I would have completely missed that it was even there at all had it not been for the dozens of tourists stopped to take pictures of it (apparently unpeturbed by the fact you could barely see it).

 (There's a bridge in there somewhere...)

From there we ambled through the city and various squares to the pretty impressive Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal. We moseyed around a bit (and I eyed up restaurant menus for the evening) and then stumbled across a stage set up with a jazz band playing on it. It turns out there's some sort of jazz festival in Venice that had been going on for the last week. We watched some of the jazz, ate, watched some more, and then wandered over to St. Marco's square again to see Sting. None of us are actually fans of Sting, but we figured that given it was free and we didn't have much else to do at half nine in the evening, we might as well. The square was packed, and there wasn't a huge amount to see through the crowds, so after a bit we headed back to the hostel.

(Not only free jazz, but also a double rainbow from the top right)

The hostel itself was pretty nice, given it was only €20 a night each. I'd made the somewhat dumb mistake of reading a ton of reviews on the place after we booked it, and there were an absolute ton complaining that the security was nonexistent, and people had just walked into their rooms in the middle of the night and stole their stuff. Thankfully it didnt happen during our stay, so no issues there. Most of the reviews complaining about the place seemed to be fairly old and outdated ones anyway.

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