And so it began... I did it. I had a real backpacking adventure across Italy. No adults planning anything for us. It was all us. And I think we did quite a good job. Italy was defintely a learning experience. But I loved it!
Megan and I embarked from our apartment on the 21st of October with all of out belongings on our backs. That was it. We were headed for Westbahnhof, the train station, to meet up with the rest of our group. The seven travelers began their journey with much joy and excitement. Our group included: Megan, myself, Trent, John, Andres, Cara, and Carolyn. The train was long. But I've taken night trains before so it wasn't anything that I wasn't used to. It was a Harry Potter style compartment EXCEPT the seats pulled out so we could make one giant bed. Which is much more comfortable than Amtrak. After a long night of little sleep, we pulled into Venice!!!!!!
We got out. Had no idea what to do or see. It was interesting having nothing planned and being completely on our own. So we just explored the city for a bit. Our hostel was on the mainland, so we just had to carry our backpacks with us the whole day. I felt so legit! We spent a lot of the first day just taking Venice in. It's quite a magical place. There is no other place like Venice in the world. The first place we visited was St. Mark's church in the main square of Venice. It was beautiful inside. Byzantium mosaics were all over the walls and the floors. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside. But I have a few of the outside on my facebook, for those of you who would like to see. The floor on the inside of the church is buckled in lots of places because Venice frequently floods. It made me a little sad to know that such a gorgeous place is slowly sinking into the ocean. After St. Mark's, our group split up, and some of us bought a museum pass to visit all the museums on the square. On a side note: I love getting student discounts in Europe. The US should give us more student discounts. We went into the Doge's apartments and the places where the government of Venice was run. The Doge's palace in Venice were probably the most beautiful building I've seen my entire stay here, with maybe the exception of St. Peter's Basilica. I wished that we had had more time to research what we were seeing in Venice before we went. I really didn't know much about what I was experiencing. But it was beautiful. What I did learn is that the Doge is elected from among the noble families of Venice and he rules until the end of his life. There also had a type of house of Lords. That's the only real way I think to describe their type of system. But the rooms they met in are absolutely stunning. There are frescoes EVERYWHERE. Again, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside. But I have some pictures of the outside on my facebook. I realized something on this trip about how ethnocentric the states is in public education. Zum beispiel, most people have no idea where Vienna is, or that I'm speaking German here, or that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was one of the largest, most powerful, and longest running empires in Europe. Venice was also an extremely powerful province. But no one really knows much about it. Today, Venice is famous for it's water canals; but few people know that it's power came from the fact that they held the secrets the glass making for hundreds of years. And that's why it was such a rich area for so long. But now every one knows the secret of glass making, and so Venice has been transformed into a forgotten place.
One thing we learned while traveling was how to eat extremely cheaply. We were greeted surprisingly by the familiar comfort of a Billa in Venice. I got 99 cent Brie and 49 cent Chibatta there that lasted two days. It was delicious! I again felt like a real life back packer (probably because I was a real life back-packer).
The nights at our hostel in Venice were probably the best nights in hostels that we had. The hostel was like a KOA. Quite comfy and warm, but the only problem is that it was on the mainland. And so we had to navigate Italian public transport back to the main land without knowing the language. It was interesting. But I got to ride a water taxi for the first time! It was a crazy surreal experience. I never thought that I would be going to Italy during this semester. So it was an unexpected but amazing surprise to actually be in Venice and riding around on the canals.
Our second day in Venice was spent exploring the different islands around Venice. We navigated back to Venice with little trouble, totally dominating the Italian PT! Venice was flooded and there were catwalks up every where. It was really interesting to see how well the city copes with all the water. After another short stop to our favorite Billa ever, we used our water taxi passes to shuttle us from island to island.
Murano was the first island we went to. Immediately, we were guided to a demonstration of glass blowing. The guy just made a horse out of glass right in front of us! The whole process took about five minutes! It was amazing. We spent a little time exploring the island and came across a church with a funeral inside. We spent a few minutes outside listening to the music, but then we made our way to the next island: Burano!
It's interesting how each of the islands has it's own distinct personality. Burano is very quaint. It has a lot of little shops but not much else. The houses there are painted all different sorts of crazy colors. It was one of my favorite places. Most of my pictures were taken on Burano I think. (see my facebook).
The last island we went to was Torcello. Torcello is very beautiful. It has a few old villas and two churches. But it's mostly wild life. We didn't spend too much time there. But we did tour the church of Santa Maria. I really like the mosaics in the Italian churches. It was a nice relaxing day. We were on the move a lot. But every time we got on to a water taxi, I just munched on some Brie, bread, and Salami and looked at all the different islands. I would go back to Venice. It's expensive, but well worth it just to see.
Later we spent some more time just roaming around Venice. But mostly that was just in search of a public bathroom that didn't cost a euro fifty to use. Eventually we found a lobby of a hotel that let us use theirs. And so our time in Venice was brought to a close. We got real Italian gelatto to celebrate and made our way back to the hostel on the mainland where we slept most soundly to prepare for our adventure to Rome the next day.