We’re all learning on this adventure, every day. Scott learned that Venice is actually in Italy and not in France. He was showing Grant on Google Maps where we were living in Germany and he happened to notice Venice. He asked me if I knew where Venice was and I said, “Duh, it’s in Italy.” I didn’t really say that, but I did know it was in Italy, I just didn’t know it was five hours from Oberammergau. So, a few days before we left Oberammergau we planned out another little road trip. We would leave on Monday and spend two nights in Venice and one night in Bled, Slovenia , and one night in some yet to be decided location on the way to Wiesbaden, where we have rented an apartment for a week.
We left Oberammergau, Germany, on Monday morning and then all of the sudden, or about seven hours later and a good lesson on how the car will not navigate toll roads (which save hours of time) unless you program it to, we are in Venice! It is one of those surreal things. I cannot believe it, we are actually in Venice and it looks exactly like I imagined (except for all of the tourists). We parked the car in a long term carpark and took a ferry into town. The ferries are like busy city busses. There are people packed onto them and they stop at ferry stops and hordes of people jostle each other and jockey for position as one group gets off and another gets on the boat. We made it to our stop and even found our hotel without too much confusion. We had used booking.com and found an apartment owned by a fancy hotel. The apartment was about 400 meters (once around the track) from the actual hotel, down allies, through tunnels, behind a nondescript green door and up four flights of narrow stairs. I was wondering what I had signed us up for, it had been a great deal and now I thought I might know why. It was a nice surprise.
We dumped our luggage and explored our new digs. The views were seriously stunning, especially from our rooftop terrace! We went out to get dinner and looked around. We were steps from St. Mark’s Basilica and so it was a bit like being in Times Square in New York City. There were people everywhere and it was a bit overwhelming but the fact that we were in Venice was unbelievable.
Venice is built on one hundred small islands in the Adriatic Sea. There are no cars or roadways, just canals and boats, all kinds of boats like ambulance boats and trash truck boats. The city is made up of countless, narrow, mazelike alleys that open into hidden squares. I was so turned around there and the “street signs” if you can find one, are painted on the buildings but either the paint has faded, the sign has been partially hidden by a new awning or that part of the building has crumbled away, so it is very challenging to use a map (no more than usual for me though).
Grant is studying the Roman Empire and so it was interesting to learn that many historians believe that Venice was first built by people escaping barbarians as the Roman Empire fell in the 5th Century. The invaders from Northern Europe did not understand the sea and possessed no ships and so even though the islands were only two or three miles from the mainland, the people that had fled to the lagoons were safe. They also enjoyed the bounty of the sea in the form of food and salt; two things that they could trade.
We wandered around Venice with no real plan. It had been a hot day and so as it got later the temperature was perfect and the crowds cleared out. We wandered through St. Mark’s Square and down to the water where stables of gondolas bobbed in the water. It seems like every city has its own brand of hawkers and in Venice there are men lurking everywhere waiting to sell you a rose or a selfie-stick. I made the mistake of saying no thank you to a rose and we ended up with five? I don’t know what happened but we had a good time with them. Scott decided that Grant should give them away to girls as practice since we were in Venice. They had fun with that and we walked and walked and found ice cream (one of the roses got left there with the pretty girl scooping ice cream). We had worn the kids down by this time (I love it when we outlast them) so we took them back to our little oasis and left them cuddled up with their electronics and the phone that kind of works occasionally. We did question this parenting a little bit but we were in Venice and doubted that anyone would be able to find them locked away behind that nondescript door, us included.
We closed down the town that night; we even outlasted all of the hawkers. We’ve been married for almost seventeen years and we love each other, we even like each other most of the time, but I can’t even describe how incredibly fun it was to be walking hand-in-hand in Venice. It sounds trite or corny but let me tell you, it is just plain romantic (and I am not all that romantic, just ask Scott). We took a gondola ride and smooched under a bridge. Scott even tried to hire the accordion player that was playing near a bridge to go with us, but she wouldn’t, she said the gondoliers didn’t allow it. We drank wine and ate chocolate cake (it was horrible) at a café and then decided to try drinking a beer at another café because it had little tables by the canal. We walked and walked and just wondered how life happened to dump us off in Venice for a moment. We didn’t want the night to end.
We planned one full day in Venice and spent much of it following the kids around the maze of passages. I wanted to get away from the very touristy areas and so we spent the afternoon and early evening wandering around a quieter neighborhood.
We found dinner and walked back to the craziness of St. Mark’s Square to watch a play about the history of Venice (in English thankfully). It was long and the seats were hard and the kids were ready to go back to the room. Scott and I dropped them off and wandered around again. We could hear thunder in the distance and then it began to pour along with lightening and thunder. Impressively the roses and selfie sticks morphed into umbrellas and rain ponchos. We stayed out in the rain and drank wine in another café and listened to two strangers talk about Iowa; made me think of my dear friend Jane.
The next morning we opted for the water taxi experience instead of the ferry and I think it was a good choice, a good compromise, although more expensive. I had wanted to take Ashley on a gondola ride; Scott argued that she should have to wait until she came back with someone special and the years she would have to wait would make the experience sweeter. I could see his point but not happily.
A long time ago I read somewhere that you shouldn’t look at your vacation photos as soon as you got them developed (see, it was a long time ago). Instead, throw them in a box and enjoy them a couple of years later., the memories will be sweeter. Some things just need the seasoning of time and I trust that a gondola ride is one of those things. I wonder what it will be like to remember Venice in the years to come? I can only imagine the memories growing more beautiful with years to color them, just like the centuries have shaped Venice.