Friday, October 9, 2009

A short return to Venice

Thats right folks - no blog for yesterday! Spent much of it catching up on the blogs from the last two weeks. And you will all be pleased to know that we are up to date - well, we only have today's to go! Michael washed. And cooked a lovely roast for dinner along with potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and leeks! Whoo hoo - veges!! And all in one small frying pan and one saucepan! Amazing how resourceful you can be when you must be.

But neither of us slept very well last night - well, actually hardly at all. We have come to the realisation that the Year on the Road is coming to a near end. Our dollars are almost done. Ironic that we are now getting the best exchange rate for the whole year, just as we are planning our return. The disappointment is that we will not get to Turkey or Greece on this trip. And we have not seen as much of Eastern Europe as we had hoped we might have. BUT, we have had the most fantastic time, met some wonderful people, seen sights to delight and despair, and learned to really appreciate all that we previously took for granted!

The nights are getting longer, with the darkness holding on, reluctant to give in so easily to the rising sun, and the mornings are much much cooler now (down to as low as 7°C) making much harder to pull the bones from the bed. So after a later than planned start, we headed back into Venice. A ten minute drive puts us at the rail station where a 25 minute trip puts us on the Grande Canal in Venice. The train ticket was a miserly €2.35 for a single trip - not bad huh!

The trains run ever half hour except for the 'interval' between 12 and 1 pm (presumably when they do lunch!). We had arrived just after noon, and so had to wait until 12:50 for the next train. Oh well, such is the lot of the Carkagai!

On arrival at the Venice San Lucia station, which incidently, once you are on the island is only known by the local name of Ferrovia, we made our way across the plaza to the Canal in front of us. Another queue for tickets then! €16 for a 12hour ticket was by far the cheapest option. Our plan is to get back over to the island of Murano to have a look at some of the glass factories. Now, there are two ways to get to Murano - the all stops line 41 or 42 or the much faster DM (Direzione Murano) service. As we are waiting for the waterbus, we see one one of the boats that regularly ply the waters delivering transport to the various hotels. We sit out the arrival and departure of both a 41 and then a 42 before the DM arrives. It takes about 20 minutes to get there going out past San Marco into the Bay.

The day is still dull, but it is beautiful out here on the water. The fishing nets are all deployed, leaving their securing poles standing high and dry out of the water looking like a forest of bare timber. We alight at the first of the Murano stops and head away from the crush of people here to where we saw the factories as we were leaving last time. Just in time to see the last two demonstrations of the day at two of the factories. You gotta remember that it is no longer the tourist season, and everyone seems to be taking life a little slower now!

I'm a little disappointed, as I was hoping to see someone working with the millefiori. But we couldn't find anyone doing it and have to be content to watch then hand blow and then make Murano Glass vases, plates and even a horse! Huh, be content? These artisans are amazing and make it all look so effortless. We are told that an apprenticeship to become a master glass worker on Murano is 15 to 20 years - gosh, for many people that is much of their working life! Many still pass their trade from father to son. Once the demonstrations are over you are invited in to have a look at the factory shops. If only I had an unlimited budget :( I could have bought so many beautiful things, but it is still expensive - even at the factory outlets.

We walk through the back streets of Murano that are now totally devoid of tourists, stopping to check the diection to Il Centro with a local who doesn't even let us finishing ask the question before he points the way - guess they are used to foreigners wandering about their town!! The alleys are quiet and all around us we hear the muffled voices of lives inside the walls we pass. The street names are quite evocative too!

Back out on the main canal, we cross over to the other side on another of the arched bridges that are found at regular intervals right throughout Venice and head for Murano Faro ferry stop. We are now headed for Burano - a smaller island still right across the other side of the bay. Now, Burano is known for two things - lace making (which is becoming a dying tradition here) and coloured houses. Traditionally, all the fishermen painted their houses the same colour as their boats so they could see their home when fishing. Not sure how much of that is fact and how much fiction.

The water bus system of transport thoughout Venice is amazing. The ferries are regular, crowded and are seldom at a jetty for more than 2-3 minutes which means that you must be ready to jump off or on. It takes us just over half an hour to reach Burano. Sure, the houses are a myriad of bright colours that sit next to one another, competing for domination of the eye. But I really don't think that they could have been seen for too far out in the bay - the island and its canals and streets curve, limiting any view. But they are colourful and on this still quite grey afternoon, they are bright and welcoming.

There is a line up of people waiting for the return trip to Venice from Burano. A quick check of the timetable tells us that this is an hourly service only with the next ferry leaving in about 5 minutes. It would have been lovely to spend some time wandering, but we need to get back so I can do a little more shopping and so we can have a look at the Bridge of Sighs before we leave Venice for yet another time. So we just join the end of the queue.

Out trip back is 1¼ hours long and takes us right around the other side of the bay which really is like a big lagoon at this end. There are lots of marshes supporting grasses and bird life out here which demonstrates just how shallow these waters really are. Finally, we see the built environment of Venice loom once again and we enter into the complex system of canals from the other end. The jetties around San Marco are frenetically busy with craft continually pulling in and out of the various moorings at breakneck speed. I am glad to be back on dry land - just wish that it would stand still for me!

We join the masses wandering along the waterfront in the dusk light. It is amazing! And guess what? Remember all those Italians we came across in Germany? Well they are repaying them and now San Marco is filled with Germans. Even Steph is not home (she is in the US for work with Felix joining her today for a week's holiday), so I hope someone remembered to turnout the lights there too!! ha ha

We cross the multitude of bridges that span the numerous canals at this end of the city. And finally we are looking down another canal at the Bridge of Sighs. It looks a little forlorn as it is surrounded by heavy hoarding on all sides, making it appear to be just hanging, disconnected from everything. The hoarding is bright, brash and harsh and is hiding works on the two buildings that it connects. Pity, not a good look really - especially when some of that hoarding sports big advertising signage. There are lots of gondeliers pacing the waters below with their cargo of interested humans. They all hug the left wall as though not to spoil the view for those looking as we are from the bridge at the edge of the canal.

So another tick off our list. One last stop at the Rialto Bridge so I can buy a few little trinkets. Easier said than done. This is the most popular route on the water bus system and although we are at only the third stop along the route, the boats are full when they reach San Marco. The staff are only letting 10 - 12 people on at a time, much to the frustration of the rest of us left waiting. We stand in the sardine tin for almost 40 minutes before we can get on one of the ferries.

Up at the Bridge, the shops are all starting to close. It is now 7:30 pm and I suppose they too have a life to live outside the demands of the tourists. Still, I get what I need to and we head back to the jetty for our last ferry trip in Venice - back to Ferrovia (make that Venice San Lucia) Station for the trip back to the car. We get to the station with just enough time spare to get our tickets before we make a quick dash to the train that leaves in 2 minutes.

Once onboard we crash, both dozing on and off and before we know it, we are at the station at Quatro D'Altino. Its been a very full afternoon and evening and as we pull in to the driveway at Ca' Serena at 9 pm we are glad to be headed for the quiet time of the day. As I am starting this blog after having just posted the last of the tardy ones, Antony, Amanda and Bella are online on Skype and we have a nice catch up. Gotta love technology guys. Tomorrow we are off to Slovenia, staying overnight in Laško en-route to meeting Donna in Zagreb in Croatia on Sunday morning. Whoo hoo!

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