This was the free day that Sara, Linsey, and I went to Venice. I woke up at 530 to finish getting ready. I had an apple and some toast & jelly for breakfast. There was a big group of us who left at 6:30 so we could get to the train station via the metro. It was weird walking to the metro that early. It was just getting light and very few if any people/cars were out. We got to the metro and bought tickets. We were all confused on how Jeff was able to get all our tickets so quickly because it took ours a really long time to print and he had 21 one to print at a time. We got to the train station no problem, and we were told we’d get a student discount for the tickets, but turned out Jeff was mistaken. Most of us bought the tickets from the little kiosks once we found out there was no discount. Linsey and I were close together on the ride there. It was a very uncomfortable train ride for the first half because there were two really creepy guys sitting across the aisle from us and they kept staring and talking in Italian which made us extremely nervous. Thankfully nothing bad happened. The last quarter of the trip was much better. There was a psychologist from Verona who sat by us and we talked a bit. We told her we were studying engineering and were on a trip through our university. She told us that her son was an engineer who did stuff with roads and bridges; I’m pretty sure he’d be considered a civil engineer, but she didn’t personally know what it was called in English. She told us a bit about Verona, but I don’t really remember anything. Oh, and that part of the country had lots of fields like at home (except there were more trees) and we told her that we had lots of farmers back in Nebraska. For a while she read the New York Times (she said she tires – I think it probably is to help her try to practice English). There was one article she read, I think it was entitled “Economy Devastates the Greek Psyche,” but she didn’t know what devastates meant so she asked us to explain, and that’s a very difficult word to explain in simple English terms – more of a nontangible thing that you picture than define. I tried to explain, but it was really hard because she didn’t seem to know all the words I was using – I think I eventually got across the basic idea. It helped me realize how difficult truly understanding a foreign language is. After that she made a comment about how English has so many words, while Italian has less words but harder grammar ( I have noticed that some of the words/phrases use apostrophes like I’d expect in French, so I believe her).
When we got off (around 10 am), we joined up with Sara and the rest of the group that came along (Rachel, Emily H., Patrick, Jared, Drew, little Steve, big Steve, Emily O., Liz, Effie, Matt; Carrie and Katherine had gone earlier). We split shortly after leaving the train station and went our separate ways. Sara, Linsey, and I decided to head toward San Marco and Rialto (the famous bridge over the Grande Canal). We ended up buying a map which was pretty useful the first half, but we had some trouble figuring it out later. On our way (we mostly followed the signs that were all around with arrows pointing the way to different common tourist places) we stopped and looked at quite a few shops. One of the first shops we stopped at had a set of glasses that I wanted to buy (and did later). They were on sale since one of the glasses broke. I didn’t get them then because I didn’t want to have to carry them around all day. One of the other shops we saw had really cheap necklace/earring sets that looked like things ladies would have worn to fancy balls. I wanted to get it but I don’t have any idea when I would have worn it so I just took a picture later when we found the shop again. There were a bunch of other little shops we stopped at to look at the Murano (or just plain glass) jewelry and things. They all looked really cool, but I never would have worn most of it so I didn’t get any. Also before we really go to any of the shops, we found a little doorway thing that led to a canal and Linsey and Sara both dipped their feet in. I didn’t because I was grossed out by the water. They seemed to have enjoyed it though. The town was so cute and ancient looking. They had clotheslines right under their windows, like you always see in movies, and lots of people actually hung their clothes on them. Sara absolutely loved them. It was such a peaceful little town when we were walking through the non-touristy areas. I really liked it.
We eventually got to the famous bridge and there were a bunch of little street shops set up there. There was a little square in front of an old church; we sat on the steps of the church in the shade to eat. The church was really cool looking (we didn’t go in, I’m not even sure we could have) on the outside. There was a 24 hour clock on the bell tower that had hands.
We had our PB&J sandwiches and apples. There were pigeons and tiny little birds all over. Sara seemed to adore the little birds. She even came up with this theory that the pigeons and the little birds were in cahoots together: the little birds would come and be so cute that people threw food to them and then the pigeons would come in and eat the food too. Linsey ended up throwing some of her apple seeds that they tried to eat and then just chucked her entire apple core out in the center. Pretty much everyone hated pigeons by that point – and several people were scared of them since they pooped everywhere. Thankfully I never got hit.
Anyway, after we were done eating we crossed the bridge and got some pictures of it and I also think we took some pictures of the gondolas (I didn’t have my camera battery so I’m going to have to get pictures from Sara and Linsey). The little streets were really cute and curvy with cute little bridges crossing them – I just thought it was beautiful (unless you looked at the water too closely). We stopped and entered one church on our way to San Marco. The thing I found interesting about this church was that the columns were all carpeted or covered with some sort of fancy looking tapestry. I guess that the columns in the downstairs of our church do have carpet, but it doesn’t really stick out a whole lot from the rest of the basement. Also, these were in the sanctuary. We walked some more and eventually got to San Marco. It also had a really cool 24 hour analog clock as well as a digital clock that was in roman numerals for the hour and regular numbers for the minutes. We ended up being there when it turned 1 pm and there was a big bell at the very top that was struck by some mechanical person thing – I don’t remember exactly what it was. We looked at the outside of the church, but we didn’t go in because we didn’t want to wait in line (apparently it wouldn’t have been a long wait but whatever). We also got to see the sea from the square and the islands. They had some really amazing looking churches on them. We then headed back toward the center of the city. On our way we saw tiny glass figurines in a window. Most were smaller than my pinkie nail and they were pretty elaborate for their size. There were zoo animals and bugs and unicorns and horses and all sorts of things. I kind of wanted to get one, but they were really expensive because they were so difficult to make and I was afraid I’d lose it anyway. We continued on and decided to stop at a WC (a water closet, i.e. a bathroom). It cost 1.5 euro, but it was pretty nice, and the water from the sinks seemed good enough to use for filling up our water bottles. Before that, while Sara was in the bathroom, I went with Linsey so she could exchange money at a place that seemed to have the best rate. It turns out they show the best rate because they don’t include the cost of fees and everything. Linsey wanted to exchange 40 some dollars and they were going to give her around 20 euros. When she saw that she decided she wanted her money back and the lady behind the counter got upset. She asked a few times why and Linsey said that she didn’t want their rate/fees. Eventually the lady gave all the money back but she basically threw it under the glass thing – she was very mad at us.
We found another church a bit later that we stopped at. I don’t really remember anything special about it, except that the ceiling looked like they started a fresco but then stopped in the very beginning (it was a dome set above a square and only one little corner of the square was decorated). We sat in there a bit to cool off and write down where we’d been. After that we decided to follow the signs to some place that we thought was going to be a fountain. We walked a really long time through relatively empty streets – it was nice and peaceful. At one point we passed a fruit stand that was closed, but the fruit was just covered under blankets and it smelled incredible. If it had been open I may have gotten something. Next to the fruit stand was the final sign we saw for the thing we wanted to find and so we walked further and came to a canal (which we think is what the signs were for). At the time we didn’t think we’d found it. Anyway before we got to the canal we found a fountain to fill our water bottles again and this cool looking building that was partially boarded up and really white and looked like maybe it used to be a temple or something from ancient times (except that the masonry didn’t look weathered like I’d expect). We were surprised that no other tourists were there. We sat by the canal for a while and just enjoyed the shade. While we were there an ambulance boat went by – there aren’t any vehicles on the streets of Venice so it makes sense that they’d have boats, but it was kind of weird.
We eventually decided to get back up and wander some more. Sara found this little stair step/door way/ alley thing that we went through. They seemed to have cisterns in the middle of most squares and there was one here so since there was no one around we went up and tried to open it, but alas, the lid was bolted down. We did a bunch more wandering and some getting lost as we tried to find another place by the signs, which we later found out was all the way on the other side of the city. We got really confused because we were expecting to cross the Grande Canal again, but we followed the curve of it or something in our wanderings and ended up at the train station again. We still had a couple hours til our train back so we decided to find the shop where those glasses were.
It was quite interesting trying to get there and even more so when we got there and I tried to explain what I wanted. The owner didn’t speak any English, and I’ve found I have a very difficult time communicating when there’s the language barrier. I was trying to tell her that I wanted to buy only the blue glasses from the set, but she wasn’t quite getting it. Sara ended up asking her if she spoke Spanish (since Sara knows it pretty well), and the lady basically indicated she could probably figure it out. This helped a little or at least made it seem less awkward in the attempt to communicate. Basically the lady ended up saying that I couldn’t buy just the blue ones, and by buying the whole set I could switch out the glasses and have different color combos. I decided to buy them and wanted to make sure I got a receipt, which Sara didn’t know how to say in Spanish so that was really difficult to get across. It’s kind of funny now that I think about it, but the whole thing felt a little stressful at the time. The lady wrapped up the box really nicely and I’m really hoping all the glasses make it back okay. At some point earlier in the day we went back to Rialto and looked through the shops set up. I found a sword/letter opener I wanted to get, but it was too expensive and the guy wouldn’t haggle with me. Apparently all the places there have set prices.
Linsey and Sara got some gelato shortly after and we decided to find a place to sketch after they were done. I wanted to sketch a window once we were sitting, but I was a bit too far away to see it well enough. I ended up sketching the corner of a building which had a lot of different materials in it and was kind of broken and just plain interesting looking. I didn’t get very detailed, and since I didn’t have my camera I don’t think I got a picture of it, I guess I’ll just have to remember it from memory and my half sketch.
After we finished the sketching we decided to make our way back to the train station. We went around the city the opposite way from what we did before, by accident of course. We found the places we were trying to find earlier from the signs – turned out one was really just a giant parking lot. They had a weird bridge between that part and the train station. It had steps for a bit and then no steps just a curve over the top and then changed to steps again. We still had more time so we went to see if we could find food; Sara and Linsey figured they might get hungry on the train and they didn’t want to pay the exorbitant prices they’d charge for food on there. So we walked back the way we came when we accidentally got to the station. They ended up deciding not to get anything so we sat on some benches for a while. There were some metal things in front of us that posters/ads were all over and there was a little boy who kept running around them and kicking or hitting them to hear the noise. I think he was pretending to be a karate person or something. It was cute at first but got really annoying pretty quickly.
When it got closer to time for our train we walked back, but when we got there Sara found she forgot her water bottle. She almost didn’t go back to get it because she figured someone had taken it, but it was still there. She was happy because she’d grown attached to it.
The ride back was fairly uneventful once we figured out the problem with our assigned train car. The car we were supposed to be on was closed for repairs or something so after standing there for a while (no one gave us any direction on what to do), we sat down in one of the empty sets of seats. I don’t even remember what I did on the ride. When we got back we took the metro again and walked back to the hostel. When we got there most people went straight to bed. I stayed up tried the melted gelato I’d bought the day before – it turned out to be really nasty and I threw it away. Then I went to bed. It was a long but fun free day.