Italy and Malta 2013: Memoir #3: Venice

Warning: image-heavy

25 March 2013

Leaving cold, rainy, dreary Imola and Bologna

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and heading to

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where the weather forecast was sunny. Hurray!

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Umm…

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Err…

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Wait…

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Is that woman wearing a SNORKEL?! WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE???!!!

So not only was the deposito bagagli at the train station under construction and no temporary solution was offered, the weather forecast was dead WRONG. I wanted to go backpacking? Venice granted my wish! And it added wet floors to it too! Woo!

Keep calm, I told myself. And eat something. Hopefully the rain will let up. So I entered a pizzeria that also sold kebabs, thinking it might be halal. Maybe some meat would do me good, I thought. I asked the guy at the counter if the meat was halal and he pointed his finger at the chicken sausage pizza. “This is halal,” he said. “The rest,” he continued, pointing at the pizzas with pancetta and pepperoni, “are for the Italian people. Not halal.” I really don’t know why – I really shouldn’t have, especially after what happened in Bologna – but I said, “One, please.” I wasn’t certain if this guy was Muslim and of the halal-ness of the chicken pizza, and when one isn’t sure of the halal-ness of something, one should not eat it, but I ordered it anyway. Why?

As I waited for him to heat up my pizza, I heard two guys seated on the table to my right say hi. I turned towards them and returned the greeting. They were smiling broadly. “Fellow Americans,” one of them declared proudly. Huh? Sensing my confusion, the other one elaborated. “You’re American? We’re Americans too.” I broke into peals of laughter. “Me? American? Oh my God, no!” I asserted, perhaps a little too strongly, because it made them think I was angry. “Oh, sorry. We heard your accent. We thought you were American. Sorry if we offended you.” That made me laugh even harder. I assured them that no, I wasn’t offended. The reason I laughed was because my colleague DS is always accusing me of being a fake Singaporean because of my allegedly American-ish accent. I never thought it was true but I guess now them mistaking me for being an American was proof!

I sat at the table next to them, and we started talking. I found out that they had no set itinerary for the day either. Slowly an idea flashed into my mind. “Hey…maybe this is weird,” I began. “But can I walk around with you guys today? If you say no, I’d totally understand. But I’m cool and perfectly harmless.” In hindsight, I should have said they could have discussed it among themselves first. But luckily it wasn’t a problem. It only took them a second of exchanging glances before they agreed – “provided you don’t have an axe in your backpack and hack us to death.” I laughed. They were both towering over me at 6 feet tall. If anyone should have been worried in that situation, it was me. “It’s buried too far deep in my backpack and I can’t be bothered to go through my stuff to get to it. You’re safe,” I joked.

And that is how I ended up spending my day in Venice with two random nice and funny college students from Pittsburgh. Serendipity #1.

DSC00278.2Grapefruit and dark chocolate artigianale gelato from La Mela Verde.

After an hour or two, we decided to take a break and have a coffee. After I finished my latte I decided to ask the shopowner if she knew of any place close by that would hold my baggage. Lugging around an 11kg bag on my back in the rain was seriously cramping my style. And my mood. As I suspected, she didn’t think there was any place around that would hold my baggage, but to my utter and pleasant surprise, she offered to hold my bag in her shop…free of charge! There was no locker though, she warned me. And no one would be looking after it. I figured, hey, there was nothing valuable in there anyway, just my clothes. (My laptop and other gadgets were in my carryall bag, which I was carrying with me.) If it got stolen, I’d be clothing-less but in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be a huge financial loss. So I took her up on her offer – but not before stuffing my backpack in a duffel bag (which I store my backpack in when checking-in my luggage on the plane anyway, to protect my highly expensive backpack), which is lockable. I promised to return before they closed at 8pm and we went on our merry way. Boom! Serendipity #2.

The next thing we knew, it started hailing! I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at if it wasn’t for the boys. Hey, I’m from the tropics!

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DSC00297.2Pieces of cellophane hung out to dry/get wet.

DSC00299.2Private boat parking.

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Not gonna lie – I can’t read maps. I love maps, I just can’t read them to save my life. I let the boys guide us with their flimsy free map…not that they were any better. We got lost. A lot. I didn’t mind. I had long relinquished my fate to the universe. I was just happy to be in Venice.

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DSC00335.2Bridge of Sighs.

And then suddenly, I was experiencing my first snow in the world ever! To say I was excited would be an understatement. OMG, SNOW! The downside of that, however, was that it was fuh-reeeeeezing.

DSC00339.2St Mark’s Basilica.

We made no attempts to enter the Basilica. The queue was considerably long and like I said it was freezing. No way. Just no way.

DSC00351.2Piazza San Marco.

DSC00349.2Pretty in the snow.

DSC00376.2Rialto Bridge.

DSC00382.2The Grand Canal.

DSC00411.2Not even gondolas were running in this weather. Tragic!

After five hours of nearly continuous walking, the boys decided they wanted to go back to their hostel to take a rest. I thanked them for letting me hang out and we exchanged contact details (which I have sadly now lost!). I was not meeting my host until an hour later, so I found a cafe to warm up and kill time in. Their €3 offer for a cappuccino and croissant was what caught my eye.

And thank heavens for that, for it turned out to be my last meal of the day and in Venice altogether! Here’s what happened: I made my way to Piazza San Marco, where I was going to meet my host. But me being me, I lost my way and got there 15 minutes late. I called my host, no answer. I then received a text from her saying she was sick and she couldn’t wait for me any longer and for me to go straight to her place, which was mere heartbeats away from Piazza San Marco. The only snag was…I was counting on her to help me find the cafe where I had left my backpack. Of course, I had no clue how to get there on my own. So now I had to go all the way back to wherever the cafe was (as it turned out, a 20-minute walk) and then walk back to Piazza San Marco and then find her apartment. Hoo boy!

With the help of many a stranger, I managed to find that cafe and retrieved my bag. But even before that, I had made up my mind – I wasn’t going to go to my host’s place anymore. I was much too exhausted. The rain and snow was unrelenting and the thought of walking in it was making my eyes well up. I hate to admit it but I really was close to tears. I…just…couldn’t. I decided to ask the waitress – the shopowner ended her shift long ago – if there was a hostel around. Serendipity #3: there was a hostel right across the street from the cafe. I asked for the cost of a private room – €35. SOLD.

After setting my things down I collapsed on the bed, jacket and all. I was too tired to care about hygiene. I lay in bed immobile for two hours, the whole time texting Kite about my plight. Eventually I managed to muster the energy to take a shower. I was starving but I could not be arsed to go out to eat. I tried to eat the granola I had brought from home but I swear it was actually painful to chew because I was so tired. I had to laugh at the ridiculousness of that. Being too tired to chew is a Real Thing, okay? I contemplated not brushing my teeth and flossing before going to bed. That simply does not happen in TFC’s world but I was giving it some serious consideration. Nah. Clean teeth is important. I stumbled into the bathroom, did what I had to do, and stumbled back into bed. That was my day in Venice.

Disastrous? It sure felt like it at the time. It was definitely not how I imagined my time in Venice would be like. I certainly never imagined quitting Venice at 7pm and going to bed hungry! But really, thinking about it now, rain and snow couldn’t taint Venice if it tried. If anything, the rain and snow made Venice even more atmospheric, more authentic. Also, I walked around with strangers and didn’t get murdered or raped and in fact, had fun with them. And I got to see snow for the first time ever. Who’d have thunk it?

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