We've done so much since my last entry, I'll try my best to do in overview.
Our day in Venice was amazing. New favorite city. We intentionally lingered at our hotel until early afternoon knowing that Venice by night would be what we really wanted. Were we ever right!
We took the bus in from our little subburb and then hopped on a vaporetto, their Metro system of boats that operate exactly like a subway system. We took the vaporetto all the way to the far end of the Isle of Murano, which was the perfect place to start. We had a picnic lunch from the local grocery store on a deserted little square, and then walked round the perimeter of the island. Compared to Venice it is sparsely populated, and seems to be mostly retirees. We made it back to the more inhabited section of Murano, where they have the glass factories and artists and we shopped several of the glass shops (I got a great necklace and earring set) before hopping on a vaporetto over to Venice proper.
We mostly just wandered the streets, finding San Marco basillica (closed by that time; will have to see inside on a future trip) and the famed Rialto bridge. Venice got a good rainfall that evening, which was nice after so many days of hot sunshine, which was all we'd had so far on our trip.
After nightfall we cruised up and down the Grand Canal by vaporetto seeing Venice's gorgeous twinkling lights. It is truly a beautiful city. We will certainly be back.
The following day (Tisha's birthday!), we drove up into the Dolomite mountains and took a chair lift (more pod than chair though) up to a beautiful meadow called Alpe de Siusi 6,000 feet high. This area of Italy, on the boarder with Austria, identifies more with Austria, and all the little towns and streets have both Italian and German spellings. We ate Austrian Tirolean soup and hiked the witches trail, taking another chair lift up 300 meters more then hikiing to the summit of one of the cliffs around Alpe de Siusi and then hiked down to our first chair lift, which we then took back to the bottom. It was all gorgeous, with dairy cows and horses and fields and absolutely stunning mountains.
We spent the night near Innsbruck and the following day (two days ago) drove past the King's Castles, one of which was the inspiration for Disney's Cinderella castle. Very crowded (it was a Sunday) but worth seeing. Then on to Salzburg, a town only a little bigger than Columbia (population 150,000) but with 8 million tourists each year.
We had a wonderful day in Salzburg yesterday, wandering the old town a bit, seeing their Salzburg Panarama of 1829, showing what the town looked like that year from the vantage point of Hohensalzburg Fortress above the city, then going up and touring that same fortress, overlooking the city today. It was really cool, built mostly between 1150 and 1600, though started in 1070. It was never attacked in all these 1,000 years, though the city did (probably wisely) surrender to Napolean during his time.
We walked down along the ridge of the mountain to a monk-run brewery and had a great time in their beer garden, and a delicious meal of smoked pork and potato salad (very traditional Austrian cuisine). We enjoyed Salzburg very much.