READ ME 1ST! PART 1 OF 2
First off I'd like to apologize for the delay in posting this entry about Venice. I'm aware that I got back to the castle late Sunday night but I've been focusing on schoolwork and on catching up on sleep. I'm going to try to be a lot better about posting - which I can't guarantee will happen as we leave for Berlin tomorrow, London next Thursday and from there the girls and I are spending Tuesday through Sunday in Ireland and Scotland. Needless to say life is hard. Today is a nice lazy day though, it's around noon and both of my roommates are still asleep after we got up at 9am to sign up for activities in London they both went back to bed because they weren't feeling well. I've been taking my herbs so I'll be fine (they both refuse claiming they don't work...we'll see who stays healthy.) Anyway, I'm sure what you all want to hear about is VENICE.
Last Wednesday evening after our classes Laura, Allison, Steve Adam and I set off on an adventure we had been planning since November. We took a cab to Dusseldorf Weeze airport, about a 20 minute drive from the castle, and caught our sketchy ryanair flight around 8pm. Let me tell you a little something about ryanair - I'm not trying to say that we got any less than we paid for (the flight round trip was about 40 euros) but it really is a "no frills" airline. No seatback pockets, no reclining seats, no free water and they spend the entire flight playing advertisements over the loudspeaker. It was pretty strange. When we got to Venice we had to take a bus from the airport to Venice, about an hour long ride. Once we arrived at the bus station we pulled out the directions the hostel had given us and proceeded to get very very lost. We had no map and no idea where we were. We kept askig people for directions and people would point is in all different directions. Amazingly enough we managed to find it after going to a "best western" for directions - when in doubt go somewhere owned by an American company. Around 11pm we finally arrive at the Hostel. Ah...the Hostel.
The hostel we stayed at shall remain nameless as I fear that if I disclose the name something terrible will happen to me...voodoo or something. We get to the hostel and this creepy Italian guy, probably in his early 30s and crazy, welcomes us to the hostel and asks for our passports saying he needs to "register them." This is red flag number one for me as I recall being told NEVER TO LEAVE MY PASSPORT WITH ANYONE. Well the other 4 hand their passports over and I hesitated but they persuaded me to just give it to him. He gave us our room key and said we could come back and pay/get our passports. I was annoyed and afraid that he was stealing my identity or something so we went right upstairs and promptly back down to get our passports. While we're standing at the counter I saw a sign outlining the hostels rules and it said: Curfew 1am, lock out from 10:30 am - 2 pm, No alcohol, no coming back drunk, don't be loud, no one who doesn't live here can come in to the hostel, cash only. Okay. Great. We're staying in a hostel that is actually a prison. We didn't see anyone else there and it was so sterile. ANYWAY the story continues: we pay for our hostel, 30 euros a night PER PERSON making a grand total of 600 euros for the 5 of us for 4 nights. outrageous. There wasn't free internet and there was no breakfast included. It was awful. Also: paying in cash was bad because some people didn't have 120 in cash and so we had to shuffle money around and it was so frustrating. Needless to say we were all very unhappy. So much so that we thought about switching Hostels after the 2nd night. also the mattresses were actually concrete slabs. The only good thing was the view. But now on to happier things.
After the worst check in of my life we went out and the others bought 2 bottles of wine from a vendor on the street and we walked around the back alleys of Venice. It is such a beautiful city, even at night. It was really misty and nice. Of course, we couldn't stay out any later than one or they locked the door so we only wandered for a bit. The last part of our wandering we were by a dock near our hostel and all of these carnivale revelers got off a ship and we got to take pictures with them which was pretty fun. We decided to go back to the hostel and crash so we could get up early the next morning to go to the Piazza San Marco.
About 8 am the next morning, after 6 hours of restless sleep on concrete slabs we set off to go to San Marco. One thing that is interesting about Venice is that whether or not you have a map you will be so lost and turned around and confused ALL THE TIME you won't know which way is up. After an hour or two (I'm not sure which as time doesn't exist in Venice either...it's actually Narnia) we arrived at a little market outside San Marco square where there were fish stands and vegetable stands and meat stands with tons of fresh food. After wandering through this we came to San Marco's Square which was huge and beautiful. We looked around for a bit and then notice Steve had disappeared - he had gone to buy bird seed for a euro and all of a sudden he was covered in pigeons. Literally COVERED. It was hysterical. Adam and Allison also partook in the pigeon feeding but Laura and I just watched. I don't like birds and I don't like germs so it was probably for the best. Once the Pigeons realised the food was gone, they left Adam and Steve alone. We then realized that we hadn't eaten all day and were starving so we walked back towards our hostel (or so we though) as all the food around San Marco was incredibly expensive. We ended up in an area called Dosodoro where we got cheap 2 euro pizza and realized once again we do not like gorgonzola cheese. It's not good. It's gray and tastes like death. Anyway.
Our next adventure was to find masks. Allison Laura and I spent an hour in one store trying on every mask trying to find one we loved. I found a really beautiful handmade leather mask that I adored but it was 60 euros. I decided to go with a similar mask that was half the price but still the same leather style and I couldn't be happier. It's a less traditional Carnivale mask but it's still made in Venice and it fits my, as Laura would describe it, "hippie style." Laura and Allison picked out beautiful masks too and we set off again wearing our masks proudly. We wandered back towards the Grand Canal and ended up on the edge of the Island of Venice. The sun came out and we decided to sit on the sea wall and eat some gelato. It was so beautiful. The sun was so warm and we were in Venice - in a dreamland it seemed. I can't even describe it. After a lot more wandering and some laying by the sea we decided to take a Gondola ride. Let me just say that if you leave Venice without taking a Gondola ride you're an idiot. It was such a beautiful way to see the city and it was well worth the money. We went all over and saw places we never would have seen had we been walking. There is nothing like the view from the middle of the Grand Canal around sunset. Perfecto!
We returned to the Hostel to regroup and decided to go find some place to eat dinner. The boys found a Chinese food restaurant and decided to eat there and we went to a more traditional Italian restaurant and had pasta. The three of us girls then decided, at 9:30 pm, to go to bed. We were exhausted. It was an excellent decision in the end.
Friday (How are we only to Friday? This entry is really long! SORRY!) we bought a vaporetto ticket, which was never checked - we could have gotten away with not paying, and started exploring the Islands. We started with Murano where we went to a glass blowing demonstration and got to see three men making a cup and then the gift shop. It was the least interesting tour of a glass blowing factory ever... but it was still really cool. Then we wandered around the island for a while and found a supermarket where we went for lunch in order to save money. I must say yogurt, bread and cream cheese were staples over this trip. Oh and peanuts - excellent. After we got food we decided to go to Cimetero, an Island we had seen while riding the vaporetto to Murano. It was a giant cemetery. It was really quite beautiful. Check out my photo album and the pictures of it for a better description. Imagine a giant beautiful venitian cemetery... that was pretty much it. After Cimetero we decided to go to the famous Island of Lido - famous for its resorts in the summer. We got there and went to get gelato at a restaurant and they tried to charge us 2 euro each to sit so we just walked around outside and ate our gelato in the rain. We went into a huge chocolate shop which was really cool and had more chocolate than I'd seen in a very long time. We then decided to walk around Lido for a while and absorb the beautiful scenery. Luckily when we arrived at the Vaporetto station there was a ferry there to take us back to San Marco. From here we walked back to our hostel and had bread and cheese for dinner. After dinner we decided to go out and experience carnivale so we got the street vendor to open our cheap bottles of wine we'd bought at the supermarket earlier that day and we headed to San Marco Square for an acrobat show at 10pm. After getting really lost because we got on the wrong vaporetto we eventually arrived and watched a drag show before the acrobatics show started. After an excellent evening we returned to our crap hostel at 12:30 and went to bed. I'm going to continue my Blog in another entry because the computer can't handle a giant entry and I don't want to lose this...I would probably cry.