We walked down to the ferry wharf after breakfast this morning to catch the ferry over to Venice. My feet were feeling heaps better this morning and the rash was almost completely gone. I can feel it more now than I can see it at least. Even by the end of the day they were still pretty good.
The ferry over was about half an hour, then we met our walking tour guide. The smell around Venice is quite bad because the water is extremely polluted. Apparently a couple of Contiki guys jumped in a few weeks back and vomited as soon as they got out of the water.
The tour guide walked us around some of the sights of Venice and gave us a lot of interesting information. She has been the best guide by far - really interesting and informative, and she had a good sense of humour. Plus she always took us to a shady spot. There are only about 60,000 people living in Venice, some work here and some go to the mainland, and vice versa. There are about 400 islands which make up Venice, with canals in between, and bridges joining them all. In all of the apartments, nobody lives in the ground floor because of flooding. When the water rises, all of the shops around St Mark's Square (the central square) flood. A lot of buildings had marble floors though, I suppose to prevent as much flood damage. On the walking tour we were shown the Bridge of Sighs, an old abandoned palace, and Venice's own Leaning Tower - simply because the foundations around Venice aren't always the best, being built on mud and water, etc.
Everywhere we went, there were mask shops and stalls and apparently they became popular back when gambling and prostitution were illegal because people would wear masks to hide their identity. Venice also used to be known as the 'Red Light District' before Amsterdam. Our walking tour ended at some markets, so we did a little bit of shopping and had a wander. There are some beautiful masks around the place, with heaps of detail put into them (It's a shame you've already had your masquerade party Tara). Glass blowing is also very popular around here, so there were lots of shops and stalls making and selling these too. I saw some really cool zebras for almost 1000€ each. Wouldn't be worth even trying to bring them home though - not that I was going to pay that much for them!
After we had a wander around the markets, we decided we would try and head back to St Mark's Square where we needed to meet later for the gondola ride. On our way we decided to stop and have some lunch along the canal waterfront. We were told that everything cost more in Venice because you had to pay for the transport to the island. The only way of transport around Venice is either by boat or foot. There is no room for cars, as the roads are only about 2 people wide, and bikes are also banned. The locals don't ride gondolas anymore (these are just for tourists), as they all have their own engine powered boats which literally go right up to their doorsteps. We saw the parcel delivery men with push trolleys delivering parcels. They bring all the parcels over on a boat and then the delivery men just go back and forwards all day collecting more parcels to deliver. We also saw them collecting the recycling from the streets which they did in large trolleys too. It was very impressive watching them go up and down steps with their trolleys. Lunch, however, we found didn't cost us anymore than we had been paying elsewhere, and I bought my cheapest bottle of water that I had bought anywhere in Europe (and I've been buying it everywhere!).
We had a lovely lunch here with some friendly waiters who fanned us when we were hot, and laughed about it. Venice is like one big maze and very easy to get lost, so finding our way back after lunch we thought was going to be a bit of a mission, but luckily before the tour guide left, she told us that there were yellow signs with arrows pointing the whole back to St Mark's Square, which is where we needed to go. So we actually found our way back fairly easily.
Once we got there, we still had 3 hours til we needed to meet for the gondola ride, so we went up the Bell Tower which gave us an awesome view out over Venice. Then we went into the Basilica Church. The lines for both of these were the shortest queues we've been in for anything in Europe I think.
While we've been in Italy we've had to make sure we're wearing appropriate clothing to go into churches (something which covers our shoulders and knees), but today we didn't even think about it. We were right at the front of the line and a man behind me mentioned it, so we thought we'll just see what happens. But as we got in, they told me I needed to cover my shoulders and Stacey her knees. Luckily they gave us some material to make into a scarf and a skirt (these looked awesome by the way). So we went into the church and were out again in about 5 minutes. It looked impressive, but there really wasn't much to do in it. It looked more impressive from the outside.
We didn't really have anything else to do after this, so we went and got a gelato and tried to sit down to eat it. We weren't allowed to sit at the tables by the cafe because our ice creams were 'takeaway', which prevented people from taking up seats, so we sat on some steps by the cafe and a minute later were asked to move. They had people patrolling the area to stop people doing this. She told us to go around the corner to a public park. So we wandered around there, and there were more market stalls too which we had a look at. We sat down and ate the rest of our ice cream, which by then had almost melted off the cone anyway. This area, the Royal Gardens, are about the only bit of greenery in all of Venice. It was a nice little park area though.
We sat here for almost an hour, trying hard not to fall asleep in the warm sun, and then we wandered back to the meeting point for the gondola ride. There were 6 of us on the gondola, with a couple of bottles of wine, and we rode around the canals for about 45 minutes. The gondoliers are very talented and have to completely bend over to go under the bridges. They don't crash into anything going down the skinny canals and around tight corners. Our one even sang to us.
Once we were finished on the gondolas, we walked back to the wharf and caught the ferry back to the camp. We had a BBQ dinner tonight in the beer garden bar which was really yum. At dinner, we got given our Contiki hoodies which our group got especially printed just for our tour. Each one has some of the common European landmarks, as well as our tour name plus all of our names. After dinner, we did some washing, showered, and went to bed. The showers here are stone cold, but as much as Stacey has been whining, I've actually found them quite refreshing!
Tomorrow we're off to Tyrol in Austria, where we're staying at another Contiki stopover. We're going white water rafting on the way, so I'm a bit nervous about that!