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VENICE - ITALY

Our Turkish Visas were about to expire so we took the opportunity to take a 3 day trip to Venice so that we could obtain another 3 month Visa on our return to Turkey.

November 1/08

We hopped on the bus to Istanbul, a long overnight trip. From the bus depot near Istanbul, we took the Metro train to the airport arriving in plenty of time only to find that our flight had been cancelled. This meant that we would miss our connecting flight from Rome to Venice. We found out later that this was very typical of Antalya Airlines.

After some tension, we finally boarded a later flight with the promise that we would connect with a flight after a 5 hour wait in Rome. However when we arrived, we were able to hop on a flight immediately departing and arrived in Venice around 9:30 pm. We boarded a water Ferry to Venetia and were deposited on a deserted dock, the blackness of the night hanging forlorn on the dilapidated buildings lining the waterfront. We anxiously made our way down narrow dark alleyways in search of our hotel. When the street opened up to a courtyard with a little chapel we knew we were close. After bus, train, plane and boat we finally found a little nondescript doorway with barely an indication that the rundown exterior of the 3 story brick building was our Pension.

We gingerly knocked on the door and a little Italian women welcomed us in. She knew not a word of English and our Italian is hopeless. She led us up 3 flight of narrow stairs to a delightful spacious, spotlessly clean room, with a bathroom much bigger than our boat!

November 3

Breakfast was included in the price of our room and we enjoyed meeting some fellow Canadians, from Edmonton!!!! over croissants and coffee.

Armed with a map, we left our hotel, Campo Santa Giustina, and headed through the labyrinth of streets in search of the main square. This was no easy feat as there is no pattern or grid to the city layout and the streets are canals!

We wandered through neighbourhoods with  typical cement homes plain and modest on the outside.

The buildings are old and magnificent. Byzantine rubbing shoulders with Gothic, Roman classical, and late Renaissance.
Pic right is the hospital, ornately decorated with carved marble and stone.


St. Mark's Square

St. Mark's Square is the heart of Venice. A huge courtyard shared with many pigeons is a primary meeting place although the drizzle of rain we were experiencing kept the usual crowds inside.

Saint Mark's Basilica

Venice's magnificent basilica was consecrated in 832 AD as an ecclesiastical building to house the remains of St. Mark.

The corpse was stolen from Alexandria of Egypt in 828, hidden in a barrel of pork to keep away the Muslims). This spectacular church is unlike any other, decorated with golden facade mosaics, marble and bronze statues, five domes and a magnificent 10th century altarpiece. The bronze horse adorning the church was stolen from Constantinople.


Doge's Palace

We didn't take the tour of Doge's Palace but it was impressive from the outside. Initially built as a castle in the 9th century, the building was home to the Doge (Duke), the highest political figure in Venice.


Gondolas

Of course when you think of Venice, Gondolas are synonymous. And they are everywhere. Years ago gondolas were the primary form of transportation but today they are operated only for starry eyed visitors looking for romance. The watercraft are works of art and decorated with plush brocades, velvet, gold fittings.


   

First crafted around the 18th century these uniquely Venetian boats have no keel and are slender enough to slip round even the narrowest corners of Venice's waterways. Made from 280 pieces of oak, larch, fir, elm, walnut, cherry, lime and cedar, each shaped over a fire of marsh canes from the lagoon.


 

Streets and Canals

With no vehicle traffic permitted, it is a total pedestrian lifestyle, and life revolves around the water. Everyone has to take the ferries. And walking isn't a third-class option; it's the norm. The city is chock full of hidden canals and narrow twisting lanes. Venice is built on 117 small islands which are connected by 409 bridges over 150 canals where roads should be.

Many of the bridges are Ottoman style brick, low enough that gondolas need to
duck to get under.

The Canals of Venice date back to the 5th century when regional inhabitants built nascent Venice in a swampy, sparsely settled lagoon in order to escape the swords of the invading Barbarians.

The main streets are waterways and many of the narrow alleyways just end abruptly at the edge of a canal.

Grand Canal

Sweeping through Venice in an inverted "S" shape, the Grand Canal is the main thoroughfare of Venice and teems with the traffic of local motor boats, launches, barges, and gondolas. To give our lets a rest from all the walking, we hopped aboard a local ferry and rode down the 2 mile length of the River past a parade of mellow tinted Renaissance palaces and century old buildings in various stages of disrepair.

 

In the great days of the city's trading empire, the Canal
was alive with cargo boats from all over the Med.

 

Shiny black Gondolas moored side by side line the waterfront

We departed our ferry to visit the Peggy Guggenheim Art Gallery. The collection of Picasso, Max Ernst, Magritte, Dali, Bacon, Pollack and other Modern artists were all the ones I had studied years ago at Art School. I was amazed that I still remembered the paintings and the artist's style. The experience was a treat for me!!


Rialto Bridge

Only three bridges cross the Grand Canal that dissects this city. The best known of these, and Venice's most instantly recognisable landmark, is the Rialto Bridge. Built in 1592 and rebuilt seven times since, this huge marble bridge boasts mesmerizing views over the Grand Canal.

The Rialto area is one of the busiest parts of the city. Along with the fish market,  two rows of shops selling souvenirs, glass products and jewelry are bustling with locals and tourists.


We continued our stroll along the waterfront, its busy water traffic a never ending pageant of all types of watercraft. Then down deserted side streets, alongside narrow canals, over the enchanting hump-backed bridges, the watery setting taking us past ancient buildings with flowering balconies.


The Ghetto

The district of Cannaregio houses the world’s first officially recognised ghetto a grey melancholy area of huddled houses and washing strung out across the streets.
When all the Jewish residents of Venice were moved to this island in 1516,  they were not allowed to leave and were guarded by Christian guards.


Masks

The 18th century was the great age of masked balls and carnivals and masks were worn by nobles and servants alike. This all came to an end when Napoleon gave an order for all masks to be burnt. Today the streets are lined the stores selling all sorts of mask in styles including the Joker, Casanova and Pinocchio as well as animal and bird face masks.

Lost

After a very long day of walking all over Venice, it was time to try and find our way back to the hotel. But this proved not so easy to do! The streets are a warren labyrinth of narrow alleyways looking exactly alike and you can never go in the direction you want because there is always a twist or bend or canal blocking your way. Or the shadowy street dead ends into a courtyard.

We felt like rats stuck in a maze in which the reward for finding the end is a nice chunk of cheese (or starvation),
the cheese being our hotel!

The following day started with the ominous sound of raindrops on the courtyard below our room. It rained on and off for the entire day.  Wandering the streets of Venice in the rain isn't as easy as it sounds. For a start, the narrow lanes don't often have room for two people holding umbrellas so negotiating crowded thoroughfares with an umbrella while jumping puddles is no easy task.

The night before we heard the locals speak of a possible "Aqua Alto." This situation occurs as a result of rain with extreme high tides and is responsible for major flooding in the streets. To Venetians, this is a common occurrence and passerelles were piled high in readiness for the rising water.


Burano

A 35 minute water bus ride took us to a picture-perfect island with fairy tale streets. A dreamlike fishing town with the miniature bridges and brightly-colored homes. There were not too many people out and about in the rainy weather but that did not deter us from exploring all the enchanting quiet side streets and alleys festooned with washing lines.

The crooked church tower looked like it could fall over

Clothes drying in the rain!

The boats parked along the canal were painted as brightly as the homes.
Supposedly the houses were so colorful so the fishermen could find their way home.

Lace

Burano is known for its hand made lace and there were many shops displaying beautiful laceworks of all kinds

 

Every windowsill was decorated, their own little gardens of orchids and plants. Some of the homes had really creative decor on the windowsills.

When a funeral procession walked through the village, everyone stopped what they were doing and stood to pay their respect. All the lights in the shops went off and work stopped.

Of course, everything comes to Burano by boat. Right, the Fresh Vegetable boat supplies the village with produce.

Murano

We left Burano and hopped off the ferry 15 minutes later in Murano, famous for its glassworks. A walk around Murano and visits to a few of the shops displaying the artworks of blown glass, and we headed back to Venitia.

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