08.06.2015 - 08.06.2015
I got up early and watched the clouds playing on the surrounding mountains. It is the first time I really understood the expression “clouds playing on the mountains”. That is what it seemed like – the clouds were changing their shape on the mountains continually. I think I could have stayed for hours and watched the sight. It was a beautiful sunny day. The hotel provided breakfast for us even though we left at 7.30am and breakfast starts at 8.00am. This was very good of them and a great start to the day.
We then drove to Cortina and then almost directly south towards Venice. People often assume that the Alps are in Switzerland. They are actually a large mountain range that runs from Slovenia to France and on the way take in Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Lake Como and the Dolomites are all part of the Alps. There was a lot of mist and this added to the scenery as we drove through Cortina. The road from Cortina to Venice follows the Boite River through rugged steep forested mountains (very scenic) and passes through numerous villages. Eventually we reached the freeway which took us to Mestre, which is the city on the mainland closest to Venice, where we dropped of the jeep (that was a bit of fun in itself) and caught a train into Venice.
When you exit the train station at Venice you are greeted with the wonderful sight of Venice and the Grand Canal. Venice is a place which sustains its great amazing impact. The Grand Canal was full of activity – ferries, water taxis and gondolas and of course the crowds of people. It is just such a unique city. There are no cars in Venice and I understand that bikes are not allowed either – at least we did not see any. Travel is by foot or by waterway!
We caught the ferry and travelled along the Grand Canal to Ponte di Rialto were we disembarked and commenced our walk through the narrow laneways, over canal bridges and through squares to our accommodation – “Residenza Ruga Giuffa”. It was a most fascinating walk. Apparently, very recently, Venice proposed passing a law that would forbid using the wheels on suitcases, because of the noise they make on the cobblestone streets. This would mean you would have to carry your suitcase. I am so glad the law did not pass. It was an easy walk as you could use the wheels on your suitcase (except going over the numerous canal bridges when you had to carry them).
Our accommodation is in an old building which backs unto a canal. We had a large room with very high ceilings which are painted with pictures (it was like a cube). It exceeded my expectations. I had looked at the room on the internet when I booked – but it was one of those occasions when the accommodation is better than the photo on the booking site.
We got a pizza lunch in a little café beside Campo Santa Maria Formosa (a delightful square which is named after an old church Santa Maria Formosa in the square) and ate our lunch in the square. Andrew then went back to the apartment, which is right next to the square, for a snooze, while Bill and I went to explore the city. We walked along narrow laneways until we came to the magnificent Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). It contains the very famous Church – St Marks Basilica – and its bell tower close by. It is surrounded by classy restaurants and shops. It was a warm day (in the sun) and the bell tower cast a welcome shade over the square. The square was thronging with tourists. The square is L shaped and opens out onto a broad canal with islands on the other side. It was a hive of activity on the water. We walked along the canal for about a kilometre amidst the crowds of tourists. Canals run off this main canal into Venice and they a filled with gondolas which are very skilfully steered by their operators. It is quite a sight – very entertaining to watch but expensive to use! We thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our walk. It was warm in the sun – but once you get into the laneways they are very cool because they are shaded due to their narrowness. The laneways around the square are filled with little shops selling Morano glass (so called because it is made on the island of Morano), masks, all sorts of jewellery and a host of other things and then there are countless cafes.
After Bill and I returned we all went out again. This time we went into the Church of St Mark – it has a history dating back to 832. Its architecture and mosaics are different from other churches we had seen – it is classified as Byzantine. The mosaics on the ceiling were very beautiful. A statue of Mark stands on top of the Church. We then went for a walk through the laneways to look at shops (window shopping), see more of Venice and get some dinner. It is very hard to navigate these laneways even with a map. It is very easy to get lost – but you can never go too far wrong – it just means an extra bit of walking to get to where you want to go. Andrew had found a café on the internet and that’s where we were headed. It was beside the Grand Canal. We found the café and bought some refreshments and found out that for 2 euro each we could partake of a little smorgasbord of food. We ate up big (I don’t know if we were supposed to – but no one stopped us) – we ate so much we did not need any dinner. That was the cheapest meal we had on our whole trip!!
I was pretty tired when we came back to the apartment and decided to call it a day. Andrew and Bill went out again to see the city at night. They came back later exclaiming about the lighting in St Mark’s Square and the music in the various restaurants in the square (small ensembles playing classical music) and the number of tourists still up and about. They were most impressed.