17th September: Day Two
I got a shaky night’s sleep, sleeping on a train like that is not simple. I woke up to find myself in Italy for the first time at Venezia Santa Lucia, the ‘Island’ part of Venice. We gathered our rucksacks and headed out the station and found ourselves looking at Venice in the morning sun. Magnificent scenery aside something else struck me, this was the first ever time I had been in a city where there was not a single car or road around, it’s really odd… Odd, but pleasant.
I really cannot put enough emphasis on how unique Venice (Venezia is the proper Italian name for the city, it’s citizens are called Venetians) really is. It’s really something being in a city that does not have cars or roads unless you visit the mainland city called the Mestre. In the place of roads you get networks of canals weaving around homes/shops, people cruise (literally) around the city using ‘water buses’, ‘water taxis’, or ‘gondolas’. I did not have too much time to look around and start visiting the places I wanted to today because I had to find the campsite I had booked us both into. It would end up being an epic four hour trek across the Mestre with numerous wrong turns and separations to add drama. It was not just the horrifically bad maps and lack of directions that were against us, we also had the elements against us too. It must have been at least 28-30c out there today with little to no cloud cover to stop the sun ravaging us. We were also moving at a slower pace thanks to the hefty luggage we were both carrying on our backs. This did not matter so much when we were still on the ‘lagoon’ because I was able to marvel at the architecture and the atmosphere.
I feel I should give a brief history of Venice itself. The first settlers came to Venice around the year 420 as the Roman Empire drew it’s last breath. The first Venetians fled to the lagoon to escape the rampaging Huns and Germanic barbarians that were demolishing what was left of the Empire. As the survivors saw it, nobody could launch a substantial attack on a lagoon with an army because the landscape would be the ultimate roadblock – for this reason homes sprang up on and around the lagoon. Venice would not properly develop into a “City State” until around the 12th century and by this point it had amassed a mighty naval force. It’s advantageous location meant that ground attacks against Venice were utterly useless and any naval attacks would be out-gunned by the Venetian Navy. Such security also meant it was a safe place for commerce to thrive, which it did. I think I’ll write more about it’s history with each passing day I’m here.
Venice is a maze in the truest sense of the word, a map (let alone one in mostly Italian) will do the average tourist little good. Dad and I got lost so many times, but we found a good bar around midday where we stopped off to have a beer. So far I’ve that Italians seem to have a good grasp on the English language, bit arrogant of me to write that down and I do feel I should have spent more time learning the lingo before I came out here, but hey – advantage me. After a ‘water taxi’ ride to the Mestre, which is where we would find our campsite we noticed that we had been dropped off a good hour or so away from civilization… thanks for that, dick. Two hours later, one of which was spent wandering aimlessly around the Mestre center when we eventually found it the euphoria and novelty of the morning had worn off. We had still not found our campsite and in typical fashion I stormed ahead towards a hotel to demand directions. Even they could not help me and I ran back to find my dad missing, apparently he had wandered off in another direction to find the campsite himself. I was unable to call him because the line was engaged and could not contact home either to get them to make him call me. I was literally stranded in the middle of a foreign country with no passport or travel documents (I gave them both to him this morning). The blaring sun and heat finally got the better of me and my temper exploded, yelling all sorts of profanity in a heat-induced rage. Soon enough I got a phone call from Naomi telling me to go back to the pizzeria I had just passed and wait there, sure enough dad jogged around the corner within a minute and we completed the rest of the search in near-silence. We finally found the campsite which could have given a SWAT team a hard time to find after another 10 minutes of walking. Dehydrated, demoralized, and smelling rather strongly we both got showers and headed back to the pizzeria to get some dinner.
You really do get value for money at these places, giant pizzas that come in all varieties (Carbonara Pizza? I’ll give that a go sometime) and are affordable. Another stunner of a waitress served us, I actually mustered the courage to talk to her which is a feat in itself because I barely know any Italian. Luck was on my side for once today as it turned out she told me her name was Julia and she was currently a languages student at Universitia Ca’ Foscari Venezia (Ca’ Foscari Univeristy of Venice), and was perfectly fluent in English as well as many other languages. All enmity forgotten my dad and I spoke to each other again and ate a great dinner before heading back to the campsite to get some shut-eye for tomorrow.
Tomorrow we head back into Venice for a better look around.