Venice Carnival

Trip Start Mar 28, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

We'd planned our somewhat inefficient route around Europe so that we'd be in Venice for its Carnivale that takes place 40 days before Lent (that's about end of Feb for those like me). We pulled into the quagmire of a campground in heavy rain.and parked between a couple of similar VWs, including a psychedelically painted, predictably Dutch number. We were overjoyed to find that there was no hot water, something the owner had failed to mention. It was okay though because he was going to get a plumber in to look at it that day, a Sunday. I think this was a little in-joke of his because we all knew he would have more chance rousing a second coming than an Italian plumber on a Sunday.

The campground did have one redeeming feature though in that all laundry facilities were only in the female area - something we saw a number of times in Italy. I love the implication that no male traveller would leave home without a female to do the washing!

The next morning, we woke to more rain and caught the tourist-packed bus across the bridge and into Venice. I'd been to Venice before but it's always an incredible place to visit. It's even more surreal with streams of people masquerading around in elaborate and aristocratic costume. I'm still not sure about gondolas though. Call me hard-hearted but I am yet to see the romance in paying hyper-inflated price for a boat ride in a polluted waterway lined with tourists staring and photographing you like you're a rare zoo exhibit. That's just me though.

In the afternoon we joined the masses in St Mark's Square to watch a parade of all those who dressed up. Some of the costumes were absolutely breathtaking with people no-doubt sewing sequins all year to be ready in time. At the other end of the spectrum were those that misread the invite and came dressed as king Arthur's knights, a Teletubby or a purple Milka cow.

Just as surprising were the range of countries that had contributed to the festivities. The over-excited MC quizzed each group in turn. Germany. Spain. Holland. France. England. Mentone. Huh? "Did he say Mentone?" an Aussie group in front of us asked each other as others in the audience just shrugged. There was no mistaking the accent though and for a moment the air-headed MC paused while he scoured his mind for a country in Western Europe called Mentone. He gave up though and quickly sent them on their way, obviously missing the significance of his most remote of entrants. In fairness to him though, most international travellers when locating their home, don't start with the name of a suburb in Melbourne. I can only hope they had a sense of humour and wanted it on video.

The next day we contemplated whether to return to the festival for a second wet day. The decision was simplified somewhat by the distant wail of sirens that suggested Venice was about to be flooded. And therein lies Venice's biggest asset and fault. Nice spot, pity about the water. You see, St Mark's Square, the heart of Venice, is less than one metre above sea-level and consequently floods 150 times a year. The previous day we saw many despondent locals pumping water out of their living rooms (while tourists stood in front and took photographs!). Still, anyone owning real estate in central Venice won't get sympathy from me anytime soon and so we headed west with rain streaming through our rust-holes..
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