Back on the Euro

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 21, 2006

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Flag of Italy  ,
Thursday, August 31, 2006

In the span of a little over a month I blitzed through nine different countries, using nine different currencies, and since I'd spent so long in Greece, using Euros, that became the currency I converted to instead of the dollar. So when I crossed from Slovenia to Italy I was happy to be back into countries that were on the Euro and I wouldn't have to worry about converting anymore. Of course the downside was that I was exiting Eastern Europe and it's relative cheapness and the downerside was that the first place I was going was Venice, one of the worst places to go to after becoming acclimatized to Eastern European prices. I basically had one full day in Venice, partly because it is so damn expensive and partly because I had to be in Spain before the end of August.

Venice is like the Royal Tenenbaums of cities. Ask one person and they'll swear it's the greatest thing ever. Ask another and they'd say the city might as well sink into the murk it was built on. Like my feelings on Royal Tenenbaums I found myself somewhere in the middle. It's a beautiful city, I'm not sure anyone can deny that. But it didn't leave an impact on me the way a place like Dubrovnik or Krakow did. It's more a tourist playground than anything else, and maybe that's part of it. My cousin Briana (the one in Prague) described it as Italy's Disneyworld, and it does have more the feel of a touristy themepark than a foreign city.

In my first moment in the city, as I stepped out of the train station I heard a Native American band playing their flute things and singing, trying to advertise their CD. I heard another Indian the following day and another group during my few hour layover in Milan. I don't have a problem with Indians, or their music, but I am from America, and in my 22 years spent in the country I could probably count on one hand the amount of Native Americans I've met, including the ones who are 1/16th or whatever. So I've got to wonder about this. Either I can't find them in America because they've all emigrated to Italy to follow their musical ambitions or there's only a couple Indian families in the whole of Italy, yet every single one of them is exceptionally musically talented. Or they're not real Indians. What I do know is is the whole thing was a little bizarre.

So with my one day in Venice I did what any good tourist does and set out to find San Marco. Venice might be the most useless city ever to have a map, it's all pedestrian, with short alleys and the omnipresent canals, and so winding and confusing that you're better off trying to follow the signs and hoping eventually you stumble upon your ultimate destination. That's what happened to me. There was a long stretch where I lost the sign maps to Marco, then all of a sudden I found one and the next thing I knew I was in the middle of it. San Marco is a stunning location. It's right on the sea with huge churches on the other side (just an obscenely expensive gondola ride away). There's a huge open plaza where the pigeons rival the tourists in numbers, a tall tower and the impressive duomo. It's obvious the Italians love their Jesus because the monuments they've built to him are quite impressive, extraordinarily intricate and one of those buildings that commands your attention. The plaza, though, was one of the most confusing places I've ever been. The pigeons have become a tourist attraction unto themselves in which people pay for seeds and crumbs and then let the pigeons fly on to them, climb their backs and eat off their hands. Yes, we're talking about the disease-ridden rats with wings that we have in the States. I even watched families plop their little kid on the ground, dump a bag full of crumbs and then let the little bastards run amok. Haha, smile Johnny, pet the pretty birds, hope you don't get syphilis or whatever virus those vermin are carrying. Someone told me later on that there's a bit of a cottage industry there that sells beebee guns so you can snipe the little buggers off of people's arms. Why I wasn't alerted to this when I was in the city is unknown to me. I walked around a little bit longer after finally finding the square, but the thing about Venice is, as beautiful as it is, it all starts looking the same after a while. You've seen one canal, you've seen them all.

The one good thing I can say about Venice is it did help me snap out of the funk I had mentioned from Croatia. I was staying at a really good camping ground about 30 minutes out of the city that was totally self-sufficient with a pool, restaurant and bar. It was one of the easiest settings to make friends: grab a beer from the mini-mart walk to the outdoor bar or the ping pong table and strike up a conversation with the closest group, who odds are, are from Australia. All of a sudden I was feeling good again.

En route to Spain, I had one day in Milan. As I mentioned, Milan has a spectacular duomo as well, but the problem is some of the beauty is taken away by the huge advertisement hanging out the front of it. Milan also has a massive castle, which is personally one of my favorites, because unlike the castles in Prague or Bratislava or just about anywhere else it didn't have the obnoxious habit of being perched atop some high, steep hill. The other impressive building in Milan, next to the duomo is through a huge archway and the top of the inside is adorned with all sorts of religious paintings. The domed roof looks like a cathedral top, and come to think of it, it might've been shaped like a crucifix. This building housed, of course, a Prada and a Louis Vuitton. And a McDonald's. Clearly, the two major religions in Italy are Catholicism and fashion. And Milan is the home of the most hideously fashionable people in all of Italy. It's the city where all the richest Italians come to promenade down the streets showing off their ludicrous and ludicrously expensive outfits. I'm not sure if 90% of Milan men are homosexual, but based on their dress, I have my doubts. And if it is the case, than maybe I have to move to Milan (someone has to help out all those Milano women). A couple of hours was just enough time to walk around, not find a single slice of pizza (this is fucking Italy, right?) and get the hell out and on the way to Barcelona.
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