The Land of a Thousand Islands

Trip Start Aug 29, 2010
Trip End Oct 04, 2010

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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Well, more like 117. Turns out that Venice is much more different from Amsterdam than we had originally thought. Whereas Amsterdam was entirely man made and the canals constructed, Venice literally is just 117 mostly very tiny islands that are all bridged together. This is why Venice is basically a maze, with barely half the streets even long enough to merit naming on the map, and why you're pretty much lost every five minutes or so. How do people even give directions in this place?!
We learned this and more on our walking tour of Venice this morning (well, the crazy maze business we figured out on our own). Sadly unlike our previous four cities, there was no Sandemans New Venice tour, so we had to pay 21€ each for one, but it was pretty good anyway. We learned how Venice was settled in the sixth century, with different people settling on separate islands and building their own churches and palaces on each. As a result, there are over 120 churches in Venice, and this city is very very small!! We learned about St Mark's Basilica, how it was rebuilt in the 13th century with marble plundered from the fourth crusade, and we saw it from the inside... covered in gold, without exaggeration. Sadly we couldn't take any pictures, but it was quite a sight. We saw the Doge's palace and St. Mark's Square, and then walked around the San Marco sestier, learning about the history and culture of Venice. We also heard two interesting stories. First, there was some rich Florentine who wanted to leave his fortune to Venice in return for putting up a giant statue of him on a horse by St. Mark's. Well, the Venetians wanted his money but they couldn't very well put up a statue in the Piazza San Marco, so they put one up next to St. Mark's School instead. Hehe. Secondly, apparently there are lots of "fake" gondolas in the city. Originally, gondolas were used to transport nobles around, and these other similar boats were used to carry fruits and vegetables. We learned that real gondolas have a giant S in silver at the front with six teeth representing the six sisters of Venice, and those other black boats do not. Also, apparently since gondolas are all still completely hand made, each one costs €50,000!! Wow!
The tour ended at Rialto Bridge, another must see of course. We did some shopping in the nearby market and saw a lot of very cool things. Venice is known for it's masks, and we saw them in all sorts of colors and designs. I wanted to buy one, but it'd be unlikely we could transport it all in one piece, so we decided not to. We saw many very pretty wine stoppers with intricate glass ends, that I'm sure I would break if I tried to use it. But we did buy some (hopefully not too fragile) things anyway... cool shaped pasta, a magnet, some postcards, and an apron.
We realize at this point that we've taken on this trip so far almost every form of transportation known to man: airplane, train, tram, subway, bus, car, bicycle, and now, thanks to Venice, boat. But since this is Venice, there is one very important form of transport this city is legendary for. We couldn't very well leave without using it now, could we? Decidedly not!
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MR on

Ah! The crazy Venetian maze! Loved it. Remember how often did we get lost?
You have to buy some Murano glass!

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