One of the great things about the campsite that we are currently staying in is the super-easy access to public transportation into Venice. This allows us to camp outside of the busy and bicycle-unfriendly city, while still being able to enjoy it with a 15 or 20 minute bus ride. Today we took advantage of this and spent some time enjoying the city.
First things first, though. Bree recently invented an amazing and surprisingly simple form of apple crisp on the camp stove. She first boils the fruit in a concoction of water, a little oil, and some sugar. When soft, we then add some oat-heavy muesli to the mixture, and within a couple minutes you have apple crisp! While it isn’t exactly crispy, it certainly tastes good. I attempted to replicate the recipe this morning with pears. It wasn’t nearly as good as hers, though it was nice to have a warm breakfast.
Most of our time spent in Venice wasn’t running around and checking cathedrals and museums off of a list. Instead, we spent the day meandering around the city. We crossed the various bridges over the large and small canals, found ourselves dead ended at a dock on the water far too many times while trying to take a shortcut to nowhere in particular and of course, running into some of the churches and palaces that garnish the city. One such building was the famous St. Mark’s cathedral. This cathedral is one of the busiest and most ornate that we have seen, and was described by Herbert Spencer as “a fine example of barbaric architecture”. Apparently in 828 AD, the Venetians stole the body of St. Mark from Alexandria in order to fulfill a prophecy and this massive building was built to house him.
We were really glad to not have bicycles in the city. While there is no traffic (on land, at least), nearly every bridge has stairs, and there were a lot of bridges! It would have been more effort than it was worth to haul bikes up and down the stairs. Needless to say, we didn’t see any other cyclists with the exception of a few right outside the train station.
Now that we are in Italy once again, we are back in the land of value menu milkshakes from McDonald’s. The day was warm, and the sun was really hot, so we stopped for a milksake to join us on our wander through the city. There was a forecast for 2 or 3 bouts of rain today and we dutifully packed our rain jackets in our day bag, but we hardly saw a drop! The cloud cover was much appreciated in the afternoon as it blew in from the sea, cooling the day off and improving the light for our photos.
One of the things that we find funny about major tourist steps such as these is that they often start to take on an almost amusement park quality with terrible food and endless tacky souvenirs. Our best find today was a particular cafe that famed itself for having “American Snacks”. Curious as to what an American snack was, we looked in the window. Pale hot dogs on crusty buns, as well as giant chicken nuggets sandwiched between two equally disgusting pieces of bread. We laughed and wondered at who would come to Italy and eat such nasty looking creations. Not long after, we overheard a group of teenage American boys discussing pizza. “Dude, a lot of places in Italy have pizza that is thinner than at home” he explained to the other as they appeared to be scouting out lunch. They finally found one, and with a breath of relief said “Good… this one looks more American”. They walked into one of the few pizza shops in town with really thick crust and abundant toppings. I guess the terrible catering appeals to someone!
All in all, we like Venice – we’re not in love, but we like it. I was disenchanted with the surprisingly large amount of litter in the streets were since there are not enough trash cans around, and the city didn’t seem to have adequate ventilation as the back alleys would often smell faintly of sewage (in contrast to Verona, for instance, which had a floral smell), but it is truly a unique and interesting city. The crowds weren’t even too bad, as long as we stayed off of the main canals. We laughed as the water buses would go by, with nearly every occupant holding out their camera in unison to take a picture of the photogenic city, as well as the clusters of people gathering to gawk at the gandoliers rowing almost-effortlessly through the narrow canals. Occasionally the gondoliers would get too close to a wall and have to kick off the side of a building with their feet which was pretty fun to watch. Unfortunately, though, we saw no accordions, and no tenors. Our guide bike claims that they are in surprisingly high demand on the world-famous gondola rides. Maybe tomorrow?