Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Venice - Jan 2005 Part I

And so it was that following bookings made at hotels in the Lido and a little outside Ravenna, and with the Blue Guide to both Venice and Northern Italy firmly in hand we set off on the evening of 2 January for Patras in my ageing Fiat Cinquecento. The trip was a surprise. Korinna did not know where we were going, just that a passport would be useful. Since we had been before to Ochrid and I travel frequently to Turkey, there was no way she would guess until well past Corinth and almost right up to the boat that the destination would be across the sea to the ungrateful matricide daughter of the Eastern Roman Empire.

In the end the passports were not needed for the crossing, nor was my green card for the car requested by anyone. We had 31 hours in the boat and I spent the time reading up a little on the destination. Fortunately it is possible to sleep for much of the 31 hours without having to alter your normal patterns. The boat sets off at about midnight and arrives at about seven or eight in the morning.

The arrival time was planned to be at about seven local time, and I learned that this is arrival at the entrance to the lagoon, not actual disembarkation time, so we had an opportunity for breakfast in the ship's canteen as we entered the lagoon. By the time we were passing the Doge's palace and St. Zacharia stop, the twilight had become bright enough to see Venice passing gently before us. They say that Venice should be approached by sea to appreciate the city - I have no recollection of approaching it any other way, so I'll just say that the approach by sea is special enough for me not to want to arrive any other way if I have the opportunity to go again. They say the same about Istanbul as well. I will have to wait and see about this.

By the time we had moored, the sun was up and colouring the lagoon and the city in a golden glow which was increasingly beautiful as we disembarked and made our way to the ferry service for the Lido. We got a three day pass, plus a return trip to the Lido for the car and went back past St. Zacharia and St. Mark's with the sun shining onto them from the sea. The three day pass allowed great freedom of movement and a carefree attitude to direction taking - it did not matter to be on the wrong boat, because not only would we see something unexpected, but we would not need to pay to come back. It also came out quite economical as the cost was less than individual trips to the three outlying islands which we made.

On the Lido, we stayed at the hotel Giardinetto, which is very central on the Lido, twenty yards or so from the vaporetto stop for St. Mark's and decently priced. We did not have a view of the lagoon, but some rooms in the hotel do. We took the car to the Hotel Park, a few km to the south which has an agreement with the Giardinetto and left the car there for the next three days. Coming back on the bus - ferry pass is good for travel on the buses too - we set off straight for St. Mark's arriving at about ten am. Amazed at this uncharacteristic efficiency in actually getting from A to B I was pleased that we had a great number of hours of sunlight left for walking around.

The plan was to see as much of Venice on this first day as possible, see Torcello on the second day as a day trip, and to see anything else in Venice which took our fancy on the third day, after watching the Befana Regatta.

We walked past from the St. Zacharia stop to St. Mark's square, past the hordes trying to look at the bridge of sighs, which were a little bit of a turn-off. I very much enjoyed the sculptured capitals on the columns of the Ducal Palace. They were something unexpected, and I have no idea when they were carved. Within no time at all, we were face to face with the tetrarchs, staring out of their new perch in all their porphyrean glory. It was moving to finally stand next to and dare I say it, touch this sculpture which was in my Latin books at school and about which I have read so much since school, and there they were. We asked a passer-by to take the canonical shot of us embracing like tetrarchs in front of the tetrarchs, but the passer-by cropped it in a way which shows that the visual echo was more a duck's quack than a fully-fledged yodel.

To be continued...

No comments: