March 4th, 2014
This weekend was one I will not forget. On on Saturday morning at 3:30 am, Travis was running and I was biking to meet my bus near campus to take me to Venice, Italy, The whole time on the way there, while there, and on the way back I was trying to convince myself it wasn’t a dream. I was actually in Venice, Italy. Of course, this is something I have dreamt about for as long as I can remember. Not only, was I in Venice, but I was in Venice during their world-renown Carneval. On the bus ride there, we passed through the Alps of Austria and vineyards of Italy. I noticed on our way through the Alps that the water was a baby blue. Even from a moving bus, we could see the bottom of the creeks and rivers we were passing through. Most beautiful water I have seen has (1) been on the coast of an ocean and (2) been a dark blue. Once we got into Italy, I kept thinking I was back in Louisville or Lexington, the land was extremely flat and the roadways looked very similar. The only major difference, with the exception of seeing vineyards instead of cows, was that the grass was almost a lime green color instead of a hunter green color.
After a 5 hour bus ride we made it to where the coach buses drop off everyone. We took a ferry ride to San Marco Square. Buses or cars are not allowed in Venice, I assume because there are no streets but instead canals between each block. I was travelling with a girl from my German intensive course, named Madelyn. Unfortunately, our entire day in Venice it was raining. We were hoping for blue skies and sunshine, but we made the most out of our trip. Just on the ferry ride we saw the most amazing architecture, right there underwater. As we passed, we could see where their front steps were completely submerged. There were gondolas and little boats all over the place. Instead of front doors, buildings had little boat garages. After we got off the ferry we started looking at little shops to find masks. We immediately found this guy who handmade each of the masks he sold. They were beautiful and we knew we would not only use them during the day, but would be able to late put them on a shelf as a memory of the trip; although, because it was raining we didn’t want them to ruin and could wear them during the day.
We knew the main square would be full of tourists’ overpriced merchandise, so immediately started walking into back alleys and looking for little insider shops. When we found these little insider shops in the back alleys, we couldn’t decide if it was a good thing or not because it was teaching us to walk in dark alleys in foreign countries. Oh well, it was well worth the experience. Don’t worry mom, nothing went wrong. We actually found this great little art studio. We walked in and there was a lady from Canada who was studying under the artist who owned the studio. She was able to explain the studio to us and it was nice to just have someone speak perfect English to us. (Travis, specifically, says he’s not homesick, but more language sick. It’s becomes very tiring having to work to be able to communicate each time you speak to someone, whether at the grocery, bus stop, bank, etc.) Anyways, it was a one room studio where he sold and made his artwork. There were beautiful murals of different spots around Venice. Looking back, I should’ve picked up some of his work because he was selling his murals for as cheap as 5 euros a piece.
We continued going through little alley ways trying to find the insider stuff, but along our way we passed the high end shopping places including: Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc. There were men outside these stores trying to sell knock-offs to us, Travis would be happy to hear that I resisted the urge and did not purchase any purses… yet.
As we walked throughout the back ways of the city, we passed beautiful bridges and basilicas. We also passed by a delicious looking bakery. I can now say that I tried my first ever cannoli in Venice, Italy. I can also say that is was delicious! Along our trip, we tried to find cheap but authentic Italian food. For lunch we found a café, where I ordered gnocchi with butter and sage. This was also the first time I had gnocchi, which this was homemade. Apparently, it was a lot mushier than the gnocchi in the states. It was good and I enjoyed it, but it was different than what I was used to. Madelyn ordered spaghetti Bolognese, which was also really good. She liked my gnocchi more and I liked her spaghetti Bolognese more, so we switched halfway through. We were soaking wet at this point and were really enjoying the warm restaurant. My waterproof camera bag was so wet that it was no longer waterproof and my camera was wet! At the restaurant, I was able to convince the doorman to give me an umbrella bag to wrap my camera in. We did a lot of window shopping the rest of the trip and just explored the city. There were people dressed in costume for the carnival all over the place. There were more adults dressed up than children. I actually found two women who were dressed up as Native American Indians. Obviously, I had to get my picture with my ancestors. While exploring the city, we came across authentic Italian gelato. Being in Europe, I had to try the chocolate! That was no mistake, it was great!Later that night, we found this pizza restaurant. We had pepperoni pizza. It was a thin crust which wasn’t much better than the pizza in the US, but the tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni were so much better. I usually don’t like pepperoni on my pizza, but this was not like the American pepperoni I am used to. Because of being wet for so long and it raining so hard, we decided to take advantage of the warm restaurant and try drying our shoes and socks in the bathroom.
After dinner we did a little more window shopping and decided to leave San Marco early (about 2 hours before the bus was going to leave) in order to ride the ferry and get back to the bus safely. I am very happy we did so because we got extremely lost! At the beginning of the day we forgot to look at what stop we loaded the ferry on, so on our ride to San Marco we tried counting back the number of stops to realize what stop we needed to go back to. Apparently the stop we got on did not have a place on the map we were looking at and so we got very lost on the way back, in the dark, cold and rainy Venice. My phone was almost dead, but no one else’s phone would work because they were Austrian phones in Italy. We were instructed by at least 10 people where to go and how we were in the wrong direction. One of which was a guy dressed up as a character from the Hangover, who had a baby strapped to the front of him-only during the carnival. Fortunately, the Hangover guy actually knew what he was talking about and told us the name of the stop we needed-but the name of the stop wasn’t on the map so we couldn’t find it. We even got as close as one stop from where we needed to be without realizing it. Finally about ten ferry rides later and only 15 minutes before the bus was going to leave us behind with no home, phone or money, we found this older couple from England who could speak to us and try to direct us. Madelyn started crying and the lady gave us a hug and tried convincing us that we were going to be able to make it-although I didn’t believe her at all, it was reassuring. After we followed this couple’s directions we ended up finding a couple from Canada who we could speak to and who were also looking for the same place we were. Their bus had already left, supposedly. After we got off the ferry we were ready to start looking for a police officer to ask for help. Thankfully, we recognized the stop and started running for our bus. We sprinted through the lakes that were supposed to be sidewalks and ran onto the bus just one minute before it pulled out of the lot.
We had a 5 hour bus ride on the way home and did not pull into Graz until 3:30 am the next morning. It was exhausting. I was still soaking wet. I don’t know if I’ve ever been that wet before. I was so happy to see Travis on his bike at the bus stop when I got off- this meant I was extremely close to a warm bed again. Because of my back problems, I was in quite a bit of pain, it was all worth it and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything-but I was ready to be lying flat in a warm, dry bed again. After a 30 minute bike ride/run home, we made over a 24 hour experience. It was a very long day, but an unforgettable day!
Not only was Venice a huge life adventure, but Travis and I explored our first castle on Sunday. We went to the castle in town, Schloss Eggenberg. Have I mentioned this feels like I’m in a dream? Travis and I went on a little stroll through the castle grounds. It was gorgeous, and somehow walking around in this huge castle I felt like it was pretty tiny after seeing the ancient buildings of Venice. Not only was the inside of the castle gorgeous but the grounds were too. We couldn’t walk into any of the rooms because it’s closed during the winter months, but we could walk through the halls and look in the windows into the grand rooms. The grounds around the castle had a little pond with a weeping willow and ducks as well as peacocks. The peacocks were all over the place and there were little kids and their parents feeding them. Travis said he’s now determined to go back to the castle grounds every day while we’re here until a peacock graces him with one of their feathers. He had never seen a peacock before so being the nature-man he is, he was fascinated with them.
After visiting the castle, we decided to make a day of it and try a little restaurant near campus called Pasauna. We were told you can make your own pizza and spaetzel there. We decided to share a small pizza and bowl of spaetzel. We put their original Austrian cheese, black olives, Canadian bacon, spinach and tomatoes in the spaetzel. It was great, but we decided we may like the spaetzel noodles from Propeller (restaurant down the street) better and the toppings from Pasauna better. For pizza, we tried ham, black olives, parmesan cheese, peppers, and spinach. That was great too, we are getting used to this Austrian authentic cooking. I’m not sure how our stomachs are going to handle the American food when we get back. Everything here is mostly organic and not so greasy.
Every time I visit anywhere like a castle or Venice or just something beautiful here in the city, even the cobble stone streets that are so average for the area, I can’t help to think how much I wish my parents, specifically my mom because she hasn’t been in Europe, could be here to see it with me. They would love to see these buildings that are older than our country and cities that are on water; although, now that I think about it I don’t know if I’d like to tour Venice with them because then I’d be looking at how all the docks work in Venice instead of the old city areas.
Sorry for the lack of pictures, compared to the lengthy explanation of our weekend. I can only upload 5 photos per post. All of my photos are on Facebook though! Hope you enjoy them.
Carneval of Venice and Schloss Eggenberg
March 4th, 2014