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Our second day in Venice was devoted to über-touristy activities. Before we arrived, we had booked a dual walking then boat tour of the city to get an overview. I’m so very happy we did. After wading through the crowds and figuring out where we were supposed to be, I was thankful that we were going to have someone to show us around and lead us through the madness.
Here is our Venetian tour guide Monika speaking into a microphone.
All the people in our group wore one earpiece, which I thought made us all look simultaneously like super-tourists and secret service agents. The walking tour started with a brief history of the city and a short stroll on the waterfront to the Doge Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica. In front of the Basilica the guide explained how the church was essentially built as the private chapel of the Doge of Venice and pointed out all of the different architectural styles exhibited in this one building. There were some amazingly interesting mosaics all throughout the church with fantastic symbolism and beauty, but I think my favorite was the mosaic on the outside of the church that tells the story of how St. Mark’s remains were smuggled out of Alexandria by two merchants who put them in a vegetable crate and covered them in pork so the Muslims wouldn’t touch them.
Here it is:
Here I am with the winged lion, a symbol of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.
Traffic Jam, Venetian Style.
The rest of the walking tour was really great for an overview of the major sites around the city and ended at the Rialto bridge (see below). We had a break between the walking and boat portions of the tour, so attempted to wander away from the touristy sections to find something to eat. We were somewhat successful and enjoyed some much deserved wine and semi-break from the heat of the day. (We did also keep reminding each other that the Midwest was having record breaking heat that same weekend, so we should quit our whining and keep drinking water.)
In the early evening, the boat tour lasted about 60 minutes and took place on a water taxi that the company had arranged. Our group was composed of tourists from the USA, Canada, England, and Australia, and we had a great time laughing about language misunderstandings of the fabulous tour guide Christina with the thickest and loveliest Italian accent.
Here she is with a typical Venetian backdrop.
When she told us about a house belonging to a family of merchants, the Canadian girl sitting next to her heard “a family of virgins,” thus provoking much hilarity and further description of the prostitutes of Venice than I’m sure any other boat got. FYI: There is a bridge in Venice called the “Bridge of Tits” (in Italian), so-called because that’s where the ladies of the night would display their wares for hire.
The Rialto Bridge as seen from the water.
Seeing the city by boat was a perfect overview of the place and I was also surprisingly happy to be able to see the city as a regular tourist would. I cannot imagine only coming to Venice for a day, and quite frankly our stay was a too short for my preference (much like my friend Stacey), but it was good to see the Venice of the tourist. This is not my preferred mode of travel, but it made a great comparison for the rest of my experience there. Venice feels a bit like a floating museum when experienced this tourist way, and I felt that at least 75% of the people we saw that day were fellow tourists.
Utter exhaustion is the only way to describe the end of all of our days there, but in particular this tourist day. We stayed outside in the heat all day long, and our skin and clothes were soaked with sweat almost the entire time. We all continuously drank water, which was thankfully abundant in these great free water fountains that spewed tasty cold water.
Despite slathering on sunscreen several times a day, I still came back to Berlin with a noticeable tan. By the time 10pm rolled around we were all completely cooked. Mom and I fell asleep while Alice skyped with her beau at home. There were more adventures to be had, and we wanted to be well rested.
To be continued…