Well that sounds easy enough…let’s give it a try.
I get to travel the world for work. That sounds quite fabulous, doesn’t it? More or less..you might be up to your knees in trash by the end of a flight to Kozhikode, may have walked in on passengers in unlocked toilets 10 times, and are completely shocked by the sight, in a Dhaka flight, or might as well have been put to shame by the alien degree of civilization of the Japanese that neatly fold their blankets and somehow leave the aircraft cleaner then it was when they boarded. Either way, it’s an inspiring tale to tell, and thou at time you might feel exhausted, jet-lagged and psychically abused, for us, there is no other joy greater then seeing a flight to Rio on your roster for the month of carnival, being in Munich for Oktoberfest or crossing the narrow bridges of Venice to find yourself in Plaza San Marco in a beautiful late summer afternoon.
And this gem of a city is were I start my story. I was reserve for the month of August, that meaning I don’t get rostered flights, but airport and home standbys, waiting to be called out to do a crappy flight, that one of the crew called in sick for on the grounds of real sickness or more often alcohol intoxication, or even more often just because it’s a crappy flight. So having done leftovers the whole month, you can not imagine the joy in me when I heard from the other end of the line I was Venice bound. I had just purchased a couple of two new lenses and was keen to try them out. So off we go to the land of gelatos, pizzas, creepy carnival masks, romantic gondola rides and excentric, filthy wealthy Italians.
11 of us jumped in a shuttle from the hotel to the city, that dropped us off at Ferrovia, the main bus and ferry terminal. From there we lost 6, that were quite keen to go on the 80 euros gondola ride, quite steep for me and not prolific enough for my first time there. The rest, off we go following the obscure signs trough the narrow streets and canals towards Plaza San Marco. Venice is the world’s only pedestrian city, so your only difficulty in getting around will be the flowing crowds of tourists fighting for a slower or faster pace of walking in the narrow corridors. Some of the little streets can barely accommodate two people standing next to each other, but as you walk trough the heat of the summer sun you begin to appreciate the tall walls of the Venetian Gothic architecture that so comfortable provide you with shade in this lagoon.
As we approached Ponte di Rialto the space opened up and the Grand Canal majestically lay before us. With a history of 800 years, today’s Rialto Bridge was completed in 1591 and was used to replace a wooden bridge that collapsed in 1524.
Not far from Rialto, Plaza San Marco is busy with overpriced cafe shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. We sat for a glass of Prosecco next to Basillica di San Marco, Veneto’s sparkling wine and cheaper brother of Champagne. It is also known as the main ingredient of the Bellini Cocktail, to witch I shall return shortly as it was the treat of the night. Refreshed and a bit jolly from the drinks we headed up to The Bell Tower of Saint Mark’s for sunset views (7 euros entrance fee), where a kind elevator saved us from the steep stairs.
As we were enjoying the beautiful views and the sun coming down, the tower bell started ringing, and for 3 minutes we were deafened with a sound that only added intensity to the moment.
It’s getting late so we have to make our way back to the pick up point. And it would have been a shame not to sail the Grand Canal so we jumped on the pier and booked tickets for 7 euros on the ACTV vaporetti from San Marco to Ferrovia station. The journey is pleasant and quick, maybe 20 minutes, but as we were taking in the city sights by night there was one question that did not leave us. From the vaporetti we watched the palazzos lit by enormous chandeliers, revealing the detail and grandeur of the ceilings, halls and study rooms. And it was one after the other, after the other, the only thing missing were the people living in them. They all seemed utterly deserted and as I understand they are mostly museums, government establishments or work offices the thought that I’m looking at the ghost of what once was a vibrant, alive city that would hide its decadence behind its masks did not leave me. The privilege of having that experience is one for the eccentric elites. And they were not far from sight either. I promised a treat and there it was just 50m away from the pier, hidden from curious looks the entrance to Harry’s Bar awaited us to kill the 30min we had left until we had to board. The place where the famous Bellini Cocktail was invented, a mixture of Proseco and peach puree. Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar and inventor of the Bellini named the drink after the color of the toga of a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini. The Bar was a favorite hangout for Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles in the ’50s, and the same colorful kind of crowd still populates the place. We didn’t fit, but we enjoyed or ‘peach snaps’ nevertheless.