Hehe. Remind me to never again make promises on when I’ll blog.
So, Venice. Venice is very cool, but it doesn’t take very long to see. Most of the guidebooks will tell you that more than 2 days in Venice is really pushing it. We were going to have about 24 hours (10:00 PM to 10:00 PM the next day), but we decided we wanted one more day.
We spent the morning and a decent part of the afternoon at Piazza San Marco. First stop was a museum at the far end of the Piazza—the Correr Museum. There was some nifty drawings, as well as some popup artwork that Dad said looked like it was only saved because it was done by the Doge’s son. Also present was some nifty glasswork, mostly chandeliers. For those of you unfamiliar with Venice, there’s a nearby island known as Murano which is famous for its glasswork. But more on Murano later.
Next we went and saw Saint Mark’s Cathedral (Editor’s Note: Because I can always remember the Italian word for “square” and can never remember the Italian word for “church,” San Marco always refers to the Piazza and St. Mark’s to the church. If that didn’t make sense to you, deal with it). While it couldn’t touch Saint Peter’s in scale or grandeur (or maintenence), it was interesting to see how the architectural and decorative style differed—I thought I could see some Eastern Orthodox influences.
Next was the Doge’s Palace, which was lots of gold and annoying because you couldn’t take pictures. The pictures show a lot more than I could explain. A few things worthy of note: the person holding up the world is not Atlas, as you might expect, but is in fact Hercules. Also, the view out in the 2nd to last photo was taken from inside the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge connects the Doge’s Palace to the prison. Legend has it that condemned prisoners would look out and sigh at the beauty of Venice before being hauled off to their death. We stumbled across the bridge again as we were wandering, and the last photo is the bridge from the outside. There is also a Bridge of Sighs at Oxford, but it’s believed to be modelled more after the Rialto Bridge than the Bridge of Sighs.
The Rialto Bridge, for the record, is the one bridge that crosses Venice’s Grand Canal. We didn’t cross it because there wasn’t really much on the other side. And we were kind of done with stairs.
The rest of our stay in Venice was really kind of painful, because we were very tired of sightseeing at this point. We headed to see Murano in hope of finding some shops still doing glassblowing. When we got there (it’s about an hour’s vaporetto ride), it was about 4:30, so most of the shops were closing down. All of the tourists were sort of herded off in one direction. At the end of a long path, we found ourselves at a small foundry and shop.
Obviously a tourist thing, we went into a room with two people: a glass blower and someone that explained what was going on. The glassblower made two things: a vase and a horse. You can see the process in the photos, at least for the horse. Unfortunately, no flashes allowed, so contrast was low. That’s why it’s all speckled. As the glassblower worked, the other guy rattled off explanations in about 5 different languages, meaning that by the time all was said and done, he had said about 4 sentences in any given language. After the demonstration we were dumped into the gift shop, where I took that last photo. I turned to Dad and asked, “So, you think they do these demonstrations often?”
Murano is famous for its glass work, and Venice sells it at every other shop in town. Seriously—Glass Shops : Venice :: Churches : Nashville. And I’ve always had a strange fascination with miniatures, so I took lots of photos of different things (Hint: zoom in on the South Park characters). All of the photos above were from glass shops on “mainland” Venice (i.e. not Murano – those come in the next paragraph).
Most of the tourist-accessible portion of Murano was made up of shops, most of which had closed by the time we got out of our little demonstration, so we decided to go back the next day a little earlier. All of these photos are from the shops of Murano.
A pretty decent number of shops had furnaces behind them, but they were mostly closed off. We did manage to sneak our way into one or two, but it seemed that those were only opened momentarily, as the suits showed people around who were there to buy something. They didn’t kick us out, though, so we stuck around and listened while they explained the secrets of glassblowing.
For example, the best way to polish hot glass is with paper. I’m assuming the paper is wet, because some of the glass pieces were put on a wooden paddle for like a final firing, and the paddle would catch fire.
Also, there was a clock tower in the Piazza San Marco with a very strange looking 24-hour clock. On the top was a bell with two iron men who struck the bell on the hour. Well, close to the hour—the clock was 5 or 10 minutes slow.
There are two train stations serving Venice: Venezia Santa Lucia, which is actually on the island, and Venezia Mestre, which is on the Italian mainland. From Venice we took an overnight train to Vienna (that’s where our plane home left from), which left from Mestre. However, we were done touristing about 3 or 4 hours before our train was due to leave, so we headed for Mestre, where we sat and read until it was time to go. In the restraunt at Mestre were ads for these great sandwiches. Check out the names, and the subtitle things for that matter. You’ll have to zoom in on the Flickr page, but I don’t think you’ll need to have them translated.