In the summer of 2006, I worked in Munich and hungered to see the world. I was able to get 8 days off my summer internship and decided to go to Austria (Vienna) and Italy (Rome, Pisa and Sicily). After that chaotic trip, I wrote an email to my family and friends chronicling my adventures and these are the tales I will share with you for the next few weeks.
Soooo panting and all I found my seat. Most European long distance trains have cabins with six seats (3 on each side) and a sliding door for the cabin. My cabin mates were a middle aged Argentinian couple (they were really nice), two Korean students and a Chinese guy who only spoke Mandarin but was the nicest person ever. We all talked for a while and the Argentinian couple warned all of us to be extra careful in Italy since there are a lot of thieves and pickpockets. So I instantly went into Kenya mode which is the mode where you never leave your bags unattended, where you carry your backpack in front of you in crowds, tightly hold on to your bags and always have an eye open. I am proud to say I was not robbed even once in Italy . The Argentinians even told us there are thieves on the trains. By this time I was so exhausted, and dying to sleep. The guy opposite me (the Chinese guy) was so sweet and let me put my legs up on his seat. I gave him the same offer and he refused. The sweet guy stayed in this uncomfortable sitting position for the whole 12 hour journey, and even slept in this position, while I was comfortably stretched out. I honestly think my next boyfriend should be Asian. That guy was so polite and chivalrous! The two Korean dudes are the ones who lifted everyone’s bags up to the bag storage place. Surely that is sweetness. Hmmm so we all slept. At one point though I woke up to the scariest noise I have ever heard. The Argentinian guy next to me was snoring so loud and so unrythmically that I could not believe it. I think people 1km away could probably hear him. It was a scary snore. Soooo scary that it was able to wake me up from my usually deep sleep. Yeah him and his wife were competing in the snoring department. Finally he turned over and the snoring became less loud. I fell asleep only to be awoken again by one of the Koreans loud snoring. I seriously think I must have been in the snoring cabin. Like honestly….I know many people who snore, but in this cabin it was unbelievable. It was more like choking coupled with screaming coupled with coughing and a bit of wheezing thrown in for good measure. Really bad snoring. I couldn't understand how they could sleep through their own snoring.
PS-DON’T DRINK THE WATER!!!!!! DON’T TOUCH THE WATER!!!!!
Finally after sleeping on and off morning came. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. Most of the taps in Italy have huge signs in red saying “Don’t drink the water.” I was seriously beginning to wonder what is wrong with Italian water. Munich water is the cleanest ever,and drinkable. I did not drink the water though! Soooo I wash my face and brush my teeth. People I am not lying when I tell you that my gums bled and suddenly my face broke out in rashes later that day. Like seriously!!!!!!!! You would think that the most dangerous thing water could do to you is give you typhoid. But in the words of a guy I met in the train on my way to Sicily “Don’t touch the water!!!!!! It is acid!!!!” This was before his friend handed me a face wipe to save me from having to wash my face with water.
Oh back to Venice . So I am now sitting in the train watching the lovely scenery outside. Suddenly the train is on a bridge and the only thing below us is the Adriatic Sea (the name of the Mediterranean sea in the East of Italy.) It was so amazing. The sea was sparkling in the morning sun, and I felt this warm glow in my heart. It was soooooo beautiful. Arriving in Venice was so sooooo soooooooo one of those moments you can never forget in your life. Venice can truly not be described in words or pictures. I still find it hard to believe I saw such beauty. The whole city is right on the water. There are no buses, roads or taxis in the main part of Venice only boats, gondolas (the lovely narrow boats from ancient times), canals and very very narrow streets.Venice’s beauty is made more spectacular and fragile by the fact that the city has flooded 300 times in the past 10 years. One day there might be no more Venice . I really mean the buildings are right in the water. I honestly don’t know how the city was built. I saw someone get off their boat and jump into this huge building. The door of the building was only 2feet above the water, and the whole foundation was under water. Truly a marvel. I hopped into boat ie bus no.1 (5 euros) – they call the commuter boats,buses- and traveled half an hour to St. Marco’s square which is the most famous part of Venice. The whole journey there was spell binding, and I kept on expecting to wake up. I got to St. Marco and passed all these traders selling all this carnival costumes/masks and swore to myself that the next time I come to Venice it will be during carnival ball. At St.Marco’s square I went to the famous St. Marco basilica. It was just toooooo much to take in. The whole beauty of the place. The whole magic of Venice . I was now beginning to feel overwhelmed. The basilica is really magical, and the symbolic sculptures on it were too many for me to really take in. The lion of Venice . Standing there in the middle of St. Marco’s square a single tear dropped down my cheek. It could have been the acid water affecting my eye sight, but it was not. I believe it was just the joy of being in Venice . The joy of seeing a place I had only read of in books. The whole feeling that God, Fate and Fortune wanted me to be in this exact spot at this exact moment of time. The fact that life is so unpredictable. The fact that a year ago I would not have dreamed of myself being in Venice , breathing in the cool ocean breeze, standing in a place of such historical significance. Just the feeling that this must have been a vital point in my life…..one which I will probably never fully understand. But even sitting here writing this email, yet more tears of joy roll down my cheek. There is beauty in this world. Beauty that is capable of evoking such strong emotions in someone’s heart. Standing in St. Marco’s square I felt so happy to be such a small small tiny fragment in this big big world. Standing there in St. Marco’s square filled me with wanderlust- a feeling that there is so much out there in the world to see. It made me make a vow never to pass up an opportunity to travel anywhere – Africa , Asia , Australia etc. There is so much for one to see that one could never know until they see it.
So after leaving St. Marco’s square I still had quite a bit of time to wander around. I started wandering through the streets trying to pay attention to what turns I had made so that I didn’t get lost when I had to go back to St. Marco’s square to catch my boat back to St. Lucia ie the train station stop. I walked through the winding streets. They were so beautiful and interesting. I can see why many books choose to portray Venice as a place of mystery and sometimes danger. The streets are winding and confusing. Some streets end in bridges which end in shops and lead one back to a different winding road. Like really it is easy for even an expert navigator to get lost in Venice . So after a few turns I still knew where I was. I was still walking without paying attention to the turns I made then I realized “oh crap!!! I am lost!!!!” Note to self……..”Never ask Italians for directions!!!”
Carrie: “ Hallo, how do I get to St. Marco”
Italian 1: “e left……. Keep on straight.”
Half an hour later
Carrie: : “ Hallo, how do I get to St. Marco”
Italian 2: “e right…..straight.”
I got totally contrasting directions from everyone. Anyway finally I managed to get knowledgeable tourists who pointed me in the right direction : left, walk 10 minutes straight, the fourth bridge, turn right…..walk fifteen minutes….blah blah blah.” I luckily got to my train station early. It was so sad saying goodbye to Venice …..sob sob!!!