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Venice view of canals, buildings and boats

European Adventure Venice

Venezia

I arrive in Venice after another long yet scenic train ride. Not having anyone to talk with made these train rides feel much longer. This time the train was half empty again. Immediately after stepping out of the train station, I’m treated to those fantastic views that make Venezia that ever so popular picturesque city that everyone wants to visit. One can easily see why. I navigate my way through the sea of people towards the quaint little neighborhood of Cannaregio which is where I would be staying. I find myself staying in your typical small Venetian home, the type that during high tide floods with water from the nearby canals.

As recommended by most people who visit, my first night in Venice I get lost in the city, like literally. It was late at night, and I was completely lost. But I didn’t care. I had heard about how safe Venice was and how there are cameras literally everywhere monitoring everything so I felt safe. Maybe it was a false sense of security as bad things can happen anywhere but I ignored and overcame that slight feeling of nervousness that comes with being lost. At the same time, it was great feeling like I had the city all to myself.

Sometimes it’s nice to get lost and what better place to do this than in Venice. Eventually, I found my way again and took advantage of the lack of tourists to take many pictures that showed a different side of Venice. The kind that most tourists don’t get to see. This is the key advantage of staying on the island as opposed to a cheaper inland destination and busing it in every day. Experiencing those rare, precious moments of being the only soul on the Rialto Bridge, witnessing how locals enjoy the nightlife and not having to fight through throngs of tourists for prime picture spots.

Back at home base that night I meet Jiayi. She would be my roomie for the night. We get into a really nice conversation over tea and quickly find out a great deal about each other. She’s visiting from London, and it was her third time in Venice. I learn she’s in town for the Biennale and also to pick up clothes and shoes for her wedding that she’s been planning for quite some time now. She tells me about life in London and how she met her soon to be husband. I also had planned to check out the Biennale, specifically the gardens and she offers to let me tag along with her in the morning. I looked forward to exploring more of the city and the arts festival with a seasoned Venice pro.

The following morning we head out to the Biennale as planned and make the obligatory brief tourist stops along the way. I still hadn’t seen St. Mark’s square although I had come close to reaching it the night before. Seeing it overrun with tourists, mostly visiting off cruise ships, was an entirely different experience altogether and one that I could honestly do without. But that’s Venice and I knew this going in. I’ve heard of Venice described as Disneyland for adults and I have to admit after experiencing it first hand, I can certainly attest to this characterization.

When we finally reach the Biennale, the line to get in was ridiculous! You had to take a number and there were hordes of people waiting outside for their number to be called just to buy tickets. As I stand there contemplating what to do, a couple who had been waiting offers me their number. Apparently the wait was going to be far too long for them as they had a train to catch and luckily for me, decided to give away their number instead of just tossing it. I still had to wait for their number to be called but not as long as my number would have been. This fortunate interaction convinced me to not only visit the gardens but the Arsenal side as well.

After my number is called and I buy my tickets, I meet up with Jiayi inside. She had already bought her tickets ahead of time, so I recommended that she go on in instead of waiting for me. We explored the gardens and all the exhibitions and art installations found in this area. It was mostly composed of houses with names of different countries containing unique works of art by artists representing each country.

My favorite exhibition from the Giardini was the Russia house. I thought they had the most impressive installation and did the most with their space. Not to mention the art actually made sense to me which is always a plus. For those who aren’t familiar with the Biennale, it’s a bi-annual art festival that focuses on showcasing the world of contemporary art. Everything from canvas, to video, to dance interpretations. Fittingly enough, it’s only held on odd numbered years.

It’s an interesting crowd that you meet at these types of art festivals to go along with the interesting art. I have to admit some of it was just plain weird and I didn’t get it at all. But I didn’t feel bad because Jiayi didn’t either. There were also quite a few I did enjoy with sculpture type art being my favorite. It felt great having the opportunity to explore and make sense of it all with Jiayi and I had a great time doing so. We took a few fun pictures and even sat through some really interesting video installations.

I especially remember this one particularly curious installation that forced us to sit in total darkness for a half hour and witness a light projection show whose central message was basically, “To not be afraid.” There were also some feminist undertones about the importance of birth and rebirth and whatnot. Anyway, it was an interesting experience that’s for sure and perfectly summed up the type of art you would expect to see here.

It was Jiayi’s last day in Venice before she boarded a train to Milano to finish buying that dress and shoes that she needed for her wedding. We said our goodbyes but not before she offered and I agreed, to visit the newlywed couple in London at some point in the future. Promise made and contact info in hand we parted ways.

I still keep in touch with Jiayi and I’m happy to report for those wondering that her wedding went swimmingly. She even shared pictures of her romantically quaint reception at a pub along the Thames River. Her mum even got to attend all the way from China. I wish the happy couple all the best! Cheers!

The next day I was left to explore the Arsenal side of the Biennale by myself. I took Jiayi’s advice of going to the Biennale during the day at the height of tourist activity and then venturing back into Venice in the evenings after the crowds had died down. Once again it proved interesting but naturally not as much fun as it was exploring it with Jiayi. I definitely missed her company and the roomies that came after weren’t nearly as chatty, most likely due to a bit of a language barrier. Also, they were mostly passing through, just overnight stays and they were gone in the morning. So I really didn’t get much of a chance to get to know them.

The Arsenal side was gorgeous, and I got to explore another neighborhood of Venice that most tourists also don’t get to see, specifically the Nord side. They even offered a free water shuttle that took you from one side to the other. Lack of good company aside, it was still good fun and I got the opportunity to take some more impressive pictures. Along with more views of the not so crowded Venice, this time in broad daylight. The next morning I would bid goodbye to Venice and Italy as a whole but not before enjoying one last tasty bit of gelato! Next stop Deutschland and Oktoberfest!

Onward to Munich

Trip photos

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