After spending an almost sleepless night in the train, we reached Venice.
It was quite early in the morning when we reached Venice and the weather had a chill in it. We waited at the train station for the sun to rise and the tourist information counters to open. There was another group of people from India and one of the strangest things happened. I was conversing with the girls of the group when one of the boys, after having waited for long asked me where I was from. I felt it quite an unusual question as we had not even been introduced. Nonetheless I told him and then he told me that he was from the same college as mine just that I was not aware of his existence till then!
Strange are the ways of this world, we had studied in the same college for four years, though in different courses but I had never known that he was there and here, we are meeting in – of all the places – Venice.
Now as soon as the things were visible outside, I stepped out of the railway station and saw what was one of the most amazing and beautiful things that I have seen in my life. There was water and water just in front of the station and there were boats ready to take people across the city. That was what is called the Grand Canal of Venice, which is the ‘road’ of Venice. The boats or water buses are called the vaporetti and we purchased the day ticket so that we could see the places that the lady at the tourist information counter had mentioned, as we did not have enough time to cover all the places on foot. Also the same ticket could be used for the boat ride of the entire Grand Canal. The lady had mentioned that we could go to all the places on foot also, but it would be good if we also took the boat ride to at least some of the places.
So we started towards our first destination that was the most famous place in Venice, the Piazza de San Marco or St. Mark’s square. St. Mark is the patron saint of Venice.
Once there, we first went to see the Palazzo Ducale (Duke’s palace).
The duke or the Doge as the duke was called, ruled Venice until the 18th century. The palace served both as the residence of the duke and the seat of government.
It was started in the 10th century and additions were made to its grandeur in the coming centuries, by some very famous artists of those days.
We took a tour of the palace and saw many beautiful paintings – done on the roofs, on canvas and on the walls. The most impressive of them was the elaborate painting of paradise, done by Tintoretto, on the roof of the great hall.
There was a room in the palace, which held an awesome collection of the various arms from across the centuries. It even held huge axes!
Also, a part of the palace was used as prison and it showed us that what would be the conditions in which the wrongdoers (who were caught) of those days had had to live.
On the way leading to the prison there was a window, from which one could see a bridge which was named as the ‘Bridge of Sighs’. It was so called because of the sighs uttered by the captives being taken to the prison as that would be the last time they would be seeing the light.
After having explored the palace to our heart’s content, we went to the St. Mark’s square. There we could see the most famous church in Venice, the church of St. Mark towering against the grey cloudy skies.
But there was a very long queue and the guards asked us to keep the backpacks that we had, in some place which we could not understand. So we decided to skip seeing the church from inside. Then we went ahead in the square and saw a place flocked by lots and lots of pigeons.
Tourists were buying grains from the vendors and the pigeons would come over to have the grains from their hands.We also tried this out.
My colleague had not less than fifteen pigeons descending upon him but I was baffled even though only one pigeon had alighted on my arm.
After this ‘adventure’, we went towards the restaurants area to satiate our hunger. There my colleague found a famous burger joint while I went ahead to experiment with the Italian cuisine and decided upon a helping of spaghetti with tomato sauce.
It was good but since the Indian taste buds are so much used to spices and all that this delicacy seemed quite bland to me and I could not enjoy it much.
Nonetheless, with the fuel inside, we went ahead to see the Rialto. It is a famous bridge which leads to the commercial center of Venice. The hustle and bustle of the market reminded me of all the wholesale markets of India, which remain crowded at all the times. We bought some souvenirs from there and then decided to call it a day and went for the final ride in the grand canal and reached the railway station.
We saw the famous gondolas of Venice en-route and some of the gondola men were singing something that sounded beautiful even without me understanding one word of it!
From there we went on foot towards the regular bus stand, from where we had to board the bus for the airport. En route we saw the ambulance service of Venice, which was again carried out via the water buses with the workers dressed in bright orange overalls.
Upon reaching the bus stand, we found that we had enough time to have an Italian ice-cream. On the way towards the airport, I could see the other part of Venice, the one without the grand canal and that part looked like any other European countryside. There were beautiful houses with beautiful lawns and children playing on the streets.
I don’t know why, but at that time, I felt a wave of nostalgia sweeping through me and I wanted to go back to my childhood days, on a sunny winter day, playing with my friends in the lawn of my house!
Anyways, after reaching the airport we finally got the chance to rest our feet and I had a nice hot cup of Cappuccino, before boarding the flight and waving a final good bye to the great city of Venice.