We awoke ready for another fun-filled day in Venice. We rocked the hotel breakfast, although today they noticed that Justine & Kristin shouldn’t be staying at the hotel…however we think the waiter got really confused and never ended up charging us for their meals. Then we loaded onto the bus into town. Have we mentioned what good luck we have with these buses? They always seem to just show up right after we get to the bus stop…very convenient.
Today we decided to check out the public transport system in Venice. In a city of canals, this is composed of many motorized bus-boats called vaporetti. We hopped on at the train station and rode the number 1 line all the way down the Grand Canal. The ride was filled with churches and palaces, all elegantly designed and brightly colored. We also spotted many picture-perfect alleys & canals branching off among the fine (and less than fine) buildings.
We rode the bus-boat all the way to St. Mark’s Square and made our way through the crowd to St. Mark’s Basilica. The square was buzzing with activity, but nothing compared to the day before. It seems that there are always tons of tourists here, but it does get worse on the weekend. The long line for church entry moved quickly and we were inside in no time! St. Mark’s Basilica was built in the 11th century. The architecture of the church is noticeably different compared to the many other churches we’ve seen. The Eastern-style architecture shows Venice’s connection to the Byzantine Empire and how it resisted Charlemange and the Holy Roman Empire. The church acts as the final resting place of St. Mark; his bones have been here since 830.
The interior of the church glows. The floor is an elaborate pattern of colored tiles and the walls are set with marble panels of white, black, pink, & green. The ceilings are filled with gold mosaics. The flat roof, the inside of the domes, & the inside surface of the tops of arches are all completely covered in glittering tiles. There are 4750 square yards of Byzantine mosaics! Each depicts a biblical scene or the image of a saint. The detail work amazed us all and made us marvel at the time it would take to cement each tiny piece down.
(This is a photo from Kristin’s phone, hence the poorer quality, because pictures weren’t technically allowed in the church)
We decided to pay the small fee to visit the church’s treasury. Venetian crusaders looted the Christian city of Constantinople and brought home piles of lavish treasures. It was amazing to see these objects from a period when the rest of Europe was stuck in the Dark Ages. There was no shortage of gold and flawless cut crystal, but the most interesting pieces were even more organic… There was a collection of bones from various parts of various bodies. Each was placed in a container specially designed for that bone. It was odd & morbid….
We hopped back on the boat-bus and made our way to the island of Murano. Murano is located in the Venice lagoon separated from the hoards of tourists in the main city. This island is known for it’s glass blowing, as the people of Murano invented and perfected this technique. Getting off the boat we were escorted to a glass blowing demonstration. This was really neat. In a large warehouse three guys were hard at work. They had a large oven-thing that heats the glass to 1000 degrees celcius so it can be worked. Then it is rolled in colored glass beads to give color (duh!) and patterned effects. The glass is worked & heated several times before there is a finished product. It was interesting to see the blowing part as the master craftsman only gives the tiniest puff of air into it….not a huge lung full.
The rest of our time in Murano was spent shopping. There is a small canal that runs through the center of the island. It is lined with glass shop after glass shop, all advertising that their merchandise was made right on the island (as opposed to mass-produced in China). There were a lot of cute pieces of jewlery and interesting glass creations. Everything was made all the more interesting to see by our new glass blowing knowledge. We ate lunch sitting on the base of the tall white tower of the Murano dock. There was a cafe near by that sold us delicious paninis to go. We watched the boats scoot around the lagoon before catching our own bus-boat back to St. Marco’s Square.
Once at St. Marcos we changed bus lines and rode up the Grand Canal to the Rialto bridge area. Our first goal was to locate the penny machine. For those of you who don’t know Justine’s sister Alexa really well, you are probably clueless as to what a penny machine is. They are a device that takes a penny (in North America…here it is a 2 or 5 cent Euro piece) and presses it into a flat, smooth ellipse. While pressing it, it stamps the penny with a new image, such as: the word Venezia with a picture of the Rialto bridge. They’re a cool collectable and Alexa has about a million of them. Everyone in the family gets them for her when they travel, and we are trying to locate the machines throughout Europe. It’s made easier by the website www.pennycollectors.com. That site gave us an address for the only penny machine in Venice and Justine Google Map’ed it…this all made finding it a synch! That down, we grabbed some gelato. If you are ever looking for Gelato in Venice go to the place on the same block as the penny machine! (You can look up the address on the previously mentioned website.) The gelato was so cold it didn’t melt in the whole time it took to eat it. It was also incredibly flavorful…the flavor was strong, accurate & incredibly delicious! Today’s flavors were: Coffee (H), Lemon (J), Pistachio (B), and Cookie Dough (K).
We spent the next few hours shopping. There are so many cute shops in Venice. You can walk through 3 blocks and pass a tacky souvenir store, blown-glass stores, medium-end clothing stores, a mask craftsman, an Italian leather shop and Gucci. It made for a fun afternoon…well maybe for everyone but Harv.
We decided we would eat supper along the Grand Canal agian. The ambience was so surreal the night before, plus it was chilly again and the canal side places have heaters by their outdoor tables! The first place didn’t have a four-person table available so we passed it by and tried the second. However, one look at the wine list had us up and out of our seats…we were not feeling like paying as much as they were asking when we knew the place just one down were charging way less! We tried the fourth place, but our table did not have sufficient heaters and the wine list was even worse price-wise. We vacated our second table of the night and went to the third restaurant on the strip, the same one we’d went to the night before. They recognized us, seated us at the same table and even made sure we sat in the same spots. Basically we’re becoming recognizable regulars here 😉
We decided to order off the menu, instead of getting the 3-piece meal. We split the seafood appetizer, which featured many different little creatures. It was really enjoyable, even if we didn’t always know what we were eating…
For the main course, Bev had lasagne, Kristin had cannelloni, Justine had spaghetti with clams (which had been so good when she’d had it the night before that she wanted to gobble down the full size tonight) and Harvey had spaghetti with cuttlefish.
The cuttlefish is the black one…looks really appetizing, eh? There’s something about black food that turned the rest of us off, but it tasted really good. In case you’re curious what a cuttlefish looks like, here is a picture from the Internet & one of them being sold at the market (that photo is from the future…aka tomorrow’s market). Cuttlefish are more related to squid and octopus than other fish and the black comes from it’s ink!
Love, Luck & Licorice Pasta?
K&J + B&H