The Magic & Struggles of Venice

Venice is a magical place. Before I traveled to this location I saw plenty of pictures which inspired me to make the trip to the city in the first place. Matt and I arrive in Venice in the dark. Taking the train into the city, we know there is water on either side of the tracks but we can’t see it. Snatching up our backpacks, we struggle to hoist the oversized luggage upon our backs before we exit the train station. Leaving the terminal, we see a huge canal in front of us but we can’t really see everything. It’s dark and threatening rain so we focus on getting to our hostel. We take a side street and walk away from the canal to an enclosed square with no water in sight. In our room we are in a closed off world; the window opens to the view of a brick wall of the next building over. I stick my head out the window and crane my neck to the right to catch a glimpse of the square we just scurried across. I get ready for sleep and crawl into bed, thankful for reaching our destination and briefly noting the run Matt and I planned for tomorrow.

A Small Bridge in Venice

A Small Bridge in Venice

 

The Beautiful Day

 

A long, restful night behind me, I wake up with sleepy eyes and brush my teeth in front of the mirror while I assess my hair and wonder what I’ll need to do to make it cooperate. It’s a normal day. After I get into my workout clothes, Matt and I descend into the square to begin our run. We come out of a small street and are immediately confronted with the Grand Canal. Running along the water and over small bridges, I keep exclaiming to Matt, “This is so cool!” which mainly resulted in me running out of breath as I don’t usually talk when I doing cardio. In Venice the water laps up against the edge of the canal. In some places it is almost level with the street. If someone wasn’t aware, they potentially could attempt to walk out onto it thinking that it might be a continuation of the streets. The water is a beautiful blue, a hue that is pale yet deep all at once. It’s practically indescribable. And I certainly have never seen its like before in my life. Venice is one with the water. It feels as if the island could be flooded at any second, lost to nature’s wrath. The city instilled in me a sense of wonder and magic that something so splendid and surreal could actually exist on this earth. When I’m near the water I feel at home; Venice felt like the most extreme and unique version of that feeling. It brings me back to memories of my childhood and trips with my family. As I run along I wish I could have my family with me and show them this unbelievable sight before it disappears as sea levels rise, a thought that makes me feel sad. I am so thankful to have seen the city in person.

Temporary Walkways to Traverse Flooding in St. Marco's Square, Venice

Temporary Walkways to Traverse Flooding in St. Marco’s Square, Venice

After a quick shower and a breakfast, Matt and I decide to spend the day wandering Venice. It’s one of those places where you can go to just see the city, kind of like Rome. We make our way over to St. Marco’s Square. We find a small alley and pop out on to a slightly elevated portion of the square, looking out over a system of temporary walkways that have been set up due to the flooding at the location which is one of the lowest points in Venice. I practically squeal with delight. It is such an amusing and novel sight. Some people walk through the water in boots. Other eagerly spend the ten euros on a pair of cheap booties to place over their own shoes so they can frolic through the water. Matt and I patiently cross the crowded walkways to access the basilica of which the entrance is also flooding. The basilica boast a glittering, opulent interior due to gold on every surface. The floor hosts marbles of all shades arranged in varying patterns. The wealth of this location becomes immediately clear upon stepping into the building. It is so ostentatious, extreme, and beautiful, a description that easily matches the city itself. Matt and I spend the rest of the day wandering Venice and taking in whatever sights we happen upon.

Marble Floor in St. Marco's Basilica, Venice

Marble Floor in St. Marco’s Basilica, Venice

Golden Ceiling in St. Marco's Basilica, Venice

Golden Ceiling in St. Marco’s Basilica, Venice

The Not So Good Day

 

The next day in Venice was much less glamorous than the first. Matt wakes up sick so we decide a run isn’t the best idea. The heavy rain deters us as well. Matt and I purchased tickets for a secret tour of the Doge’s Palace in which we could see the regular parts of the building but also all of the back administrative rooms, prison, archive, and torture chamber. Matt and I set out early in case we got lost along the way. The rain fails to subside by the time we reach breakfast so our pants are already soaked through; this event is only five minutes in to our day. We forge on over bridges, through the rain, over temporary walkways. We make a stop to place my bag within Matt’s for fear that my camera will be destroyed by the rain that begins to soak through my bag. At this point it looks like we took a shower in our pants. Thankfully the rain jackets prevent our upper bodies from being soaked as well. By the time we are in St. Marco’s Square, our boots soak through, boots which never had water reach their interior before this particular inondation. That’s how much rain there is. Upon arriving at the Doge’s Palace, the pants exposed to the rain are so saturated that the water is starting to creep up the fabric under our rain jackets. We begin the tour feeling much like drowned rats and hoping that Matt won’t get even sicker. The tour is lovely and interesting even if we shiver from the cold of our clothing which doesn’t dry. After the tour we decide to continue to the hostel. The rain has let up a bit so we take the opportunity to stop in souvenir shops along the way. Upon entering the first shop, heat washes over us. We spend more time than necessary in the shop so that our clothing can dry, which it does completely with the help of standing under the heating vents. After that fortunate occurrence, we decide to stay out, get some lunch, and enjoy the rest of our last day. Unfortunately the rain only subsided briefly. After our meal, we go back out into a downpour and return to our hostel just as soaked as when we arrived at the Doge’s Palace.

Ceiling in the Doge's Palace, Venice

Ceiling in the Doge’s Palace, Venice

Venice is an unbelievable location. We had both a beautiful and rainy day. Both days are something that Matt and I will never forget. It was a positive experience overall in Venice because the place is just magic. Even if you’re soaked to the bone, you can’t help but feel awed and happy to be there. It feels as if you are living on the water rather than near the water. As Matt and I departed from Venice, we looked back at the city across the water. It looks like a floating city rather than a simple island; it’s a grand illusion that you want to get lost on and in.

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10 Things I’m Thankful For As I Travel

I’m quite used to missing Thanksgiving due to schooling or work. I always find my own way to celebrate Thanksgiving while I’m gone. Usually my celebration involves a large box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese because I can. This year I thought I would honor the holiday a bit more thoughtfully by creating a list of things that I’ve been thankful for during my trip. This list ranges from the material objects to the intangible but it’s all something that I’ve found myself being grateful for while I’ve been backpacking. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

A Nice Hostel: Choosing a hostel always feels like a crap shoot. No matter how  much research you do, you still feel like you might end up with bad lodging. Matt and I take the risk of not staying at perfect hostels in order for our trip to be more affordable. We’re thankful every time we end up with a good, safe place to rest our heads.

Support of Loved Ones: Matt and I have incredibly supportive family and friends. It would be hard to do this trip without knowing we have people back home to help us out if we got stuck and, at the simplest level, accept that we’ve decided to take this journey. This is a dream fulfilled for me. I am so thankful that those important people in my life understand why I wanted to do this and are happy for me. It gives me something to come home to because I know those people understand me as a person and accept who I am rather than scold me for taking a risk and following my dreams.

Cheap Food: Finding good cheap food can sometimes be difficult. Occasionally eating pasta is the only way to keep costs down. From time to time we’ll find ourselves in a country where good, cheap, quality food is the norm. That’s always a happy location that we’re grateful to have stumbled upon. It means not having to compromise the healthfulness of our meal for keeping money in our pockets.

Freedom of Travel: Backpacking around Europe has revealed to Matt and I how lucky we are to be able to travel. Matt and I were able to get on a plane and just go because of the good relationship between the US and EU. No visas required. No hassles. It has been a freeing experience that not everyone we met were able to say they also enjoyed so we’re thankful for the freedom we’ve experience.

Quiet, Nice, Friendly Roommates: Part of staying in a hostel is sharing close quarters with strangers. My best experiences have always been with friendly, respectful roommates. They keep their space clean and are quiet so everyone can sleep. You don’t always get good roommates as a backpacker so it’s a relief every time you learn that you’ve lucked out and the hostel gods have answered your prayers. It makes the journey that much better.

First Hand Experience with Other Cultures: It’s a great opportunity to be in another culture and experience it first hand. You can read books but it’s not quite the same. I recognize that not everyone is in a situation that would allow them to have this experience. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn about other cultures in this way.

Inexpensive Flights at Reasonable Times: Very early morning flights are doable but they are rough. Matt and I have had our share of experiences in which we must catch a 7am flight in order to be able to even afford it at all. A 7am flight often means a 3am wake up. Those days can be tough and test your sanity. When we can find a cheap flight at a reasonable hour, we are so thankful.

An Awesome Travel Buddy: When I’m down, he reminds me of the good parts of our day. When I’m sick, he makes sure that I get everything I need to feel better. By coming on this trip with me, Matt has helped me fulfill one of my dreams. While I could have done this without him, I wouldn’t have ever wanted to. Matt’s made my experience infinitely more fun and multi-faceted. He makes me think of things in ways I never have or suggests experiences I never would have considered. I’m thankful that my boyfriend and awesome travel buddy helped me create positive memories that will last a lifetime.

Good Weather: The sun doesn’t always shine but it also doesn’t always rain. We hope for sunny days. When we’ve had a few days where the rains is so bad that it soaks through our clothes while we visit the city, we are infinitely more grateful for the sun.

The Kindness of Humanity: Traveling has restored my faith in humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I see some sad, horrible things when I travel. There’s still plenty that humans need to work on. But for the most part, people are good. To be honest, Matt and I haven’t had one bad experience with people while we’ve traveled. Everyone has been helpful, courteous, and, the vast majority of the time, friendly. The world can be a scary place; it is easy to become cynical and disappointed when you hear about all the things that are happening, especially when you feel like you can’t do anything about it. But I try to remind myself of all the good people I meet. I’m thankful that I’ve been given the enlightenment that humans are generally good. It’s something I might have to work to remember from time to time but it is something worth not forgetting. It makes the world seem a bit brighter.