9/11/10 (Day 10)
We are nearly halfway through our 3-week vacation and can’t believe our luck at being able to take such a wonderful trip. 3 weeks a great amount of time for vacation. I almost, almost, need a day off from all the stimulants of vacation, but I think I’ll be able to hold out for a little longer. Haha.
This morning we were up at 4:45am and left our short-ceilinged-hotel for the 5:34 train to Interlaken Ost. Mark mentioned to the hotel reception that the only problem with the room might have been the headroom. Apparently this building is an original Swiss design that was built over a hundred years ago, and that one aspect cannot be changed. =) Hopefully our Venice hotel will have a little more room. I have to admit, that even I banged my hands into the ceiling a few times while stretching or simply putting on a shirt.
We were only one of a few passengers on the first train to Interlaken. From Interlaken to Bern, however, we got to ride an ICE train. The ICE is a high speed train mostly in Germany. First class on this train was very posh indeed! The seats were large, the aisles were roomy, we had a nice table, and there were perks like wifi and outlets. Too bad it was such a short journey. Next time in Europe, we’ll have to see if we can’t get a longer ride on a high speed ICE train.
We had an hour layover in Bern, so after dumping our luggage in a locker, we took the short 30-minute tour of the city. At 7:00am, the city was just waking up, but we were able to see several of the 11 fountains all modeled for a famous historical or folklore figure. We also saw the astronomical clock tower with dancing figures at 4 minutes to the hour. We weren’t there at the right time, but it was an impressive clock. And…..that’s about it.
Then it was off to Brig on an inter-city train with nearly no room for our duffel bag. After Brig, we hopped on our high speed train to Venice. We left Brig at 9:44am and will arrive at 2:40pm in Venice. This train is completely full and we were happy we were recommended to get reserved seats. Many of the people on the train had no idea what they were doing or where to sit, so it took a little time to get on. The seats are nice and the passing countryside from Switzerland into Italy is scenic. So far it is looking like a clear and sunny day.
Arriving in Venice was a shock after the tiny towns in Switzerland. We exited the train station to much warmer weather (we can take off our fleece now) and hordes of people. It feels like the whole world is right here in Venice with us! We headed to the nearest HelloVenezia ticket booth to buy our vaparetto passes and after a long wait found out we needed to be at a different booth. However, since I’m still between the ages of 18 and 29, I qualify for a student Rolling VeniceCard that gives me a discounted ticket and discounts to the museums. Cool.
The first vaparetto that came to our dock was full and we coudn’t get on, so we had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. In case you haven’t been to Venice before, the buses are boats called vaparettos. We caught our vaparetto to the hotel and entered the extremely large Molino Stucky Hilton Hotel of Venice. The Stucky building on an island just south of main Venice used to be a flour and pasta factory. We used hotwire to find this fancy 50-star hotel and were indeed impressed with the room.
The first thing we did was drop our stuff and head out on the town. We took the hotel’s complimentary boat shuttle to the mainland and just started walking. Venice is popular in September. Or maybe it’s popular all the time. In any case, there were way too many people here. As we wandered down the tiny side streets, we marveled at all the old buildings, bridges, and canals. We say many people getting gondola rides.
We walked and walked and eventually ended up in Rialto, the main tourist area along the Grand Canal and found a place to eat dinner. The view at dinner was superb along the canal and we heard several gondolas go by with Italian singers on board belting out various Italian tunes. The couple in the table an inch away from us was from Ann Arbor and just arrived today as well. We chatted while we waited for our food.
Italian food in Italy is indeed yummy. Mark had lasagna and I had some ravioli. For dessert, we wandered around until we found a gelataria. Gelato in Italy is delicious, too. More wandering and turning on streets with no particular direction in mind put ourselves in the famous San Marco Square with the San Marco Basilica and Doge’s Palace. Lining the square were multiple orchestra/band ensembles playing various tunes. We stopped at several to listen. I used various railings and spots on the ground as make-shift tripods to take some night photography.
The night was pleasantly breezy and probably dipped down to 70 or maybe 65. The sky was clear and we even saw a beautiful setting orange thumbnail of a moon. I don’t know all the names of everything we saw, but we did have fun looking at them. All the side streets are full of shops selling various souvenirs, gelato, or other foods. Window-shopping was at it’s best.
Eventually we tired and found ourselves back on the hotel shuttle and then back to the hotel where we literally collapsed in bed.