Saturday, April 7, 2012


So I have arrived here in my hostel in Hvar where I will stay here working for my accommodation for just over a month or more. I'll write a blog about the hostel later, but for now it's time to catch you up on the past...2 weeks of travel? So here goes...

I left my hostel in Salzburg early to catch my train, so missed out on breakfast, but a small price to pay to have a few more hours in Venice. Feeling quite homesick for some reason, I started my walk to the train station on a clear calm morning with the sun still rising behind the hills.

The train wound its way through the Austrian Alps alongside the river, climbing slowly till we were at the base of several ski fields with snow alongside the tracks. It was a spectacular train ride, I was so sleepy but forced myself to stay awake as I didn’t want to miss a single view. I wasn’t expecting such great views!

The odd castle here and there..

The train peaked and began it’s descent down to Villach where I transferred to a double decker bus. I walked up the bus stairs and stood straight up into the roof. Not as high as the last double decker I was on. I followed along the aisle staring down to find my seat number, before walking straight into a plastic beam on the ceiling, many of the other passengers let out an “oooo” as it made quite a thud. I just started laughing with embarrassment and they all joined in to.
The rest of the journey was very flat, and I managed to grab a few hours sleep before arriving in Venice. The station I had arrived at wasn’t listed in the directions the hostel had given me, but it wasn’t long till I found the overhead train that would take me to the main transport hub in Venice.

On the water taxi going up the grand canal. Those small house things floating on the edge are the stations/stops

The grand canal

Nice small quiet canals as I walk to my hostel

My hostel....looks a bit scary. My room is on the top row, the two windows underneath (either side) of the left chimney are mine
These were my first shutters and I was strangely amazed by them. When I woke up in the morning I would remember I didn't have curtains, just shutters, and would eagerly roll out of bed just to fling them open and breathe in the fresh morning air and watch the people below. I always felt like it was the start of some sort of musical, where you would do just that then burst into song. The baker, the butcher and the beggars would all stop and look up at you, and before long, the whole street would be singing in chorus.

My dorm all to myself for both nights...

My window view down to the street below
I'm incredibly excited at this point about Venice. I wasn't really that content about going but I thought I had better because it's so famous. And I am super glad I did.

I boarded the main water bus (6.50Euro, one way, what a rip-off!!!) that would take me up the grand canal to the street my hostel was on. Perhaps street isn’t the right word, Venice has no room for cars, all of the ‘streets’ vary from 1 to maybe 3 metres. Looking at the map the hostel gave me, I was concerned I’d never get anywhere because of how maze-like Venice is. The buildings seem to tower over the tight alleyways, and many of them lead into the water or to dead ends. I decided I’d just make a small circle around the hostel so I wouldn’t get lost. I was lost within minutes, finding several dead ends; but as most websites I had read on Venice suggested getting lost, I just picked a direction and walked.
I soon discovered that Venice is actually very small, and if you follow the few signs that mark the main areas, it isn’t so bad. Another great way to get around is follow the crowds, like a main road, you jump in the rush and go with the flow, and it usually gets you to a place you want to go, or the place you recognise to make your own way from there.

Rialto Bridge 

Campanile San Marco (the tower)

I spent the rest of the evening just walking, and it was fantastic!! I ended up crossing the Rialto Bridge and in the middle of Saint Marco square (which are the main points of Venice), not bad at all I thought.

Piazza San Marco
Bascillica San Marco

View from the Rialto Bridge 

All the tourist areas and souvenir shops are dead at night

I walked back to the hostel as I was extremely hungry, hungry enough to cook and eat one of my most loathed meals; Tuna Pasta. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. People laugh when I tell them I carry cans of food around in my backpack. I just can’t bring myself to throw food out, so I take it with me and cook it up when I get access to a kitchen. I didn’t have access to a Kitchen in Salzburg, and one night I decided I would eat Tuna on bread and then open a can of kidney beans (which I bought in Paris) and proceeded to eat them straight from the can with a plastic knife. Yes a knife. 2-3 beans per scoop. It was pretty disgusting, but I still managed half the can.

Alex, who was the hostel manager, was an artist. So when I questioned him why there was a giant peg in the living area he explained it. His English was a bit choppy but it was along the lines of, when you paint yourself you usually paint your face, but your face is not who you are; it's just how you look on the surface. So he made a peg the same height as himself which has two halves. One side "the face side" and the other side "his true self" and it's not until you find your true self can you accomplish anything; like a peg can only hang clothes with both sides. I hope I explained this well enough, but I wont look at a peg the same way again.

There's some stuff to see in Venice, but what you really should do is just walk, find quiet little streets and squares, eat some food, enjoy the sites and just soak it up. So walk I did...

Huge fresh fish market everyday just down the street from my hostel
My hostel map said you can take a no frills gondola (just a gondola shell with no trimmings and the gondoliers just wear normal clothes) across the grand canal for 0.50Euro which was much cheaper than the 80Euro it costs for a real gondola. This was enough for me though, and for only .50Euro, well worth it!!

Maybe because it was getting closer to the weekend, but it was unbelievably busy today. Thousands of tourists flooding the tiny streets, having to barge your way through, clogging the bridges and stopping in front of you every few seconds. I had to get out of the main area for a bit, I couldn't deal with it all, and to top it off, it must have been at least 25 degrees.
If the thought of trudging around the Canterbury A&P Show, on Show day, with a scorching hot Nor-Wester blowing through brings you to the verge of tears, we are in the same boat. Crowds + Heat = Grumpy Alex

I walked for about 10 minutes out of the main area and found some perfectly quiet streets along the outer edges of the main island..
Muuuuuuch better

Venice is famous for its glass blowing and Venetian masks that are usually worn during Carnival, which is 40 days before Easter. 

No Cina!!

Of course I had to check out Venice's green space. Bit of a hike to get there, obviously not a huge attraction, as it was quiet and not as well maintained as many other European parks but still pleasant. 

I try not to walk the same streets twice so I see more of the city I'm in, but this time I ended up in the residential area where locals were out hanging washing and maintaining there properties. I was getting some glances, obviously as I was in the complete wrong area for my kind so quickly found my way back the way I came. 

Yes that building is leaning quite dramatically, gave me a fright

Mainland Venice is quite industrial. My hostel said not to eat Spaghetti with clams as they are collected near that area and contain carcinogens. 

One of the things I wanted to overcome was that awkward feeling when you dine by yourself. I originally wanted to have a tomato spaghetti dish with a glass of red wine but all they had was pizza and I thought a glass of cold white would cut through the grease better. One of the things I learn't in Paris from Nick was to eat slowly and enjoy every bite; I'd never eaten so slowly in my life when I stayed with him but everything was so much better! I savored each mouthful and watched people go by in the bustling square on  a calm balmy evening. Perfection.   

When I come back through Italy it's going to be Spaghetti with a glass of red and it's going to be as perfect and amazing as this.....

.....minus the PDA of course.

The tourists numbers were dropping, along with the temperature, but Venice was at it's prime time. The early evening in Venice is the greatest time ever to wander around, and has by far the most spectacular views that literally make you gasp or swear or something to release the amount of amazingness that fills you when you come across such a sight. 

Another beautiful morning in Venice. I had an idea of the train timetables and an idea of the hostels in my next destination, but all I was following was some advice posted on a website, but I was in a good mood and feeling energized so even if it didn't go the way I planned, I'm sure I'd be able to figure something out.

Sad to leave Venice. I had to write such a big post about it because it was quite a mind blowing place. I could have easily spend a week wandering around, soaking up the sun and sipping wines by the canals, but not for those prices. Time to keep moving..

Tips for Venice..
Don’t bring your children; you will be relieved when you lose them
Don’t plan to much walking during the middle of the day, it is too hot (unless it's winter). The best time to see Venice is early morning or early evening when it is cooler and many other tourists are back home.
Don't try and find your way, just keep walking and trust your gut!