Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When last you tuned in, the fabulous four were hurtling through time and space from Udine to Venice second class on a train. Will they get there? Will their luggage get there? Will they meet hubby in time?

Well, yes, yes, and no kind of. Despite the new Italian cell phone, the meeting with the hubby was fraught with dilemma and delay. He flew into the Venice airport and met us in the train station line for storing luggage. We did, eventually, meet up (and I am very thankful to the Italian man who helped me load more minutes on the vodaphone). We got on the water taxi, steered away from the train station around the west side of the island toward... St. Mark's Square!

St. Mark's Square is amazingly beautiful in architecture and history. St. Mark's Cathedral is where -- wait for it -- St. Mark is buried. The building spans several centuries, and so did the line. We had only a few hours in this historic city, and the choice was to tour the Doge's Palace.

At the end of the medieval times and the birth of the Renaissance, Venice was the richest city of the Mediterranean. It had gained its power and wealth from ship building and trade: spices, salt, silk. Marco Polo was one of the more famous of thhe ese traders, drawn into his exploring by the promise of Eastern goods to trade, as his father was before him. The Doge was the elected ruler of the council of Venice. In the court room in the Palace, where the Council of Ten sat, we saw the largest oil painting in the world. At one time, that room had been the largest room without pillars in Europe. Condemned prisoners, like Casanova, were escorted to the dungeons. These were in a separate building -- island, really -- reached by the Bridge of Sighs. Casanova was the only prisoner every to escape from this prison. The picture on the left is the square as seen from the bay. The Doge's Palace is the large square building in the foreground. You can see the Bridge of Sighs on the right. The picture on the right is the view from the Bridge of Sighs -- the last view a prisoner would see of this queen of cities.

We went from there and forged ahead into the confusing maze of streets -- all pedestrian streets, save for the canals, gondolas and water taxis. Venice is a town of tourists. Our friends in Udine said it would hold more Americans than Italians at this time of year, and were heard to allow a parallel with Disney World. We wielded our way amongst them, and a surprising number of Russians, and our daughter kept us to the task of shopping. She was fully determined to purchase a mask. Venice is known for its Carnival masks, blown glass and gondolas. About the fourth shop, she bought a small mask.

We relieved the city of a bit of gelato, walked over the Rialto bridge, and dipped our toes in the water, which, I am happy to say, really didn't smell like I had heard that it could on hot days. We weren't really strolling, though. More like power walking through a sedate city for the purpose of catching a train.

When we got to the train station, what should there be but the Oriental Express. It looked just like the Agatha Christie movies! It reminded me, as well, of the fancy exterior of the train I took from Moscow to Cologne.

After lunch we boarded a different train for Florence. We traveled through Padua and Bologna. Didn't see anyone coming to wive it wealthily in Padua. However, I didn't get off the train, either.

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