I happily woke up today realizing I was not on a park bench or down some back alley. The German roommate that I met last night under weird circumstances ended up being a nice guy. He came to Venice for a conference and decided to be a little adventurous and give camping a try. He kindly shared his biscuits, cheese, tomatoes, and orange juice with me for breakfast. Over this meal, we talked about my trip and how he rarely sees Americans traveling alone, so he was impressed. Also, he admitted that as a youth he was sheltered and afraid to take chances. Being a risk taker and living life with a little curiosity about the world never seemed to be an option. He ended up giving me the rest of the left over biscuits, which came in handy later on. Being the good guy that he is, he even offered to let me leave my luggage at his conference, which I kindly declined. We got on the bus for Venice and ended up going separate ways after arriving in the city. At the train station, I reserved my seat for the train to Roma which would leave at midnight and paid for luggage storage to ditch my bulky bag. I found Venice to be a great place to get lost. Street signs are infrequent or just plain confusing; the only worthwhile information was directions to San Marco square. Crossing bridge after bridge to get past all the canals definitely drove home the oddity of a city on water. Venice doesn’t really have much to see per say but it gave me the opportunity to navigate a maze with few exit points due to the innumerable canals. For a relatively small city, the amount of tourists about is insane (it has got to have the largest tourist capita per kilometer in the world). A great deal of the streets are only wide enough to fit three to four people across and at times just one dude with a massive backpack. After scurrying around for a few hours, I escaped the rat maze when I glanced up at the focus of Venice: San Marco church. Being the only free attraction in town, it was a non brainier to enter. The darkened church did not deter my amazement. Much of San Marco is emblazoned in gold paint. If you get too lost in the massive dome and stone carvings, you will miss one of the most impressive parts of the church. The tiled floor is decorated with profound detail as much of the pieces are so minute in scale yet together form a masterpiece. Out on the square, hundreds of pigeons beg tourists for whatever scrap they can spare; one nearly tried to take my head as it torpedoed in my direction. With the crackers/biscuits my German roommate left me, I crumbled some up and spread them across my arm. At first hesitant, the pigeons fluttered onto me arm and greedily consumed up all the scraps. Being the kind and thoughtful person that I am (dang I’m modest), I shared some of the biscuits with a couple Italian boys. They said their grazies and I responded in my impeccable Italian, prego. I received so much enjoyment from that that I ended up spreading out the biscuits to all the kids around me. Even after all the biscuits had disappeared a gimp pigeon hopped onto my arm and teetered there for awhile. I had gotten quite hungry at this point and was feeling a pizza would do the trick. My guide book had a great pizzeria option listed but I was dying for a proper seat so I ended up going into a touristy restaurant that luckily had a TV showing replays of the matches from yesterday. As I watched while waiting for my pizza, I thought about how I will be able to watch the crucial Germany-USA match later that day. The pizza was nothing special but my guidebook had a special gelateria picked out just for me. I got scoops of peach, amarena, and pistachio on a cone; the angels and Saint Mark himself must have blessed this gelato because it was heavenly. Fully satisfied (for the time being) I explored more of the city on the way towards the main canals and another church. After all the museums I saw in London and Paris, the last thing I wanted to do was be stuffed inside after forking over a bunch of euros. Sitting by the water while watching the gondolas pass by was so relaxing but the big match of the day was right around the corner. I headed towards the train station to get my bags since the store would be closing soon. From there, I planned on eating at a restaurant while watching the game. Soon after loading that backpack onto my backpack I was extremely grateful I didn’t have to carry it around all day. Since Venice is in Italy and Italians love their football, I figured finding a restaurant with a TV tuned to the game would be like shooting a pigeon down in Saint Mark’s square (sorry if that thought was disturbing; I had to avoid the cliche). I soon found out it would be a hell of a challenge. At first, my patience stood strong but after I got lost and went in a complete circle only to see the same shops I had already walked by, I began to get pissed. Venice, you screwed with the wrong guy. If anyone could have heard my thoughts, they would have thought I was acting like a prima Donna. During my whole expedition, I saw five TVs on: three had some Italian game show or talk show on and two had football on with only one of the two actually showing the U.S. game. Surprise, surprise, that restaurant happened to be the one I ate at earlier, stocked with its Arab and Chinese waiters. I asked if I could just sit in there and have a glass of wine but he told me I had to order food. I refused to eat there again. I kissed the TV goodbye and wished the U.S. good luck. Since food was the only thing left to cheer me up, I headed for the pizzeria that I should have eaten at in the first place. When I finally saw the sign for the pizzeria welcoming me in, I felt so proud of myself. I don’t if I was just that hungry or fed up with the game but that pizza restored my faith in humanity. The pizza had the crispest crust with a good crunch while covering in a ripe tomato sauce, melting mozzarella, and vegetables that would satisfy any carnivore (eggplant, roasted peppers, zucchini, shall I go on? Hmm…hmmm!). Since I was in the neighborhood I figured I should probably see how that gelateria was doing. She was looking pretty good sitting there near the canal but she missed my presence. I strode in there and ordered hazelnut, pine nut, and a combo of white chocolate, coconut, and almonds; essentially the holy trinity for a nut allergy. The pine nut threw me for a whirl, a good one at that, and the coconut took me to a magical place where you only wish you could be. After all that food settled, I realized I crossed that impossible line of too much gelato; that food coma smacked me straight across the face. I powered on hoping my food baby would stop kicking. After fighting to get wifi at McDonald’s, i decided I’m not lovin’ it and kept meandering the streets until I heard the sweet sound of jazz drifting by. I sat on the ground near the water and let the time pass while the music soothed every concern out of me. I guess the day did end up having a happy ending.
Day 31: Veni Vidi Vici Venezia