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Venetian Nights - Venice, Italy

Salutations! from the city of love and romance. When we last left off we were heading to Venice from Salzburg and we took a train ride through the unforgettable Austrian alps. Dad Harder was continually taking notes on the town names that we kept passing by, one gem after another set into the most picturesque valleys topped by snow capped peaks, in the expectation of a dream to one day return and swing a golf club in such a scene. The scenery slowly transitioned as we approached Venice. Once out of the Alps, Italy was dryer, flatter and rockier speckled with vineyards until we reached the Adriatic sea and Venice.

ahhh Venice

not exactly what we expected but charming; not exactly beautiful in the conventional sense.  Much of it seems to be falling apart, crumbling into the very canals that make it so unique.  The ambience is one of decaying elegance but modern Venice feels contrived, artifice directed to deceive the tourist. And what a shame, because of it's long and storied history. The heart of the city is gone, replaced by the Las Vegas version. Where even the Venetians are fleeing. In fact the city's population is declining at an alarming rate til soon there wont be anyone there except tourists and the people that serve them.  

Precious little is left to give any clue to what life might have been. Only museums and monuments, which are slowing falling into the sea, lay testament to artistic soul. But the city can still occasionally surprise, even enchant; when you are lost on an alleyway near some deserted canal, the press of the tight buildings hemming you in. And much of the architecture that is still preserved, is spectacular and will continue to draw people to this canal mecca.


There are no cars there. They all park in this huge garage just when you cross the bridge to enter Venice. Everyone walks or takes vaporettis, the equivalent of public transpo on a boat.  The streets are an intricate maze of alleys and twisting winding paths that snake through the city.  You look on a map, see what appears to be a major street and it is nothing more than a two foot wide alleyway. The other interesting thing, this town is EXPENSIVE, compared to even where we had been, like Austria or home. And butt parking is a premium.  Things cost one price then double if you sit at one of there tables to enjoy it. Two small ice-creams, a cappacino, and a small water came to 25 dollars.  

St. Mark's Square is a circus. The tourists have finally outnumbered the infamous pigeons. There are lines snaking out of all the attractions, the tower, the basilica, and of course, the Italian food court, a bevy of chi-chi cafes with astronomical prices. Much of the sanctity and grandeur of the Basilica is lost as the line of tourists continues into and through the velvet-roped church. In a small alcove above the church, I was surprised to learn that the four famous horses stolen from Constantinople and sitting atop the basilica are fakes, the real ones on display inside.

One night we took a gondola ride because thats the thing to do in Venice. well, thank god the parents were along because at those prices, it would not have happened.  It was 80 dollars for a half hour.  It was pleasant but hardly worth the money. But you do have to admire the gondeliers' skills. They are ace navigators.  Those boats come so close to each other but never collide.




passing under the Bridge of Sighs on a night gondola ride

Dining was the freshest in Italian seafood. We enjoyed dinner one evening at a popular trattoria and met, not kidding, the Italian Kramer, from the TV show Seinfeld. He looked exactly like Kramer, and had all his mannerisms nailed. He was a hit with the crowd. One person next to us asked him if he would take a picture of the his family and he said sure and then strode right up to the guy's wife and put in his hands on her shoulder and smiled for the camera, until the guy got up and took the picture. Bizarre.  

And at least, the Italians have a sense of humor in regards to their weighty past. At this one fashionable store, replicas of historical popes serve as excellent mannequins. 





But a trip to Venice would not be complete without waxing poetical about the art. We visited the church, the Maria Glorioso del Rrari that had three Venetian masterpieces alone, at the alter.  For the artophiles, Titian's Assumption and the Madonna del Pisaro are breath-taking in person, huge soaring canvases of almost full size, that captured their divinity in mere oils. And there is so much more, secreted away in churches throughout Venice.

Well, all good things must come to an end. We have been traveling in style with the parents and hopefully have not become to accustomed to the gravy train, as we are once again on our own.  To Mom and Dad - thanks for the incredible vacation, we miss you already! And to Venice, we are glad we saw you, but we are not sure if we will be back, or if you will even be here when we return.

Next episode: ferry journey to turkey

Over and out

ann and doug

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