Dateline: 11.04 01 Sep 1996
Location: Italy, Venezia, Piazzale Roma

Happy birthday me! And indeed, Venezia turned out not be merely a 'bit' better, but a hell of a lot better. Oh, sure it's just as ramshackle, but the water! Yet again I find myself forced to compare something to Christiania: Venice, too, has thrown out one of the principles of urban design - the car - and replaced it not with bicycle lanes, but with water, gazillions of little canals running to and fro, even public transport using them. I was amused to realize that I left Dijas^ki Dom Bez^igrad in the morning on a Ljubljanski Potnis^ki Promet bus and arrived at my hostel this evening with an Actv vaporetto. Almost a magical moment, gliding on the waters of Venezia at night, lights winking through the twilight at midnight...

Piazza San Marco could really use a good scrub. Black ooze is dripping off most walls, making them remarkably ugly. No sir, I did not like it. Venice, too, is an over-touristed place, Japanese hordes everywhere and, worse yet, noisy Americans too. But there's a sucker born every minute, as the well-dressed black fellows hawking ladies' handbags and jewelry in front of Ferrovia will attest. My L 70,000 having already practically disappeared without a trace, I was forced to eschew the planned restaurant meal and content myself with self-catering. For 5 kL I got a kilo of fruit (grapes for a change too, yum!) and now I need just a loaf of bread. Mayhaps I can even afford another vaporetto ride on line 1? We shall see.

In a little less than 4 footblistering hours, I have completed a tour of Venice: Piazzale Roma -> Accademia -> Piazza San Marco -> Rialto -> back to Piazzale Roma. Initially I had to use a map to locate Campo Santa Margherita and its reportedly cheap student restaurants, but after finding it ( be without any cheap restaurants, at that) I gladly ditched the map and made my way around following only the intermittent but surprisingly omnipresent little yellow signs. A funny way of navigating: you tend to have no idea where you are, but you can't get lost either since the signs are everywhere. It was fun, walking through the myriad tiny alleys that would otherwise have been utterly confusing; it was not fun, getting stuck in one of these when some herd of tourists following an over-eager flag waver rampaged through in the opposite direction. Do I sound like I have something against herd mentality? It's the least you can expect from someone who's been lone-wolfing it for the past 2 weeks. If my estimates are correct, Venezia is both the southernmost point of my trip and the point most remote from Helsinki; only tonight shall that distance start to decrease again as I head for Bruxelles.

There are two festivals going on in Venezia at the moment, both of which I hope to catch in part. One is the Regatta Storica, held on the first Sunday in September each year - in my case, entirely by accident, that happens to be today, which is both my birthday and the only (almost) complete day I'll be spending here. And the second celebration is the Italian Communist Party's "Festival of Liberation from the Resistance to Progress" (if my free-form translation from Italian is close enough - I had to parse that a few times before it made sense), the preparation of which I happened to pass in Campo S. Margherita earlier. Pavilions with red sickle-and-hammer flags fluttering and even a Che Guevara proclaiming "Hasta la ultima victoria!" (For people who know their Schwartzenegger better than their Spanish, 'hasta' is 'until', not 'bye-bye'). And they were grilling up food that might even be cheap, so I shall return and peek. I've got 4+ hours to go, and the Regatta won't start for another 2 hours yet.

The Regatta is the only time of year when gondolas not colored black are allowed to come out of their hiding places. So they do, pushed around by gondoliers wearing costumes of matching color, which would probably be quite cumbersome most of the time. This is the real reason non-black gondolas are banned: how on earth can gondoliers look sexy and macho wearing green tights and a green joker's cap with bells at the tips, like Errol Flynns in the wrong movie? Anyway... this spectacle is accompanies by incessant flute music (maybe that last word should be in quotes), played on the station's P.A. from the sound of it. Or maybe it's not flutes at all, it's one of those old Disney theme songs from Peter Pan or thereabouts, with choirs intoning, "we're going hoooo-ome, hoh-oh-ohme, hooooooooooooome...". Or something of a similar intellectual caliber.

I appear to be falling prey to sarcasm, a surefire sign that my fascination with a place is wearing off. Which, in case you hadn't noticed, it is. I would very much like to go off and explore the rest of the lagoon, but I don't have enough money for a one-way ticket, so I'm stuck to exploring Venezia proper. And it's boring. Yes, the little medieval alleys have a certain amount of charm; yes, the canals are cute; yes, that's it. The rest is expensive, ugly, not cared for and - a mortal sin - there are so few parks that I find myself returning to the same one for the third time already. What struck me when I got here was the water, and quite frankly, nothing has struck me since... except in the wallet. I may have promoted Venezia to stand on par with Wien and Ljubljana too soon; but, then again, a blitzkrieg visit is always a blitzkrieg visit and this place does deserve a second peek.
The day's budget
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