Venice: Lots of Walking

Ah, Venice. The city of love.  The city of lights. The city that never sleeps.  The city of brotherly love. Venice has many names, just like it has many alleys.  Some may call them “streets,” but, you see, Venice has no cars, and the “streets” are only wide enough to walk on.  In addition, about 50% of them dead end (more on that later), so I think “alleys” is appropriate. Those of you whose trades rely on alleys (muggers, watch salesman, illegal abortionists, etc.) take note: Venice is your city.

I’ll tell you whose city Venice is not: people in wheelchairs. Or anyone else who is dependent on wheels to move about (I’m looking at you, GizmoDuck). There are about 10,692 small bridges in Venice that need to be crossed to avoid those dead ends (seriously, we’ll get to them soon enough), and each one has a set of stairs on each side. People pushing baby strollers only have themselves to blame for not teaching their kids to walk yet (speaking of which, congratulations to my brother John and sister [-in-law; don’t worry, Bourques don’t roll that way] Meghan on the birth of their daughter Luci last week; she sure as shit better be walking by now). But no matter how you skin this slowly-sinking Italian cat, Venice is a crappy city for the wheelchair bound. We did find one bridge with an accompanying accessible ramp; unfortunately, it was in the middle of the city, so unless you’re planning to parachute in, you’ll never get a chance to roll over it.   But what Venice lacks in ADA (Italian equivalent, which I don’t think exists) compliance, it fills in with beauty.  You lose the cars (yay) from a city, and you sure gain a lot of space back to make it pretty.  No gas stations, no traffic lights. Everything is walkable, as long as you can either jump really high (again, looking at you, GizmoDuck) or learn to avoid the dead ends (patience, grasshopper).  Plus, this city is old. Really old.  Think Log Posse old, and then double it (low blow, sorry guys).  I’m thinking this place was built sometime in the 16th century, when it was still cool to build cities on sinking islands. But to be honest, Jenny and I are on our honeymoon, not a European history class field trip, so we’re focusing on the funner things in life, like food and getting lost (and things that rhyme with “frumping”).

Speaking of getting lost, have I mentioned that Venice is damn near impossible to navigate, even without being wheelchairbound.  After spending the morning walking in a circle (while not intending to) and trying to discover every dead end in the entire damn city (we didn’t get anywhere close), we decided to use the map we had purchased for €2.50 to make the afternoon exploring more successful.  Unfortunately, as best we can tell, the map is for a different city built on a series of small islands, because nothing we found matched up. Especially those damn dead ends.  Along you’d be walking, expecting a bridge, and instead you’d find a waterway just too wide to jump across (and filled with very dirty water). Or the maps would show an extra wide alley with no obstructions for miles, and in reality it would be a giant stone wall, whose only apparent purpose is blocking Steve and Jenny’s way.

We did eventually reach our goal of getting to Ponte di Rialto (a bridge):

Followed by San Marco H&M Square (aka, Pigeon Town)

For some reason, as soon as tourists enter this square, they fall under the irresistible spell of the Pigeon Gods.

Jenny and I managed to avoid this sad fate, but it took everything I had to talk Jenny out of wearing a pigeon hat.

And after leaving Pigeon City, we decided to do a little exploring.  And this is where things got ugly.

You see, when I say that Venice is a confusing and difficult to navigate city, you can avoid getting truly lost by simply not leaving the tourist areas, identified by the abundance of mask stores, “pizza Americana” shops (apparently, a pizza with French fries on it) and choco kebab stands (a very traditional venetian delicacy). It’s when you stray from these areas and go to the parts of Venice where real people live and where gondolas are not the primary means of daily transportation that you can really get into trouble.  Thankfully, Jenny and I ignored the first sign that we were making a mistake (a warning from the Pigeon People we had scorned earlier in the day, perhaps), when we roamed deep into the real Venice, had lunch, walked a block, and were back at San Marco de Pigeon Square. But we persisted, entered the unknown, and this time done got ourselves good and lost.

Luckily, Jenny and I have very complementary methods of getting unlost: Jenny walks in the completely opposite direction of where we want to be, while I go in circles, and ignore the fact that I am going in circles.  Because we’re natural planners (okay, so one of us is a natural planner; I’ll let you figure out who), we had several hours to find our way back to the train station, so there was never need to truly panic, but it was nevertheless a startling experience, especially since we knew we were only a couple of dead ends away from where we wanted to be. Eventually, after walking through the same square a couple of times, we asked a nice lady, who pointed, said “left, right” and motioned to go over a bridge (as if there were only one), and all of a sudden we were back with our pigeon-struck friends in the Great Pigeon Empire, with plenty of time to get back to the train station, plus a stop in the Jewish ghetto (interesting fact: the term “ghetto” originated in Venice) for some fruit, and a slice of pizza for the road.  All in all, Venice turned out to be a nice last minute addition to our conquest of Europe.

Venice: The city of Dead Ends. And Pigeons.

The Choco Kebab: Food of the Gods:

I know a refrigerator guy in Venice, if you need one:

Pizza 2000: Pizza… of the Future:

Michael Kors Dome, a historical treasure of Venice:

Just about every city we’ve been to in Europe has an Occupy movement going: