Friday, July 15, 2011

Venice Travelogue - Day 1

When you are expected to fall in Love at first sight, and yet that doesn’t happen, it’s a strange feeling. As Maugham wrote in “The Lotus Eater”, it’s like you threw a stone up in the air but it did not come down !

While on the train to Venice, I was preparing myself to do exactly that, fall in love at first sight. With Venice.

And yet, that did not happen.

Approaching Venice by train is an interesting experience by itself. The Penultimate station is Venezia Mestre, that is the Venice Mainland. After this, the Train gets on to a l-o-n-g bridge and enters the city of Venice, or rather barely touches its borders, because all road and rail transport has to end at the border. Those who wish to drive in would cross the bridge and park their cars at Piazza Le Roma. A different world exists from there on.

Prior to that however, there is a very interesting transition while crossing the Swiss-Italian Border. A Station called “Chiasso” is where the train stops for a while and apparently there’s a switch in power transmission. However, it’s very unlike what you would expect on a cross-border train. No one comes and asks for your passports. No one scans your luggage. No sniffer dogs.

The change shows elsewhere. The moment you enter Italy, the view changes in a flash. It’s not fair to compare or to conclude which is good or bad, but suddenly you find torn down warehouses, clothes drying outside the houses. The Flowers on the windows become rarer by the minute, and the railway stations are suddenly not so sparkling clean.

Okay, coming back to Venice, the train smoothly rolls over the bridge and into the Santa Luzia Stazione, which happens to be the Railway Station in Venice. The excitement grew as the train came to a halt.

This has to be one of the best locations for a railway station. You come out of the station building and immediately find yourself standing on the banks of the Grand Canal. For someone like me who was born and brought up in Kolkata, the noise is so very familiar. Yet a couple of days spent in Switzerland prior to arriving in Venice gave me a mild startle. Suddenly there were thousands of people walking at a frantic pace, and trust me, 90% of them had to be tourists ! Tourists are known for their leisurely walks, and sometimes are a cause of disgust for the city dwellers. This is true anywhere in the world you go. However, that’s not the case in Venice.

This was my first view of Venice, and believe me, no where in the world would you be thrown into the heart of the city so instantly. No foreplay, straight in to the action !

My hotel was just a five minutes’ walk from the station. Before I could get a feel of the place, I arrived at the hotel. I had to wait for a couple of hours before I could get out and start exploring this wonderful city.

I was expecting to fall in Love instantly, and I was disappointed. A Hot Humid weather, a noisy crowd, screaming shopkeepers… this couldn’t be Europe, I thought.

The day passed and by the end of it, I was utterly confused and disgusted. The Hotel’s air conditioning refused to work. I kept telling myself – “This can’t be it, this can’t be happening to me”.

... to be continued
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