[Although this is the least food-centric entry of all my Italy-based entries, it was probably the most memorable day and fun to reminisce about. PLEASE, ENJOY.]
Yes, that is the best title I could think of. Soon you shall find out why.
Venice looks lovely, even if walking through it gives you the sensation of being a rat stuck in a maze in which the reward for finding the end is a nice chunk of pungent cheese or lack of starvation. Of course, you're not a rat sniffing around sharp corners as a lab worker looks down at you, but a human wandering around shadowy alleys between buildings hued with reds and yellows in an attempt to follow the numerous signs that point to Piazza San Marco, aka The Nice Chunk of Pungent Cheese.
Sometimes the directions are neatly printed in a black serif typeface on a mustard-colored sign attached to to the corner of a building—other times they're less elegantly spray painted directly on the wall, which kind of breaks the whole, "Wow, this place is charmingly pretty and clean," aesthetic. Not that I'm complaining; it still gets the job done.
I think the main reason that I didn't get lost (and perhaps Diana, although I shouldn't speak for her) is because Kåre had a general idea of how to reach the main square, having been to Venice twice before. There are also things called "maps" that helpfully chart out the layout of the city, but unless you're trying to find a specific street there probably isn't much point in getting one since you'll either 1) get lost anyway, 2) be unable to open the map fully without bumping elbows with another tourist, or 3) end up with a soggy mess of paper after being caught in a downpour while unsuccessfully trying to open the map due to the mass of slow-moving tourists encroaching upon your breathing space. The first reason is the most likely one.
So...about the title of this entry. Things started going downhill once our train arrived in Venice about two hours later than it was supposed to, which basically doubled our travel time. Kåre said he should've known the day was going to suck ass once he realize shortly after leaving the apartment that he had forgotten his bus ticket in his other pants. (These kinds of mishaps where one forgets something important in another pair of pants makes me wonder if everyone should only have one pair of pants.) Diana probably got the feeling that things would go awry when she was unable to get in contact with a friend who had suggested to meet in Venice on the 18th before we had even left for Italy.
I, on the other hand, wasn't given any signs about a possible doomful day and was thus qualm-less. I was put off by Morten's warning that there wasn't any particularly notable food there, but finding a good restaurant wasn't a big deal to me as I wasn't going for food. My main interests lay in seeing what all the canals and whatnot were about, and perhaps checking out the Guggenheim.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to visit the Guggenheim or step inside anything particularly notable. But on our walk from the train station to the center of the city (about an hour at our rate of walking/getting lost) we did get to experience an authentic Venetian downpour. The sky unsurprisingly decided to relieve itself of buckets of rain at just about the same time as we arrived at San Marco. Because nature's a bitch. The good part about the downpour was that it made most of the tourists flee out of the square and take shelter near the buildings. The bad part was that every part of our bodies got soaked.
We walked back towards the train station after spending a few minutes wandering in the rain (we couldn't do much else, really) but huddled under the awning of a random restaurant when the rain changed from regular buckets to...wow, bigger buckets? Really, God? When the rain gave signs of lightening up we stepped out from under our protective covering, naively unafraid of what nature would unleash next.
And then the crunching sound came. And the clinking sound. And Diana's exclamation that she had been pelted by something small and hard.
We ran for cover as marble-sized ice chunks shot out of the sky. At us. I guess it's not surprising that nature would have good aim considering she's been practicing for billions of years.
By this point we were pretty much fed up with having to contort our bodies to pass loads of people in narrow streets while being drizzled/pelted on by water in various states of matter. We quickly headed towards the train station on a different route than the one we walked on a few hours earlier, stopping in a bakery for a hunk of light green-hued pistachio flavored torrone and another bakery for some nearly radioactive-green, coaster-sized pistachio cookies that tasted more like almond than pistachio.
Due to a chemical imbalance in my body I was able to keep myself happy just noshing on the sugar-laden torrone and cookies. Diana and Kåre, on the other hand, needed something more in the realm of "real food." They stopped into a sandwich shop for things where sugar wasn't the main flavor component and the three of us sat on a nearby ledge to tuck into our Venetian sustenance. Some sickly looking pigeons also decided to tuck into our food, or the crumbs at least. I noticed that one pigeon looked particularly gimpy; a moment later I realized that its left foot consisted of a toe-less stub. Kåre said he saw another pigeon who must've possessed the IQ of a tea bag for the way it failed to spear a large chunk of bread on the ground with its beak despite that the piece of bread was so large it actually seemed more difficult to miss it than to hit it. Venetian pigeons are bred tough. And stupid.
- Yes, this is the only photo I took from our bench. I brought Manatee with me to prevent Morten from turning him into a voodoo doll.
We arrived at the train station much earlier than our train was supposed to leave. Not wanting to re-enter the horrors of Venice Land, we viewed the swarms of tourists consistently filling Venice's tiny streets and boats to maximum capacity from afar, specifically a calm little benched surrounding a fountain slightly west of the station. On the way over we noticed some policemen (or rather a policeman and a policewoman) interrogating some harmless looking people on the steps to the station, but thought nothing of them.
It shouldn't have been surprising then that the policemen, who were making not so pleasant pleasantries with all the people in our corner of Venice, came around to our bench and asked to see our passports. Funnily Diana had just showed me her photocopy of her passport, which she carried around in case of an emergency.
"Passports, please!" barked Angry Policewoman. Her partner stood silently next to her, not looking particularly nice or mean, just neutral.
Neither Diana nor I had our passports. Actually, neither of us carried them around on a regular basis, figuring it was safer to leave them in our apartment (making sure to carry other forms of ID on us to prove that we exist in case our solid physical form isn't enough). Angry Policewoman was unhappy with our inability to relinquish our identification, not caring to look at Diana's photocopy either.
"Only Italians don't need to carry around their passports! You must have your passport on you at all times, whenever you leave your hotel! Did you know that we can arrest you, take you to the police station and fingerprint you for not having your passports?!" Angry Policewoman looked as though one of her major veins was about to rupture and unleash a poisonous snake that only ate the heads of passport-less tourists.
We sat there, not saying much because there wasn't anything to say, but also thinking that we could probably fit in a trip to the police station before going home, which would've provided a lovely and unique conclusion to our Venetian adventure.
Kåre handed over his passport. Neutral Policeman read its mishmash of vital information over his walkie-talkie-esque thing to some distance police station where his identity was being recorded into a grand database of harmless tourists. After he was done rifling through Kåre's passport, he handed it back and the law enforcement duo moved onto their next victims, which—I kid you not—appeared to be a trio of nuns.
Relieved that we didn't have to do time in the Venetian slammer and not wanting to sit any longer in the place where we almost got taken to the Venetian slammer, we relocated to the landing outside of the train station. After standing around and staring at the never-ending swarms of tourists for a minute or 30, it started to rain again in the same bucket formation as before.
Rinse and repeat. This happened for a while. We eventually decided to look at the train schedule inside the station to see where our train would depart from. Strangely, there were platforms listed for trains that were supposed to leave an hour ago. In the "Arrivals" column many trains were delayed for an hour or more. Doom was in our midst.
We closely watched the board, sucking in air every time one line would flick flick flick through its database of names and then...not say Bologna. It was like waiting for our lottery numbers to come up with the jackpot not being 500 million dollars, but the chance to get the fuck out of there. After much patient waiting the golden word BOLOGNA finally appeared at the bottom of the "Departures" column about 20 minutes before it was scheduled to depart at 6:57, but without a platform number.
"It'll show up soon," we thought with innocent glimmers of hope in our eyes.
As to not ruin our streak of bad luck, Trenitalia decided that, no, we did not deserve a platform number. When the line that said BOLOGNA flickered again, it was replaced with nothingness. We didn't think it was possible, but our train had dropped from the realm of existence.
This would've been more of a shock if we had a super excellent day in Venice, but our souls were so battered by the first train delay, the thunderstorm and Angry Policewoman that we happily added it to our list of "SHIT THAT HAPPENED IN VENICE" and laughed it off. Or maybe we were going delirious from the lack of nutrients.
We checked out the monitor on platform 11 where our train was supposed to depart (something we deduced from the full schedule that lists the weekly trains and such) and only saw a dance of jagged black and white streaks, kind of like the way a TV goes berserk right before an evil dictator takes over the airwaves and says, "Hello, I'm taking over the world now." It would've been more comforting to see blank monitors than malfunctioning ones.
All we could do was stand in the main hall of the station (stand because all the seats were taken up by other people waiting for trains that were late or were in a similar state of nonexistence) until the next train came, which was an hour later. We realized that Venice was overly crowded because people weren't allowed to leave.
The next train thankfully existed and only left the station 10 minutes later than it was supposed to. When about two hours later our train rolled past large blue and white signs that read "BOLOGNA", I felt a happy warmth enter my chest, which took the form of a crazy-looking grin on my face.
"WE MADE IT. OH SWEET JESUS!"
We were overly joyous when we finally reached our apartment sometime past 11PM. Just as we requested of Morten, dinner (gnocchi with crispy ham bits) was ready when we plopped ourselves down around the kitchen table. Morten said he ruined the dinner by cooking it for too long (which is why I didn't take a photo of it), but I thought it was delicious. ...Okay, a little saltier than I would've liked, but I was probably deficient in sodium before eating dinner.
Although going to Venice was possibly the most messed up day of our vacation (and Morten's most relaxed day except when we had to climb out of our apartment to unlock the security bolt from outside since we locked it not knowing you couldn't unlock it from the inside), it was also the most memorable and masochistically fun.
Not that I feel compelled to go back or anything.
They won't help you in Venice.