Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Cruising the Mediterranean, Day 1: Venice

October 10th, 2019 · No Comments · tourism, Travel

Magic gondola ride

Most every traveler loves Venice. Except, it seemed, me.

Venice? Not eager to go, not on any trip I made to nearby Italian cities or to nearby Austria.

But I apparently had been influenced by those who suggest the Queen of the Adriatic is overrun by tourists, or sometimes smells bad, or is too expensive to consider — because I had never made a real attempt to travel there.

That changed today, and I found I was completely wrong in my thinking, vis a vis Venezia.

We saw the city at its best tonight, and it made for some wonderful moments and memorable scenes, and left me grateful my feelings about the place had been exposed as … oh, stupidity.

We saw Venice at what might have been close to her best, and we did it by living out the Venice fantasy — riding in a gondola between some of the 120 islands and under some of the 400 bridges, absorbing the atmosphere on a balmy night — with the sun setting pink and golden, as if on cue.

Venice was marvelous.

It was logistics that brought me to the city. We are on a 10-day cruise of the Mediterranean and it happened to begin in Venice.

Well, OK. I guess I can put up with it. Once.

But then we got to the ship and checked in and instead of kicking back on board we decided, around 5 p.m., to take the water taxi from the city’s port to its main island.

(And to think, we considered just staying in, on the boat, and waiting till the morning to go over to the city and meet up with our tour guide.)

The town was still bustling as we landed, after the short boat ride, and we had no real plan, beyond a semi-serious suggestion to take a gondola ride — How cliche! — because a couple of people had said: “Go to Venice in the evening; almost all of the tourists are gone by then.”

They were right. It makes a big difference.

We passed by a gondola outfit, and the guy in charge said so many people had signed up for a gondola that he could not even put us on a waiting list.

So, back to looking. We walked across St. Mark’s Square and remarked on the architecture and considered some gelato and then found ourselves back down to the water, at a different gondola staging area. It was not so crowded.

We approached a gondolier, and asked “how much for four people?” … and he outlined four potential routes options and recommended the longer version of the ride that includes the most famous landmarks.

It would cost 120 euros — about $130.

It was not a difficult decision. We were standing by the waterside, and a gondolier was ready to take us, probably his last customers of the day, and we knew it would not be for free.

So, yes! Let’s go!

First thing about the gondola is it’s a bit tricky to get into. It rocks. You’re stepping on a platform that is unstable. Once we all made the leap, with the gondolier helping, two of us sat in the main seat with the other two sitting, one per side, looking across the boat.

Off we went with this one 50-ish gondolier easily paddling us into the canals. Some gondoliers don’t speak, we understand. Ours did. He pointed out famous places and interesting buildings. He did not sing, but he didn’t have to. It was a sort of lullaby just to be in the canals with the water softly filling behind us.

We went under the Bridge of Sighs (more about that tomorrow), the opera house, the building where explorer Marco Polo might have lived, and all this time the gondolier was steering us through canals sometimes hardly six feet wide — while also avoiding other gondolas and ducking under bridges. He made it look easy.

But he did not sing. That part of the Venice gondolier fantasy did not work out.

Mother Nature did the rest.

As we reached areas where we could see between the ancient walls … the sun was putting on a show, with its cottony light and pink streaks as it fell gracefully into the sea. We were spellbound.

How long were we out there? Hard to tell. It seemed like it had to be an hour, given what we saw and felt during a magical ride in a watery world.

We took the taxi back to the port as night fell, along with the mid-October temperatures.

Venice. I had it all wrong. Seeing it as night fell … memorable. It will be hard for anything from the rest of the cruise to measure up.


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment