Italy: Venice / March 2011

Note: This post was written on March 2018!

The Departure (Day 1, 5th May)

It was on whim that I decided to make a trip to Venice. I’ve quickly packed things and head to a railway station. “Venice, please,” I’ve excitedly asked. It was a warm Thursday’s evening. I understood this trip would take me the whole night.

I had to switch train twice, first in Zidani Most, a small settlement at the confluence of the Sava and Savinja rivers, an important railway station and junction. When I’ve arrived it was night. The station seemed deserted. I had an hour or two, so I’ve decided to head to a town, with hope to find a cozy place to drink a tea. I’ve started to wander down the dark street, I could hear a river flowing lively nearby, and I could see couple of distant lights. Beside that, and an occasional car passing by, there was nothing out there, and soon I gave my hope up and head back to the railway station. I located a cozy corner and made myself as comfortable as one could on an hard wooden bench. I’ve sinked into a half sleep state of calmly warm thoughts. There was plenty of time.

Announcements of arriving trains, followed by small group of people coming and going, like a peaceful sea waves. Calming. So calming indeed, that at some point I’ve realized, there’s something special about the train that have arrive a minute or two ago. I was suddenly shaken! Is it? Yes it is! It was my train. I’ve start to run but as I did, train too start to move, and all I could see was lights fading into darkness.

Not a problem. There must be a next train going towards Ljubljana soon, right? No. Not until the next morning. I went to bathroom, splashed cold water into my face, should I wait or head back home? Well, good news, there was no train going backwards until the next morning either, therefore, nothing to decide. I head back to my cozy corner, lied down, and tried to get some sleep until the dawn. On a hard wooden bench, in a cold deserted railway station, with a suspicious looking man on the other side of a waiting room, I didn’t get much of it.

Early next morning, I sat on a first train towards Ljubljana. Hibernating, together with everyone else who was forced to be there so early. The only exception was a peculiar homeless man standing right next to me, screaming obscenities. I’ve started to make a plan how to spend a day in Ljubljana, while he was having a loud monologue about Tito. The whole day in Ljubljana, I though, perhaps the whole misfortune was not so bad after all? Well, with an exception of that very moment.

The Day in Ljubljana (Day 2, 6th May)

As we’ve arrived, a wonderful morning was rising upon busy city. I had formed an outline of a plan. Perhaps to find a hostel and get some rest. Find a lovely place for lunch. But first to find a place to sit in peace and drink a tea. I’ve started to circle around the city, keeping my eyes opened for any of my objectives; soon I’ve found a peaceful place where I was able to drink a tea. I’ve also found a hostel, though it was closed until the noon.

I’ve grabbed a breakfast, I was reading a book, and observing a city. Busy working class people who filled the streets in the early morning have now been replaced by students and office workers. As the time started approaching noon, those too faded away and the city became calmer. I head back to the hostel, and arrived almost simultaneously with a receptionist.

After checking in, I’ve took a shower and afterwards collapsed to bed, finally sleep. I do not sleep well during the day, even if I’m very tired, that day was not an exception. I woke up in the early afternoon, almost more drained than I was before I went to bed. Thirsty and hungry. I headed out, to find a nice place to eat. Hopefully nearby.

I’ve soon indeed came across a busy pizzeria and decided to eat there. The place was designed nicely and personal was friendly, but the food was bellow average. Not being so hungry, I’d not have finished it.

The train for Venice started from Ljubljana at around 1h in the morning, so I had plenty of time to explore the city more. I was wondering around various streets all afternoon, until the late evening, when I’ve returned to the hostel to get some rest. I’ve grabbed a book to read a little bit but suddenly feel asleep. I did not set an alarm. At this point I’d like to state that I’m usually not so clumsy. I think I was just letting things happen as they do, without much effort to direct anything from my side.

It was miraculous, but somehow I woke up just the right time to catch the train, if I’d hurry of course. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my things and run out. “Where are you going?” asked a very sleepy, but somehow concerned receptionist. “I have a train to catch. If I run I think I can still make it.” – “But, you have to return the key, you won’t be able to come back in if you miss it!” – “That’s fine, no worries, I’ll catch it.” – “Listen, if you don’t make it come back, knock, I’ll let you in.” I thought that was very sweet, but missing the train again was not an option. I thanked her and run out, run through the night city streets which were mostly empty, and arrived to the railway station with couple of spare minutes. A young couple, and some other people were already waiting for the train which just opened its doors.

I sat in an empty coupe, thinking I’ll get a good sleep. I always sleep very well on train. I though I’ll be alone, but soon a young lady stumbled upon, opened the door, and asked, in English to my surprise: “May I?” — I nodded. We started to talk, she told me she’s from Uk; she moved to Slovenia with her boyfriend, and decided to see Venice. She was really quite interesting and our conversation went on almost until the morning, when we decided to finally get some sleep. I didn’t get much of it though, she was snoring quite loudly.

The Day in Venice (Day 3, 7th May)

I woke up just in time to experience view from the Venice Railroad Bridge running alongside Ponte della Libertà, the only connections of the historical center of the city of Venice, to the mainland. The rising sun and the sparkling water, the view was truly amazing.

The railway station, Venezia Santa Lucia, was almost empty when we’ve arrived early in the morning. At that point I did not understood how crowded narrow streets of Venice will become very soon.

Venezia Santa Lucia, the central station of Venice.

Ponte degli Scalzi, one of four bridges across the Grand Canal.

Details of Santa Maria di Nazareth, a Roman Catholic Carmelite church.

View from Ponte degli Scalzi towards Venezia Santa Lucia.

My new acquaintance and I decided to stick together for a while, but at some point we split up to explore places individually. We’ve soon bumped into each other in Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari again. So early in the morning, church was deserted and gloomy. Right at the entrance we’ve been greeted by four telemones of a Moorish slaves that supported the structure, two at each side of the door. They nearly penetrated with their eyes, and staring at them for a while felt like they’ll come alive at any moment, angrily crushing the place. Among them were skeletons holding an inscription on a marble drapery, adding to an already eerie feeling.

“This looks too real,” said my acquaintance, “it’s altogether creepy!” I agreed, and she grabbed my hand. “Hug me,” she asked next and I reluctantly did, soon realizing, that I needed it to. Not because of ghostly atmosphere in a church, not because of angry Moorish slaves or skeletons; but because of sleepless nights, because of agonizing past months, even past years. Hug was a pleasant elixir, and I was indeed rather happy about it.

We walked out of the church, said adieu again, I suppose thinking we’ll again bump in each other soon. We unfortunately didn’t, at all.

I took a light stroll through streets of Venice which were still almost empty. I soon found a lovely cafe where I ordered a chamomile tea; I felt great, sitting in a morning sun, observing city waking up.

A detail from Venetian street.

Soon after, streets started to become crowded by various salesmen, tourists and (potentially dangerous) scammers of all kinds. The lovely atmosphere was quickly dying and before the afternoon city felt completely different. I’ve grabbed an overpriced breakfast somewhere, and afterwards, I did more walking and exploring. Towards the evening I was being tired of people and Venice, only waiting for my train to show up, so that I could take my journey back home; well not home, but at least to Ljubljana. I had no plan as to what to do when I come there, but was rather sure I’ll have to spend another night on a cold hard bench.

The train was scheduled for the late evening. It was dark outside when we finally boarded. I had an exact seat number this time, which lead me to an empty seat next to two young girls. Somehow I had a feeling I’ve mixed something up, that the correct seat is the one on the other side of the aisle, so I changed my position. My feeling was actually wrong, my initial position was correct, but it didn’t matter. Sometimes, it’s good to listen to your feeling, even if it’s objectively wrong.

Soon young couple I saw the previous evening in Ljubljana, sat with me. “Hey, we saw each other yesterday, right?” one of us said, and so we started to talk. We found a lot in common and ended up talking all the way to Ljubljana. Not just that, I found out they live very close to me, and they offered me a ride home. No sleep on a bench after all.

Impressions

Best journeys are about meeting interesting people, discovering enchanting places and having exciting experiences. I can safely say, my trip to Venice fulfilled all of those criteria. I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. Missing my train, I suppose, radically changed my experience and it’s hard to imagine it could be any better.