Day 16: Venice, Florence

Today we woke up, boarded the bus, and left the Venice area for Florence.

After a reasonably short bus ride, during which I read my book, we arrived at our hotel in Florence. Since we arrived before 3:00, we were not able to check in, so we left our luggage and headed out for a tour of the city.


We met our tour guide, a woman named Florence, a little ways from the hotel. She lead us around on a short walk to the three main squares of Florence. She told us about the Medici family who used to rule and how Florentine culture was greatly influenced by how much the Medicis valued art. We saw a replica of David mounted where David originally stood as well as much other statuary around the city. Our tour ended at the Duomo, which is the third-largest cathedral, built in the 13th century.


After our tour ended, I wandered inside the cathedral. It was relatively plain compared to the outside so as to limit distraction to worshipers. We then decided to climb up the 414 steps of the bell tower.


The ascent was reasonably short, but I was still glad to get to the top. The view was pretty nice, though it wasn’t quite as high as the Eiffel Tower.


Returning to the hotel, I checked in. There was some trouble with the room key, but after several visits to the front desk it was resolved. Harris got back from watching the Wimbledon final, and we went down to dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Dinner was a buffet, so I had my fill. A waiter asked me what kind of beer I wanted and gave me the options of German or Italian. I chose German, so of course he brought me some Italian beer. However, it was fine so I drank it anyway.

At 10:00, most of us met downstairs to go to Space Electronic Discoteque. A short walk later and we were there, along with a card for a free drink. I ordered a Rusty Nail, but I was instead served Grand Marnier and Canadian Club (which was actually alright, though not what I had originally intended to drink). Once I finished my incorrect drink, I went back and had to teach the bartender how to make a real Rusty Nail.

Eventually, I finished my last drink and walked back to the hotel.

Day 15: Austrian Lake District, Venice, Italy

Today was our last day in a German-speaking country. After waking up at a ridiculous hour, we were on the road by 6:00 AM.

Carmine made surprising time, and we arrived outside Venice before noon. At the harbor, we boarded a boat bound for Murano, Venice’s glass-blowing island. Somehow the Italian boat company screwed up and put us on the wrong boat, so we turned around in the middle and headed back for the harbor. After finally getting on the right boat, we arrived in Murano.


Our first stop was a glass-blowing factory. We watched a 70 year old man blow a vose and then sculpt a horse in molten glass. The demonstration was impressive, but I was disappointed in how quickly it was over. We then spent another 45 minutes in the factory store looking at all the glass.



Getting on another boat, we headed for the main part of Venice. Jamie led us to Piazza San Marco and set us loose.


Our group decided that food was our first priority, so we went out looking for a reasonably-priced restaurant. We ended up in one, but it wasn’t reasonably-priced. Somehow, we missed the fact that a cover fee was charged for anything ordered a la carte so we ended up paying more than expected and left very disappointed.

Our large group then split in smaller groups. Neither Harris nor I had anything in particular that we wanted to see in Venice, so we were content just wandering around. One of the girls in our small group decided that she wanted to find the McDonald’s, because it had a free restroom.


We got thoroughly lost in Venice, but did end up seeing the Rialto bridge and taking great pictures of the view before finally finding the McDonald’s. Everyone made use of the facilities, and then it was time to head back to San Marco for our Gondola ride.


Navigating back to San Marco was significantly easier and took about five minutes. Jamie then led us to the Gondola service where we boarded the little boats.


Our Gondola person didn’t sing, unfortunately, but he did take us on a nice ride through Venice. I ended up sitting at the bow, facing backwards, so I didn’t get the best view all the time. However, it was still fun.


Throughout this trip, I’ve been struck by how different the architectural styles are from anything we have at home. In Venice in particular, everything is smushed together and claustrophobic. There are no roads wide enough for cars; everything is either foot-traffic or boats in the canals. It certainly was cool, but I don’t think I would ever want to live there.

When our ride was over, we hung out in San Marco for a while longer before boarding our boat back to the mainland. A short ride on the bus and we ended up at our hotel.

The hotel was pretty confusing; our key was mislabeled and we ended up walking the entire hotel before finding our room. Once we got there, we were confused by why the lights wouldn’t turn on. I noticed a smart-card reader inside the room and figured I’d see what it did, so I stuck our key there. The lights came on! Then, after about a minute, they all went out. It took a few repetitions of this before Harris suggested that the key must remain in the reader for the lights to stay on. Once we tried that, everything functioned as expected.

Carmina’s friend owns a restaurant nearby, so he was able to set up a deal for us with a fixed menu. €13 gave us a salad, a good pizza, and some decent beer. After dinner, Harris and I went back to the room and passed out.