|Date:||Sunday, September 6, 1998|
|Location:||Reutte, Austria to Venice, Italy|
We start with the same excellent breakfast as yesterday.
On the bus, we travel through the same old dreary heavy drizzle/light rain. Same old Alps in streamers of fog (actually, it's very pretty).
The bus passes beneath a banner, announcing an "air show" in Reutte for the weekend of September 5-6. Rick says that he thinks he heard that the air show was to have consisted of a flyby by a Lufthansa 747 piloted by a local. The weather appears to have scotched that plan. Given the terrain, I would hope that prudence would have canceled it before it started.
We also pass by a hill, at the top of which some ruins are visible. This is Castle Ehrenberg, which we were to have visited yesterday.
And, we were supposed to visit the summer luge today. These are concrete chutes, which you ride through on a wheeled sled. The luge is open only if the chutes are completely dry, since braking is very poor when they are wet. Gene recalls what happened to him when he convinced the operators to let him run the luge when it was wet: He couldn't stop at the end, and got pretty badly banged up. As we passed by the luge in the rain, they appeared to be thoroughly wet.
We pass by more blue-green lakes, cafe latte streams, waterfalls, and snow-capped mountains. As we cross the border from Austria to Italy, the sun magically appears. Gene and Rick pass out cups of valpolicella, and strike up Dean Martin's "That's Amore". The vino is good enough. The Dino is NOT my cuppa.
We pull over for a WC stop and a picnic lunch of sandwich (cheese, cold cuts, tomato, pickle, pickled pepper, and secret sauce), fruit, juice, and vino (a very nice French beaujolais or a St. Goar white). For dessert, cookies and Nutella.
We pull into the parking lot in Venice, and troop over to the vaporetto (canal-bus-boat) station. There, we learn that the Grand Canal is closed for the regatta, so we end up with a slightly longer hike from the vaporetto stop. We have to fight crowds, tipsy guys (particularly on the vaporetto), and a few pushy locals...
Finally, after fighting our way through the crowd that is attempting to linger on the Accademia (rhymes with macadamia) bridge over the Grand Canal (in order to observe the regatta), we arrive at Fondazione Levi. From their brochure, it appears to be a musical studies foundation that rents its available dorm-like rooms when they are unoccupied. Our room is spacious and beautiful, with a mini-frig, telephone, wardrobe, 3/4 bath + bidet, and a single bed. There's another single bed and wardrobe in the loft, up the spiral stairs. Did I mention that this is a dormitory-style room? Apparently, a few other got double beds, but it's hard to complain...
We gather in the hotel's courtyard, adjoining the Grand Canal. This would have been a fabulous location to watch the regatta. Scaffolding is set up on the canal facade -- there's always restoration going on. A workman is perched on the scaffold, comfortably watching the activities.
Gene and Rick lead us on a brief, pre-dinner orientation walk. Getting lost is easy enough. Getting un-lost is almost as easy, so long as you know your way from a major landmark. Most major pedestrian intersections (that's a joke: in Venice, all street intersections are pedestrian) have signs indicating directions to Accademia (which is right across the Grand Canal from our hotel) and/or "Per S Marco" ("To St. Mark's Plaza", a 5 minute walk from the hotel) and/or Rialto (which is nowhere near our hotel, but has some fun shopping and viewing opportunities). Gene and Rick try to take us on the direct route to Piazza San Marco, but it is choked with crowds exiting Piazza St. Stephen after a flag tossing "tournament." We re-route and enter P. San Marco as the campanile (bell tower) goes off, hundreds of pigeons start flying about, and crowds are everywhere. We shop and share gelato (lemon and peach -- excellent!). Six o'clock approaches and departs -- still no bells. 6:13, and the bells go off. We ask a store clerk what's the deal with the clock? She says it goes off according to when the guy sets the clock. No problema. (Later, Rick relates how he photographed, in a single shot, three clocks in an Italian train station: each clock was set differently, with a 15 minute spread between them.)
Dinner is outdoors in a cafe on Accademia side (which Rick recommends for less touristy fare). "Four Seasons" pizza (mushrooms, marinated artichoke, ham, and cheese), vino, and water. The pizza is very good -- thin crust, like New York. (I have to admit that I had believed pizza to be to Italian cuisine as fortune cookies are to Chinese cuisine -- American bastardizations/fabrications. I was very wrong.) After dinner, Robert serenades Donelyn (and us) with an aria from La Bohème. What an excellent voice he has. I'll take that over Dino, any day!
We walk over to the Bridge of Sighs, connecting the Doge's Palace and the Prison. Gene reads Byron's poem about the Bridge. Then we walk back across the Accademia Bridge, in time to see a full moon rise over the Grand Canal, accompanied by Jupiter. What a sight!
Brig and I hike over to the Rialto Bridge, and window-shop a little bit. We covet a beautiful red, blue, and woven white glass bottle across from the (sheesh!) McDonalds. We may have to go back for it. (After seeing the price on similar stuff, we never did go back.)
By the time we return to the hotel, it's too late to call Stevi to arrange
to meet. Tomorrow morning, I guess.
I climb up the stairs, do my journal duty, and quickly fall asleep.