Stretching my limbs after coming off the train and onto the platform. There were a few luggage bags yet to carry. The whole family was here now — the parents, GC, QS, the wife and I. Sunlight was just shining through the clouds and reflecting off the canal waters. Right into our eyes as we step out of Venezia Santa Lucia train station, or also known locally as Ferrovia.
“Are we there yet?” came the question.
Although it would have sounded weird to anyone else, it was perfectly logical on this particular day and at this particular time. Reason? Our City Night Line train from Munich to Venice was cancelled at the very last minute. The replacement journey was more of an adventure rather than a like-for-like exchange.
Going off topic for awhile here so bear with me. It’s surreal to hear your name being called out by the broadcaster at such a huge train station — Munich Hauptbahnhof. Especially so if it is in a foreign country. Luckily for me, the first few seconds were lost to wondering ‘Did I hear it correctly?’, then it was followed by the rest of my family’s name, so it was certain, they were calling for us.
It seems that there was a problem with the tracks near the Italian border, we were then bundled into buses, everyone was still unsure about the whole shebang. Are we getting on the right bus? What about our luggage? My immediate concern was the arrival time, we had an itinerary to follow and this was a major delay. Luckily, the bus journey was smooth until about 5am in the morning, when we stop at what appeared to be a train station.
“Are we there yet?” was again being heard all around us.
“I’m quite certain we didn’t cross any bridges just before arriving,” so it was certainly not the Venezia Santa Lucia station. I’m guessing it was the Vicenza station. We were forced to cram up in the train to Venezia Santa Lucia. We sat 8 in a cabin meant for 4, but there was no time to complain, we all wanted to arrive at Venice.
Thankfully we had the foresight to book a hotel just across from the train station. Within minutes, we were relieved of our heavy luggage and were on our way to discover Venice. A tourist-free Venice at that particular hour.
If you are a street photographer keen on taking Venetian life, the hours just after sunrise and before the shops are open is the perfect time for it. We basically had the whole place to ourselves.
“How do you know where to go?” asked QS.
“Easy. Just follow the signs. ‘Rialto’ means the bridge. ‘Ferrovia’ is where we came from”, I replied. Easy peasy lemon squeezy until you reach a fork along the way with both signs on them.
15 minutes later of small, narrow cobblestone paths, we arrived at our first destination — Rialto. This famous landmark was constructed back in the 1500s and this is Version 3.0. There were no tourists in sight and we had the whole bridge to ourselves. Just imagine this scene, all 6 of us with our various compact cameras, EVIL and DSLR gadgets snapping away.
“See? That is why I wanted us to arrive early.”
“The view is great!”
“No need to jostle for the best spot!”
Luckily we were in the digital era, it would suck if we were still taking photos with film. I think one roll of film isn’t enough to capture this wonderful sight in front of our eyes.
We were soon making our way to the immaculately empty St. Mark’s Square. Near the place of entry, we have the clock tower — Torre dell’Orologio. This gigantic structure doesn’t only show the time, it has the zodiac and phases of the moon thrown in. And if you think they have the dial only to show the time, you are wrong. What you are witnessing is also the first digital clock, albeit one that changes every 5 minutes.
Tip: If you are bored, try to count the numbers of winged lions, the symbol of Venice all around the square.
“Don’t just stand there. Try to get this photo of the ‘Bridge of Sighs‘ before the crowd arrives!” I said.
It was almost 830am in the morning before the crowds started to trickle in, I would say almost 50-60% of them came from the various cruise ships that was in the Venetian lagoon. We were soon ‘drowning’ in a sea of Korean, Japanese and Chinese tourists alighting from the vaporetto stops located near the St. Mark’s Square.
Tip: If you are in a long queue, try to look at the Doge’s Palace’s seventh column (from the water). Circling the column is a tale of romance and unfortunately, tragedy. This is how the story goes. A lady is wooed from the balcony by her Romeo. She says, “Why me?”. They get married. They kissed. They made love. A baby is delivered. The baby is walking. Oops, the baby is dead.
There is one strange statue right near the entrance of the Doge’s Palace known as the Tetrarchs. Nobody knows who they are and what do they symbolize, although it was rumoured to be symbols of power since they were stolen from Constantinople and placed here as spoils of war.
(to be continued)