Sunday, May 25, 2008

Europe Day 5 (Friday)

I am thinking that this is going to be a bit shorter entry because we spent the majority of the day driving but I told myself that I would continue to do this blogging thing if it killed me so here we go…

We left from Venice in the early AM (about 7:00) and headed out onto the highway. We wanted to make sure that we hit the Grossglockner at a reasonable time because there are only certain hours when it is open. This pass goes through the Alps and costs 25 euro to go through. It is also one of the most incredible roads in the world to drive on as it is very windy and has many switchbacks. On top of that, it is very well kept and smooth.

It goes from about 4000 feet up to about 12,000 feet and then comes back down to about 1000 feet. It is a very radical climate change that occurs going up and doing this pass. We started with cloudy weather at the bottom, merged into rain and then snow and then back to rain and then back into cloudy. This was probably the coolest thing I have ever done. Driving through mist crowned canyons and snow-covered mountains in the Alps was absolutely breathtaking. Ryan’s car handled like a dream and shot around the corners like… something that goes around corners really well. Again this is probably something better experienced in pictures but you get the idea.

Once we got out of the Alps, it was still raining (shocking) but barely. We noticed a fairly good sized waterfall off to the right side of the road so we got out and snapped pictures of it. Turned out that it was a national park but we didn’t have time to do the hike associated with it. Continuing to drive South, we eventually entered Italy.

The scenery essentially went from gorgeous to somewhat ordinary after we got out of the mountains. The roads to Venice were very southern California esque and the Italian drivers are definitely a smidge on the crazy side. Basic road etiquette is to tailgate someone if you want to pass them and to go as fast as humanly possible when there is not someone in front of you. If you don’t fit into either of those categories, stay in the right lane. Other than that, you’ll live if you avoid the city streets.

We had our first Italian dining experience in an extremely dodgy town that we stopped in for the sole purpose of putting something in our extremely famished stomachs. No one in the restaurant we chose spoke English but we were able to get by on the basis of pointing at things and repeating items that the waitress described. Excellent food overall but dipper somehow ended up with a slab of pork for his second entre. This has been becoming a habit.

When we finally got to Venice we had to park in a huge garage and then take a boat onto the island. The boat ride was long and rocky but we made due. We arrived at the hostel and checked in. This place struck us immediately as having a much younger crowd than any of our previous residences. We had to put sheets on our beds, lock our valuables and head out. Our beds most definitely left something to be desired but as this was the only youth hostel in Venice, we felt like we didn’t really have much of a choice so we complained semi extensively and then took off for the main sights.

If I were honest here, our opinions about Venice never really arrived at a state greater than luke-warm. We noticed immediately the huge crowds of tourists and large quantities of small tents selling cheesy Venice labeled items. Very soon after noticing this we simply started walking the back alleys and making a semi-conscious effort to avoid the huge crowds. This was impossible at two locations. St. Marks square, which incidentally took us nearly 2 hours to actually find given the confusing nature of every single sign in Venice. The architecture here is very impressive and probably would have been a more impressive place to visit if our spirits weren’t already down and we had more time. We also had a hard time avoiding crowds at the huge bridge crossing the Grand Canal. There were more random tourists here snapping pictures of themselves in front of the Venice boat traffic than I have ever seen at large New York monuments. Ew.

The highlight of the evening was after another hour and a half boat ride around the island. This was the dinner that we chose by finding a restaurant that was as off the beaten path as humanly possible. Our initial restaurant choice seemed to have been shut down on account of… some safety regulation (oops) and the place that we chose had absolutely marvelous prosciutto. We ended up drinking too much champagne but what the hell, it was cheap! Only 15 euro a bottle! I feel as if alcoholism may be swiftly entering this vacation. Oh well.

Off to sleep in the Toys R’ Us-creak-every-5-seconds-not even-when-you-move bed. Ugh. Get me off this island.

No comments: