As promised, here is the post about the excessively colorful Murano and Burano I have been gushing with you about. Murano and Burano are two islands linked by the bridges in the Venetian Lagoon with the first being known for the arts of glass-making and the latter being known for its laces and colored houses. Both of them are easily accessible by vaporetto (water bus) from Venice. There is a recurring question I have seen on many forums whether it is doable to visit Murano, Burano and Torcello in a day. It certainly is, from my personal experience. (After careful soul-searching, we decided not to go to Torcello based on what it offers and our inclination to get a little bit more intimate with Venice before we had to say goodbye.) We spent half of the day on the two islands with the vast majority of time in Burano because to be perfectly honest (and with no offense), Murano is a tad boring. The products are beautiful albeit morbidly expensive. On the other hand, I found Burano quite charming not only because it was my first time ever seeing such playful and vibrant architecture but also because local people actually live there and thus there is this authentic vibe despite it being a tourist magnet. Fret not because Burano receives way fewer tourists than Venice does, so you can stroll around and soak it all in without being sandwiched by fellow tourists. However, I learned from my friends Pablo and Yamila (remember them?) that those colorful blocks are not unique. If you ever find yourself in Argentina (or maybe Chile. Apologies, my memory is getting blurry. And the reason for that is I found two freaky grey hairs yesterday. I’m aging) or Turkey, you will see something similar. Such a bummer, huh? If you have been to Burano before, were you overwhelmed like I was? Or you just found it nice but not impressive like Pablo did? I want to hear yours. [Read more...]
Before I continue the Venice travelogue, I just want to quickly thank my dearest readers for your kind words. I’m not a writer; in fact, English is my second language. I’m not a photographer; in fact, I took up photography only about a year ago. I’m not a seasoned traveler; in fact, I luck out if I get to visit more than three countries per year. When I shared my travel stories on my blog and some other travel forums and received encouraging words and comments, I’m just incredibly grateful. I like making people laugh, but have only done it verbally with the people I’m close to in my mother tongue so I have been really, really pleasantly surprised hearing that my cheeky, conversational writing is “entertaining” and “enjoyable”. That means more to me than you will ever know. Thank you all, again!
Two of my most favorite movies of all time are Before Sunrise and its sequence, Before Sunset. (Don’t judge me, OK? I need some love stories every now and then to spice up my bleak life. Though if you insist on them being nothing more than cheesy rom-com, I could go all psychotically argumentative on your ass about how deep and uplifting they are :P) The reason I love them is I’m quite intrigued about how easy it is for two human beings with different backgrounds and experience to connect emotionally and ahem…physically. Part of it, I believe, stems from the very act of traveling itself. Never in a million years would I think something similar would happen to me on my very first Europe trip. Minus all the gazing in the eyes, lip-locking, sexing on the grass in a moonlit night and all that juicy good stuff. Sorry if you’re disappointed. I pray day and night for my life to come to that interesting place. HAHA.
Here is the story: My sister and me were walking back to my least favorite hotel of our time from dinner when I saw a recurring thunderstorm on the horizon. I had been dying to photograph a majestic natural occurrence like that ever since I started learning about photography and thus couldn’t pass on the perfect opportunity for all the world especially with both my camera and tripod in hands on that particular night. Uninterested, my sister called it a night and retreated to the hotel. I was on the bridge (the one near Venezia S. Lucia station) setting up the tripod and began taking pictures, surrounded by many others with the same tools and purpose. Being a complete novice myself when it comes to complex photography, I wasn’t able to capture the thunderstorm even after 20 photos or so. Maybe utter frustrations must have been written all over my face or the photos on the camera’s screen must have been so f-ugly and therefore done the spectacular thunderstorm in Venice such a disservice that a guy along with his fiancé whom I later learned hail from Argentina showed me his beautiful photos and started giving me a few tricks up his sleeves. If you’re familiar with taking photos in low-light conditions and using slow-shutter (essentially means opening your camera sensor for much longer than normal), you’d know that it takes a while to get a picture you’re satisfied with (or worse, you might never get it at all). Pablo (his name and Yamila, her name) must be the most patient instructor in the entire world because they both insisted on waiting until I attained a satisfactory shot. Needless to say, they had to wait for quite a while before I accomplished the below, which has knocked every photo that I have taken during the past year out of the park. I still remember vividly how jumping-back-and-forth over the moon I was after getting this on the camera screen and even on the way home (okay, even now to be perfectly honest). Though this is my photos taken on my camera by me, I will never claim full credit for it because without Pablo, I would never have been able to do it by myself. Judging by their facial expressions then, I could tell they were really excited for me as well. I chatted with Pablo and Yamila for a bit and learned that they were approaching the finish line of their 1.5 month Europe expedition. I also got to see a few of his photos of Venice, all of which were of postcard quality. The most surprising thing was he isn’t a professional photographer. He simply loves it and learns everything by himself. Inspiring, huh? I thanked them repeatedly, and we parted way. Having ownership of this special photo, I had a sound sleep that night despite the hotel. When we said goodbyes, I could say with 200% certainty that both parties didn’t expect to run into each other again. Isn’t common sense always teaching us to have no expectation about such fleeting encounters? At the same time, would life be crazy dull if everything common sense preaches stands correct? I, for one, love getting surprises from time to time. And let me tell you, I did when I ran into Pablo and Yamila the next morning on the same boat ride to Murano and Burano. (A post about them is coming your way real soon. Get ready to be blinded by colors.) It was only naturally fitting that we explored them together. In fact, we spent the next 20 hours together wandering aimlessly around Venice and exchanging travel stories, sharing parts of ourselves and making jokes. Pablo and Yamila are in their 30s, but their young, adventurous and energetic spirit made it extremely easy for me to connect on a more personal level.
These photos were taken in different neighborhoods of Venice, from Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro to Santa Croce. Just don’t ask me the exact location of each because I’m directionally challenged and the fact that Venice is like a tangled spider web just greatly exacerbated the problem.
The morning when we were scheduled to depart Florence for Venice started out in a torrential downpour. On one hand, I took it as a sign that Florence loved us too much that it just had to turn on the waterworks seeing us off. LOL. On the other, I was quite worried because hauling 4 giant-ass suitcases plus 2 heavy-ass backpacks on our shoulders from the hotel to Santa Maria Novella station in the rain wasn’t the exact kind of getting wet I was looking for. (LOL. Please don’t judge me. I learned the packing lessons the hard way.) Miraculously enough, the rain stopped 45 minutes before we had to leave our hotel and then the sun came out, which gave ample time for most puddles on the streets to dry up and us to arrive at the train station safe and sound. Throughout the trip, I was so consumed with the thought that lugging around our suitcases across so many airports and train stations was so conducive to the unwelcoming appearances of bedbugs, which you would know if you have been to New York before during the summer petrify every single human being. It was beyond scary.
The train from Florence to Venice was prompt and uneventful. As I was dragging my suitcases out of the station’s main entrance and about to climb down the stairs, the top handle of one broke. Before I had time to register in my mind what was actually happening, 46 pounds worth of clothes nicely packed in a big black suitcase rolled uncontrollably down the stairs and then on the street. (I know you’re feeling bad for judging me :P) As you can imagine, the rest of the walk to the hotel and the act of carrying them upstairs on foot were extremely painful. The hotel we stayed at was Hotel Adua, which I will have to say upfront was hands-down the worst hotel during our entire trip. The room itself was enclosed and suffocating. The bathroom wasn’t clean. And the surrounding area was crowded and noisy and touristy and not to my liking even one bit. I was conscious of it being a budget-friendly hotel and left all my expectations in my fatherland, but it didn’t even come close to the two budget-friendly places we were at in Rome and Florence despite charging almost similar prices. Venice is notorious for being prohibitively expensive, but so are Rome and Florence, I believe. Thus, though I didn’t have any negative personal experience with the hotel, I wouldn’t stay there again. Luckily, we only had 48 hours in Venice and the only time we were physically in the room was from midnight to early morning the next day. (But it’s worth mentioning that whenever I was in the room, I felt very uneasy.)
Now, let’s talk about Venice. Oh Venice! Is there anything that hasn’t been said about you? You’re the legend, the one and only, the ultimate dream of every couple and the prominent bullet point on the bucket list of every traveler. Indeed, you were mine too. As a matter of fact, you were the most asked question when I returned because apparently most third-world denizens only associate Italy with Venice. However, I have to admit that I couldn’t get you during the first two hours inside of you. (my dearest readers, I know where your mind is going. Let it go, now :P) Blame it on me being overly cranky after above-mentioned incidents or you being crammed with tourists 24/7, but the sad truth is I was majorly let down in the beginning.
But then, I soon figured out what was going wrong. As with every other city, I prepared an incredibly exhaustive (and exhausting) itinerary of what to do and what to see and what to eat in Venice. What I omitted when I put it together was the simple but most important fact that there were only 48 hours in Venice, meaning we would barely scratch the surface of what it had to offer. Taking into account all the nuisances like open hours, tickets, lines and all that jazz, I questioned in my mind how in the world it would be possible to unearth just a fraction of what Venice is about. So, I did what most rational tourists wouldn’t do, which were to throw away the itinerary and just walk and walk and walk until our legs broke down on us. As a result, if you asked me whether I saw the spectacular interior of St Mark’s Basilica, the answer would be a big NO because I didn’t set foot inside the church. If you asked me where Ponte dell’Accademia is, I wouldn’t be able to answer with certainty. If you asked me whether I visited any museum in Venice, the answer would simply be NO. The list goes on and on. However, what we managed during the short 48 hours were walking every sisteria (suburb) of Venice and a half-day trip to Murano and Burano (but that is another post itself) and a series of photos that attempt to capture the lines, patterns, shapes and textures of Venice. I hope you enjoy Venice’s quieter side as much as I do. Because that was how I started falling in love with Venice…