Posted tagged ‘Europe Trip’

Venice 2: Hostels and Churches

April 7, 2009

By Steve Marshall, Senior Business Student

Tasha (junior business student) was actually pretty scared about our hostel.

It was an understandable reaction. The week before, we had to run up to Dublin early and stay in a hostel so we could catch our flight to Rome. It was definitely a hostile environment.

It was in a terrible part of town, and they put me on a completely different floor than the girls. At one point, we ducked down into the kitchen area to eat together, and this guy came up to us, as friendly as possible, and told us his life story. He was a Czeck immigrant to the US, joined the marines, his drill sergeants were racist… At the same time, he was oddly interested in all the fine details of our travel arrangements. He then told us a completely different life story, and tried to get more information on exactly where and when we’d be traveling. It was enough to give the girls the willies, so we cut out of the conversation as soon as possible, and changed our travel plans after that.

It was just a bad experience. We ended up being able to switch things around so that I was across the room from the girls (they packed 8-12 beds for both males and females into a normal sized hotel room), but no one got much sleep. We tucked all our valuables into the pockets of my coat, and I wrapped it around my pillow so no one could take it without definitely waking me up in the process. We left as early the next morning as we could. No one wanted to hang around.

So, I was really hoping that was an anomaly as hostels go.

Tasha: it didn’t help much that the route to our Venice hostel took us down streets that were too narrow to be considered alleys in America. It was only 9:30 but there didn’t seem to be a soul in sight. The streets became darker and when we got to the hostel, and the outside was an instant replay of the one in Dublin… Except this one was completely dark, and no one was there to open the door.

Steve: Apparently, the hostel we had reservations at had closed, and was sending their customers to a hotel around the corner. A note on the sign gave us a new address, which brought us to a single big wooden door with a brass knob right in the middle. Inside the door was a stone staircase that curved upwards, very well lit and clean (it was just a little steep). Up the stairs and around the corner, the stairs were covered with a red carpet. At the next turn, a mirror with a golden frame hung on the wall. The farther up we went, the ritzier it looked. At the top was a young man behind a desk with a slightly bored look on his face.

Tasha: It was such a radical change from our previous experience! Steve got bonus points for picking out a great place to stay.

Steve: Apparently Venice is such a tourist-driven town that when the shops close at 10, pretty much all the sidewalks roll up (which is a funny concept, because Venice is all sidewalks! are almost no roads 😀 )

The bored guy was really nice. He pointed out where we were on a city map, and where the two or three bars on the island were, just in case we wanted to go out. He assured us that the price wouldn’t change from what we were quoted on the website, and that he would put the three of us together in a 4 bed room, so we’d only have one stranger around us while we were sleeping.

That one person turned out to be the nicest person in the world! She was an Australian vegetarian in her early 20s, who had decided to see the world. She had saved up her money and struck out across the south of Asia with her boyfriend, traveling by train and staying in hostels. She made it all the way to Holland (halfway around the world) before she ran out of money. Apparently she also lost her traveling buddy there too.

In Holland, she got a job in an Irish pub, because it was the only place where she didn’t have to speak Dutch. There’s a ‘globalized’ picture for you: an Australian girl, working at an Irish pub, in Holland.

She had some interesting perspectives about religion, and a lot of questions. Tasha and Annie conked out pretty early, but we ended up in a conversation that lasted pretty late into the night.

Basically, her biggest beef with religion was her vegetarianism.

She didn’t see the use of established religion (an increasingly common point of view), and had a negative view of it already from her mother (apparently a Jehovah’s Witness) but she said her main conflict was the fact that the commandments say “thou shalt not kill,” but christians still condone eating meat. She had met a goat in Holland, and he had so much personality that she believed he had as much right to live as any human being. She also had a couple cats that would carry on conversations with her. Since the church didn’t protect innocent beings like that, she couldn’t be a part of it.

That was an objection I hadn’t heard of before. It was interesting to encounter it.

Back to Venice, though.

It was, despite all my romantic babblings, a tourist town. You still find the same basic things: street vendors, overpriced restaurants, and crowds. We were there on Sunday, though, which meant smaller crowds and the added adventure of finding mass.

We slept late on Sunday morning (it was much needed), and toured Venice in the afternoon. Our map had all the churches in town clearly marked, and like every other ancient Italian town, there was one on almost every corner, all super ancient. The closest one had a 6:30 mass time posted on the door, so that was our target. When we got there, it was locked up tight.

Not to worry, there were three more within a couple blocks’ distance. At least one of them would have an evening mass, right?

Over the next 15 minutes, we went to 8 other churches, all the size of small cathedrals, and some within spitting distance of each other. All of them were straight up closed. Some didn’t even have signs posted anywhere on the building. Basically, 9 cathedrals had been boarded up from disuse.

We did find mass at St. Marco’s Basilica. It was beautiful: an especially ancient church, built before the discoveries that made spacious gothic designs possible, so the way it’s massive dome was supported was by arches, stacked on top of arches, with more arches on top. Every arch had a saint or an angel painted on the bottom, so they looked like they were peeking out at you from everywhere you looked, and whatever wasn’t a picture of a saint was pure gold mosaic tiles. The whole ceiling was gold, the marble on the bottom was a dark, rich brown, and the altar was surrounded with beautiful wooden statues. It was an amazing place to go to mass, we weren’t expecting to go there, but we walked in the door literally two minutes before it started. God wanted us there 🙂

We ended up with a really cool souvenir from our time in Venice: the “Jade blanket.”

I know, it sounds like an item from a video game (like “plus 2 coolness, plus 3 warmth,” but really it’s just a red airline blanket that our Australian roommate didn’t have room for anymore, so she passed it on to us. Extra blankets are alllllways useful.

That, and always knowing where your towel is.

When in Rome…

February 13, 2009

Just 2 weeks left until we leave for our Study Abroad trip in Ireland and Rome. While I am very excited about leaving soon, I have to keep my mind focused on the tasks at hand as there is much to get done before getting on the plane 2 weeks from now. As the saying goes it is “so close but yet so far.” There are really only 4 things standing between me and St. Peters Basilica:

-10 page art paper on The Punishment on Korah (Sistine Chapel)

-8 minute sales presentation

-Launching a trial business idea

-Finally, a very long plane ride

Given the tasks I have in front of me, it is probably starting to make sense how 2 weeks could feel like an eternity. The one thing that keeps me going is, no matter how hard these last 2 weeks will be, I know it will all be worth it when I kiss the ground in St. Peters square once again.

Chris Lane