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Into the unknown. Or surprises are not always bad

I'm on a trans-atlantic flight, which gives me plenty of time to write. The past 24 hours have given us precious little time to do much more than travel, but some interesting and unexpected things were seen. Falling across things that were unexpected and unknown are one of the greatest parts of travel.

We started by vacating our fantastic Venice apartment. Up, showers, a little breakfast, and out we go. Destination, train station! We're not going there to get on a train, at least not yet. We are going to store our bags so we can spend another day in Venice! We are leaving today, but not until 9 pm.

We board the Vaporetto at San Marcos square and as we headed up the Grand Canal, we see what looks like an old woman in a small boat with a broom on the bow. That's odd......what's up with that? Then we see another....and another. We've been here 5 days now and this is the first time we've seen anything like this.

A quick phone search points out something that a pair of non-catholics like ourselves would not know. It is the epiphany, a catholic holiday that is, as best I understand, a celebration of the 3 wise men's visit to see the Christ child. Italy, being devoutly Catholic, is not letting this holiday pass without proper celebration!

We find out that the old lady in a boat, isn't. It's men dressed up as old women. It turns out this is Befana. Befana is a witch that calls upon the children and if they have been good, brings them candy and treats. If they've been bad, she leaves coal. If they've been really bad, she is rumored to have a horrible husband that eats children. Kinda like Santa Clause and the boogie man all rolled into one.

It turns out this is a huge deal here. The witches in the boats race along the canal. The winner apparently gets a flag or some token thing. The canal is lined with thousands of people, all lining up to see the witches race. Rowing clubs here also row but I'm not sure if they're racing or not. And we are on the water bus with our packs on, unable to navigate the crowds.

We arrive at the train station and get off the Vaporetto. We rush into the train station, battling the regular crowds and check our packs as quickly as possible. We head back across town on foot, knowing it will get us back to the race area quicker than anything else. Alas, when we arrived, the race had already started.

It turns out the crowds were still there as the course consisted of a circle, and the boats go down, turn, and come back. We're able to catch the end of the race and see the winners! It's all in Itialian so we understood very little. After the race, the crowds broke up and thinned out.

We head to the fish market, which is closed today. The children of Venice receive stockings with candy today at the fish market. We arrive to kids with candy, and the locals are giving out some type of sparkling wine and holiday cake. The kids (and a lot of the parents) are singing Italian songs and dancing in the streets. Sometimes the things you don't expect are the coolest things that happen. Actually, that happens a lot. It's good to keep an open mind when you travel.

We start our walkabout after all the fun is over. Venice is a city well suited to exploring without a destination. We found it easier to set a direction and try to stay with that. I say try because it often goes out the window as you bounce around on short little streets and wind up in a place you never expected. We head sorta.......north for a while.

We decide to do something we haven't done yet. We cross the Grand Canal on a traghetto. A traghetto is a gondola, but not one of the fancy ones. It's pretty bare bones and it's just a canal crossing. Cost is 2 euros a person making it the cheapest gondola ride in Venice.

As we begin our crossing, we hear the squalking of an ambulance siren. One comes barreling down the canal and the wake off of it catches us, as well as our gondoleer, by surprise. You normally stand up on a traghetto ride...but we all sat down quick. It seems that sometimes an understanding of physics is instinctual. While the ride is a bit of an adventure and we are busting 18 inch wakes in what is essentially a huge canoe, we make it in one piece.

We walk here and there, eating the wonderful food, fully realizing we're on the downhill leg and will be going back on the wagon soon. The days of cicchetti, tiramisu, and 4 course meals every day will soon come to a close. For this we are truly sad....but realize the necessity of it. Venice (and I've heard Italy in general) can destroy the willpower of the most regimented healthy eater. For us, falling off the wagon didn't take a push. We jumped.

We walk by the hospital. We discover that the entry to the hospital that we took photos of the day before is through an old church. It's interesting and probably the greatest hospital entry I've ever seen. We also noted that the cemetery island is visible from the hospital. We wonder if this is just a coincidence or perhaps a motivator. If it's a get well motivator, there are few more blunt.

We come across a random restaurant that looks okay. We finished out our Venice trip with a very nice dinner. We started with Bruscetta. Laurie had pasta and seafood, then a fish course, and a salad course. I had a spicy pasta with bacon, a pork chop, and grilled vegetables. We finish a cappucino for Laurie, a latte for me, and we split a tiramisu. We went out in style.

We head back to the train station. We keep watching the board for our train to show up. No Munich train shows up. Time gets closer. We double check all the train numbers, and the numbers match, but the destinations do not. The train is going to Monaco and then to Vienna. Personally I wondered how the railroad would pull that off. Monaco and Venice are like 700 miles apart....and it's a long way from where we are. We're totally confused.

We check with the Italian rail folks and they tell us that 30 minutes before our train leaves, the track it leaves on will show up on the board. We wait, and no track shows up, and no train to Munich. We go back to the Italian rail folks and as again. The Italian rail guy says not to worry, that in Italian, "Monaco" means Munich! We're releaved....but at the same time, we kinda want to smack somebody up side the head! Here's the kicker......guess what Monaco (France) is called in Italian? Monaco. Exactly who thought this was a good idea? Italy is kinda like that.

We board our train, a OBB (Austrian Rail) Sleepjet train. We have a reserved compartment and the beds are already made. We head off into the cold, nice and cozy (actually a little closer together than cozy) in our warm train compartment. We arrive Munich around 6:30, and we head to the airport for our trip home.

I'll put together my overall thoughts on the trip once we're home. We did a couple of new places this trip, venturing into the unknown. The unknown, while not always the most comfortable, is sometimes the most rewarding. Goodnight everyone.

On a bridge.  Lots of those here.

On a bridge. Lots of those here.


Multiple Befana the witches

Multiple Befana the witches


Rowing association

Rowing association


Another rowing club

Another rowing club


The winning Befana witch!

The winning Befana witch!


The winner with his flag

The winner with his flag


Stockings and candy for the children!

Stockings and candy for the children!


Traghetto

Traghetto


Entrance to the hospital

Entrance to the hospital


Crowds

Crowds


Fire house

Fire house


Sleeper train

Sleeper train


Not a lot of room in here.

Not a lot of room in here.


Bunk

Bunk


Spectators watching the race from the Rialto

Spectators watching the race from the Rialto


Befana the witch

Befana the witch


Befana the witch is everywhere!

Befana the witch is everywhere!


Holiday cake and fizzy wine

Holiday cake and fizzy wine


Everyone out in their holiday clothes!

Everyone out in their holiday clothes!


Dancing and singing songs!

Dancing and singing songs!


Poster about the celebrations!

Poster about the celebrations!


This is actually considered a Venice street

This is actually considered a Venice street


Standard Venice apartment

Standard Venice apartment

Posted by Bill Hall 17:00 Archived in Italy

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