Unlike many people, I don’t have an opinion about children one way or the other. Of course, there are times I find them absolutely adorable, but I just consider them ‘people.’ A little noisier and a little needier… but people. After riding the New York Subway for over a decade, I can honestly say that you don’t have to be a child to be noisy, obnoxious and needy, so I never felt the need to avoid kids.
That being said, it felt like an entire maternity ward was booked on my flight from Abu Dhabi to Venice. Screaming in high-definition, 5-channel stereo surround sound. The lovely little family next to me thankfully had a non-screamer, but to get their daughter to sleep, she had to lay length-wise across the center seat. Laying in one direction, I was constantly being kicked by the little girl, and if she was turned around, I literally had her head in my lap. I’m glad at least someone got some sleep on that flight.
Touched down in Venice at the Marco Polo International Airport, and I made my way to the water taxi terminal. A friend had mentioned how glorious it was to arrive in Venice via boat, and what a shame it would be to arrive any other way to this iconic floating city in a lagoon. So I waited two and a half hours for the first boat of the day. It was worth the wait. Arriving by way of water taxi, you pass through a designated water route that passes many smaller islands along the way to the heart of the city. Each of these islands has its own distinct history and from what I have read, the now decrepit convents on these mostly deserted smaller islands were hotbeds of salacious activity. A few hundred years ago, traveling on this same boat route would have been a completely different experience as the nuns would be atop walls and sitting on piers, flashing their bits, and beckoning for you to come and visit.
Yes, this was part of the amazing history of Venice I had learned over the last few months of studying before my trip. Initially, I watched all of the travel videos on YouTube about the history of the city, but they all focused on the canned tours that everyone takes through the Doge’s Palace and primarily all of Venice within 500 meters of San Marco Square. But I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to ride gondolas and to quickly walk through palaces and towers, either not understanding what I am looking at, or completely disinterested in the length of reign of this Doge and that Doge.
The more I studied about Venice, the more I realized I was more likely to have more fun exploring the darker side of the city’s history. The best tool I got for myself to make this happen was buying the book “111 Places in Venice That You Must not Miss.” This book skips every one of the most popular tourist attractions and goes right to the history of government rebellions, gruesome executions, hidden codes against the government that can be found in the architecture of buildings, all of the crazy decadence from the days of Casanova, witchcraft, and sorcery. You would never think that almost every architectural detail on every building you pass on the streets of Venice would have so much historical significance.
So this trip to Venice became the ultimate scavenger hunt in the most amazing maze of a city in the world.
— I flashed my boobs on ‘The Bridge of Tits’ (or Titty Bridge, whatever you prefer)
— I read secret messages left in the ironwork of windows and railings.
— I got lost a few times in the process.
It took me three full days of walking every inch of this city to find just 56 of the 111 secret places and items listed in the book. Sometimes it took me several hours to find just one item, while other places I found by practically walking into them without even knowing. The time I spent walking from one location to the next was also filled with discovering new things, and because of this process, I would feel very safe in betting that I have seen parts of this ancient and mysterious city that few tourists have.
And I still got to experience San Marco Square as well. No, I still didn’t pay the hundreds of dollars to do the packaged tours, but I had a glass of wine at night in the middle of one of the most iconic locations in the world. I let the wine do its magic on my brain while I listened to classical music from live bands, and then I finally felt the feeling of being ‘done’ and I took the boat back to my hostel.
I feel okay with leaving now because as with all places that I really enjoy, I know in my heart I’ll be back someday, and I can get to anything I might have missed them.
Onward to the Czech Republic and the tiny villages and towns in the countryside. My list of places I really would like to see includes:
Český Krumlov, Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně, Kutná Hora, Karlštejn Castle, Konopiště Chateau, Bohemian Switzerland, Český Šternberk Castle, Křivoklát Castle, Schloss Nelahozeves, Palacio de Mělník, Plzeň, Olomouc, Terezín.
IMPOSSIBLE to fit all of that in within 2.5 weeks. The next stages of this trip will all be very random, but for sure I will be in Prague by May 21.
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