Having a full-time job and limited holidays will eventually lead to the tough choice of how, when and where to satisfy your traveller’s heart. Some people are looking forward to their one and only, several weeks long vacation. Maybe to a place that they always go to, that is familiar to them and offers them all the rest and comfort they need. Others can’t sit still, they feel a constant travelbug that makes them escape their homes, either by really hopping on the next train and plane or by swooning over daydreams and travel pictures. I belong to the second group, I always long for new places and it just won’t stop.
The thing is, when it comes to travel destinies, we tend to think big: why not go to Japan or to New Zealand, South America? The more time zones away, the better. While I like the thought of stepping into a completely different culture, these long-distance trips are no option for when our working life only allows us to get away for the weekend or for 1-2 vacation days.
What is the usual employee to do? Well, not much, except for staying at home, lying on the couch, doing the household, wishing we could leave, but oh, no time / no money / no friend that will join. (I know because I’ve been there too many times!)
The thing is, there are options. There are places close to us that are well worth exploring although they might not appear as exotic as going to a different continent. We often forget about what is close to us, maybe because we live in a world where there is a constant need to be new and different and exciting.
The places we went to with our parents that are just an hour away from where we live or the neighbouring country that can be reached with a cheap train ticket in no time are far from boring: they can be just as exciting and enriching if we detach them from their dusty labels. And if we manage to leave the couch!
Now, that was a huge introduction to what is supposed to be my first blog post and to the category of weekend trips and reviews. Without further ado, below is my short summary of a weekend in Venice that is still close enough to Austria but already oh so different!
Let me capture these two days in one sentence: Venice blew my mind!
I went there in mid-June, expecting to see a beautiful city but at the same time being overwhelmed by tourists, pigeons and the combi smell of stagnant water and Italian pizza.
Truth be told, there were quite a lot of tourists, especially on Piazza San Marco and in the main shopping areas (Le Mercerie, Salizada San Moise). But it was possible to navigate around them and to keep the trips to the shopping area to a minimum as there was just one store that I was interested to visit.
Now, the main fun was to walk with one of these free city maps of Venice where all small, crooked, narrow alleys of Venice are perfectly pictured in miniature form. I usually like to get lost in places that I don’t know as this is the best way to discover hidden gems. However with Venice, there was no way my sense of direction would have lead me anywhere but to the nearest canal. And it’s not that there are a couple of canals that may help to maintain orientation, there are literally hundreds of little bridges and canals. Some alleys were so narrow that I wondered if a square-shouldered man would have to walk sidewards.
Instead of choosing the main canals and streets, I marked several points and districts that I wanted to see and traced the route on the map. Following the route felt like being part of the Labyrinth (the board game, does anyone remember?) where I thought several times that I must hit a wall around the next corner. However, there was always a small entry to the next passage or bridge. This amazing infrastructure alone makes Venice a must on every traveller’s list… and there is so much more.
When it comes to the taste and smell of Venice, I think I don’t need to start praising the Italian food: it was good and delicious everywhere I went. I loved the pizza, pasta ice cream and those huge cookies with almonds, chocolate or pistachio that have a slightly doughy marzipan-like taste and texture.
The only thing that was a bit unusual was how salads were served: they came without dressing. There was oil and vinegar on the table but the salad on the plate was very puristic.
As to smells: I may stand alone with my opinion but I believe that Italian perfumes are on the fast line and that they are about to overtake French perfume brands.
I visited one small perfume store called Muschieri in Via San Marco Frezzaria 1177 that I almost missed because it looked so tiny. And it is! My guess is that it was about 15 sqm but somehow the owner managed to squeeze in all kinds of niche perfumes. I was most excited to try the Maria Candide Gentile and Laboratorio Olfattivo range but will cover them with a different post.
So, is Venice worth a weekend trip? Absolutely! If a long weekend is lying ahead of you, check out the Austrian railway service, there are trains going via Bolzano to Venice and other Italian cities (Verona, Bologna) for 19 EUR (last time that I checked).
Favourite place: Dorsoduro district
Recommended season: Spring (off-season)
Time frame: 3 days are good, 5 days when also visiting the neighbouring islands
What you need: a city map + some cash to spend on Italian sweets