Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Carnevale, part 1

So, with four papers, a midterm and a presentation behind me, I finally have found some time to document my travels around Italy. Only three midterms and three days until spring break! Chocolate festival in Siena on Friday, Budapest Saturday-Monday, Paris Monday-Thursday, Barcelona Thursday-Saturday, Milan Saturday+Sunday. Excited is an understatement. Oh then there's Switzerland the weekend after spring break. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Question: What do labyrinths, crowds, crab pasta, glass, wine, cows, and dance parties all have in common?

Answer: They were all present over the course of my weekend in Venice with five CET girls and a Frenchman.

Me, Kyle, Evan, Ari, Hannah and her friend Romain ventured over to the northeastern corner of Italy to have the most authentic Carnevale celebration ever. The trip over went relatively smoothly, it was only when we departed from the train station in search of our hostel that any problems arose. Well, one problem in particular. When we thought a corrugated garage door was our hostel in a town outside of Venice called Mestre, and that we had been scammed. Turned out we are just incompetent and didn't walk far enough down the street. Crisis averted.

Proof we made it to the hostel.

Seeing as we didn't get over to Venice, a 15 minute bus ride away, till early evening, it was a pretty laid back night. We took pictures of every canal and costume on our hour and a half journey to Piazza San Marco. I'd say we were about as close to lost as you can get on an island during this time. Our handwritten signs weren't the most helpful, as they would lead us to a piazza and then stop ("I think it's this way!" "No, it's definitely this way." None of us actually had a clue).

Welcome to Carnevale 2012!

Our trusty signs.

But, rest assured, we found it, snacked on roasted nuts, drank vin brule' (mulled wine) and oggled over the amazing costumes for hours.

The fancier masks.

Piazza San Marco at night.

Performance the first night.

After searching for about an hour for a more "local" place to eat dinner, our hunger got the best of us and we ate a leisurely three hour dinner with plenty of seafood pasta before dragging our tired bodies through the maze that is Venice for 45 minutes to get the bus home.

Maze-like streets.

Pretty much the entirety of the next day was spent on the island of Murano, famous for its glass blowing. Why's it on a separate island, you ask? Good question. It's because people were afraid the glass makers would burn the main island of Venice down. So, they were banished to their own smaller island...poor glassblowers. But thanks to this, we had the chance to travel by boat through Venice. Although it wasn't a gondola, it still felt pretty fairytale-like.

On the way to Murano.

Excited to be in Venice :)

Venice from Murano.

We saw a free glass blowing demonstration, and then spent the rest of the day wandering under the warm sun, checking out beautiful pieces of glass, extravagant costumes, and just generally enjoying ourselves.

Glass blowing.

This was definitely one of my favorite afternoons. Especially when we came across an outdoor seating area of the most delicious restaurant ever. Crab pasta, white wine, sun, new and old friends. I don't know how it could have gotten any better.

Best costume- chocolate.

Romain and I at lunch.

Crab pasta.

Successful 6 person self pic. Win.


Upon returning to Venice, we waited in line to climb the tower in San Marco Square until the line was literally cut off RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. So frustrating. Instead we decided to see the birds-eye view of Venice the next morning and commence the nighttime activities. Dinner consisted of wine and nutella crepes, and there's not much to say about the night other than, it was the best. (Side note: having to pay for bathrooms = the worst. What's up with that, Venice/Italy in general?)

Oh something I just remembered was NOT the best. The "milkshake" Hannah and I that night. Frothy milk and chocolate powder, is what it was. #disappointed.

Crepes, which were actually delicious despite our looks of disgust.

A small list of people we made friends with/encountered at some point: a group of cows, a Havana flip-flops parade playing Hava Nagila, bowling pins, a group of Swedish/French/Italian girls (not actually sure which they were? damn Europeans being able to speak every language ever), characters from the Godfather, with whom we started a dance party in Piazza San Marco, and JAMAL FROM NORFOLK - small freakin world. This guy graduated the year before I did from Booker T. My mind was blown.


Flip-flop/Hava Nagila parade?

The next morning started early so we could get to climb the tower before departing for Padova. When we got to the top, despite the fog, the view was incredible. And, the bells starting ringing directly above our heads. I could have reached up and touched them. Pretty cool experience.

Then, rather than spending more time in Padova, Evan and I decided to tour Saint Mark's Basilica, in which we witnessed the incredible gold mosaic ceilings, and 2nd century Byzantine bronze horses.

Ceiling of St. Marks.

The bronze horses.

We stopped by Padova on the way home, intending to see the largest European botanical gardens. We were silly and didn't think about the fact that it was Sunday, so when our cab driver (who no doubt knew he was scamming us) dropped us off, our hopes were crushed at the site of the locked gates. So, we wandered to the church of St. Anthony and saw his tomb (yeah, you can just wander to the tombs of saints in Italy).

And that concludes Venice! Next up, Carnevale, part 2 in Viareggio, Bologna and Florence!

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