Our Europe Trip: Venice Part 2

Day 9: Venice

This was our last day in Europe – very sad. We got up and walked over to St. Mark’s Square where we listened to a Rick Steve’s audio tour. It was super interesting to hear about all the different architecture styles used just in the square. As Venice was the hub for all shipping around the word back in the day, the city incorporated all the different cultures into one place, specifically St. Mark’s Basilica. The square was so cool with all the shops and tourist and live bands. It totally felt like being in downtown Disney.

After we toured the square, we went into St. Mark’s Basilica, which was built in the 1060s! Venice definitely had the oldest things I’ve ever seen in my life and a lot of them. The four original bronze horses that were once on the roof and are now in the museum inside are estimated to be from around 400 B.C. That’s just nuts. And they look totally good.

We listened to another audio tour inside the church. It talked all about the crazy mosaics that blanket the walls, ceiling, and floor. The attention to detail in that church is staggering. It also talked about how the Venetians stole the remains of St. Mark, then lost them, then found them, then buried them under the basilica. And, of course, all of this was depicted in mosaics all over the church. While we were in the church, there was a service going on. It was so weird to hear singing and prayers while the rest of the church was packed with tourists.

After our St. Mark’s excursion, we headed across Venice to get on a Vaporetto (their water tram things) down the Grand Canal. We had another Rick Steve’s audio tour that described all the sites along the Grand Canal.

The more I learned about Venice, the more impossible its existence became. I don’t understand how it was ever built and how it’s still here. While it’s not as vibrant as it used to be, it is still beautiful. The Grand Canal is lined with former palaces that are slowly rotting. It’s crazy to think that Venice was once the wealthiest and most powerful city in the world and now it’s just a tourist town for people to eat gelato and get ripped off by gondoliers. But still, it’s breathtaking.

After our boat tour, we walked out to the tip of Venice to see their only garden in the city. It definitely wasn’t very big, but every European city needs a garden.

Then we were again in search of delicious food. Our concierge recommended a restaurant in our neighborhood that was so cute. We sat outside, but you couldn’t see the sky because there was a ceiling of branches and leaves above us. The food was totally delicious and after our meal they came out with little complementary glasses of wine that they make at the restaurant. I’m sure it was delicious. ☺

After dinner, we got lost in the streets again looking for gelato and souvenirs. We happened upon some little Venetian glass rings. Since Doug lost his super cool wood wedding ring before we left, a 1 euro glass ring seemed like the perfect solution.

We kept walking and found ourselves in St. Mark’s Square again. The square was lit up and there were three different bands playing, fighting for people’s attention. One band was playing “Isn’t it Romantic?” and my heart melted. Doug and I danced in the square. It was a perfectly cheesy moment and I LOVED it. Then a guy tried to sell Doug a rose for me, but he didn’t have any money. After he made fun of Doug, I ended up buying a rose for Doug to give to me. It was probably the most magical night of my life. ☺

Then we went to bed and got millions of mosquito bites. Not as magical.

Day 10: The Trip Home

We woke up at 3 a.m. to catch the 3:45 a.m. Alilaguna boat back to the airport. After over an hour on a boat, we got to wait for our delayed flight to Paris that ended up leaving at 7 a.m. We barely made it to our connecting flight to SLC. Doug and I were able to sleep a little bit on our flight from Venice to Paris, but neither of us could sleep at all on our 12-hour flight from Paris to Salt Lake. It was the longest flight of our lives. About 7 hours in, we started losing our minds. And this was the least fancy of any plane we’d been on. No individual TVs, so we had to watch whatever they put on the aisle TV.

Doug’s dad was nice enough to pick us up from the airport (about 4:30 MST) so we didn’t have to drive home in our condition. It was so weird to talk to someone else after talking only to Doug for 2 weeks.

The next 4 hours are a total blur. Our bodies and brains were so mad at us. We fell asleep for a little bit and decided we should probably have dinner before going to bed. I can just remember being so confused about where I was and what time it was and how painful it was to get to the car to find dinner.

The next day, I slept for about 12 hours. It already felt like we hadn’t gone on our trip, like it was just some crazy dream. Doug went to work that day (weirdo), so I started writing things down like crazy because I knew if I didn’t, there would be no way for me to prove the last two weeks actually happened.

Our Europe Trip: Venice Part 1

Day 8: Venice

On Sunday morning, we hopped on our only paid bus trip in Berlin (which I think we could have gotten for free, too). We flew from Berlin to Zurich then to Venice. Zurich looked so beautiful; I wanted to stay. The airport was right in the middle of a cute little village. It was all green with hills everywhere. But Rick Steve’s Best of Europe doesn’t say anything about it, so I guess there are only banks in Zurich.

From the airport in Venice, we had to take a water bus out to the island. We waited in this weird “bus stop” on the water that was being pushed all over by the choppy water, making us sufficiently sick by the time we got on the boat. Our boat/bus trip to the island was about an hour – way too long for me.

It was really foggy that day, so we couldn’t really see anything from the boat except the faint outline of the city.

As we walked to our hotel, it felt like we were taking sketchy back allies, but it turns out that’s how all the streets are in Venice. “Big” streets are about 10 feet wide and the small ones are about 3 feet wide and they’re all cobblestone. Our hotel ended up being in a cute little square, not far from St. Mark’s Square. Our hotel was a newly renovated hotel from the 1600’s – CRAZY! The whole hotel only had six rooms.

After we got over our sea sickness, we hit the streets. As we walked into our first square (not anything special in Venice, mind you), my eyes started welling up. It was so beautiful, my heart couldn’t even handle it. I had a similar experience in Paris, but for some reason, it was way more powerful here.

We walked over the Rialto Bridge and took some pictures. Again, so gorgeous, I can’t even stand thinking about it. After crossing the bridge and finding a cute little neighborhood our concierge suggested, we went on a search for pizza.

We found a cute little restaurant where we were serenaded by a little band with 2 accordions, a violin, and a guitar. It was so magical. Then we had to wander back through the streets to our hotel. We got totally lost, of course. You never know what streets are going to end at a canal or become creepy dead-ends. We made it, though, so don’t worry.

Our Europe Trip: Berlin Part 2

Day 7: Berlin

Saturday morning, we jumped on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour that started in Alexander Platz. This is where the big TV Tower is (that I didn’t know existed until we went there). One of the coolest parts of the tour was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s kind of hard to describe; it was about a city block of cement pillars of different heights. You get lost almost immediately once the pillars are over your head and all you see are people briefly as they walk from pillar to pillar as if they’re ghosts, which was the point. Underneath the monument, there was a museum with statistics, journal entries, and family stories of Jewish victims from WWII. It wasn’t as moving as I thought it would be, but it was still cool.

It was interesting to hear different pieces of the same history we’d heard in both London and Paris. For example, German princes held Versailles for a few months. That was definitely not mentioned in our Versailles tour. Then there were all these stories of different countries stealing monuments after war victories and then the original owner stealing them back after another war. Things were being stolen all over the place, including monuments that are now in Venice (the four bronze horses on St. Mark’s Cathedral).

Our other main stop on the bus tour was Checkpoint Charlie. We didn’t plan our tour very well and the actual museum was closed by the time we got there. Lame. But the whole time, I wished I had research the Berlin Wall and WWII more before our trip. There are so many layers to Berlin’s history and I kept getting them mixed up. And so much its history is dark and sad. That city has been through a lot and it’s miraculously still kickin’.

After our tour, we went to a laundromat to undo the damage of our kitchen sink laundry fiasco. It wasn’t a very wild Saturday night in Berlin, but at least we had clean undies.

After laundry, we went to dinner near our hotel/hostel. It was very German. Everything tasted a little off, especially the water. But it was a fun cultural experience trying to understand a German menu. I think that was the hardest part for me. No German words looked familiar (let’s be serious, those words are just too long) and our waitress seemed to be the only Berliner who wasn’t fluent in English. Doug kept trying to convince me that German is super close to English, but I don’t believe it.

Oh, and the weather was totally perfect in Berlin; blue skies all day and a light-jacket weather at night.

Our Europe Trip: Berlin Part 1

Day 6: Berlin

Berlin was way different than everywhere else we went. Everything in London and Paris could be dated back at least a couple hundred years, but Berlin was mostly new. With WWI, WWII, and the Cold War, most of Berlin had been destroyed.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with Berlin when we first got there. We had just left

Paris, which was breathtaking at every turn. Then we show up in Berlin, which seems to be trying to put itself back together.

It was super interesting to see what they decided to rebuild and what still shows evidence of war. They’ve rebuilt the palace, which is on Museum Island, across the street from the Berlin Cathedral, which has either been blackened by war or pollution. Either way, it’s super dirty. But the palace can’t be compaired to any of the other palaces we saw in Paris or London. Everything was way more toned down and practical. I guess Germans don’t want to be too showy.

When we first got to the airport, we were super confused. There was no security, no customs, and seemed mostly disorganized. We knew what bus we had to take into town – Alexander Platz – but had no idea how to buy tickets. We went to the info window where the worker, obviously annoyed, told us to get tickets on the bus. We quickly hopped on a bus only to find there was nowhere to pay for a ticket and none of the other riders seemed to be concerned about this. So we rode for free and continued to ride for free on all the buses and trams while in Berlin, until our final tram ride back to the airport when we happened to get on a tram that had a ticket machine. We’ll just say that Berlin has free public transportation.

Our first day there, we did our usual trick of just walking around they city. Berlin slowly started to grow on me (Doug was in love the whole time – he said it was the one city we visited where he could see himself living). We found our way to the Brandenburg Gate in Pariser Platz. There was a light show happening all over the city, so the Brandenburg Gate and other buildings in the square had different images and video projected on them. It was super cool. Pariser Platz has such a cool vibe, both at night and during the day. It was always full of people and lively. On our [free] bus ride home, we were able to see the festival of lights taking place throughout the city. Very cool.

Our Europe Trip: Paris – Versailles

Day 5: Paris/Versailles

Despite everything I knew about Versailles, I was not prepared for how huge it was. The palace itself was remarkable, but the gardens were absolutely unbelievable. The craziest part about Versailles is that it was built as their country home to get away from the bustle of Paris and the Louvre. And then they built other palaces and a little farm community within the gardens to get away from the bustle of Versailles. Again, it’s obvious why there were 2 revolutions.

I was super excited to see the hall of mirrors, but the tourists everywhere made it a little less spectacular. And we went in the off season, so I can’t imagine how crowded it would have been during the summer.

Being there kept reminding me of Vegas – excess for excess’ sake. All these palaces were all about looking awesome. For the most part, there was no practical use for anything. It was all there just to impress. This became more evident as we learned about Louis XIV’s daily scheduled, which consisted of audiences sitting and watching him wake up, eat meals, “rule,” and hang out. But I was super impressed. So, mission accomplished, Louis!

Versailles took most most of the day, so by the time we got back to Paris, we were on a search for dinner and the Moulin Rouge. Since our hotel was pretty much in the red light district, the Moulin Rouge wasn’t too hard to find. It was probably ¾ of a mile from our hotel in Blanche Square. We thought we would try to eat there, but at 200 euro a person, we had to pass. It was cool to see the windmill, though. ☺

We went across the square to eat at an American-themed restaurant, comparable to Texas Roadhouse. I would have been upset about eating at an American restaurant in France, but it turned out to be quite the education on how the rest of the world does American food. They were pretty close, but it was definitely weird. For example, I ordered a dessert called fromage blanc, which looked like it was going to be some kind of panna cotta with fruit topping. Turned out it was unsweetened yogurt with some unsweetened fruit junk on top. It was not dessert, nor fromage.