Fine dining on the Grand Canal
That One Night When I Was Stranded in Venice
After my three-week stint last winter attempting to make a life for myself in the Czech Republic, a friend invited me to tag along with her as she criss-crossed Europe taking in the classical sights before her impending return to New Zealand. After a week and a half of suffering from a horrible cold in snowy Paris, having way too much fun in sunny Barcelona, and being underwhelmed by Rome and all its ancient ruins (it gets boring after a while), I arrived at the Marco Polo airport near Venice at 9 pm on Monday Night. This is when all my troubles began.
I hastily bought a ticket for an ATVO bus and boarded the express bus to the Piazzale Roma only to arrive there and discover that the ACTV water-taxis weren’t in service that week because of a strike. The signore at the information booth kindly informed that my only option was to start walking till I got to where I wanted to go. I had downloaded a map of the city from the hostel’s website but it didn’t do me any good since the map was black and white, and hand drawn which made it difficult for me to decipher at night (or the daytime for that matter). So I spent the next hour and a half carrying and dragging all my bags across Venice and its various bridges. Just to summarize the next hour: girl takes bus to the piazzale Roma, girl carries luggage across Ponte delle constituzione (a huge arched bridge with wide steps) to cross Grand canal, girl looks for hostel in district of Cannaregio, girl realizes she’s in the wrong district, girl walks back, girl drags luggage across big bridge with no ramp again, girl walks for 30 minutes till southern end of island, girl finds hostel, girl finds hostel closed. Fun times.
Strangely enough, even though I had spent so much time lost and I really was not amused with having to lift my suitcase across a bridge every two 3 minutes, I can honestly say that I really enjoyed walking up and down Venice by myself at night. Maybe it’s because I am a night person but I find that I only really start to appreciate a city once the sunlight fades away and the warmness of the sun’s rays is replaced by the night’s cool air. I think in order to understand just how mystical and beautiful Venice can be you have to explore it at night when the human traffic dies down and the street lights begin to illuminate the passageways and magnificent architecture which defines the city.
After arriving at my hostel at midnight only to find that all the lights were off and the door was closed, I figured that I would need to find a different place to bunk up for the night. Since there wasn’t any 24/7 timmies or McDonalds that I could set up camp in (the first time I actually cursed not having a fast food restaurant around) and I didn’t have any other addresses of guest houses on me, I had to find someone asap who could point me in the right direction. Thank my lucky stars, right down the street was an African man closing up what seemed to be a pasta restaurant. Deducing that he could probably speak French (I know my migration politics and geography), I dashed towards him with my luggage in hand and after inquiring about what languages he spoke (Italian and French, he confirmed), proceeded to explain to him my very unfortunate circumstances in French. It turned out that he had a friend who had some room at her place which happened to be located in Cannaregio. Now if you’re thinking, “MaVieEnBleu, wasn’t Cannaregio the district which you got lost and ended up in an hour ago?” You are absolutely right! As I said, great times in Venice.
Since this story is already long enough as it is, I’m gonna fast-forward to when we arrived at his friends place. It’s then that I realized that his friend was actually an old Italian lady who owned and lived in a small hotel (something must have gotten lost in translation before). When we met the Old Woman sitting at her front desk, greetings were exchanged between the two old friends and we proceeded to have an interesting conversation in Italian, French, and broken English in which the Old Italian woman and African Man ‘Baba” wondered about how a lovely, young foreign girl like me came to be walking around Venice alone at night. Since the woman only spoke Italian with some broken English and I only (barely) spoke French with some broken Italian, I relied on Baba to translate the conversation between the two of us from French to Italian.
I shortly got the shock of my life when I asked how much a room would cost me for that night and Baba confirmed my understanding of the Old woman’s answer when she had stated in Italian, “350 euros”. Three hundred and fifty euros for the night in cash. Apparently, the only room available was a 4 bed-room which cost at least three hundred and fifty euros a night. If there was ever a time away from home when I thought that I could be seriously stranded in a place with no money to get out, this was that time. After spending all my hard earned savings in Europe for the last four weeks, 350 euros just wasn’t money that I could give away so easily before I knew I could get back to Canada safely. But at 1 am in a new city I had no other choice. After thanking my Italian savior Baba and receiving my room key from the Old woman I proceeded to my room to get dressed and lie down for the night, all with a heavy heart dreading my trip to the bank machine that morning.
After the fiasco that Monday Night had produced for me in Venice, Tuesday morning actually started off on the right foot. After running to a bank Machine a few blocks away from the hotel, I handed the Old woman in the lobby three hundred and fifty euros like she had asked. She carefully counted the notes, started going on in broken English about how this was a lot of money in Italy ( I think 350 is a lot everywhere) and then out of nowhere told me she only needed a 50 euro note and gave me back the rest of my money. Was something lost in translation last night? Maybe. Was she visited by St. Mary and had a change of heart? Maybe. Was she senile and confused? Maybe. But I didn’t care I was just happy that I didn’t have to consider selling a kidney to get back to Canada anymore and just in case there was a chance she’d remember something or change her mind I hastily said thank you and excused myself from the hotel, eager to trek back onto the other district and finally check into my actual hostel.
Would you believe me if I told you that Venice turned out to actually be my favorite city in Europe? It’s funny how things start out sometimes 😀
Morning stroll on the Fondamenta delle Zattere in Venice