Thanks to a random dude I chatted with on a plane (I think to or from Atlanta, not that anyone cares), I discovered the wonders of G Adventures as he was perusing a G magazine on the flight. G Adventures is an adventure travel company that specializes in small group travel throughout the world. This trip was booked through them, and was called the Venice to Budapest Express. G provides travelers with a CEO (Chief Experience Officer) during the excursion. Our quirky, friendly and fun-loving CEO was Adina. Adina who shared a story that resulted in us randomly yelling “NEIN!” at each other. Nein, which means NO in German was also Adina’s first language. She regaled us with a story of a time she was traveling with another German-speaking counterpart. A bartender inquired whether said friend would like another drink, to which the friend responded with “NEIN!” In return, the unsuspecting bartender provided them with NINE additional drinks. Silly English speaking barkeep. Adina periodically scolded us by yelling, “Nein, nein, nein…” whenever we said or did something particularly goofy or stupid. As one can imagine, that happened a lot.
One of many trains on this trip took us to Venice, the car-free island of a city. As mentioned in the Florence portion of these posts, we were naive, ignorant journeyers, and brought along unwieldy suitcases for the trip. Day one in Venice consisted of hiking up five flights of stairs to our room with the suitcases we quickly grew to despise.
Once settled, the exploring began. We stopped for a meal at a nearby restaurant with outdoor seating – more people watching commenced. Our restaurant choice was along a main drag, Rio Tera Lista di Spagna, which offered foot traffic a-plenty coming from both the train station and one of the few bridges that actually crosses the Grand Canal. I very often wonder how certain people can look at themselves in the mirror after dressing, and they think, “I look good in this,” and exit their homes. We were the winners of that dressing game that evening.
Later that night, the journey began, and I’m not talking about the booked excursion. Anyone that has ever been to Venice knows what a maze the city is. Winding streets with buildings towering on each side, and they can tend to look the same. We started the night at a restaurant called Ostaria Boccadora. The glasses were locally made, the food was unique (in a good way), and the people-watching was in full force. We decided to take a stroll post-meal to walk off the the copious amounts of pasta and wine. It started out harmless and straightforward enough. However, my directionally-challenged counterpart swiftly changed our trajectory. That’s a nice way of saying he go us LOST. I had my useless cellular device with me, which oh so nicely tracked our number of steps, but could not provide us with adequate directions. We passed the same creepy looking, graffiti covered building multiple times, and found an edge of the city. For those that somehow are not educated in the geography of Venice, the city is surrounded on all sides by water. I wasn’t about to swim back to our hotel. Finally, we came upon another American group that thankfully had a GPS, courtesy of their car rental agency, that safely navigated us back to the civilized portion of Venice. In total, my phone informed me we walked a staggering 14.3 miles that night and over 31K steps. Please note: I was wearing heels that entire time. That is until, I ended up barefoot, shedding the foot-torturing pumps. Let’s not dwell on the multitude of bacterium and parasites I subjected my feet to that evening.
The next day, we met up with the G Adventures tour group. The first meal was on one of the many rivers adjacent to the Jewish Ghetto (aka. Jewish District). The meal was scrumptious, company was what you would expect from twelve strangers meeting for the first time, and the pepper grinder was gargantuan. Those we dined with would be our travel partners for the next couple weeks. They were quirky, all from very diverse backgrounds, talkative, and friendly. After dinner, a few of us headed deeper into Venice for adult beverages. Those aperitifs consisted of a wine-based cocktail called a Spritz, suggested by Adina. Spritz is a bright, neon orange color and is served in a wine glass. Intriguing.
Post drinkage, the companion and I headed to Saint Mark’s Square, the primary public square in Venice, which was wonderfully empty at night. And consists of many important landmarks, such as St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. At least we didn’t get lost during that trek. We wandered Venice some more, before departing for Ljubljana, Slovenia by van.