Tag Archives: Venice

Venice to Zagreb, Croatia

11/6 – we left our lovely room in Venice in the early morning dark to catch the water bus back to the Santa Lucia train station. Luckily, it was low tide, so we did not have to wade! Online it said the boats ran every 20 minutes. What it did NOT say is that the first boat doesn’t start until 6:45. We waited for 40 minutes with lots of others who had trains to catch.

We got to the train station with 15 minutes to spare. There is a piano in the lobby, and a young Asian man sat down and played beautifully until our train arrived. So long, Venice, we will miss you!

Our first train of the day took us north, through little Italian towns we’ve never heard of, right up to the border. For the first time, we saw changing leaves, bare branches and fall colors. Look at the mist rolling off the mountain. How pretty!


I didn’t realize until we were on the train that we would have to get out at the Italian border and make our way somehow to the train station on the Slovenian side, three miles away. I started to panic, as I had not researched how to do this. Jim was very calm, reminding me that we were not the first travelers who had ever taken this train. Sure enough, he was right as usual. When we stepped out of the station there were three taxis waiting under a big sign that read TAXI TO NOVA GORICA STATION 10 EURO.

In 10 minutes, we were officially in Slovenia, with a half hour to wait for our next train. We ordered espresso – now called kava – at the little outdoor cafe at the station. The day was rainy and grey, which really helped us feel like we were in Eastern Europe. There was a strange building on the other side of the tracks that looked like it had been disheveled by a stiff wind:


Our next train would take us further north to Jesenice, Slovenia. As soon as we got on board, the conductor asked to look at our ticket. “No”, he said. “Problem fix”. We asked what the problem was, but he didn’t have enough English to explain. At the next stop, a young woman got on, and he told her the same thing. He asked if she spoke English, and asked her to explain the situation to us, which she did in excellent English.

It seems that there was a big storm earlier in the week that caused the river to flood, and it took out one of the rail overpasses. We were going to ride for several stops, then all get off the train onto a bus to go around the washout. As there was only 40 minutes to our next connection, we were being told we would not make our third train. The conductor said he would call and let the next train know that there were three people trying to make that connection, but he did not know if it would help.

Now, when we looked out the window, we could see that the river beside us, roiling and brown, had overrun its banks in several places. I realized that we had also seen flooding in the Italian mountain towns this morning. Look at the brown water in the foreground:


We started to work on Plan B, if we missed our third train, and saw that there was one more train that would get us to Croatia four hours late. An inconvenience, but not a disaster. We wondered how we would contact our host, who was waiting at our apartment with our key.

At the next station, a dozen of us and the conductor got off the train into a waiting bus. The bus inched along a narrow road right next to the river. Whenever we came to a highway crew, we would have to wait while they moved equipment to let us pass. Several times, we inched over flooded roads with water cascading down the mountainside. Excuse the rain on the windowpane. Don’t you think thIs would make an excellent scene in an exciting movie?



Two towns later, we were back on a new train. Although the bus was slow, we didn’t think we’d lost too much time. Then the train went into a tunnel, and we heard the now familiar sound of water rushing past – the tunnel was flooded! In pitch darkness, the train inched through the water as slowly as a train can go. We were in that tunnel for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only 15 minutes. That’s a long time…

The conductor came by one more time, to tell us (via our new friend Anja) that it was now assured that we would miss our connection. Oh well.

As the train pulled into Jesenice, the conductor came back. Hurry! Hurry!
Sure enough, they were holding the train for us! We scrambled out one door and right into the next, and the train pulled out before we even sat down. Cue the theme music – a victory! We sat in a first class compartment with Anja for the next hour, while she peppered us with questions about American politics and economics. She has learned much by watching American TV (with Slovenian subtitles), and gets her news from John Oliver. She was very current, and wanted to discuss the Republicans winning the Senate. She was also curious as to why Americans had so much land that didn’t grow anything but grass. Couldn’t they put in a few fruit trees? They don’t take much work! The hour flew by, and we thanked her for her help and her companionship. Nice person of Slovenia!

We got off the train in Zagreb, and followed our handwritten instructions from the station to our apartment, as our TMobile phone doesn’t work here without exorbitant roaming charges. Oh, how I miss my Google Maps! We got to the right street, but then couldn’t find the right building number. A young man stopped and asked in perfect English if we needed help, then Googled our address to show us the right building. Nice person of Croatia!

And now we are in Zagreb, in a two bedroom apartment, full kitchen and washing machine, that we are renting for less than what we paid for a single room anywhere in Italy or France. We went to the grocery on the corner, and bought tonight’s supper and tomorrow’s breakfast for less than five dollars total. After Nice and Venice, now we can get our budget back on track. And today’s death-defying adventure was free!

Wednesday in Venice – Rain and St. Mark

11/5 – what a difference a day makes! We awoke this morning to the gentle lapping of waves on the shore… of our hotel! It is raining, and this morning’s high tide brought three feet of water into the city. Here’s the view out our window:

With our breakfast, our host (sorry, he is Russian and I can’t spell his name) brought up some knee-high Wellington boots in different sizes, and offered them to us so we could venture outside. Oh boy! Just like when Lexi and I go out to splash in puddles! We got on our rain gear, and sloshed out to see Venice in the rain.

Some shops were closed, but for others it was business as usual, in boots and six inches of water. The hawkers on the square were selling ponchos, plastic boots and umbrellas. Elevated walkways, like folding tables, were erected over some of the deepest spots, and in front of the Cathedral. By noon, the waters began to subside.

Now, if you recall our quest, we are Looking for the tombs of the 12 Apostles of Jesus, to the extent that they are known. Here in Venice, we don’t have any of the Twelve, but we do have St. Mark the Evangelist, purported author of the Gospel to the Hebrews that bears his name, and one of the original 70 disciples whom Christ sent out to spread the Word. Close enough!

Mark was originally buried in Alexandria, where he was Bishop, and conducted his ministry. In the year 828, his remains were hidden under layers of pork and smuggled past the Muslims (who can’t touch pork) to Venice. This mosaic is in the Cathedral: image

The Doge decreed that a cathedral be built in Mark’s honor. The relics were misplaced for a century, but eventually were found and installed under the high altar at the Basilica San Marcos. Here is the exterior of the Basilica, partially covered in scaffolding:

This cathedral is unlike others we have visited in that it is not lit in a modern fashion. The small windows, high up, don’t provide much illumination during the day. The candlelit interior must look very much as it did 1000 years ago. The low lighting helps explain why there was so much focus on filling cathedrals with gold – the reflective quality was needed to see!

The floor mosaics are particularly striking:

In the rear of the church is the high altar. We must pay 2 euro each to get close. image
The silver casket is inscribed Corpus Marcus Evangiliste


Behind the altar is a large gold panel, encrusted with gems.

We moved on to a side chapel, to find a place to sit and meditate. Another good day.

Tuesday in Venice

11/4 – we slept in this morning, until we heard a knock on the door. Our breakfast, served on a silver tray – cappuccino, orange juice, croissants, crackers, and an assortment of butter and jams. A feast, and breakfast in bed!


When we left our B and B, the pavement was all wet, although the sun was shining. Had it rained during the night? No! The high tide had flooded the streets, as often happens here in winter. The shopkeepers were busy squeegeeing off their display windows to prepare for the day. Lucky the waters had receded by the time we came out. There are high end shops of every variety, liberally sprinkled with the local specialties Murano glass, and beautiful masks, reminiscent of Phantom of the Opera.

Today we took the vaporetto (water bus) from the Rialto Bridge around the city. The weather is turning, and we think we should get our outdoor activities completed today. We got seats on the back of the boat, so we had an unobstructed view. Here is some of what we saw:

The bus let us off at St. Mark’s Square, home of many pigeons and hawkers trying to shame men into purchasing roses for their ladies. The square is too large to capture in one picture, so here are parts of it:




Here is the famous Cafe Florian on the square, proudly serving espresso to tourists at $8.50 a swig since 1720.



The tourists get a kick out of having pigeons land on them to peck for food. I was raised in NY, where we refer to pigeons as ‘rats with wings’, so I have no desire to let pigeons land on me.




Here is the famous white limestone Bridge of Sighs, which once connected the interrogation room with the prison. Lord Byron conjectured that the guilty would take one last look at beautiful Venice and sigh before they were locked away. It is also said that if you pass under the Bridge of Sighs in a gondola, with your loved one, at sunset, and kiss while the church bells are ringing, your love will last forever. I imagine the gondolas must queue up here at sunset…


What a unique city, with a surprise around every corner. Tomorrow – St Mark’s!

Salerno to Venice

11/3 – time to put another notch in our EuRail pass, and make our way north to Venice. We hate to leave the warm weather, but our quest must continue, and Italy is one of the more expensive countries we’ve stayed in. The high speed train took us northeast from Salerno to Naples then Rome, Florence, Bologna, Padua and finally to Venizia, where we skimmed across the water as if we were in a boat instead of on a train. First class passengers in Italy get free espresso, wine and crackers on board!

It’s definitely jacket and scarf weather here, although still nice and sunny. As soon as we got out of the station, I was overcome with the realization that this place really is not like anywhere else. There is water where the streets should be! Houses have boat doors! Taxis have outboard motors!

Jim got us a B and B in the heart of the old town, just down the street from the Rialto Bridge. We were instructed to call when we got in, so the manager could meet us there. I programmed the phone, which said we were 15 minutes away, so I called. “No!”said the manager, “don’t call me until you are standing in front of the door!”

45 minutes later, I understood why. We went over bridges, down alleyways, and who knows where, trying to reach the address. Our phone instructed us to turn every 20 feet, and then cut out periodically from exhaustion. We finally reached the street, a well-lit row of shops, and called again. “Are you right in front of the door?” Yes! “Then I’ll give you the code to let yourself in.” Another 20 minutes of hilarity ensued, while we set off the alarm, knocked a painting off the wall, and enlisted the assistance of the young woman in the shop next door to interpret what the man on the phone was saying. Once we got in and found the light switch, we were in a very nice ensuite with wifi. Oh happy day!

So, now we are ready to go out for a light supper (after all our snacks on the train). We find a little pizza place right around the corner, and order an 12 euro pizza. This is much more than a pizza cost in Rome, but we’re cool with that. We enjoy our meal and ask for the check – 22 euro! It seems that in Venice you pay a coperto (cover charge) per person for sitting at a table, in addition to a service charge, which is a percentage added to the price of the food. If there is music playing, you also pay an entertainment charge! Sheesh! Our bad for not boning up on local customs before venturing out to eat…

We look carefully at the menu posted outside the next cafe, where it clearly states: espresso ordered at the bar: 1.50. Espresso ordered at table: 7.50. From now on, all our meals will be eaten standing up!

We walked through St. Mark’s Square in the darkness. Tomorrow we will explore!