Friday, March 16, 2012

Around the World: Milan & Venice

March 16, 1992

Milan doesn't offer much for the wayward tourist, but still interesting to wander around for the morning.  Explored a small museum / fort and "Duomo", a beautiful cathedral. 

Milan's Duomo Cathedral

The detail in the cathedral's interior and the stained glass windows for each station of the cross are brilliant.  Found a little grocery and bought some supplies to eat on the way to Venice.

Interior of the Duomo Cathedral

 Venice is a stunning city full of artsy boutiques and oozes with creativity.  Everything from finely detailed trinkets to glass work, to jewelry, paintings, clothing, Carnevale masks.  The only way to travel around Venice is by foot or by boat.  The first floor of Venice's older houses are completely submerged leaving staircases and windows under the water line.  The city continues to be threatened by floods that raise the water level by a few inches following certain tides.

Venice Gondola and Gondolier.
Photo by SwilkArt

I'm happy to have finished my tour of Italy in Venice.  At least I'll leave Italy knowing there is much that is good about this boot-shaped country, most of it north of Rome.  Accommodations for the evening will be another overnight train that arrives in Austria come morning.

At the train station, I join a large queue of people trying to make travel arrangements or, like me, trying to figure out why their train is late.  The timetable says my train departs at 8pm, but there's no sign of it.  The young Japanese girl and her mother in line ahead of me want to take the train to Greece, but the clerk won't let them.  He tries, patiently to explain that there is no service on this line, but the daughter doesn't understand and keeps showing him that there is, in fact, train tracks that go from here, through Yugoslavia to Athens.  Finally, both parties in this discussion are exasperated with each other when the mother finally asks, "Why can't we take the train to Greece?"

"Because," the clerk bellows, trying to contain his frustration unsuccessfully, "There's a war on!"

Now, it's my turn.  Amused from the previous exchange, and trying to lighten his irritation, I approach him with a welcoming smile and inquire about the train delay.  "This is incorrect," he says, scribbling on my timetable, "The train will arrive at 8:30 and depart at 10 p.m."

So I wait.

A typical couchette car provides seating for 6 people.
The seats on one side meet up with the seats on the
opposite wall to create beds for 3 people.

When the train arrives, all the doors to the couchettes are locked.  Finally, a conductor informs me that there are seats available in the car ahead of this one.  The train is full and I am sharing this couchette with an older man from Miami and an American soldier, both on their way to Munich.  The other two girls sharing this couchette preclude the possibility of stretching out for some sleep.  

• ¤ •

"There's something beautifully soothing about a fact - 
even (or perhaps especially) if we're not sure what it means."
~Daniel J. Boorstin