Venice. The city of water. The city of bridges. The city of light. Umm….how about the city of you-will-get-so-lost, and the city of canals-eat-roads-and-bridges-seem-to-sporadically-disappear?
Such was my first evening in the beautiful city of Venice.
At the ripe age of 18, on my first backpacking trip to Europe, my friend and I brilliantly decided to not only suitcase through Europe (bad, bad, bad idea) but in our infinite wisdom, we decided to arrive in Venice after dark.
Stepping out of the train station was surreal – of course, there was water everywhere (hello, city of canals!). Equipped with my (bad) hotel-supplied directions, I thought to myself, “what could possibly go wrong?”. I am not joking when I say that my sorry-excuse-for-directions included the words: “take gradual left, after fifth bridge”. Yep, it was a true welcome to the city.
Despite the odds being stacked against a swift and easy walk (direction: bed), my travel buddy and I were still in good spirits. We excitedly rolled, dragged, and hoisted our over-packed and over-stuffed rolling bags along century-old cobblestones, over steep bridges, down…and then up uneven stairs. None of these inconveniences mattered when all we had to do was gaze around and see gondolas, cafes, hand-blown glass, and cute, drunk, Italian men (did I mention, sexy?).
Two hours later (if you can believe that), I was starting to wonder what sort of rationalization I used to pack six pairs of shoes. Right when I was getting delusional enough to consider parting with my very expensive heels, we finally arrived at our hotel where we enthusiastically proceeded to drag our suitcases up a narrow flight of stairs and towards the sparse and garish front desk. We were (foolishly) giddy with the idea that we still had time to go out for a night cap at the cute little ivy-covered restaurant across the plaza.
As we handed our reservation paper to the clerk, we watched with dismay as we were informed that our “hotel” was not, in fact, a hotel in the American sense, but an apartment-rental service (by “informed”, I mean, we had Italian words and hand signals shouted in our direction). It turned out that our one-bedroom “suite” was located somewhere on the other side of the city, as was roughly indicated to us by haphazard map-pointing and gestures towards the window. After being encouraged out of the building by the short-tempered clerk (who, by the way, could not string two words of English together), we renewed our enthusiastic spirit and headed in what we felt was the most direct path to hot showers and soft beds.
At first, our journey was somewhat successful – we seemed to be heading in the right direction, although discerning a direction whatsoever was difficult in a city where streets are barely alleys, cars don’t exist, and all of the buildings look like some variation of each other.
Then, at approximately 12:20pm, the point of no return happened. We were so sure that we were within a few blocks of our apartment – until the road we were walking on suddenly and abruptly ended. The bridge which was supposed to cross the last canal to reach our final destination, simply did not exist. It was devastating to see the “road” continue perfectly well on the other side of the water, and have no mechanism by which to get our tired bodies and obnoxious luggage to the other side. It was like watching our oxen die in the computer game “Oregon Trail”…except, the Italian version (and without the large animals).
Someone at the Venice City Planning office definitely just decided to give up building functional alleyways…and went for an espresso instead. And because of this individuals caffeine addiction, we were stuck, in the middle of the night, entirely and completely lost.
Thoroughly exhausted, we sat down and prepared to wait out the night in hopes of a (cliche) brighter tomorrow. Just when all chances of sleep were lost, by some crazy chance, a half American/half Italian couple took pity on us and offered to help us find our way home.
Almost one hour later, we finally made it to our one-bedroom apartment – we were dead tired, hating our suitcases with ever fiber of our beings, and grateful for the kindness of such complete strangers. It was some consolation that even this Italian speaking couple, had a hard time finding our apartment.
Finally, at some ridiculously late hour of the night we reached our apartment. In our eyes, the P.O.S that we had rented (see: sit-down shower, moldy sheets, rotting food remains) looked like the freakin‘ Versailles of Venice. It was beautiful. Lumpy bed? No problem! Roaches? I’ll just keep my eyes closed!
It was heavenly.