August 20th

We woke up at 5 AM and escorted Kali to the train station so we could say our goodbyes. Check-out at the hotel wasn’t until 11 so Paige and I went back and slept for a few hours longer. We subsequently took a train into the center of Venice and after buying a ticket for a couchette on the overnight train to Vienna, we ventured out into the city.

The first goal was to find a supermarket since we hadn’t eaten in a while and were starving. Walking around Venice, I quickly noticed that the city was as advertised: there were canals everywhere. In fact, and I didn’t know this until we got there, boats are the primary mode of transportation for the majority of the city. I saw very few cars in Venice. However, there were police boats, ambulance boats, boat taxis, of course the gondolas, and a wide variety of personal boats ranging from small paddle canoes to speed boats. It was quite an interesting and unique city. I was also delighted to find that I was unable to smell the odor for which Venice is infamous.

Since Venice is a series of islands, running internet cables throughout the islands is very expensive; this is reflected in the outrageously high cost of the internet cafes. Riccardo told us that Venice occassionally floods and the water can get up to several feet high. In this scenario, one needs special water-resistant boots (think fly fishing) to walk around the city because doing so barefoot would put the individual at risk of getting bitten by rats (which are apparently everywhere during these floods).

Venice had a nice feel and I’m sure that if one were to go there with a boatload of money and a sweetheart, it would’ve been an amazing place to visit. However, for poor college students whose sweethearts were elsewhere, there didn’t seem to be much beyond old, poorly maintained-looking buildings, high priced restaurants, and shopping. We walked around the city for several hours but ended up getting to the train station with time to spare, dissatisfied with Venice.

Finally, our train arrived and we made our way to the couchette car specified on our ticket. The couchette cars are slightly more expensive than a regular seat but are well worth the money because they afford one an opportunity to actually lay down, turn off the lights, and get a decent night of sleep. For long train rides, I couldn’t imagine traveling any other way. On the way from Madrid to Barcelona, our couchette slept six – three beds on each side of the car. It was pretty crowded and I felt like we were in the sleeping quarters of a Navy ship. However, we were fortunate on this train – only us and two other guys from Canada would be sharing the room. Before the train even got moving, someone had boarded the train who apparently hadn’t washed his feet in weeks. It smelled absolutely terrible. Naturally, he thought it was quite amusing (as he’d probably refrained from washing his feet for weeks in anticipation of this night). Fortunately for us, he wasn’t in our car but it didn’t matter – the odor crept out from the closed door of his room and filled the entire train car. If we kept our door closed, it was enough to keep the odor from penetrating our room but the smell persisted in the hallway literally the entire trip to Vienna. Going to the bathroom was risky business since the train didn’t keep a supply of gasmasks on hand.

The two Canadian guys were very friendly and we got along with them extremely well. They taught us to play uecker, which we did for a few hours to pass the time before calling it a night.





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