Friday, January 11, 2002

Another Day in Water Wonderland

Another Day in the Water Wonderland

Our first task of the day was to go to the train station to verify our train tomorrow. It will be a very long day starting at 7:00 am and not getting back to Budapest until after 10:30 pm. A shorter route would take us through Slovenia, which is not covered by our Europass and it does not fit the Minister of Finance’s budgetary plan to shell out another $80.00 for the portion of the trip through that country.

From the train station, Ron wanted to see the Rialto area in the daylight again, so we took the waterbus to that stop. There are dozens and dozens of shops in this area that were open and bustling with locals doing their shopping. I found The Body Shop there and was able to get a lotion that I have come to depend on for tired aching feet and was approaching the dangerously low level of my bottle. I swear by this stuff and there is no The Body Shop in Budapest. I had thought that I was going to have to cajole someone to send me some or ask our friend Dawn to bring some back with her when she returns to Budapest from the States. I bought two bottles for less than what they cost in the States. It does not make sense, but what a bargain.

The next official shopping experience was a tie store. I found a tie with elephants on it and many of you know my serious elephant collection mentality, so this was necessary purchase if I have to wear a tie. The second selection was one with bunnies on it. Since I am writing a children’s book that involves bunnies, I may wear this while I am writing for luck and inspiration. For thirteen euros fifty each, even if they do not last long, they will be great souvenirs from our trip.

Most of the day we spent looking for the restaurant that we had eaten in on the first night and a mask shop that we had passed just last night. As we walked past it, I had said to Ron, I want to photograph that mask in the window. It was a woman’s face with a large scallop shape over the forehead. On the scallop were painted scenes of Venice. It was dramatic and I thought it would make a great picture. He convinced me to wait until the daytime to take the photo since I would not have to peer through the security gate to get the shot. No matter how hard we looked, we could not find that store again. We really put in miles today walking, enjoying the sights and scenes, but also looking for our two lost establishments. By sheer luck, we found the lost restaurant and this time, looked at every landmark going from the restaurant to the waterbus, so that we can go there for dinner again tonight.

Walking streets, alleys, climbing up and down bridges, seeing the same stores two or three times, covering more than three sections of Venice, we still did not come across that mask again. I was however, able to get some wonderful shots of the gondolas sitting in the dock and some with gondoliers and passengers. With dead, I cannot share my pictures and longer anyway, so I guess I can live without the mask picture. At various times, we stopped for a little snack in one place and a cappuccino in another. We have covered a lot of mileage in two and a half days and helped the local economy in a small, but positive way.

When it was time for our afternoon coffee break, Ron said, “I want to tell you something, but I want you to think about it and not respond right away.” I hate those prefaces. He continued with the desire to stay in Budapest, but to change apartments. He said that this apartment did not get enough light and the noise was getting to him. Since our bedroom windows are flanked on both sides by balconies on either side of us, I had the same idea, but was hoping to wait for spring at least. When I asked when he wanted to do this, he said immediately. I shared my thoughts about moving also, then immediately dubbed him Minister of Housing and told him he could immediately start looking for another apartment, but the actual move could not take place until after my diploma arrived. Since it takes two to three weeks to get mail here, I am certainly not going to trust the postal system to forward mail. We have to give thirty days notice to break our lease here, so that gives the post offices a grace period. Be on the look out for a new address.

We walked back to San Marco’s Basilica. The huge square was filled with pigeons. There are about six vendors selling corn to feed the birds, like they need more incentive to stick around. One vendor walked about from his stand for a couple of minutes and the pigeons swarmed the cart and started pecking at the bags. Pigeons can be a nuisance, but they are not stupid birds by any stretch of the imagination.

The basilica is a tremendous feat of artistry. The outside has a wider variety of marble then I have ever seen in one structure before. The colors of the marbles are amazing. This theme continues into the interior. It is a tile setters dream. There are hundreds of mosaics done in marble of dozens of colors decorating the floors in various prints. Some look a great deal like the work of M.C. Esher. The ceilings are covered with mosaics of religious stories and all surrounded by gold tiles. It was awe inspiring and photographs and videos are banned.

Nearby the basilica, there was a store that had scarves on sale. Ron found one made of 100% lambs wool that he bought. With the change was received a euro from France. This has been my secondary passion, to get a full collection of coins from the various Euro nations. I was able to get a complete set of Austrian and Italian coins and I have four coins from the other countries in addition. It speaks to the fluidity of one currency and people are traveling and spending money. It was also much easier to go from Austria to Italy and not have to convert currencies. The Italians seem to be a little more stymied by it then the Austrians. They continue to ask customers if they want their change back in Lira or Euros, which from what the reports have said, they should only be giving Euros in change. The Italians seem to be more dependent on their calculators too, making conversions at the last minute, since not all prices are in Euros and Lira.

Our last daylight mission was to try to find the San Raphael of Miss Garnett. We went back to the square where we had discovered the small version on the wall in the courtyard. As we walked around a yet undiscovered street, there was an entrance to a church, the Church of the Archangel Raphael. Inside there was a lot of construction going on as described in the book. Most of the church interior was closed to public view. On a table with informational literature in four languages was the history of the church. The English version stated that there were five paintings on the organ’s parapet that feature the Stories of Tobiolo, which was the secondary story in Miss Garnett’s Angel. The information sheet explains the same story that the author Sally Vickers wrote in her novel; only here it was a condensed version. There was an unusual excitement to see a novel come to life in this way. Ms. Vickers must have done her research before writing this book. It was a wonderful discovery, the only disappointment was that the organ was on the other side of the construction and could not be viewed.

Sitting in the church like a perpetual penitent was an elderly man. As we were walking out, he called us back in Italian. He pointed to a construction wall and there were six photos of the Raphael and Tobiolo pictures that graced the organ. He hobbled over to us and kept yelling in Italian “Toca! Toca!” With his charades I did not need my little knowledge of Italian to figure out he wanted me to take out my wallet. He was selling sets of these pictures. We would have loved to buy a set, but he only wanted Lira, not Euros. I think what he was explaining was that he did not have change for the Euros and wanted exact change in Lira. After a little back and forth, he finally understood that we did not have Lira and he was not going to make a sale. He threw his hands up in disgust and went back to his chair of meditation.

Eventually, we did find the restaurant that we had been hunting for, quite by accident. We happened to meander by the street and I happened to look down that way and noticed the sign. Later this evening, we enjoyed dinner there yet again, but this is strange also. It is Friday night; we arrive at 8:30 pm, get our food, and sit down to eat. There is not another soul in the restaurant. I return to the front to get a dessert and all of the tables and signs have been taken in from outside and are sitting in the entryway. The entire food bar has been dismantled and all of the food has disappeared. This is Friday night people!! This is Italy and you are Italians. It is your custom to eat late. Why are you closing so early? These are the things I would have said if I had paid better attention when my grandparents were speaking Italian, but since I did not then, I could not now.

After dinner, Ron insisted on looking further for the mask that he talked me out of photographing the other night when we saw it. We covered half of Venice twice looking for it again and could not find it. It was then a thing of beauty that I wanted to capture on film, now it was a pain in the ass piece of crap that was keeping me out in the cold air walking when I had had enough and wanted to go someplace warm and cozy. We never did find it again, but in some store window there is a mask of a woman’s face with a scalloped headdress, painted with scenes of Venice having a good laugh at our expense.

Closer to our hotel, we stopped for coffee and Ron had his dessert. We had been to this place the night before late in the evening. When the waitress saw us again, this look of terror crossed her face as if to say, there are those two again who do not speak Italian. She screamed for the waiter with the limited English. With his bored, “Oh, it is you again” look in our direction he took our orders.

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