Not at all impressed with Euro-rail as it was the most expensive train, without private cabins, and the lights remained on all night, the fog slowly lifted in the early morning to reveal our slow roll towards the Venetian Islands. As we stepped off the train, a welcome humid breeze met us on the platform, which was in large contrast to the weather we had experienced in the Balkans. Weighed down with our packs, we semi-aimlessly wandered up and over the bridges of Venice and down narrow alleys through which our bags barely fit. When we arrived at the first hotel option we had picked out, we were a little surprised to discover that it was fully booked for the next week.
After receiving a recommendation from the owner, we retraced our exact route back to the train station and headed East. We stopped and asked for a room at every single hotel to find they were either full or wanted 150 Euros ($225) per night. Luckily, we found a place for 60 Euro ($90) – which is by no means, what I consider a bargain and settled in. After unpacking and getting ready to shower for the first time in a few days, I pulled the money I had exchanged at the train station to discover that, unbeknownst to me, we had been charged a 20% service charge for changing $150 to Euros. We should have ended up with 100 Euro, but I only had about 75 in my hand. Furious that Italy would be the first country out of the 19 we had visited to charge a service fee for changing money and losing over 30 USD changing money, I marched all the way back to the train station and demanded that the transaction be voided.
After some arguing she agreed but warned that it would be that way everywhere in Venice – she was right. After all of this, we were free of difficulties for the remainder of our time in Venice. Although Lauren had already been to Venice several years earlier, I had not and found that it lived up to its reputation. It was enjoyable to walk around the streets of the Venetian islands and get lost. In fact, I would wager that it is practically impossible not to get lost in Venice. Even with a map, we got turned around several times. I saw a funny T-shirt that depicted two signs pointing in opposite directions to San Marco Square. It was quite the experience to see all of the old architecture, St. Mark’s Basillica and square – which was mostly under water when we were there, and the gondola owners sing to their customers as they rowed down the hundreds of small waterways going through the city. We sat in cafes, drank coffee and tea, as well as enjoyed a late night Venetian meal – all the things you are supposed to do when in Venice.
We highly recommend going to Venice, but be warned to change your money to Euro before you arrive in Italy. The emergence of the Euro has made the city nearly unaffordable to non-Europeans and we saw very few Americans while we were there. Moreover, we could only really afford to stay there 2 days – which was enough to do and see the main attractions.