1 June, 2015
After a long-ish train ride from Pavia to Venice, including a stop at Milan to switch trains, Anna (the best Danish college buddy / big sis ever) and I found ourselves nearing, then crossing, the water. I pushed my thick set of notes (I had been studying for exams) aside like a child, suddenly excited, and picked up my camera to hastily snap a few blurry shots as we traversed the deep blue and headed into the heart of bella Venezia.
We hastily packed our bags, rushed off the train and burst out of Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia into the glare of early afternoon sunlight. It was the stuff of movies: two young girls, brimming with joy, standing on the top of the stairs which led down to the waterside – for yes, there just below us, throwing salt into the air and into the breeze which ruffled our hair, there beyond the stairs stretched the Grand Canal of Venice. We looked at each other, grinned, gazed at our surroundings, and then lost ourselves in a moment of freaking out because oh-my-God-how-cool-WE-ARE-IN-VENICE!
The next important task, naturally, was to actually find the hostel. Which proved slightly difficult. Particularly when we had to drag our bags over the small and more-numerous-than-I-remembered Venetian bridges.
Though, after a little walk through the streets/canals (with the help of a trusty GPS) and some more freaking out over the fact that WE WERE IN VENICE, we found the street to which the hotel supposedly belonged, a dingy and dark alleyway which looked much less promising than the beautiful canal walkways we had traversed to arrive at that point. Which was all well and good, except for the fact that we couldn’t actually find the hostel and none of the buildings offered any glimpse of any signage whatsoever.
But it got stranger from there onwards.
For we were literally found on the street by the hostel owner/manager/dude. Though not in a helpful ‘we got lost and called him for help’ way. We did get lost – we found the small, dark street, emerged into the sunlight of the adjoining piazza and stood puzzling over Google Maps for a few minutes, luggage in hand. The perfect pair of lost tourists! And we were just preparing to turn back to scour the street once more for signs of accommodation when out from the shadows – and I mean, literally out of the shadows – appeared a smiling man. He and I made eye-contact, and instantly he made a beeline straight towards us. Before my oh-no-strange-man-coming-right-for-us-danger line of thought could continue any longer, he asked, “You are looking for the hostel, yes?”
And so it was that he led us to the hostel – which was not marked – and opened the door of a cramped building squashed among the other small and nearly decrepit buildings in the ‘street,’ which really (in case you missed it) was more of a claustrophobic alleyway joining a bridge and a piazza.
Being a slightly pampered traveller who is fortunate to have wonderful parents who organise all manner of lovely accommodation for our family holidays, I was not prepared for the hostel life. An Internet search can only tell you so much, and €30 per night can only buy so much, so I should have been more prepared. Rather, I had thought that I was, but was sadly mistaken.
After moving through the first floor (which seemed infused with the odour of fish), we walked up the old stairs to the second floor, where we were led to the “office” – and by that I mean a cupboard which had been emptied and refilled with a desk. Not kidding. The hostel was comprised of two apartment floors which hadn’t been renovated since the 1950s at the latest, which was fine, though confined and dim. The dated tiles and dodgy paint job gave the sense that the tired apartments had been forgotten, and that we had somehow stepped back in time.
We checked in, a process which involved some confusion as to how a Dane and an Aussie had become travelling partners in Italy, and even more confusion as to why the Australian (me!) had an Italian passport. Eventually we were able to dump our bags in the room – which looked almost as though it belonged in my Nonna’s house, all furniture and decor having been salvaged from an older, lost era. We were fortunate to have a tiny sink in the corner of the room, and a rickety window which opened up to wonderful view of the peeling greenish-grey paint on the wall of the next house.
Anna was content, I was less so, and we agreed that I may have some trouble adjusting to travelling on a budget. But it was comfortable enough, and the owner/manager/dude seemed friendly. He waved to us from the window of the kebab shop across the road as we emerged from the hostel half an hour later, refreshed and ready for adventure. With our cameras slung over our shoulders, we set off into the afternoon Venetian sun, off to explore the city of canals!
And then we got lost.
But that is a story for the next blog post!