Europe trip: Day 14 (Venice Day 2)

Places visited (11 June): Binale sites. Former republic of Slovakia, Korea art museum

Second day in Venice. Went to the supermarket to buy more food supplies, and walking through the streets that range from being at the two sides of the river, to random dark and narrow pathway that oddly has a lot of people walking through it. As if encountered by accident, I stumbled upon Iuav University of Venice (Università Iuav di Venezia; IUAV), probably the only college there.

There are so many things about this city that you can’t find elsewhere: plenty of old buildings that are older than most buildings that I know of, the lack of roads (which also means the absence of things associated with vehicles) and having boats in their place, houses that are that close to the water as you can see in pictures (and the algae markings visible). Partly because of how long ago the buildings were built, and their conservation status, it’s hard to tell if buildings are shops, houses, schools, offices, and so on, at a glance. The only areas where buildings of modern times are seen are in the area where the station I arrived at is located (which is also where the bus terminal to the mainland are, including the airport) and the outlying islands that are designed to look like the older Venice buildings, but distinct enough to tell that it’s new. I saw a construction zone and a demolished site on one of those islands.

If you were to look carefully at the walls, you can see how high the flooding in Venice can reach, which is not surprising considering how low the average street level is to the water, but the increasing frequency and height is a worrying concern.

Without a map, I walked around along the main streets hoping to find a binale site. Eventually, I came across one, which is an exhibit of dead bats, cocoons, and not much other stuff. However, it was also there that I found out where the main venue is, which is at two separate locations. Both are quite far from the place I stayed at.

So what else is there? Well, we decided to wander around aimlessly. Probably areas far away from where most tourists would probably not go to. I came across a jetty where the gondolas that Venice is known for are parked at. Jetty is designed in a way that you would have to navigate through the confusing paths to get to, even though the waterway itself is a major waterway.

Along the way, I noticed that some doors are sealed up for some reason. An obvious way to tell is that the numbers that usually appear above the doors appeared above a wall, though it’s obvious that, by looking at it, there was a door there. Some units has (apparently older) roman numerals carved at the top of the door archway. The newer numbering seems to be a unique number across the whole of Venice except its outlying islands.

Then we came across a courtyard-like place with a unit that seemed to have its door decayed badly. On its window, I could find some sand-like particles at the edges of the window that looked like something you would find at the beach. This is the strongest sign of how high the floods in Venice could go. Looking into the window, it is clear that the place seems to have been abandoned for a while, as I could see flood-damaged items (and flood lines on some) inside.

Along the way back, I saw two black cats. Cats are rarely seen during the time in Europe at that point in time, and these two seemed to belong to someone. These cats quickly wandered away, as if running away from me. I don’t know why, but something made me want to follow those cats.

So the cats bring me to some strange area surrounded by buildings where there are more similar looking cats hanging around. This area is out of the way for most people.

I wanted to get closer to the building and those cats, but it’s fenced up with a locked gate. (Photo you see on the right is taken through the gaps in the fence.)

It was sunset at that time, so, I left when it got dark. I saw light reflecting off the cat’s eyes as I leave.

Now, how do I find my way back. In fact, where exactly am I? The place is not that well lit.

If it weren’t for my phone’s GPS and an offline cache, I would have been completely lost. Having signs pointing to some major places in Venice that are close to my place or in the general direction of it.

The quiet streets with close shops and nobody around is kind of scary though.

Europe trip: Day 17

Places visited:
Venice Marco Polo airport, London Bridge station, Vauxhall station, Westminster palace
(Note: this was written on day 29, so details might not be in detail until i have image reference. Day 11, and days 14 through 16, are currently skipped)
The last day in Venice, and also the first day (second if you count as transit to Paris) in London. Having a morning flight means that my time in Venice that day is just limited to travelling to the airport. The streets were empty, though as we got closer to the bus terminal (Plaza Roma), there are people walking around to get to work. Not clear which direction as Venice itself is a maze: even narrow passageways can be a major route with many possible routes, and random dead ends.
The Venice airport took quite a number of minutes to get to from the main city area. The interior looks like the kind I would expect of an European airport actually.
As Italy is part of the Schengen zone, flights to other European countries that are in that same zone would not need a passport (the UK is not part of that zone). It is not correct to say that Schengen is the same as Eurozone as not all EU countries are a part of it, and some non-EU countries are, including Switzerland. Immigration for flights to destinations outside that zone has a separate area. There’s no shops inside that zone, so don’t step into there until you are about to depart: there are no shops there.
The flight was about 3 hours long. People around me had that British accent. People whined when the pilot mentioned that the outside temperature was 13℃ on landing at London Gatwick airport, because it was 27℃ at Venice.
There were no underground trains from Gatwick, but there are National Rail trains from there to the middle of London. There are, however, many different options at different prices.
There’s the (heavily advertised) Gatwick express, First Connect (formerly British Railways), and Network SouthEast. The last one was the cheapest. So, even among Network SouthEast, it terminates at different stations in London at (significantly different) prices: one at £14, another at £8. If you are coming from countries where the currency is weaker or on a tight budget, even £1 can mean a big difference to you. Which platform, carriage, and seat, are printed on the ticket. In this case, it’s of any “standard” seat of any carriage.

Although the carriage are considered “standard” class, it feels like it’s higher than that what I was expecting. Probably better that the Eurostar train.

An hour later, I arrived at London Bridge station. The station looked like it’s in the middle of reconstruction as a section near the platform where the train I was on stopped at looked quite old, but at the same time looked as if it’s in the middle of being demolished.

So this station has the Northern Line and the Jubilee Line at the Underground station, but the station I’m headed to is Vauxhall on the Victoria Line.

On reaching, I kind of went around in circles looking for the place. Luckily, I have the offline cache of the map on my phone, though finding that street while offline is not easy since I can’t search offline. (I can’t use mobile data while overseas! It’s too expensive!) Since there is only one hour difference between Venice and London, and having been already in Europe for 2 weeks, there is no real jet-lag.

After check-in to the hotel, I walked westward along a large river nearby and I notice a building that has strangely high security around it, and a lot of the England and Union Jack flags on the opposite side.

What did I see when I looked up? It’s the Big Ben! What did I see when I looked to the left? The London Eye!

I don’t know if it’s because I had already been there during the random encounter, but I never went anywhere near the Big Ben again during the rest of my London trip. Since it was after nightfall when I saw it, I never saw it during the day up close. Does look nice at night though.

I visited some large 4/5 star hotel expecting to get a better view form what I could see from the outside, but I can’t seem to find a way there. It’s not everyday I enter a fancy hotel, so I hung around there for a while longer before walking back along the river, where I saw the Big Ben again, but on the other side of the river it is next to.