Scams!

This morning we had a sleep-in! YEAH SLEEP-IN! Then we got up and organised pretty leisurely. We ended up spending the day just walking around and ‘getting lost’ in Venice. It’s an easy (and free!) way to see the city, and there are signs everywhere pointing you back to certain points so you will never find yourself stranded. We walked back to San Marco and along the Grand Canal to the Bridge of Sighs. Then we headed back through towards the Rialto Bridge and went a little further beyond that. Venice is full of restaurants and souvenir shops (and I bought a lot of souvenirs and little pressies for people today. A lot.) and the little winding streets and canals make it beautifully picturesque. I also took a stack of photos, so look out for them on facebook.

I was coming out of a souvenir shop when a guy came up to me and flashed a badge at me, telling me he was the ‘tax police’. Straight away, you could tell something was up. First of all, he came out of nowhere, and when I looked behind me his mate was there as well. Alfie and Sean were standing near me and joined me and Cara was a bit further off and she looked over at us. This dude didn’t have any kind of uniform and when I asked to see his badge again he took it out reluctantly and kind of flashed it at me before shoving it in his pocket. Yeah, tax police. My foot. He started asking me stupid irrelevant questions about the bag I had bought. Then he asked me my name and I told him it was Emily Principe. (There you go, Dad! At least one Italian, even he is a dodgy piece of scum, thinks our last name is Principe!) The whole time Sean and I stared at him and Alfie and Cara stared at his mate, who was still floating around behind me. Then he kind of gave up on us and waved us away. Take that, inept con man. Next time, don’t pick a group of four people to try and rob. The ‘tax police scam’ apparently happens a bit in Venice and just involves one guy asking you dumb questions, while his accomplice goes through your bag. Ugh. I felt cross for ages afterwards. I was happy they hadn’t got anything, but I was still mad that they had the audacity to try. I guess we should be grateful we haven’t encountered any scams before this. It’s really unpleasant.

Afterwards, we went back to hotel to dump the stuff we had bought, and then set out for dinner. It was a long walk to our intended restaurant, but it was picturesque and took us far away from the tourist district. We didn’t like the look of it when we got there, but we went to another place near it and had good meals for much, much less than we had paid last night. I got pistachio and licorice gelati on the way back to the hotel, and I don’t think I’m up for going out again tonight. Too tired! It is nice, however, to be slightly less cold than Germany and Prague.

Ciao!

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VENEZIA!

Well, well, well, what a day, what a day. It started with breakfast at the hostel, then we headed to the train station to catch a train. We had a direct route, straight to Venice, which was very cool, and we found another private Harry Potter cabin and settled ourselves in. About halfway through our trip (3 hours or so into a 6.5 hour trip), the train stopped while we were eating goulash and curry in the dining car. An announcement came over about 20 minutes later in Italian, German and English, and we were informed: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this train ride will end here because the locomotive is, uh, not working.’ We were told to head to Platform 6 and catch a train to Verona. From there, we’d have to get another train to Venice. So we did just that. After some confusion as to whether we had actually found the correct train, we piled on and went, much slower, to Verona. The problem was that the new train was a regional train and stopped far more regularly. But we couldn’t do anything about that, so we sat back and watched the scenery. The mountains in Italy are, to put it mildly, completely stunning. Snow-covered or not, they are some of the most beautiful and majestic pieces of rock I have ever seen, and the villages built into the sides of them are just gorgeous.

At Verona, we raced across the station in a dramatic dash for the Venice train, which we got onto with plenty of time, so a bit of an anti-climax, really. We then proceeded to spend the next half hour listening to an incredibly heated and scary argument between the ticket inspector and an Italian woman who looked like Lillian from Shameless. She was yelling at the top of her lungs, and I don’t know a lot of Italian, but there were a few choice words she was using that were not very nice. Every now and then she’d walk away, only to think of some more abuse and turn back around. This took place, literally, behind Alfie’s left shoulder, but Scary Italian Lady obviously didn’t care who heard. Crazy times. Eventually, we reached Venice. YAYYY VENICE!! We caught a waterbus to San Marco, which was a lovely, scenic, night time ride along the Grand Canal, and then we walked through some gorgeous tiny streets until we found our hotel. Our room is pretty lovely for a dorm. We have our own bathroom and a TV, free soap/shampoo and lots of washstands/cupboards and a BIDET. That’s right. We have a bidet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before now. But I’m scared of it, it looks freaky.

The only problem is that we have to pay for wifi. That’s a little annoying, but we’ll deal. We went food-hunting as soon as we got checked in and found a restaurant that did yummy pizzas, but not as good pasta and chicken. I had limoncello, because Dad introduced me to it ages ago and I was finally in Italy again. In honour of you, Dad! Then we walked back to the hotel, stopping to look at all the touristy shops. Prague and Venice definitely have much better-looking souvenirs than a lot of the other cities we have been in. Sure, a lot of it is a bit kitsch and tacky, but they are still a lot prettier than anything else. I found some really cute Venetian mask earrings for only 6 euro.

I have now washed my hair for the first time in three days and it feels amazing. We bought some internet (extremely grudgingly, but it works, yay) and are investigating what to do tomorrow!

Ciao!