Sunday the 21st of June
The hangover from the previous night was the worst anyone had felt so far. Our itinerary called for an early morning that was to the detriment of a few of our company – the boys and I ran through the campsite shouting the names of our missing friends who had mistakenly wandered into the wrong rooms the previous night *coughcough*. This is something hilariously referred to by the Tiki Team as ‘offshore drilling’. By some miracle we ALL made it onto the Contiki Coach and Paolo’s fast driving made up for the time we might have had to forfeit on the Gondolas.
Fifty people piled into a small boat became very unsettling for some of our company as it rocked low in the salt water that splashed against the windows. The gondola ride was more our style – twenty minutes in a sleek black boat through the quiet canals that is so serene. Enough said.
Those of our Contiki who had signed up for the walking tour throughout Venice felt apprehensive considering the optionals of the previous day. I also felt halfhearted at the prospects of this, yet we were all surprised and impressed by the little old lady who guided us through narrow tunnels away from tourist highways in this culture rich city. A common misconception realised by the locals is the divide between Italians and those who live in Venice known as Venetians. This is because Venice was an independent state until the mid eighteen hundreds. Because of this the locals remain passionate about their heritage and maintain their traditions of language. Venice is an island separate from the rest of the country built on wooden pikes and brick with canals no less confusing to navigate were they designed in the likeness of a maze. The fresh sea air wasn’t tainted by exhaust or pollution – instead gondolas traversed the passages. Our guide made many jokes as she lead us through the dark backstreets to places I would not have dared to find myself.
The Doge’s Palace was a main feature in St Mark’s Square decorated with glass rounds where the democratically elected chief magistrate lived until death. We were instructed to buy two souvenirs whilst in Venice: a piece of glass and a mask. These decadent items were artworks in their own right. Venice is home to a glass production plant that was responsible for the construction of the mosaic ceiling in the beautiful St Marks Basilica. The significance of masks is linked with the annual age-old festival wherein everyone was welcome in the city rather than only the rich – the only catch being that they had to hide their identity. Therefore, everyone was required to wear masks for the three month duration of the festival, the traditional kind being the death mask that does not inhibit eating or talking. Another mask that originates from Venice is the doctor’s mask that was invented as protection against the black plague.
We sat by the water for dinner in true venetian style and took the advise of our guide when ordering our evening meals. I ordered a glass of spritz for with my seafood spaghetti: a cocktail of white wine, soda water and campari. I finished with a shot of espresso and grappa liqueur that had to be devoured in one mouthful as a remedy for the dreaded ‘Contiki Cough’. Both Sam and Anthony joined me in this tradition and found it made us feel warm inside!
When we arrived home to the campsite we were ready to interact with the other three Contiki Coaches that were spending the evening there too. Lance had ‘collected’ enough white masks throughout the day to share with our group and in this manner we took over the bar at the campsite with our masquerade initiative to the evident surprise of everyone else. Free pour alcohol is standard in Italy – the gentleman with whom I had come into conversation bought me a half glass of Bacardi topped off with Bacardi Breezer, as you do for seven something euros. I’m sure it was smart to follow this with the rightfully named Amnesia Cocktail consisting of equal parts white rum, gin and vodka. I believe that is clarification enough concerning my night; the rest can be assumed.