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Introduction

A Journey from Nafplio in Greece to Venice in 2006 as recorded in my diary. I haven’t


edited the entries in any way, just copied them out.

Barry Mitchell

Sat 25 Mar 06

We got up before 9am and got ready, which did not take long. It was pouring and it
looked like we were going to get quite wet on our way to the bus station. We thought
about driving in and leaving our car in Nafplio but decided against this. So we walked in.
We had brollies so we didn’t get too wet, but the small suitcase got a bit wet and Alison
was a bit worried that our clothes might be wet. Today is an important Greek holiday,
Independence Day, and there were preparations going on for the festivities. There was a
stage set out just opposite The Stathmos bar underneath Palamidi and a lot of people were
converging on the area. There were many children and young people in traditional Greek
costume and it was rather odd to see them also holding umbrellas.

We ordered our tickets to Corinth and also found out that the Korinth bus is the Athens
bus. I was pleased to be able to do all this in Greek, even though it was very simple. As
usual in Greece, the bus left on time, so we were not waiting long. We got off at Isthmus
station and immediately (or in a few minutes) got a bus to Patras.

The road from Korinth to Patras is quite scenic, as it follows the south coast of the Gulf
of Corinth. On the right is the sea, on the left quite often rugged hills. We left Korinth at
12.15pm and arrived in Patras at 2pm. The bus station is very conveniently down at the
port, which makes it a handy stop off for ferry passengers. We found the ANEK offices
nearby and collected our tickets. In hindsight, we should have asked if we could leave
our bags in the office as we now had a lot of time to kill in Patras. We could not board
our boat until 10.00pm and it was due to leave at 11pm.

As it was a Greek holiday most shops were closed, the city was not very busy and the
weather was a bit chilly, cloudy and sometimes wet. It was not a good day for
sightseeing. We decided to walk around Patras and at least have a look at it. I must
admit, we were impressed. Patras has loads of good shops, with many 19th c buildings
and arch-covered footpaths. There is an excellent and spacious square, with a lovely 19th
c theatre, The Apollo Theatre. As Patras is the 2006 City of Culture there are some art
works in public that may be in preparation for that. Near the square there was an
exhibition of sculptures in an interesting style by an artist whose name I forget. Patras is
like what I thought Thessaloniki would be. It clearly caters for all needs, and as we went
north of the square there appears to be a red-light district of sorts, with several sex-shops,
and a generally seedy atmosphere.
We inevitably had to spend a lot of the day sitting around in bars and cafes (so what’s
different about that?) and we stopped first of all (this is after we had collected our tickets)
at the café Sud, a trendy place for young people. So we fitted right in. After our walk
around the square and the red light district, we stopped off at the Zucchero café for a
while. This café is in a small alley of similar cafes and I imagine would be particularly
nice during the summer. However, now we were not concerned to escape from the heat,
and there was a definite chill in the air. As we were sitting in the café, about four times
we were approached by pirate CD/DVD sellers, probably Nigerians.

We then walked around looking for somewhere to eat in the evening, and stopped off at a
couple of cafes. Spent most of the early evening in a café/bar at the South of the main
square where I had a Guiness! The owner was a Dire Straits fan. It was now getting
quite cold, and eventually we headed down to Bambino’s music bar and restaurant. This
is the only inviting restaurant we found in the area, which, a bit strangely, does not have
very many restaurants. We had a very nice pizza and Caesar salad at Bambino’s and then
headed down to the terminal building about half a mile away.

The ferry terminal building is new and as pleasant as one would expect. However, as I
expected there are not announcements for foot passengers, so we decided to make our
way down to our boat, the Kritti II and see what happened. We went down to the back of
the boat and were told to wait. There were only two other foot passengers. The boat was
still at the stage of disembarking the lorries, and there were a lot of these. We also saw
four new Porsches being driven off, with their protective covers still on, and two new
BMWs. I hope the clutches survive the trip to the garage. This process took about 20
minutes.

At one point a lorry driver went up to one of the boat workers who was organising the
disembarkation and started ranting at him. He was very angry and was gesticulating in an
animated way. My guess is that was still annoyed about the recent boat strike which had
brought the lorry drivers and the seamen into conflict. There didn’t seem to be any
immediate cause. We got on the boat and were shown to our room. No one checked our
passports, though one passenger had to go through passport control.

Our cabin was small, with no window and had two sets of bunk beds, 4 small towels and
two bars of soap. We watched the boat move off, and as it did so we had a great view of
the bridge over the Gulf of Corinth. This sits on four squat columns and is an elegantly
curved structure. On top of the bridge and also supporting it, are about four slender
pillars. These were lit up with blue lights and the whole thing looked spectacular. We
could see the hilltop fort of Patras lit up. We decided it would be a good idea to come
back to Patras to investigate more. I particularly liked the idea of staying at The Art
Hotel, which I had seen earlier in the day.

We had a quick look around The Kritti II. I noted particularly the little Orthodox church,
which must be a feature of Greek ships. It was quite beautiful, with many icons, with
particular emphasis on St Nicholas, who must be the patron saint of sailors and the sea.
There was an icon showing St Nicholas helping a ship in distress.
After that we went to bed. We were quite tired. Our clothes in the case were all right,
with just a couple of damp things.

Sun 26 March 06

The clocks went forward today in Greece, so we made the adjustment. However, this put
us one hour out of line with Venice, as we discovered later. We got up, not particularly
early and had showers in our miniature bathroom, which of course only had a shower.
We walked out on deck to see an impressive view of sun, sea and snow-capped
mountains with low cloud. After a coffee we had a walk on deck. It was very windy and
quite chilly. But in general it was a beautiful day. About 12pm we lost sight of land.

The boat did not have many passengers, and these were mostly lorry drivers. There was
not a lot to do on the boat but we did see an amazing sunset at 7.30pm. After that we
went for a meal in the a la carte restaurant. We were the only customers. However, as we
were eating our meal two men came in for a meal and they were paid a lot of attention. I
said maybe that was Mr ANEK. We had a drink at the bar and then went to bed. So far
the trip had been very smooth.

Mon 27 Mar 06

We got up at 7am. The weather was very grey. We went to the bar for a cup of coffee
and then went back to our room to wait for our approach to Venice, which we were
looking forward to seeing. We kept popping out to deck to see if we could see anything,
but the scene was just one of uniform greyness. Eventually some small birds started
flying alongside the ship, which we took as an indication that land was near. We also
started to see a few small craft. It was cold and windy. Eventually we could see Venice
in the distance. At first it was just a thin line of darker grey on the horizon. Then we
began our slow approach towards the Venetian lagoon. A pilot boat came alongside to
guide the Kritti II in, and someone clambered on board using a rope, James Bond style.

I had read that boats come in to Venice by the Grand Canal, but had not expected to sail
right through the middle of Venice. But this is what we did, as the Grand Canal is for
most of its course a very broad thoroughfare. There were excellent views of Venice as we
slowly made our way towards our station. The Kritti II is as tall as a five or six storey
building, so the views from on deck were spectacular, particularly of St Maria delle
Salute, which we sailed around the back of after we had passed St Mark’s Square. We
took some photos, but it was dark and misty so they were not great. However, the scene
was atmospheric and an unforgettable one. It was cold on deck and we were glad to get
back to our cabin to prepare for disembarkation.

When we disembarked we went over to the ANEK office and had a look around. I
bought a map of Venice in a shop there and had to stop myself saying “efcharisto”. There
is a courtesy bus that takes passengers to the Place Romano, the main bus station in
Venice, so we got on that, which took us to the bus station in a few minutes. I bought a
one –day waterbus ticket for each of us (eur12 each) and we got on a waterbus for St
Mark’s Square. It was good that this was a bus that stopped everywhere as we had a little
tour of the Grand Canal. It was worth standing in the cold wind to see some of Venice’s
magnificent architecture close up. At one of the stops an old man got on with a very
small dog tucked into his coat. The dog had a little coat of its own.

We got off at St Zaccaria, just around the corner from St Marks and headed off to find our
hotel, The Dona Palace. We soon got lost in the labyrinth of streets around St Mark’s.
We stopped to look at our map only to find out, when we looked around, that we were
standing virtually in the doorway of the hotel. We went in to register, but were told that
the heating had broken in three of the hotel’s rooms and that we could not stay there. But
we did have reservations at another four star hotel nearby, the Palazzo Priuli. This was a
bit disappointing as we were looking forward to staying in this particular hotel.
However, we were led through the streets of Venice to our new hotel, which was not very
far away. The building was very impressive – it was indeed an old Palazzo by a canal.
We checked in, left our bags there and headed for the Florian café in St Mark’s square for
a coffee.

The café Florian, surely Venice’s most picturesque café, was not that busy and we spent
half and hour or so there. After that we went for a walk down the front beside the Doge’s
Palace, past The Bridge of Sighs, as far as a park. In this park were statues (or rather
busts) of Verdi and Wagner. It looks like Verdi is hiding behind a tree from his rival. We
walked back past The Arsenal, which is impressive, but smaller than I imagined. I was
surprised to see that it is still in use as a military building today, and is therefore closed to
tourists. We also saw an impressive sculpture of a drowned girl. This was in the water,
and about twice life size. Also posters of Berlusconi – masterpieces of the airbrusher’s
art. Also other political posters, including the Communists and the Greens. And so back
to the hotel, where we expected our room was now ready.

Our room was ready, but it was a bit disconcerting to be led down the street to a different
building instead of staying in the beautiful Palazzo where we had checked in. It looked
like the Palazzo Priuli had extended down the street to occupy the adjacent buildings,
which are town houses rather than Palazzos. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant spot, just
beside a canal where gondolas are stationed. There were a couple of gondoliers
permanently ensconced on a little bridge at the end of the street and every time we came
out of our hotel we heard the sales pitch “Gondolay! Gondolay!”. At about eur80 for a 30
minute trip (so I believe) we weren’t tempted. One of the two gondoliers looked very
much like a gangster. In fact, they both did.

Our room was very nice, but extremely dark, which I expect is a Venetian thing. The
bathroom was very clean, but with a very small bath and that item that always baffles the
British – a bidet. What on earth is it for anyway?

We unpacked, had baths and went out for a walk. When I say I had a bath, it was only
really the top half of me that could get in. We decided to head for L’Accademia, as I
wanted to see again their magnificent collection of paintings by Bellini, the sight of
which had been one of the highlights of our first trip to Venice. But when we got to
L’Accademia it was closed and obviously undergoing serious renovation. However, we
were pleased that we had been able to find our way there so easily, as we kind of
remembered our way from our last visit. From the closed L’Accademia we got a
waterbus to Rialto. We walked back to the hotel from Rialto, via St Mark’s Square,
stopping off for a coffee along the way. It was around now that we noticed that the time
in Venice was not the same as the time in Greece. Venice was one hour behind the new
Greek time. We synchronised our watch.

On the way back to the hotel we had fancied another cup of coffee at Café Florian, which
albeit is expensive, is not exorbitant. We sat at one of the outside tables and noticed that
a small band was setting up. The waiter came over and pointed out that there was a eur5
cover charge per person for listening to the music. We were not impressed. A normal
coffee costs eur7.20, so two coffees would have cost us eur24.40. We got up and went to
a café opposite the Doge’s Palace, which, if expensive, at least did not have the cover
charge. Our two coffees cost eur12.60. However, I don’t think that St Mark’s Square
prices are typical of Venice as a whole.

We made it back to our hotel room and soon decided to head out for the evening for a
drink and something to eat. We went across to the Goppion Caffe on the other side of the
canal for a drink. This is a very small café and is frequented by Venetians perhaps more
so than tourists. Alison had a beer and I had a glass of an excellent red wine which I
think was a Moletto Merlot, with a label something like an S with a square around it.
This café is in an interesting spot as it is just at the foot of the little bridge where the two
gangster-like gondoliers hang out. The bridge is very busy, and we were able to see how
accomplished Venetians are at taking pushchairs up and down the stepped bridges.

We also noticed something about Venetian café culture that contrasts with what is typical
of Greece. Several Venetians came in, stood at the counter and knocked their drinks back
pronto. It is difficult to imagine this happening in Greece, where everyone likes to linger.
I noticed elsewhere that there is a double price list in cafes one for at the counter and one
for “tavolo”. The “at the counter” is a good bit cheaper. So perhaps a quickie is best.

After that we made the short journey to the Da Roberta Trattorio for a pizza. There was a
cover charge of eur2 per person and a service charge of 12.5%. This seems to be usual in
Venice. We had two large and excellent pizzas and a couple of drinks and dessert and this
cost eur56.50, which I didn’t think was too bad for the middle of Venice. And so back to
the hotel.

Tues 28 March 06

We got up and had breakfast at the hotel. Then we took a short walk to the Doge’s
Palace, or, the Palazzo Ducale, where we joined a short queue to get in. The queue was
shorter for those without tickets, which was convenient. But it was not too busy, even
though Venice in general was moderately busy. There was a huge queue to get into St
Mark’s, which helped our decision to go to the Palazzo Ducale instead.
It cost eur11.00 to get into the Doge’s Palace, but if you look at the back of your ticket
you will see that the same ticket entitles you to go into the Museo Correr, the Museo
Archeologico and the Biblioteca Marciana. It is easy to overlook this and it was
something that Alison noticed later. We had been to the Doge’s Palace on our first trip to
Venice but there is so much to see in there that we were looking forward to seeing it
again. The last time we had visited St Mark’s it had rained constantly. There was an
upside to this in that the place had been nearly empty. As the palace is so big it did not
now appear busy, even though there were quite a few people coming in.

We had a walk through the Palace and took several photos. A few things struck us
particularly. The painting The Battle of Lepanto is lively, with many interesting and
pathetic details, and is different to much of the other art on display. It is certainly worth
celebrating in art a victory over The Enemies of Christ, who are featured aplenty in their
evil turbans. Something I never noticed before is that there is a room devoted to
paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. This is unexpected as he had, as far as I know, no
connection with Venice. There is also a painting in the same room on the subject of The
Mocking of Christ by Quentin Mrystys (?), which is very similar to Bosch’s treatment of
the same subject. Though I think the Bosch work shows greater psychological
penetration. I had a look at the painting Hell in detail, which I had seem reproductions
of, but the original is so much bigger and the details are therefore more striking. It is
certainly a very imaginative work by one of the, perhaps few, artists who have looked
deeply into the dark soul of humanity. I noticed particularly one interesting detail. A
headless figure is suspended by something that looks like a tennis raquet. On his chest he
bears the mark of a crusader, the square cross. Meaning?

There is also a very lovely Neptune and Venus by Tiepolo on the way out of the council
chamber. Much of the art of Venice tends to be self-congratulatory (like so much “high”
culture), and there is quite a lot of that in the Doge’s Palace. I particularly like the
astrological clock in the council chamber. The last time we were here, as it was my
birthday, it was set to Capricorn. We walked through the prisons and through the Bridge
of Sighs. The prisons are very atmospheric, and worth pausing to examine. The prisons
lead to the museum shop and a café. The café is a vaulted dungeon-like room (but very
pleasant) and it was not busy. We had a coffee there and planned our next move. We
discussed what the ancient and large implement at the end of the café might be. Alison
said it was an instrument of torture. I said it might be a printing press. The café operates
the two level pricing system and so there were a few Italians who came in for a quick
drink. But the prices are reasonable anyway, and in no way comparable to St Mark’s
Square. We left the Doge’s Palace, taking some photos on the way out and decided to go
to The Arsenal to take some more photos, as we did not have the camera with us
yesterday.

However, on our way to The Arsenal it started raining (it was quite cool) so we decided to
go back to the hotel to get our brollies. When we came back out of the hotel the sun was
shining and it was quite hot. This was the first time we had seen Venice in sunlight, and
it did make a difference. The faded, even decaying, city, looks quite different when the
sun shines. We decided to go for lunch before walking down to The Arsenal. We went
into a bar on a street that leads down to The Grand Canal and had an excellent ham
toastie for lunch. The bar seemed to have no name, but it was next door to the Trovatore
restaurant. There were quite a few locals in there, but not many seats. It was quite
reasonably priced. After lunch we walked to The Arsenal and took some photos. Now
that the sun was shining the views across the Grand Canal were very impressive.

After The Arsenal we walked back to café Florian for coffee and a rest. We had walked
around quite a bit and were a bit tired. After Florian we decided to go to the Correr
Museum, which is on the side of St Mark’s opposite the basilica. However, a horde of
noisy teenagers was going into the museum so we decided to postpone, and instead went
for a walk, always an interesting thing to do in Venice. We ended up at Rialto bridge and
took some photos from there. Alison suspected that we were near the Vivaldi music shop,
and we did indeed find the shop using the statue of Goldoni as a landmark ( and how
much more deserving than Alexander the Great of a statue is Goldoni). But the shop was
closed for renovations. We did go in and I suspected irritated the owner with our lack of
observation.

We walked back to the Correr Museum and went in. The Correr museum takes up the
west part of St Mark’s square and extends along the south side on the first floor, so that it
is above café Florian. It is mostly devoted to Venetian history but there were two special
exhibitions on – paintings a sculpture by Canova and paintings by Ugo Valeri, and artist I
must admit I had never heard of. The exhibition had some of Canova’s early works, a
Daedalus and Icarus, which is ample evidence of his genius. He completed it when he
was just 20. There were also some paintings by Canova, including one strking and
unflattering portrait of a very portly man.

There are many items in the museum dealing with Venetian history, including a complete
set of coins up to when the Republic ended in 1797. It was interesting to see that one of
the prominent Venetians died fighting the Turks at Nafplio. There was a painting which
may have been of this battle, but I’m not sure. It certainly looked like Palimidi fortress.
There are some fascinating books on display, as well as the expected self-congratulatory
pieces.

After the Correr we walked back to the café Goppion near our hotel (Goppion is, I
believe, a chain, since I saw more than one) and we had a glass on wine and a beer. On
the way home we bought four 0.5 litre bottles of water from a shop near St Mark’s for
eur6. Normally this would be about eur2.

After a rest we went out to the Trovatore restaurant and had a nice meal, though when I
saw a eur2.60 cover charge per person and a 15% service charge I looked first at the
cheaper items on the menu. Back at the hotel we watched Arsenal vs Juventus in the
Champions League on a German TV station. Arsenal won 2-0.

Weds 29 March 06
Alison decided she would like to go into St Mark’s, but I was less enthusiastic given the
crowds that are usually waiting to go in. We had breakfast and walked the short distance
to St Mark’s, where there was no queue to get in. Entrance is free, which is not always
the case with famous churches and cathedrals. There were not very many people inside
and it was possible to have a leisurely look around. The interior is quite dark, and the
golden mosaics that decorate the interior are very impressive. Also very impressive is the
floor, which is an elaborate marble mosaic. It is all the more remarkable since it must
have survived many floods. On some of the pillars marks can clearly be seen about four
feet above ground level. Some parts of the basilica are only accessible on payment of a
modest fee, so we paid eur1.50 each to go into the apse. It is only from here that you can
see the remarkable jewelled altar screen. Though the painting on this is not especially
impressive. I suppose this belongs to an era when the value of a work of art lay more in
the value of the materials than the skill of the artist.

After coming out of St Mark’s we wandered over to the square and sat outside the Correr
Museum. Here Alison decided to check our tickets and we noticed that our boat left at
7pm, not 9pm as we had thought. Just as well we checked otherwise we would have
missed the boat.

We still had time to kill so we thought we could fill our time with a trip to the
Guggenheim museum. We could take a waterbus, but we decided to walk. The route
would be down to L’Accademia and then a bit up from there. It was now hot and sunny,
but the walk was quite pleasant. We stopped off in the Campo S. Stefano for a cup of
coffee at Le Café. It was quite hot, and just about bearable without shade or a sun hat.
The square was reasonably busy. I can recommend the Campo S. Stefano for some
relaxation after the madness of St Mark’s, at least during March. As we were sitting there
a lutenist appeared and began to play. Alison commented that it made a big difference to
the atmosphere, having music, and it certainly did. The lutenist had a traditional
instrument, but with an extension that allowed some extra unfretted bass strings. We
gave him a couple of euros. The waiters at Le Café looked very smart, but I had to order
my cappuccino 3 times and we had to ask for the bill twice. By now any enthusiasm we
had for the Guggenheim had evaporated. So we walked back to St Mark’s and I bought
an Italian football t-shirt from a vendor near St Mark’s. This is a present for Luke.

It was now 4.15 and we wandered back towards the hotel, stopping off for lunch at Da
Roberta’s. We had two excellent pizzas and then went back to the hotel to collect our
things and check out. We had paid for the Dona Palace in advance so there was nothing
to pay. The Palazzo Priuli was all right, but nothing special. We found our room very
gloomy, and there was no view. A room with a view is always nice. Plus, our room was
in a house, not a Palazzo.

We made our way to the S Zaccaria waterbus station to get a bus to Place Roma. When
the bus came it was a very crowded commuter bus, and it was a real squeeze. I was
reminded of the Bristol to Westbury sweatbox back in the UK. However, I did have good
view of the late afternoon sun shining on the buildings of the Grand Canal as we headed
down the canal. Alison, lower down, had a good view of someone’s armpit. At Place
Roma we found the courtesy bus for ANEK lines quite easily and got on. We were the
only passengers, and it only took a minute to check in at the ANEK booth at the terminal.
We boarded the Sophocles V and were shown to our cabin.

The Sophocles V is a bigger and more modern (I think) ship that the Kritti II, and our
cabin was a bit bigger. It is also a taller ship, so we were about to get, if anything, better
views of Venice than when we sailed in. When we sailed in it had been quite dark and
cold, whereas now we were enjoying the late afternoon sun at the end of a good day. We
went up on deck to see the view towards modern Venice. Over to our right was the long
road bridge that leads from old to new Venice. Near the boat a dredger was at work,
depositing hug loads of mud on its deck. The boat turned around before beginning its
journey down the Grand Canal.

We had a more spectacular view than on the way in. Being on the deck of the Sophocles
V is the equivalent of being on top of a seven storey building, so we had a view of Venice
at sunset as we slowly made our way towards the Venetian Lagoon. The views of S.
Maria della Salute were especially impressive, as it was silhouetted against the setting
sun. The Doge’s Palace and St Mark’s soon looked like little models as we headed out.
This must be one of the best views from a boat leaving any city in the world.

And so, goodbye Venice.

The Sophocles V was fairly busy, with quite a few lorry drivers on board. There were
quite a few people setting up blow-up mattresses to sleep in the public areas. We
suspected they were lorry drivers who have taken the cheaper option of going as deck
passengers. They certainly looked very practiced. But there were some “ordinary”
passengers too. The SV us a very nice boat, more modern and pleasant than the Kritti II.

We went to the bar for a drink and watched televisions for a while. Waterworld was on to
our right and the Champions League was on to our far left. Lyons were playing AC
Milan. But we were too tired to stay in the bar long. We soon went to bed.

General observations.

The last time we had visited Venice, a couple of years ago it was in January and not only
was it cold but it poured most of the time. Nevertheless, we now realise that there were
advantages to seeing Venice at that time of year. St Mark’s square was virtually empty,
whereas this time it was very busy. There are loads of tourists, quite often in large
parties, and the square and down beside the Doge’s Palace is full of vendors with little
stalls. They are mostly selling souvenirs of a predictable type – gondolier t-shirts etc.
There are also people who sell little packets of food for the pigeons who are all over the
square. People like to encourage the pigeons to eat out of their hands, stand on their
heads, etc. Given the current concern over bird flu, I’m not convinced this is a good idea.
The pigeons also clamber over the tables at the outside cafes, which did not encourage
me to want to eat there. There do seem to be an unnaturally large number of pigeons in
the square. The square is also always crowded and noisy, and deserves to be called a
tourist trap. Around by the side of the Doge’s Palace are many street artists, a few of
which are better than might be expected. Some have a high standard of craftsmanship
and even a distinctive style. They are, overall, a lot better than the street artists that are
found around Sacre Coeur in Paris, who are mostly very bad.

In March Venice was busy, but not so crowded that it was an uncomfortable place to be.
However, I dread to think what it would be like in July and August. Given that the
crowds would be greater, the heat and humidity so much greater, it is not something I am
not in a hurry to experience.

St Mark’s square looks uniform on the three sides that have covered walkways but
actually each side is in a completely different architectural style. And looking up at the
upper floors of the side opposite the Café Florian, it can be seen that many, if not most, of
the rooms are deserted, if not derelict. There are even huge weeds growing out of some
of the upper parts of the building. This is a bit surprising, given that this must be
extremely valuable property. We took the opportunity to look in some estate agents’
windows (for when we buy a little pied a terre in Venice), and property prices are more or
less as expected. A two bedroom apartment will set you back eur330,000 and you can
easily pay eur45k for an apartment. On the other hand, a small house in Burano can be
had for eur175k. To rent a shop might cost eur4500 per month, and that is without it
being anywhere near St Mark’s Square. No wonder our 6 bottles of water cost eur1 each.
On our way out and in we did see some apartments that looked as if they could be
afforded by people earning less than eur100k pa. However, I suppose that many people
who work in Venice must commute from the new town. It is intriguing to thing about
who actually lives in Venice. Just walking around you can see plenty of houses that
ordinary people live in, even in the old town. But it must be expensive for them.

There can be no doubt that Venice is an expensive place to visit, but it could be done on a
budget by avoiding the places that are obviously geared towards tourists. You could even
get cheaper coffees etc. by going for counter prices as the Venetians do. St Mark’s square
is the biggest tourist trap, but is also a must-see, as it is the centre of Venice. Café Florian
is worth visiting, and the trick is to go when the music isn’t playing.

While Venice has probably existed on tourism since the end of the Republic, it was
obviously not built to accommodate hordes of tourists. We heard on American visitor
complain that the bridges didn’t have escalators. We did see one stair lift on a bridge,
which was something of a mystery. Why on that bridge? Venice would be a difficult
destination for anyone in a wheelchair, unless they could travel around using the canals.
The Venetians are expert at negotiating the bridges with pushchairs. The technique
involves going up backwards. Some experts can take two steps at the time using this
method.

The shops of Venice are interesting, if expensive on the whole. There is everything
ranging from cheap souvenir shops to ultra-expensive art-glass shops. Just opposite the
entrance to the Museo Correr is a glass shop where you can buy a folded glass shirt for
eur5k. A glass paintbrush (large) will set you back eur290.00. And, they are probably
worth it. Near St Mark’s is a shop selling Venini glass, and we were impressed with a
beautiful set of bottles. The large one was eur1,750, the smaller ones were eur880. There
is a lot of glassware on display in Venice, ranging from the cheap and tacky to the very
expensive. There are also a lot of art shops, many selling dark and old paintings. Often
the subject matter is predictable, but you can see some excellent paintings for sale. In the
window of one shop on one of our walks towards L’Accademia I saw a very nice little
painting of the Casa d’Oro, done in 1961 by who, I don’t know. I don’t know how much
it cost – probably too much!

One surprising find was that Venice must be the only city in the world where it is cheaper
to drink out of your hotel mini-bar than it is to go out. In Palazzo Priuli the drinks from
the mini bar were very inexpensive –eur2.50 for a 1/3 bottle of wine etc. however, we
didn’t buy anything from the mini-bar, as usual.

Cafes and restaurants in Venice are usually non-smoking, and this seems to be respected.
We were a bit surprised by this.

Thus 30 March 06

We got up about 10.30 Greek time. We had synchronised our watch again. It was a
beautiful day, not too windy and not at all cold out on deck. We eventually went for
lunch at the self-service restaurant, where we had an excellent juvetsi and sousoukakia.
Juvetsi is lamb and tomatoes with rice-shaped pasta and s-kia is spicy meatballs, usually
served with chips. One of the interesting things about Greek cuts of meat is that you can
learn so much about animal anatomy from them. My juvetsi contained a perfect leg
socket, complete with the ball that goes in the socket. I had a Herakles-sized portion to
try to finish, but it was just a small snack compared to what a lorry driver nearby was
having. He had five bread rolls, some kind of salad that contained at least a half pint of
olive oil, a mountain of chips and some meat. But then he was a Herakles-sized person
himself.

After lunch we sat on deck for a while. We saw another ANEK line ship going the other
way in the distance. It looked like the Kritti II. We had a siesta in the afternoon, which I
was grateful for, having had half a litre of retsina with lunch. When we got up, in the late
afternoon we were surprised to find that we were sailing very close to the Albanian coast.
We were able to admire the rugged and uninhabited coast for a while. Eventually we
passed some small hillside towns. We were heading towards Igoumenitsa, a small port
on the mainland, and we got there just as the sun was about to set. Just outside the port
we noticed a small island which is inhabited by a colony of seagulls. It was notably
greener and lusher than anything else around.

Igoumenitsa is set in a natural harbour and is quite wooded. It is fairly small, not
extending too far back from the sea front. It would be picturesque if it was not so
obviously a transit point. It is dominated by a huge concrete quay, and there is a good
road leading off into the mountains. It is actually a fairly sizeable port.
By the time we left Igoumenitsa it was dark, and we found out that we were due in Patras
at 5.30am tomorrow. But first we were going to stop at Corfu town. We went back to the
cabin to pack before going out on deck to watch the entrance into Corfu. When we first
decided to live in Greece Corfu town was our first choice. But this was the first time we
were actually visiting since we have been living in Greece. It was difficult to relate what
we now saw at night to the town we had walked around in blazing heat during the
summer a couple of years ago. But we could make out the dark mass of the two castles.
About 12 lorries and a few cars got on. It was now quite cold on deck so we decided it
was time for bed.

Fri 31 March 06

The boat docked at around 6am and we disembarked and made our way over to the
nearby bus station. We got tickets for a 6.30 bus to Isthmos bus station. As we travelled
the Gulf of Corinth was on our left, and soon a colourful sunrise began. No sooner had
rosy-fingered Dawn appeared that Helios followed in this fiery chariot, ready to begin his
daily journey across the sky. Meanwhile, Alison was feeling a bit travelsick, and was not
a happy traveller. We got off at Isthmos and bought tickets to Nafplio. Alison was now
feeling better. We bought two spinach pies and sat outside the bus station waiting for our
bus. Isthmos is a busy little station, in fact it is quite a large station. Unusually, our bus
was late, but then it does have to come through Athens. We had no seat numbers on our
tickets, and when we got on the bus we realised why: the bus was full and we had to
stand, along with several other people. It was a bit of a commuter journey, as the bus was
quite hot. At one stop, just past Nemea, I think, a Greek widow got on (judging by her
black outfit). A young man kindly gave up his seat for her. When she got off she gave
him some money – it must have been about a euro in change. For part of the way Alison
was standing beside a young woman who had a walking stick. She opened a bag of
Doritos and offered Alison some, which was nice of her.

And so we arrived back at Nafplio bus station. We walked home. We were both really
tired, but it was good to get home so early. It was 10.30am when we got home.

Barry Mitchell