My short time in Venice has certainly taught me one thing – I am eternally grateful that we did not book our accommodation anywhere near the famous San Marco area of town. After another evening meal at our new favourite restaurant last night I again wandered out into the byways and alleyways this morning, to improve my knowledge of this fascinating place.
As I crisscrossed back and forth I found myself pulled by the increasing throng of pedestrians heading towards the San Marco Basicila. I felt a little like I was a wandering asteroid being sucked into a gravitational vortex of a huge black hole of tourists. Although it was tempting to be just swept along by the crowds, when my way took me past a large open space with a couple of large trees near the centre, I escaped the vortex and made my way to an inviting seat under the larger tree.
As I have said may times before, I am not like the typical tourist who clutches their map and guidebook and rushes from highlight to highlight. For me, the main attraction of travel has always been to watch and meet local people. Over the years I have had some amazing encounters that I recall and treasure dearly. This morning provided another of those “chance” encounters.
I had not been siting long when a tall middle aged gentleman with a shock of white hair asked if he could rest alongside me. “Sure” I replied. We sat together in silence for a few minutes before I decided to open a conversation with him. What followed was a 45 minute discussion with one of the most interesting characters I have met in a very long while. At first it was hard to pick his accent, but he revealed that he had been born in Germany but had spent the past 45 years living in America. He had progressed in his education to become a university professor and then left for a series of appointments in research organisations. His work was in the field of molecular biology and he was happy to talk with me on many of the things his research had been involved with. Like me, he had no time for the crowded throngs of tourists with their selfie sticks. Apparently he was in the middle of an extended solo trip around Europe. He had purchased a small car for his travels and planned to sell it when his trip cam to an end. He explained that, even if he could not sell it, it was still cheaper than hiring a car for that period of time.
Of course the conversation also turned to what we were doing in Italy and I was able to tell him about the Ghostriders. He seemed very disappointed that he did not have a similar group that he could travel with as he loved cycling and agreed that it would be a perfect way to explore the world. On several occasions we said goodbye and then got involved with another topic of conversation. I genuinely felt sorry that I could not invite him to join our adventure. He was travelling alone and intimated that he would have loved the companionship of good friends to travel with. Eventually we parted with a warm handshake and with mutual wishes of a safe and enjoyable trip. Whatever else I did today, I already felt that my day was complete.
For the next couple of hours I allowed myself to be sucked back into the vortex of pedestrians, past the selfie sellers and tacky trinket shops and into the centre of the maelstrom. The queues were just as long as yesterday, the sun was just as hot and my personal space had disappeared. After taking a few more pictures I retreated back to the much quieter region of the Dorsoduro. Since this is too far for the throngs from the tourist boats and buses to reach in their 2 hour visits, it is very much quieter than the Eastern end of the island. After sundown the alleys are deserted and silent. With the full moon above it makes for a memorable late night walk.
This was our last full day in Venice. Tomorrow we travel back to Mestre to collect our bikes and get underway on our ride to Florence. I think we are all very hopeful that the weather might finally break and give us some relief from the 30 plus temperatures.
LATE NEWS FLASH
I was amazed when one of our riders returned from their day’s adventures, proudly holding a brand new selfie stick. In some respects it was the very last person I would have expected to succumb to unrelenting selfie stick sales pressure, but believe it or not, it’s true. I will reveal their identity in the next update.