Venice, Italy
Monday, August 16th
So we got up on my BIRTHDAY and began walking again.  We passed a gated area and took a random shot of a scene inside the gate.  Little did we know
that we would be buying this same picture to put in our entry of our home when we returned!  We also passed a woman in the process of entertaining
passersby with her puppetry.

We went to several churches.  Among them, the famous Frari’s Church.    Beautiful paintings, old old frescoes, magnificent sculptures.  Do they do
anything in Europe on a small scale?  There was also a huge sculpture that I have yet to research.  It was the first sculpture we’ve seen that includes black
men holding up the main part of the sculpture.
After lunch it was time for St. Mark’s Basilica.  OH MY GOSH.  Again, I say…do they do ANYthing in a
small scale in Europe?  43,000 square feet of mosaics, mostly in gold.  43,000 square feet.  We’re used
to looking at painting after painting, but these mosaics were incredible.  Everywhere mosaics.  Even on
the floor.  Tiny, little squares of color creating massive picture after massive picture.  And they even
have excellent displays of how the mosaics were created and with what kind of materials.  This church
houses St. Mark’s bones as well.  

We could not enter with shorts and tank tops on.  They would give the ladies, girls and children scarves
to wear around their shoulders and waists to cover bare skin.  As we stepped inside we noticed the floor
was “wavy”.  The strongest pilings were used around the outside of the building, so the inside of the
floor “rolled” and buckled.  This was one place where we made reservations.  And it was amazing that a
quick phone call and picking up the tickets beforehand would get us ahead of lines of 1-3 hours where
people didn’t have reservations.  We walked upstairs (many many “scales”) and got a great view of St.
Mark’s Square without having to worry about pigeon poop.  We also got to see the copies of the bronze
horses outside.  The original bronze horses are inside and were created in the 4th century BC.  Its so
amazing that this exists in real life and that it exists for me in real life now…not just in photos and books.  
If I would have known I was going to Europe so much, I would have paid more attention in History and Art
classes!
After our basilica tour, we wandered in and out of the streets again, and made our way to another
vaporetto.
 We got on and road the boat around the perimeter of Venice and finally over to the island
of Murano.  In 1291, the Venetian Republic ordered glassmakers to move their shops to Murano
because the glassworks represented a fire danger in Venice.  It wasn't long until Murano's
glassmakers were the leading citizens on the island.  They were granted the right to wear swords and
enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian police.  But their immunity had one catch:
Glassmakers weren't allowed to leave.  If a craftsman got a hankering to set up shop beyond Murano,
he risked being assassinated or having his hands cut off by the secret police.  What made Murano's
glassmakers so special in the beginning is that they were the only people in Europe who knew how to
make a mirror.  Even though yellow is not their favorite color, I had to buy deep blue vases mixed with
bits of yellow.  They are beautiful in my kitchen window!
Back to Venice we road on our vaporetto boat.  And as if buying expensive, one-of-a-kind Murano glass wasn’t enough for my birthday, Mark took me on a
gondola ride.  We haggled with the gondolier for quite awhile.  We didn’t want a tour of the Grand Canal (which we already had) and we didn’t want to go
to all the normal places.  We had him take us in and out some of the inner canals where the Venetian people live.  He didn’t understand what their was to
see but we thought it was fascinating.  Imagine.  Living in a house on the water, where the first floor of your house is ½ submerged.  We read many
billboard-information areas about how they are trying to keep this from happening, but no one has come up with a final solution yet.  Combine that with the
laws in place to keep homeowners from changing anything, and Venice may continue to sink for a long time.
We ate dinner at a little café outdoors and had “molto buono vino”…very good wine.  And then we walked a labyrinth of alleys and streets trying to find our
way back to the hotel, each dead-ending when we turned one more corner.  Even as weird as it was, it was truly a kick in the pants.  Once we got back to
the hotel, it was time to do laundry.  Maybe its not such a good idea to do laundry after you’ve had “molto buono vino” when your in a foreign country.  We
put the money in what we thought was a change machine.  But it turns out all the machines were run from a central area.  So once we put the money in, it
turned on a washing machine.  The only problem was we couldn’t figure out which washing machine it turned on.  The only one that was working was one
that already had someone else’s clothes in it.  While Mark frantically pushed buttons to no avail, I tried to decipher the instructions by looking up what
seemed-to-be the important words in my Italian-English dictionary.  But no matter.  We just couldn’t get it to work.  

But we did figure out how to get the dryer to work!  So we took the person’s clothes out of the washing machine that was working and got them started
drying, so we could start our own clothes in the washing machine.  We just knew some little Italian lady was going to come in and severely scold us for
taking over.  Our clothes were ½ way through washing, when that little Italian lady did come for her clothes.  She was very confused to see our clothes in
her washer.  But we ran from place to place, talking in English, pointing, shrugging, mime-ing and throwing out various Italian words that we knew the
meaning of.  Finally, she asked, “English?”  To which we responded and nodded vigorously, “YES!”.  
“Ah, bene…” she said.  Ah, well…

So she began tending to her own clothes in the dryer and looking at the prices on the wall, and came over to give us enough Euros for what she thought
was fair.  And we told her we didn’t want the Euros because we felt bad for taking her clothes out and drying them without asking.  Mostly we just felt bad
for being “stupido Americanos”.  It was pretty interesting how neither of us had one clue what the other was saying, but we all ended up great friends over
it all.

Walk and walk and walk back to the hotel, but before we got there, Mark got slapped by a Venetian woman.  “Scusami”.  Excuse me.  He’s not quite sure
what he did, but she smacked him on the arm and then said “scusami”.  He thought maybe he was supposed to hit her back, but he didn’t.  “Stupido
Americanos”.