A Travellerspoint blog

July 2011

Venezia, Murano, Burano

semi-overcast 12 °C

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I got into Venice at night at 9:30pm. The airport is situated at the mainland and I had bought a return bus ticket €5.50 from Marco Polo airport to Piazza Le Roma. I should had just gotten a Combi ticket of €18 for a 24 hours unlimited bus and ferry ride. “Line” actually means water transport lines (ali laguna). Venice is well divided into a few areas with Marco Polo at the mainland, Venezia (where vehicles are not permitted up to some point), Murano Island, Burano Island, Torcello Island, Lido(the 11km sandy beach island where vehicles are allowed and hosts the Venice Film Festival) and other smaller Islands. Not every stop has a ticket check for entry and exit. Burano and Port Fort Nove are two that needs a ticket.

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People in Venice are very helpful. I did not have a map and was struggling to find my hotel. Luckily I walked into a nearby hotel at the San Zacaria jetty and the staff printed out a map and drew the directions to my hotel. The small lanes were still confusing because there weren’t any names of the lanes written on the map, so good luck getting lost in Venice if you are there for the first time. But it is really safe even when it doesn’t look like it and the dark and small lanes give you the creeps. The best way to navigate yourself is walk towards a square, which most cases are open areas and look at the wall which is written Campo. Venice is relatively small, beautiful and walk-able. Best time to get out is when the sun rises at 6am. Give yourself some estimation of time and factor in for extra time needed if you get lost in finding your way around or just pause while being captivated by the beauty of the city when you are doing your walking tour.

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Set a day for your island hoping trip to discover the nearby islands. I woke up early and walked towards Fort Nove and passed by an old church. Venice is full of old churches and entry to most are free. I bought a 12 hours ticket and went to Murano Island which is just 5 minutes ferry ride away. At Murano, there are many glass making factories where you can watch a free demonstration of glass making however, don’t buy anything from these shops as the prices have been set very high even though they promised a hefty discount. Try comparing prices at various other shops before you make your decision. Chances are you may be able to find the same thing in other shops at a much cheaper price. Most shops open at 10am. Take a good 2 hours walk around Murano and you will find many more design of Murano glass sold by many shops. From jewelries, to household display, lights to décor all made with the famous colourful Murano glass.

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At Murano Island, walk towards the Faro jetty where you could take a ferry to Burano island. You will pass by Campo Santo Stefano, the main square of Murano island where you will find the clock tower and a glass comet as the Murano island icon. At the square, you will be able to find other creative glassworks made by artisans. Further down, walk towards Palazzo de Mula, the main canal of Murano where the long bridge is. I really enjoyed the scenery there.

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At Faro, you will find a lighthouse, take a 25 minutes ferry ride to Burano island notable for its lace works and colourful buildings. It was a breathe of fresh air from Venice and Murano as the locals are friendlier and you will be able to walk through their neighbourhood to admire the simple yet colourful décor at the windows and doorpost. If you have time to spare, I strongly suggest you stay on this island for at least 2 hours just sit on the benches and enjoy the scenery. Beat the buzz by first walking away from the crowd towards the further end of the local neighbourhood on the right of the pier.

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Across from Burano is the island called Torcello. It used to be the most populated island long long time ago but now it has only 13 occupants on that island. It has one of the oldest church around. It’s a short 3 minutes ride.
Then from Burano, I took the ferry to Lido, the long sandy strip island where they are many houses, departmental stores, vehicles are allowed. It was no different than other city life. The Venice Film Festival is also organized here yearly.

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Lastly, back to Venice to enjoy a walk towards the Rialto bridge at night and enjoy some shopping around the area with fine restaurants. The next morning, I walked around Piazza San Marco and San Marco Basilica. You could feed some pigeons there. Then I took the long ferry ride from San Zaccaria on the grand canal to Piazza Le Roma to catch the bus to the airport.

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Posted by jokermiss 00:07 Archived in Italy Tagged water venice canal laguna campo Comments (0)

Roma – Where Every Road Leads To It

semi-overcast 12 °C

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Rome with all its glamour in the ancient days is filled with famous ancient ruins and relics. Rome is one of the cities in Europe that does not sleep at night. Rome airport was a very far ride as it took me 75 minutes and €15 to get from the airport to Roma Termini by bus. I arrived at Rome at night and saw the city brightly-lit up. Republicca was well illuminated at night and was vastly without much traffic at night. I took a light stroll down the long stretch of street after Republicca and stopped at a restaurant to enjoy a nice Italian meal before I head down the tunnel towards Trevi Fountain. It was indeed a magnificent sight and the water looks so clear. I was told that you can drink from any fountain or water tap in Rome unless it is stated undrinkable. Trevi fountain was filled with tourists despite the drizzling rain fall.

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I only have 2 days in Rome, so I have to rush everything on my itinerary. After seeing Trevi Fountain and Republicca at night which was fantastic, Rome’s morning rush was pretty unpleasant. I have made plans to go to Vatican City in the morning. Without prior research, I did not expect Vatican Museum’s queue would be so long! It stretched around the Vatican City walls towards St. Peter’s Square. It could have easily be 500meters long! I wanted to cut the queue time by getting a private tour in English so I could cut the queue substantially. It worked but I still needed to queue behind every other private tour groups. The Vatican City tour with guide cost me €40. The normal ticket only costs €15 per entry and audio guide costs €7. I strongly recommend the in-house audio guide compared to private tour guide to get the most comprehensive details out of the sophisticated place with its elaborated floor to ceiling paintings, sculptures, ornaments, carvings and décors. The Vatican City grounds are limited in its opening to the public. The Pope only allows the public to have access to the museum, courtyard, St. Peter’s basilica & the Sistine chapel. The globe sculpture at the center of the courtyard is one of the two identical one that was set at The NY Twin Towers at ground Zero. It’s design of globe-in-globe symbolizes the Catholic church embracing the world. This gift was kept in the store and was only taken out for display at the courtyard after the 9-11’s tragedy where the other twin globe was destroyed. The Pope set the globe to commemorate the victims of the 9-11 tragedy. The globe was supposed to have a self spinning mechanism, however on the officiating day, the mechanism broke down and could not be repaired and therefore, many visitors have helped themselves to manually spinning the globe.

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The Sistine Chapel stood as an important place for the election of the Pope when the former one dies. 120 selected candidates will be flown in from all over the world to stay in the Sistine Chapel and get ready to vote to be the new Pope. Everyone must write the name of the person that they want to nominate on a piece of paper. Voting will be done twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. If there’s a 2/3 majority vote, the new Pope will be elected. If there’s no consensus of 2/3 majority, they will need to vote again. They are not allowed to leave the Sistine Chapel until a new Pope has been elected. The public will wait outside of the Chapel for a signal. If black smoke comes out of the chimney, it means there’s no consensus. If a new Pope is elected, white smoke will be released as a signal.

The stories behind the statues, sculptures and paintings were very interesting, Michelangelo did the paintings in the Sistine Chapel and the famous ceiling painting is the 7 panels of creation series. Out of the 7 panels, the first panel that he has painted has the smallest details in the painting and was hard to see every detail from the ground. It was because he hated the environment and long hours of work (he was working 18 hours a day) that he tried to paint in such a manner hoping that the Pope would fire him thereafter but instead, the Pope asked him to paint the rest of the panel but requested it to be painted bigger. The condition which he was working was also very bad, the paintings are to be infused into the ceiling to the ceiling was wet with rotten eggs mixture to prevent it drying up before it’s completed. He was working at it for 4 years in such conditions with his head raised up to look at the ceiling when he painted. It severely affected his posture afterwards. Michelangelo love to incorporate his feelings into his works. The painting in which God has His backside shown was actually Michelangelo’s revenge against the Pope for making him work. He had in fact calculated the position at which the Pope would be sitting in the Sistine Chapel and therefore placed God’s backside above it. 24 years later a new Pope loved Michelangelo’s painting and requested that he return to complete an altar piece at the Sistine Chapel. He started working on it with one condition which is a lessen work hours and free time to leave the Sistine Chapel. He took 6 years to complete the altar piece. He initially painted everyone naked which surrounds Jesus and Mary which are in the middle of the painting. This symbolizes Jesus and Mary in heaven and the rest are in hell. The Pope and his right-hand man came to inspect the painting and his right-hand man commented that this kind of painting reflect a bath house or a brothel and not suitable to be in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was furious and added the right-hand man’s at the bottom right painting bound by a snake. This sent off a complaint to the Pope but the Pope did not ask Michelangelo to change it and said he’s only responsible for what’s going on in the heavens. Years later, they hired another painter to clothe all the nakedness.

Other rooms in the Vatican Museum contain tapestry works by Bellini and other artists and maps which was hand painted and measured by traveling from village to village. The collection of 40 maps took 25 years to draw and it has been done more than 400 years ago. Even with the satellite technology that we have now, it shows an 85% accuracy.

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I went to the Coliseum at the Colloseo station stop and visited the Coliseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. It’s €12 for a Combi Ticket. The Coliseum is being restored. The view inside is more spectacular than the outside. The gladiator arena platform was being restored and underneath we could see a labyrinth of walls and rooms that was used to store the props and exotic animals to fight the prisoners. The prisoners earn their freedom by winning the game. People of different class and gender used different gates to enter the coliseum the top of the column were used by middle class women. In all it’s glory, the coliseum could fit 75,000 people.

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Next to the Coliseum stood the Arc of Constantine next to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The whole area was superbly huge. I had only allowed myself a mere 3 hours there which was not enough to explore the whole area. Palatine Hill has a rich history, among stood the ruins of the vestal virgins temple. There was someone there with a group of students explaining the history and structure of the vestal virgins temple to my benefit, I eavesdropped. He was given a round of applause from the students when he finished his history narration. I wished I had more time to follow the group and just pay with my applause but time was a luxury I couldn’t afford that day.

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Posted by jokermiss 06:48 Archived in Italy Tagged fountain rome Comments (0)

Amsterdam & Volendam

Backpacking Europe Tour

overcast 4 °C

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I was initially overwhelmed by the size of Amsterdam airport. Finding my way around has not been easy and I went to the tourist information and bought a good city map for €2.50. The Dutch are very helpful people and they always provide directions with an estimated distance in relativity to time. I took a train from platform 3 at the airport to Amsterdam Centraal (a UNESCO heritage station), it costs me €7.80 for a return ticket. Be careful to read the train information signage as the same platform caters to different train routes. I was told that in Amsterdam everyone speaks English and it is true. As I came out of the Centraal station, the whole feeling was amazing. It’s a great city yet it also has a wonderful homely feeling to it. Bicycles were seen everywhere as well as water canals.

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I walked towards the Damrak street and could see people of all ages. It also stood Amsterdam’s sex museum. I walked for 10 minutes and then reached Dam Square right at the junction stood Madame Tusaud & the palace which was under renovation. I checked into the hostel which was a few streets away from Dam Square towards Anne Frank’s house.

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I headed out for dinner after checking in and Damrak Street has a few good selection of restaurants. After dinner, I headed out to the Red Light district which is across the street from Damrak Street, you will not missed the vast tourist going towards that area filled with colourful neon lights and bars. In respect to the patrons and the workers there, I did not openly take any pictures of the sexily clad girls dancing at the shop windows. I don’t see many interested customers, mostly window shoppers. It’s fairly safe to walk around the area.

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Day time you may visit the Waterlooplein Jewish flea market. It’s not quite interesting for me as a Malaysian but worth a visit if you want to get some souvenirs at bargained prices. I decided to visit Madame Tusaud at 3pm onwards at a discount of €16. There’s also ice bar and the Heineken experience if you want to visit them. But I made my way towards the famous Anne Frank’s House, it’s definitely the most visited museum in Amsterdam, attracting 8 million visitors to date. It is the only place where visiting hours are extended till 9pm on Saturdays. The museum is actually the hiding place for Anne’s family of 8 during the World War II Hitler regime. You can walk into the secret Annex and experience the space and feel they had when they were in the hiding. I had to line up for 1.5 hours to get into the Museum, but it was worth it.

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I took an excursion day’s trip out to the Windmills, Cheese Farm and Volendam (the fishing village). I went to see demonstration of the cheese making process and tasted various cheese as well as seen a demonstration on how the famous Holland Clogs are made. By hand, it takes around 7 days or more to carve a pair of clogs but nowadays the clogs are made by machines which takes only 2 minutes to shape it and then left to dry for another 2 weeks. These nicely hand-painted clogs were custom gifts to brides to be from the bridegroom.

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From the clog making factory, it took about a 30 minutes ride to reach Volendam, a fishing village. I was quite a lovely village with small departmental stores leading towards the dainty colourful housing area and restaurants facing the sea. Herring is their main catch and food. It was refreshing to take a walk in this fishing village and admire every dainty house with it’s nice décor outside the window sills and the yard.

Posted by jokermiss 06:39 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam windmills light red district frank anne clogs volendam Comments (0)

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