Our final day in Venice was a spectacular one and though we didn't do much, it was still one of my favorite days of the whole trip. While we were sleeping, it had rained and rained, so much so that we were able to experience a completely different side of Venice. When flooding occurs in the States, it seems like a natural disaster and what damage is done is a terrible loss. Venice seems to ignore flooding. Well, not ignore it, but water and boating is so much a part of their society that they've adapted to dealing with the flooding. Citizens wear boots that go up to their thighs, stands sell temporary rain boots which are like a trashbag with plastic pieces in the bottom, and platforms about 1.5 ft high are set up so that you can walk from dry dock to dry sidewalk without having to wade through 1-2 feet of water. Restaurants and shop owners have brooms at the ready to sweep and clean out the excess water once the water levels drop, and they all stay open for business...even if there's a foot of water.
What's also great is that since everything is done by boat, boats can continue to run and deliver packages, the mail and the police are always on the alert. The only problem is that with high water levels, only small boats can continue to move in and out of the small, side canals. Anne and I began to compare Venice to its own water planet where there are no cars and everything has been made to work on water. It's magnificent and truly spectacular to observe the Venetian society. We could barely walk anywhere before hitting a street that had flooded, thereby forcing us to turn around, and yet I was in love with everything that was happening around me. It was one of the coolest things ever. I'm pretty sure Anne was sick and tired of hearing my say how much I loved what was going on.
We started out the day by getting off the boat at the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute. When the boat stopped at San Marco, it was crazy how different it looked compared to the day before. There were still a number of people around but there was at least 1-2 feet of water in the entire square outside the Doge's Palace, and we finally learned what the funny looking picnic tables were for. They were actually elevated "sidewalks" which were metal legs with wooden tops covered in concrete to make them non slippery. The church was very empty and quiet and a little dark but I was still able to appreciate the architecture.
Outside, we took a little walk but weren't able to get very far because after the first bridge we took, we hit water. It went on for a ways and unless we wanted to get soaked, turning around was the better idea.
Back on the boat, I sat in awe of everything going on...all the seamless changes that Venice had made to accommodate the rise in water, and yet how they seemed completely oblivious to it all.
We saw some girls with a suitcase and without blinking and eye, began to wade into the water lifting the bag above. As it was still pretty gloomy out, it was no surprise to see almost all of the gondolas tied up and covered, but those who did want a gondola ride got one on the rocky, wild, Grand Canal since the boats couldn't fit under the bridges leading into the side canals. We got off the boat at Ponte di Rialto, a covered bridge similar to Ponte Vecchio, but more artistic in its outer appearance.
It took a bit of maneuvering to get from the dock to the bridge, as we were limited to walking on the elevated sidewalks and not falling off. I was also still awestruck and kept stopping to gape at what was happening around me. I'm pretty sure I'm doing a terrible job in describing how interesting the flooding was, but I hope the pics I have do it some justice.
We had wanted to wander this area a bit more, but the water stopped us from going very far. We looked in the shops on the bridge and a few more that were still above water, but there were few and far between that were accessible. Next place we tried was San Marco which was better only because they had plenty of elevated platforms to walk on. A police officer stood by directing foot traffic and the water level was low on the shopping side of the square so we wandered in that area again. Though we'd been there the day before, it seemed like we'd missed many of the small streets so off exploring we went.
By 1:00pm or so, Anne and Lauren headed off for the train station and I found an expensive internet cafe to plop myself down in and kill some hours with. My night train to Munich wasn't til later in the evening and I would have liked to wander the city more, but my lack of rainboots and the burden of my suitcase prevented me from doing so. By evening I had made my way back to the central station, hopped on a train to the Venice mainland station and found my bed in the same bunk as a cute Japanese family. The parents had 2 little kids with them, a toddler boy and a baby girl who were really cute and behaved. They asked if I didn't mind taking the top, which was fine by me and I promptly fell asleep.