Thursday was a travel day for the Cyclones, as Iowa State departed Maribor and Slovenia. However, it was an extended goodbye as to get to our destination of Venice, Italy, we would have to cut across Slovenia to get to Italy. Maribor is located in the northeast corner of Slovenia, not very far from the Austrian border, so we had a lot of Slovenia to cover.
There was really no particular highlights of the journey through Slovenia. We made it to the capital of Ljubljana, but we went around the north and west sides of the city and did not get into the big things. However, for what Slovenia didn’t have in flair it made up for in scenery. During our drive, it was pretty much a guarantee that at whatever point you decided to take a look out the window of the bus, you were going to see a great view of the mountains and landscape of the country.
We eventually made our way into Italy and you could feel the difference right away. Maybe it was the sun finally won its battle to come out, maybe it was something else but you could just sense a different energy once we crossed the border. There were many similarities between the two countries, the roads were lined with trees and wineries, there were still many scattered villages with the church steeples usually being the high point of the towns. We also got our first glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea, which got Dawn Sullivan into a very competitive spirit in an effort to get a photo from the bus.
Venice awaited us and after we checked into our hotel outside of the city center, we loaded a city bus to make the journey into the city center. It is a pretty uneventful journey, and then you begin to cross a bridge and it keeps going and going and going. You are over the waters of what is known as the Laguna Veneta and you are en route. You cannot keep your eyes ahead, because the water around you demands that you see what is out there surrounding this area. Then you arrive, get off the bus and look up. You are in Venice.
What makes Venice great and special, but irritating and confusing is its system of how to get around. Many places that you think are going to lead to something new lead to either a dead end or the Grand Canal. You see people going one direction, but you are really tempted to go a completely different direction just to see what is out there. You feel a “risk-reward” type feeling. One for me personally was when I was wandering around I took a right at an innocent looking area. If I would have taken a right, I would have walked right to a merchandise store for Ferrari that featured a full-scale Formula 1 car in the store. A missed opportunity.
However, in the aforementioned “Search for San Marco”, I ran into another nice little church, the Parish of San Salvador. Not the big, flashy mission to find San Marco, but a nice church that I probably would not have found had I not been in wild pursuit of San Marco.
The Basilica of San Marco dominates the city square of Venice. It’s white color stands out among any sort of weather (and we had the full beautiful and pouring rain to test it out) and even with scaffolding across the top as some restoration work goes on, it makes for a huge presence.
Unfortunately, due to other adventures in and around Venice I was unable to get into the Basilica itself, which closed at 5 p.m., so I opted to go to the attached Doge’s Palace Museum next door. The Doge was the Duke of Venice, the ruler of the Republic of Venice when the island city was an island nation. Since the demise of the Republic of Venice in 1797, the palace has become a stunning museum.
It was similar to Schönbrunn Palace in that it was very lavish for any standard, but it was put to a more practical purpose over making the royal family richer because the Doge of Venice was not a position inherited by blood like royalty is. The Senate Chambers are intimidating and beautiful, the weapons collection from the history of the Doge was incredible to look through and understand the evolution of protecting a nation.
Yet like many things in life, the best was saved for last as the exhibit weaved its way down to the prison system, known as “The Bridge of Sighs”. It was amazing. The prison life is certainly not glorified by any stretch and it is amazing to think that this was how the justice system worked, whether rightfully or wrongfully so. The best part of it all was right as you were leaving the prison area, there is the bridge with two stone windows that overlook the Grand Canal and out to the Mediterranean Sea. You just sigh and head upstairs to have your case heard.
After we reassembled as a team, we headed for dinner at Rossopomodoro in San Marco Square for pasta and pizza. I still have three boxes of leftover pizza sitting in front of me. I was going to have some while I write the blog, but I am battling internet issues and that anger does not make me hungry, just frustrated.
We are traveling some more tomorrow as we are going to cross the peninsula and make our way to Cinque Terre for a day trip. After that, we will make the journey north to our final destination of the tour, Milan.