An Aquatic Labyrinth and a Shopping Mall

If I had to pick one word to describe Venice, it would be CHAOTIC.

For starters, it’s the most confusing city I’ve ever visited. The big streets with the canals are connected by a maze of tiny alleyways without street signs that are constantly congested and overwhelming. I have a pretty poor sense of direction to begin with, and it didn’t help being in a place where I could have sworn everything moves around, Hogwarts-style. To make things even more complicated, we were forced to take the ferries to get from Venice to our hostel, which are not clearly labeled or priced at all. 

Now, the reason we needed to take a boat to our hostel was because we stayed on an island called Fusina, giving us a new addition to our list of crazy places we’ve slept during our trip. I thought Camping Fusina, which was strangely reminiscent of the island in the Scooby-Doo movie, was a nice place to stay despite the inconvenience. To future travelers, pay attention to the “location” rating when you’re picking a hostel–unless you don’t mind running around looking for ferries, waiting hours for said ferry, and paying out the ass because the system makes no sense. 

But back to the actual city. Due to poor luck and timing, Dylan and I spent most of our time in Venice lugging our bugs around in the rain, which for me, made an unimpressive city a whole lot worse. The aforementioned chaos, the claustrophobic atmosphere, the dilapidated buildings–it didn’t do it for me. I was also disappointed with the food; perhaps it was the particular restaurants we went to, but I had nothing close to the incredible Italian meals I’ve been hearing about. The one thing that did live up to hype, however, was the gelato. The things I would do for more…

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I kid you not, some prostitutes cost less than a gondola ride.

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Baskin-Robbins, this ain't.

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Check out that form

That’s all I really have to say about Venice. To be fair, we didn’t do much here except walk around and take pictures. I was pretty glad to leave, but once I split up with Dylan and went to Milan, I would’ve gone back to Venice in a heartbeat. 

If I had to pick one word to describe how I felt about Milan, it would be UGLY.

Again, my perception of the city may be tainted by the fact that I spent my time here carrying around all my luggage in miserable weather. But I found Milan gross and uninviting nonetheless. It’s essentially a shopping mall for the elite, with Gucci, Prada, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the like on every block. But for such a wealthy, hoity-toity city, it’s drab and depressing…the qualities you want in an Elliot Smith song, but not a city. 

The only interesting thing I saw there was the Duomo, which I’m sure you smart readers know, is simply a word for cathedral. I’ll admit, it was pretty damn impressive and it’s the only thing that made Milan somewhat worthwhile. But even if you find a diamond in a pile of shit, you’re still standing in a pile of shit. 

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And just like that, the trip was over. After taking a bus to the airport, attempting (and failing) to sleep in the frigid airport, finding friends and hanging out all night, boarding the plane, fearing a man was going to die next to me, and trying not to smell the vomit of the woman in front of me, I was back in Copenhagen. 

 

I suppose now, I have to give you my profound reflections about traveling and seeing the world and how enriched as I am as an individual. While I can’t promise anything groundbreaking, here are some of my big takeaways and lessons learned from this experience:

  • I am capable of (and actually enjoy) planning long, ambitious trips.
  • Cultures are different, but people are more or less the same.
  • The world is small…especially when all of your classmates go traveling through Europe at the same time. 
  • I am fairly decent at picking up languages and should definitely work on becoming fluent in at least one. If nearly everyone I talked to under the age of 30 could have a casual conversation with me in English, I should be able to do the same in another language. 
  • Don’t spend more money than you need to just because a country’s prices are cheap. #prague #budapest
  • Variety is the key to enjoying traveling. What’s the point of going somewhere new if you don’t do anything new? Make sure to go to the bars, but also the museums. Spend time walking around but also sitting down and relaxing. Take planes, but also do buses and trains to see the areas you wouldn’t normally get to see. 
  • I enjoy alone time a lot more than I thought I did, and I want to try traveling alone sometime in the future.
  • Traveling never has to end. I met a family who had been traveling for 7 months straight (and had hit every continent but Africa and Antarctica), an elderly couple biking around Europe, and plenty of others who had been around the world and had no intentions of stopping. 
  • If you obtain an injury from an embarrassing accident, tell people you got in a fight. 

Thanks for reading the novel I’ve posted this past week (that is, if anyone actually did). Stay tuned for future posts about my last month in Copenhagen, Paris, Poland, and whatever other shenanigans I get myself into. 

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About teecheng
Teach for China fellow in a small town called Hepingzhen, located in Shantou Prefecture of Guangdong Province. My interests change as quickly as China has in the past few decades, but I'm using this time to learn about education and the Middle Kingdom, explore my cultural heritage, and travel as much as possible. People say I have characteristics of both a middle-aged father and an 8-year-old boy.

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