Venice is confusing. End of story. No, there's more to the story.
After spending time in France and western Italy, Venice seemed like a completely different world. We arrived in the early afternoon at the train station, Santa Lucia, in the blazing, stagnate heat. The smells of the lagoon and the bustling city were...um...amazing. The first view of the Grand Canal was the busy vapretto depot. People were yelling across the canal, the street vendors were selling fruit and drinks, everybody was going somewhere. With all of the bustling and a huge backpack, there just wasn't the time to take in the amazing first impression of the Grand Canal.
We jumped on our vapretto and headed off to the Lido where we were staying. It was a whirlwind view of Venice, zig zagging across the Grand Canal from boat stop to boat stop until we whizzed past St. Mark's square and out into the lagoon. Wow. The sights, no matter how quickly they passed, were inspiring.
We got to our hotel on the Lido and relaxed for a moment before running up the street to jump into the Adriatic. The water, warm; the surf, shallow; and the swim wear, wee. Nothing could have been better to help unwind after a long day of traveling. When beach time was over and we left the sounds of the gentle waves behind us, the twinkling city across the lagoon started to beckon us towards adventure.
If you've ever been to Venice and went exploring on your own, you know that getting lost in inevitable, but that's okay. For some reason, I thought that my sense of direction was stronger that the labyrinth that formed 1600 years ago. What was I thinking, indeed? After wandering through tiny alleyways, crossing countless bridges and running into dead ends that were just steps into water, I finally made it into the open air. The key to finding the way out is to try following the strongest echo. An echo in Venice is like prairie dog in the Great Plains: there are millions and you'll never catch the same one twice. That being said, I did find one and it led me to a sight to behold, the Rialto Bridge.
Everything in Venice is amazing and breathtaking and memorable and more than you dreamed of and magical and surprising and so much like a fairytale that it's difficult to take it all in. Meeting all of these descriptions was the Rialto Bridge. The night was black and crisp and the palazzos along the canal gave off a soft glow. In contrast to that glow was the bridge: a immense stone structure reflecting more light than all of the glowing palazzos combined. The light, the noise and the mystery all teamed together to draw me out of the maze that is Venice's alleys and out into the wonder that is Venice at night. There began the adventure that took me from being a tourist lost in the alleys to an explorer wandering through the market places and enjoying Venice for all that it is.