This month I jumped on a plane to one of these places that I had expected not to see anytime soon, that always seems so exotic when you see and read about it. I was joining the 30th birthday party of a friend of my girlfriend's which took place in Venice. As an added bonus the Biennale (Feneyjartvíeyringurinn) was happening this year, so we got to experience one of the more interesting art events in the world with friends.
What surprised me the most as I stepped onto the Roma plaza, was the heavy smell of warm seawater mixed with something unpleasant. Coming from an island I am used to the sea smell but not with the slight additive. Thankfully I had stopped noticing it for the most part a few hours later.
Being there in May also meant that the height of the tourist season had not yet started, so while walking around the small cobble streets along side the canals I was surprised by the relatively low number of people I would pass. However, as I went further into the center of the city, closer to the Grand canal, the population density started going up. Still, I have to battle my way through more people on a sunny day in Reykjavík than I felt were on the San Marco plaza during my stay in Venice.
The weather was fantastic, sunny intermingled with clouds, warm with a slight breeze. Venice it seems, at this time of year, is the perfect place to go simply for getting lost in the alleyways, taking in the old structures and city life while bouncing between cafés.
The group was large, and varied. The biggest nationality was German, at fourteen, three Italians, one Portuguese, one Dutch, and an Icelander. Even though I was meeting all of them for the first time, we all seemed to hit it off immediately. The birthday dinner was held at a rather nice Sicilian restaurant, where we occupied the center of the place on a long table. Wine, seafood and polenta was had, and after a couple of hours of all that it was time to head out to the main watering hole.
The old city, thankfully, doesn't have room for clubs, but it does have bars and plazas. So the locals gather outside on the plazas and walkways, having drinks in the warm evening air, and mingling. It was at this point that it struck me how peaceful the city felt without roaring car traffic and excessive street lighting. Even with crowds of people having wine, talking and dancing, it didn't feel overwhelming. Couple of times the sounds of small boats could be heard, but all in all it was rather quiet.
At one point there seems to have been a dare between some locals for one of them to take a dip in the water, and he sure didn't hesitate. He jumped on top of a pillar and dove right in.
The next few days passed too fast, with more trips snaking around the city, checking out some of the Biannale pavilions, and even one to the beach (I never knew Venice had one), where we spent a good afternoon relaxing and having drinks in the sun.
All in all this was perhaps one of my favorite vacations in a long while, and I am sure to go visit again. (Just not during the height of tourist season!)