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Venice is a city-wide pedestrian zone (no cars allowed anywhere) connected via alleyways and bridges. Traffic takes place through an intricate system of waterbuses and small motorboats, navigating past each other and sharing ports in harmony. People mingle above and beside them, chosing similar paths and often cramming through alleys to reach their destinations. The lack of cars makes the city extraordinarily relaxing and clean - contrary to popular belief, the city does not stink, at least not in mid-june. The only thing that can be associated with it is the occasional scent of sundried algae at some bridges. At day and dusk, the city is an adult fairytale. Couples lean over the bridges, isolated in their romance while gondolas pass under them - centuries of architecture are reflected in the disturbed waters, shattered and reborn when the water stills. The gondolas aren't worth it, fifty dollars and up, plus one has to share the nasty boad with an equally nasty driver. There isn't much anti-american sentiment present (the city is based on tourism,) but the locals don't look happy. Storeowners put up fronts, but are easy to look past.

Regardless, the city is amazing. Sunset turns the water into ripples of gold, like a Seran the water turns, its folds moving along the buildings. The walls of the buildings are gilded also, as the light of the sun reflects off of the water and around the riverbends. At night the city is somewhat spooky, people congregate in the many town squares; the most splendid and well known is San Marco. While statues, street magicians and fireworks can be seen from there, the rest of the city is asleep. Black water curves around dead buildings and even the main roads are all but deserted. Maybe it is that seperatism which makes the night so beautiful - the lively splendor is packed into places where there is nothing else. Everyplace else is dark and hidden from the public eye, giving a romantic atmosphere to the couples who make it their cloture.

Lido - The venezian beach is complemented by the bus-boat ride to the island and the open private mansions on the Venezian shore. The water may not be particularly clear and the sand is grey to black - but the sun, vegetation and architecture do more than make up for it. The dark sand is unbearably hot in the early afternoon, charged by the high-noon sun, but the water is comfortably cool and allows for walking in the wake. Initially we stumbled upon a private beach and were more of less thrown out when inquiring about a place to put our belongings. A few feet down, consisting of the same sand and water was the public beach, so we went there. I stuffed my shirt in my pocket and ran through the shallow surf, feeling my burning feet submerge in the water again and again. We walked miles without ever noticing the distance, distracted by the light breeze in our hair and the sand between our toes. Finally we were unable to resist - pants, shirts, change and all we jumped into the water and watched the people on the shore. Those specks under the umbrella were people of all ages enjoying themselves. Old ladies collected mussels from the ruins of a pier, stuffing them into green nets, college age kids played volleyball, yelling out in French, "Here, here." The rest were sprawled across the beach in all stages of dress/undress, physical condition and aging. Eventually, we felt the sun getting to us and started to worry about catching the last ferry off of the island. Andreea held the money and didn't bother buying a ticket; at some point a homeless guy came on board, carrying a fish in a transparent plastic bag. He wore boat shoes, no socks, jeans and some sort of sun-baked T-shirt. All of it was fairly clean, even though he himself appeared weathered. He kept talking at the controller and kept him from checking our tickets. After bearing witness to yet another mind blowing sunset (seeing the individual rays filter through the patchy clouds,) we arrived at our home port and ventured into a neighboring restaurant. The head waiter appeared (and proved) to be a jolly character and invited us to drinks after the restaurant closed. The food was plenty and tasty, the only thing that wasn't was the morbidly obese American woman two tables behind us. She was there when we arrived (eating) and still ate when we were leaving. The waiter joked about her, calling her "a boat, no, a shipette!" (She did take up over two chairs.)

That was more or less all that happened in Venice, save for the classical concert I first omitted but now feel obligated to mention. On our first stroll through the city, Andreea saw a poster advertising a performance of Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" and Vivaldi's "Four seasons." We bought two tickets and headed back to get dressed and freshen up. It started raining on the way back to the hotel so we ran, taking turns as we best remembered them. Soon it was close to the event and we were ready. Andreea looked to die for; I did the best I could with khakis and a dark blue shirt. The concert opened with a flawless performance of Mozart's piece, after the intermission "The four seasons" started. One encore followed and the audience was still roaring. So they went out again. Only this time, the guy playing the minor bars got a solo. He repeated the same four measures with different keys and pitches at neck-breaking speeds. Then it happened. A string broke. Without thinking, he adjusted the remaininst strings to make up for the missing one and played on. The audience went insane, a final encore followed, then the musicians processed outside. Amazed at the performance, we took the night-ferry home.

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