May 29, 2013, 11:38 PM EST
Heading into Venice I only had one real question and it’s similar to the chicken and the egg argument … was the water already there and they built the buildings into the water or was the city there and the water invaded like an unwanted (insert species of the insect kingdom that you like the least here)? Probably an embarrassingly easy question but I don’t feel bad about it.
The route from Maribor to Venice (Venezia in Italian) proved to be an interesting one as we started in Maribor on a bus and arrived in Venice by train.
Once we arrived in Venice, the highlight of the day had to be the gondola ride, which seems like an absolute must for a visit to the water city. Our boy Dino (or it might have been Tito pronounced Tee-toe) showed us a good time and included several facts along the way – False: The city is not going to disappear in the next 20 years because of the water. Truth: The water rises only about one millimeter every 10 years. So doing some brilliant calculations … the water would only rise 10 millimeters every 100 years (didn’t even need a calculator). I would say that’s not exactly consuming buildings left and right.
False: Most of the first floors in buildings are inhabited. Truth: The tide rises enough that most first floors on the water aren’t used for anything more than garages and storage. As we go through the canals, the green algae are a clear indicator of where the water can reach during high tide. And finally … Dino answered the question I came for … the water came before the buildings! Back in the day (400-500 AD) refugees from Roman cities fled to the islands and used the marshes and rivers as a means of protection from outsiders trying to invade. Over the years the city became an important trade center for the rest of the world … to find out how the buildings were built in water I turned to a most reliable source … Wikipedia …
“The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. Most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on the piles, and buildings of brick or stone sit above these footings. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay.
Submerged by water, in oxygen-poor conditions, wood does not decay as rapidly as on the surface.
Most of these piles were made from trunks of alder trees, a wood noted for its water resistance.”
After finding out the answer I was thirsting for I was satisfied and was able to enjoy the rest of my stay in Venice as we roamed around the city’s confusing dead end streets. I felt like I was in a labyrinth with the middle being a slice of pizza and gelato.
After a quick stay in a Venice, it was off to Milan the following day by train. We dropped off our gear at the hotel and headed to downtown Milan, which is so classy that I felt like I needed a three-piece suit. Every store you could imagine was up and down the street, many that I felt like I couldn’t even walk in without getting funny looks. Tennis shoes, khaki shorts and a t-shirt just didn’t quite cut it next to fancy European suits and jewelry so shiny that you can’t look directly at.
The highlight of the day for me had to be touring the Duomo di Milano Cathedral. I have never seen the outside of a building that was so intricate! And to climb the 250 stairs to the roof and walk around the top of the building was worth the seven euros we spent. The design and the marble were unlike anything I have ever seen before!
Day two in Milan gave the entire traveling party a chance to split up and take in whatever part of the city they wanted to. Some chose to go to a mall close by while others went back downtown to the tourist hub. A small group of us chose to rent bikes for only six euros and take them around the downtown area and local park. Biking for a couple of hours around the area was the perfect way to end the Milan experience. We got to see parts of the city that we wouldn’t have just walking around. One of the most impressive sights was the Arch of Peace, which looks eerily similar to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In doing a little bit of research there is a clear reason. During Napoleon’s rule he had both constructed around 1806 … unfortunately for Napoleon the Milan version was not completed before his defeat at Waterloo. Fortunately for the rest of us Francis II of Austria had it finished in 1862 in honor of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, which hoped to bring peace to Europe.
After a quick outside lunch at a local Milan restaurant, it was time to get ready for the match against the Italian Federation Team, the junior national team of Italy. The girls were all 19 and under but all have hopes to eventually make it on the senior national team and potentially the Olympic squad.
We walked into the training center and were instantly impressed. The facility was the nicest of the three we had been to and had what appeared to be a brand new court with seating for about 500 inside a building that looked like an airplane hanger. The Italian team looked impressive upon first glance as they boasted several girls that appeared to be over 6-3. They also sported fancy sponsored uniforms with the European candy Kinder being the primary sponsor.
My side story here will be to talk about the Kinder Egg, which I had never heard of before coming on this European journey. A fan favorite among many on the trip, a Kinder Egg provides a hollow milk chocolate egg with a prize inside the egg. Just imagine if you could eat the container that prizes came in from the 50-cent toy and candy machines at grocery stores.
Back to the match … as had been the case with the previous four matches, the Irish impressed me greatly. Playing against a highly skilled and talented opponent, ND appeared confident and played without fear.
Down 15-10 in the first set, they came back to win 25-22. The Irish lost the final three sets (25-14, 25-23, 25-23), but had several impressive individual performances. Senior Andie Olsen had 10 kills and no errors for an impressive .714 hitting percentage. Junior Jeni Houser added a team-high 11 kills while hitting .417 and libero Andrea McHugh had 16 digs. Setter Maggie Brindock served up three aces and had three kills in addition to her setting duties.
Sitting at 2-3, the Irish look to end the trip at .500 as they meet the same foe again Wednesday.
After the match the group had dinner and then settled into the hotel for a night of movies, cards and such. Everyone is just about flat exhausted, as the 10-day journey has started to beat down even the most energetic people.
Wednesday marks our last day in Europe. We will hit up Lake Como, where we will search for George Clooney’s house (maybe), before getting ready for our final match against the Italian Federation Team. Thursday we’ll head towards the airport at 7 a.m. local time, take off at 10:30 a.m., arrive in Chicago at 7:15 p.m. CT and take our final bus ride of the trip back to the Golden Dome, hopefully arriving before 12 p.m. ET.
My final blog will come once I arrive back in the states, so stay tuned for the wrap up of Lake Como and the trip as a whole.
Until then … Grazie for reading (which means thanks for reading … I’m too lazy to look up Italian for “for reading”)
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