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August 18, 2023   

Being in Venice feels like stepping into a new civilization.

Heading to Venice

We embarked on a journey from Maribor, Slovenia, driving for 3 hours before switching to a train for a quick 10-minute ride to board the island. As the train approached, it felt magical to see building after building appear above sea level, each looking like an isolated entity without any roads, which was indeed the case. The excitement sparked as the train drew nearer. I was convinced that this was a town that only existed in fairy tales.

Exploring Venice

The city’s beauty is enhanced by its interconnecting canals. Every picture I captured was exceptional, featuring the water, bridges, and boats. This unique aspect of Venice contributes to its stunning allure. I found myself irresistibly drawn to take numerous selfies. Each bridge I passed left me in awe.

The city, already 1600 years old, is filled with numerous old and even abandoned buildings. However, this significantly contributes to the unique vibe of Venice.

Despite this, the city is teeming with people. The weather was extremely hot, with the sun’s rays shining directly down. Even with sun protection clothing, I felt as if I was burning.

Saint Mark’s Basilica

There is a lot to see at St. Mark’s Plaza. It’s likely the spot where the most famous pictures of Venice were taken. We meandered through countless narrow alleys before reaching this expansive plaza. Suddenly, the views became grand, showcasing the magnificent architecture surrounding us. It’s hard to believe these structures were built centuries ago. Moreover, I used to play a lot of Asphalt 8, a racing game that features a map of Venice. Seeing the famous tower in person feels surreal since I’ve driven past this tower and plaza hundreds of times in the game. Now, I’m actually here.

Back to the Basilica, we were fortunate to have purchased priority line tickets, resulting in a significantly shorter queue. It was difficult to comprehend why individuals would wait for hours to enter this particular Basilica. Although the interior was impressive, it was comparable to the other churches we had visited. However, the exterior was truly unique. It harmonized perfectly with the surrounding ambiance of Venice, including the plaza, the tower, and the adjacent buildings.

It has been an amazing experience wandering aimlessly in Venice. I couldn’t help sharing these selfies I took.

Libreria Acqua Alta

The claim is that this is the most beautiful bookstore in the world, albeit not in the traditional sense. The story goes that Venice experiences annual flooding, and each time, the bookstore stands at risk of being submerged and damaged. As a result, you’ll find books housed in actual boats within the shop as a preventative measure against the flooding season. Additionally, a charming sight greeted me outside the shop - a cute cat napping on a canvas. Its endearing presence was irresistible to me. Because of the cat, this is indeed the most beautiful bookstore in the world.

Ambulance boat

Indeed, it is a fully functioning city with all the necessary amenities. I even spotted an ambulance boat on duty in the canal. Later, I discovered their canal camp located near a hospital on the island, which I found quite fascinating.

Golden hour on St Mark’s Campanile

The view during golden hour was the most breathtaking spectacle I’ve ever witnessed in my life. The sun bathed the entire city in a golden hue, as if laying a gilded layer over it. Even better was the vantage point from which I observed this scene - the highest point in Venice, St Mark’s Campanile. This tower offered a stunning panoramic view that left me utterly speechless as I stood at its pinnacle…

Night Kayaking in Venice!

This was the most exceptional kayaking experience I’ve ever had. I never envisioned myself kayaking in the renowned city of Venice. Initially, I had heard about and planned on riding a gondola, a small, flat boat propelled by a gondolier. However, upon discovering this more engaging activity, I decided, without a doubt, to give it a go, despite the slightly steep price. After all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, isn’t it?

We had a guide who was incredibly knowledgeable about Venice, having studied art history there. I was stunned to learn that people actually study, work, and live in this city. Naively, I had assumed it was solely a tourist destination. An interesting fact he shared was that in the past, there were hardly any bridges connecting the islands. As a result, each island had to be self-sufficient, each boasting its own church, crop field, and other essentials. This explains why there are thousands of churches in Venice, outnumbering any other structures. Kayaking through the canals at night was a unique experience. The only other people around were those dining late into the evening. We would exchange glances, but mostly it was about communing with the water and experiencing the city under a soft, dim light. It created quite an atmosphere, I must say.

I have an absolute adoration for the city. It possesses a unique charm that surpasses any other city in the world, not solely due to its waterways, but also its rich history. Despite its crowded nature, I discover serenity in the lesser-known alleys and canals.

Haojin Li
CompSci + PoliSci undergrad - because one major alone wasn’t enough to confuse me.