We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Time off for good behavior

This week I celebrated my one year anniversary of my new knee. As a reward for getting through a pretty tough recovery last winter, we decided we'd get out to see some of the world this winter.  We planned a couple of escapes to places we've had on our wish list for awhile, so we're packing our bags and will be off  exploring.  One of the big motivations for us moving to Italy was our desire to see more of Europe. You can certainly travel cheaper from this side of the Atlantic. It's time to take advantage of it.

We spent 8 fabulous days on Santorini island in Greece at the end of September, kind of an early adventure- I know, I did say we were traveling over the winter. BUT- I didn't want to miss the opportunity for a little sun and swimming, so Greece ( phase 1 of the great get away)happened early.

Today we're packing our bags for Phase 2 of the explorations. Tomorrow morning we're headed to Prague in the Czech Republic for several days, followed by a quick overnight stop in Karlovy Vary before boarding an AMA Waterways River Cruise down the Danube on the 25th. The cruise starts in Nuremburg and ends in Budapest with several stops along the river in between. After disembarking, we have 2 more days in Budapest before heading back to Venice.  Here's our route:

Back in 1999 we did a driving trip through the Rhine and Mosel areas of Germany. Every day we'd see these long low boats cruising slowly up and down the rivers, and thought that would be a wonderful way to see the area. We filed that away on our wish list. Finally, it's time! However, instead of the Rhine or Mosel again, we chose the Danube river so we could see a few different cities en route.

I'm tickled pink at the thought of seeing some German/Austrian Christmas markets firsthand this year rather than just hear about them from friends. I'm super excited to finally visit Vienna, a place I've wanted to visit for more years than I can count. And I'm anxious to set foot in Budapest, one of my great grandfathers immigrated from Hungary. I hope they are ready for me! We are really looking forward to eating schnitzel's, bratwursts, strudel's and lebkuchen.  Mike is also ready to try some of those world famous Czech beers.

I recently got a new Ipad so I've been fiddling with making sure I can get my photos uploaded, and can create a blog post using it.  We should have internet on the ship along the way, I should be able to keep a travel journal of sorts.  Cross our fingers!

While I have a little adventure just ahead of me to look forward to, I have to admit I am  not happy to be missing Festa Della Salute on November 21. And Christmas lights have been going up all over Venice this past week. Babbo Natale will be hanging from windows and terraces by the time we return.   Most days I feel like I am on vacation, I don't really have a big pull to leave here. But, we do need to see the world.  What can I say, my heart is here in Venice. I'll have coming home to look forward to!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

San Martino Day- November 11

On November 11,  it was San Martino Day here in Venice.  I love this holiday- it's kind of a cross between Halloween and Christmas, because the kids dress up in costume and they get presents. Well, just one kind of present, a cookie in the shape of a horse. Like this one:

This one is huge, about 20 inches tall, however they also come in all sizes with incredible varieties of decorations.  Another incredible thing about them is the price. A large one, like this, is around 45-55 Euros each. Smaller ones, about 12 inches tall are in  the 12-20 Euro range. Incredible! But what a great tradition!! About a week before San Martino day, all the bakeries have piles of horse cookies in the front windows, one more beautiful than the next.

On San Martino day, the children dress up with a cape- usually red - and a crown (like little super heros and heroines), grab their mom's pots and pans, lids and wooden spoons, and get out in the streets of Venice in small groups to parade around singing a traditional San Martino song.  They stop at all the shops where the shopkeepers give them candy.  See- like Halloween for us in the USA!

I googled Saint Martin, so I could give you an official version of what his claim to fame is. According to Wikipedia:

In the 4th century, Saint Martin met a starving, freezing beggar at the gates of the city of Amiens. He cut his cloak in two with his sword and gave half to the man. For that reason, Martin is a saint associated with the poor. It is also said that at the moment he tore his cloak, the sun came out and that is why an Indian summer here is known as an estate di san Martino.The 11th November is the festa of this favourite saint and traditionally the day when the novello [new] wine is opened.

This year, Mike and I introduced this Venetian tradition to our friends Jim and Cissie who have been visiting from Columbia, Maryland.  It was Cissie's birthday this week, so we took the opportunity to celebrate with one of these giant horse cookies instead of a cake.   We all sat around the dining room table pulling off hooves, ears, tail and assorted body parts until every last yummy bite was devoured. 

H & M finally opens in Campo San Luca

I'm off to explore the wonders contained in the newly opened H&M store in Campo San Luca.  It's where the former Burger King was.  I've been patiently waiting months for this! They originally announced a September opening, but it was delayed. Why is that a surprise? Everything happens on Italian time. Translation: SLOWLY. It will be lovely to have another alternative for clothes shopping right here in the city.

Ok- I have to run catch the vaporetto to Rialto. I'll report more on my return!

Ciao tutti!
OK - I've returned from my little adventure.  Here it is--- the brand new H & M at Campo San Luca, all 4 floors of it, all women's clothes and accessories!!  I did not get what I set out to shop for (new socks), but I did come home with a nice new pair of blue jeans. Grazie, H & M!!!

And, one more fabulous photo before I exit.  My view of the Rialto bridge as I waited for the vaporetto about 4:30 today. It just doesn't get much better than this.

Berlusconi's gone!

As a dual citizen, I get the pleasure of participating in the politics on both sides of the Atlantic.

Saturday November 12, 2011 will be remembered in Italian history books as the day Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, resigned, after 17 years in office. Having spent the last 4 years living in Italy, I cannot believe the public allowed him to remain in office that long. What term limits do they have over here?  Just in the last year or so Berlusconi's behavior (or lack of) has been a major embarrassment to the country. Sorry, but there isn't a good way to sugar coat Berlusconi's misadventures and sex scandals.  Absolutely scandalous!!!

What happens next will be interesting for Italy. An interim PM , Mario Monti, was appointed rapidly, and the next scheduled election isn't until 2013.  Several austerity measures requested by the EU will be pushed through by Monti  soon. I'll be watching for Italy's reaction to those.  

I'll also be watching to see if a public election is called for sooner than 2013. Wouldn't it be something if Berlusconi decided to run again?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

First Aqua Alta of the Season

Here it is- the first high water (Aqua Alta) of the season in St. Mark's square this morning. We've all been waiting for this, patiently!  The duckboards have been stacked around the city since the beginning of October in anticipation. We've had a couple of false starts- a few inches now and then right outside the main doors of the Basilica. But this morning, at 5:15 am, the sirens went off for the first time this year. Honestly, I couldn't wait to get out in it!!