Exterior view of St. Mark's Cathedral
We arrived in the Venice area on Saturday evening. Actually we are staying in a suburb called Marghera about 10 minutes by bus from the Island of Venice. It's a comfortable little place in a predominantly Bangladesh neighborhood. They are a friendly ethnic group eager to be of help. Kathy and I went for a stroll last night and found a little deli that served sandwiches, so we stopped to eat and noticed the people who were on the street after dark. We saw single women walking alone, couples, families with young children--in short, we saw a safe community going about its business unafraid of what was around them. So we felt safe also.
On Sunday we left our car parked by the hotel and took a local bus into Venice. This is a great place to explore, but we counted five huge cruise ships anchored in the harbor so we knew we weren't going to be alone. We boarded a vaporetto (water bus) and went all the way to St. Mark's Square where the famous five domed St. Mark's Cathedral is found. They were having mass when we got there so we couldn't visit the interior of the church so we bought tickets to the museum which is also housed in the church. This is an incredible building that was begun in 1071 AD and is built, like everything else, on huge wooden piles driven into the marshy ground that makes up the island of Venice. People continue to ask, "Is Venice still sinking?" Well, theoretically, no--since that was all supposed to come to a halt when local industries stopped pumping out groundwater. But recent studies have shown a rise in sea level which, when combined with the fact that every building is sitting on compacted sediment, it seems to appear that the city is slowly sinking.
After the last mass was over Kathy and I were able to get into and walk around the sanctuary of the Cathedral. It is an amazing structure. The builders followed all the artistic characteristics of the ancient Romans in their use of mosaic tile all over the walls and floors. But in this case, instead of the mosaic tiles depicting pagan myths (as in ancient Pompeii) they tell biblical stories from both testaments. You will see the prophets, the apostles, Jesus' family tree and many other scenes and words from the Bible. You can get all of your bible lessons from just reading the walls and ceilings of the great St. Mark's Cathedral. I think St. Mark would be proud of what they have done in his memory.
One of the things we cherish as we travel are the friends we make along the way, like the two girls in our hotel studying Italian (from Bowling Green University), the group of guys in a summer study from the University of Kentucky, the man from Chandler, Arizona who is traveling with 10 members of his family and are deciding what to do with one of their elderly members who broke a bone in her foot last night, the French Canadians we met on a boat, and the many others whom God brings into our path. That's one of the side benefits of traveling anywhere in the world.
Toward the end of the day we took a water taxi over to the island of Murano, where the glass blowing and selling industry is located. Venetian glass is, of course, known all over the world. We bought some pieces for souveneirs and for family gifts. Finally, after walking ourselves almost beyond our endurance, we found our bus and headed home to our hotel, but not before eating pizza in a little cafe in Venice. How can you come to Italy and not eat Pizza? Tomorrow it is on to Vienna, Austria. Now we begin that leg of our trip which is totally unfamiliar to us.