TRAVELOG Alchemist: VENICE & SLOVENIA
VENICE world & SLOVENIA fine
On the way from Milano to Zagreb, we are driving on the happy Italian autostrada in our rental car. You can still see cute Italian towns with churches and castles on the hill. Lovely. Their version of our gas station or Buckies is called “Autogrill”, a beautiful place to stop, have a prosciutto sandwich, cappuccino and some sweets. Europe is so civilized, you can always sit down in a restaurant type of setting to have your espresso, even at the Autogrill. If you have never been to Europe and you are expecting a Starbucks kind of coffee choices, you will be disappointed. When you are in Rome, do as Romans do: order a cappuccino or espresso. Those two were invented in Italy. In fact, Starbucks uses Italian to describe their coffee, so think of it as the “source” and forget about your favorite double mocha latte.
I love taking trains and buses in Europe, and this is my first time traveling with a rental car. I am quite surprised how much I love it. Especially traveling by car as a family of four. Milano to Zagreb, my hometown is about 6 hours drive and Venice is on the way. We have to stop in Venice for a day, to show this beautiful city to our kids, before it sinks into the sea… Joe and I have been to Venice where we visited Bienale about 16 years ago. I remember being so impressed with then emerging German artist, Ron Mueck. His grandiose realistic sculptures were ominous and dramatic, executed with deep perfection of a great artist. Oh how time flies and how great it is that you can see Mueck exhibition at our MFAH.
I do some research with my boyfriend, Mr. Google and I find out about this great and cheap way to see Venice from water, using their public water bus AKA Vaporetto that stops at many major spots including the central square, Piazza St. Marco. We will not have the time to go inside St Mark’s Basilica there to see all the amazing Byzantine mosaics and great works of art, but we will at least feel the city’s heartbeat for one day. We parked our car at Tronchetto, an artificial island next to Venice created for parking, because Venice is pedestrian zone only. From the garage we walked to the water, had the worst espresso in the whole country of Italy there, bought our vaporetto tickets, then tried to use the machine to validate the ticket to get onto the boat. After many trials, our daughter won the prize of the most intelligent traveler, managing to find the right place. Entering Venice World! As soon as we entered Vaporetto and Venice, my lovely daughter fell asleep, missing out so many sights of gondoliers, gondolas, boats, buildings, etc.
Seeing Venice from the water is probably the best way to see Venice, and the most relaxing. There are hoards of tourists and loud tourist guides, parents with little kids on the leash, but from the boat you get to see things that are invisible from land: like these two hands holding a building, artwork that I interpreted as hands trying to save Venice, so beautiful…
Venice World is hundred percent tourism; Venetians have all moved to Mestre or other places in Italy, making Venice completely commercial. Another thing to remember is that Venice has been a center of tourism in Europe for a very long time. I think that this is why shop owners are not always friendly and in good mood, or even interested in talking to you or answering any of your (stupid) questions. Tourists come from all over the world and it is very easy to strike conversations or at least have small talk with anyone. Public bathrooms and street vendors are equally crowded, but everything moves pretty quickly. Here I am with my son at a street vendor, taking a selfie while being photo-bombed by a kid in the background. Venice classic.
We are back on the autostrada going towards Slovenian border. Right at the border, we get stopped by Slovenian road police. What did we do wrong now? They were asking us for VIGNETTE, a car sticker for toll roads in Slovenia. So, in Italy and in Croatia you pay for toll roads on the spot, but here in SLOVENIA, you have to purchase this Vignette before you enter the country. We did not know about this, and the Slovenian lady cop, talking to me in Croatian was not going to buy any excuse. We had to pay a $ 150 Euros fine because we did not purchase Vignette at the gas station before we entered Slovenia. If Slovenians were nicer, they would sell it right there at the border instead of collecting this hefty fine.
We did exact same kind of thing traveling to Mexico in our car, drove in, without any car papers, and were stopped by Mexican military. They were a lot nicer there, because they explained to us was to go back to the border to buy all our papers and there was no fine! We just lost time, not money. If Slovenians were nicer! Needless to say, we did not stop anywhere in Slovenia, although I wanted to stop at Postojna, the great cave that hosts the coolest endemic human-like albino fish. This was my favorite field trip I remember going on as a kid. I was too mad at Slovenia…They must be making a fortune in fines! Slovenia’s president, if you are reading this, please make your country more welcoming place by allowing people to purchase their vignette at the border, in a nice little “Welcome to Slovenia Grill”?! Instead of charging them a fine, sell great Slovenian sausage and cheese there?! Add a Melania poster perhaps?!
Thank you, but no thank you Slovenia! I could not resist taking a selfie with the Slovenian lady road cop after she charged me 150 Euros fine and 30 Euros fee to get through Slovenia. Not everybody in Slovenia looks like Melania!