Eurolog IV: Murano, Burano, Dumbmano

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Burano

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Ah, another free breakfast in the hotel, and this time m’lady joined me.  We were seated at the first table and I wolfed down on any number of tiny breakfast hors d’oeuvres as m’lady ate almost nothing and a yoghurt.  We drank up all the coffee though, of that you can be sure.

M’lady had planned a fun excursion for us to a couple of neighbouring islands.  We looked at the water-bus schedule and saw that we’d be passing a cemetery island along the way so of course I insisted on a stop.

As usual, we window-shopped along the way.  M’lady found a place where she wanted to buy everything but we decided to check out the wares on the islands first, so on to the water-bus stop we went.

We found the stop okay and noticed that people were scanning passes before getting on the platform.  It looked very much like The Thing To Do.  It seemed like even our innocent neck-stretching peeks onto the platform looking for a ticket kiosk was probably felony trespassing, had we been eyed by the transit authority.

But we couldn’t find a place to buy tickets anywhere.

Eventually a helpful lady directed us to go over the next bridge, we would find tickets there.  And eventually we did, spotting a bank machine-style ticket-dispensing contraption where we bought day passes for the water-bus.  Then we set out to use them.

We were among the few that disembarked at the cemetery.  Suckers.  We were greeted by a sign that said no photography, no shorts, and no lots of other things too.  We put our cameras away and went in, compliant all-around.  

San Michele cemetery island

With much of Venice being an island I’m sure burying people six feet deep is a bit of a challenge so they stepped up to the challenge with the San Michele cemetery island, which must be at least a half-kilometre square.  There were vaulting mausoleums and walls of morgue-like graves, as well as many standard North American-style graves as well.  Several notables are buried in the island but there was one I was quite interested in paying my respects to: Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky.  

It took some time to find his grave despite the clear and numerous signs pointing the way.  I guess it’s because his tomb (and that of his wife who lies next to him) are so very plain.  Each was a slab of stone low to the ground containing just the name of the deceased in plain script and nothing more.  No dates, no homages to the composer’s greatness, nothing but the name: Igor Stravinsky.

We took no pictures, of course.

We hopped on the next water-bus and took it to Murano, an island famous for it’s glass making.  And boy, are they still into it.  Like, big time.  

After tucking into a few tourist shops (including one that prominently featured a sign – in four languages – that read, “You only want information – I only want half a euro”) and quickly found a nice place to stop for a beer.  It was a beautiful day so we sat out on the patio by the water and ordered a couple of local brews.  And – as is the local habit – with our beers they brought us a generous bowl of potato chips.  I love it!

After our leisurely break we sauntered until we found the glass museum.  We hummed and hawed and decided to go in.

It wasn’t the most interesting museum in the world but it laid a solid foundation that informed our afternoon of windowshopping around the island.  Certainly the few euros the museum charged for admission was well spent.  The self-guided walk through the beautiful old building began with a video loop on the history and different styles of glass in Murano.  Get this: clear glass was first invented in Murano!  There was a time when leaving the island without expressed permission would be considered treason, such was the local authorities interest in protecting Murano’s trade secrets.

Really, the building that housed the glass museum could have been a museum on its own.  It was a big, old, fancy house.  Every ceiling had a different painted motif on it, it was really quite a pad.  Out back they had a sarcophagus display with mini-tombs going back to the year 800.  Pretty cool.  

After the museum we then started cruising the glass shops in earnest.  There were a few touristy standards that you would find in 90% of the shops, but every shop had unique stuff.  Some of it was hugely expensive too, and all of it very awesome and ornate.  But how to get it home?

M’lady had read somewhere about Shop 52.  I hadn’t noticed but the shops were all numbered, so we walked along popping our heads into this shop and that shop but we were always on the lookout for Shop 52.  When we finally found it we found it had been closed down.

Murano

No worries, there were many more to pick from!  Though truth be told I think the main purchases were the two or three mini-monuments I bought for my rather extensive and long-standing collection.  Like, I have a mini Eiffel Tower, a mini Leaning Tower of Pisa, a mini Neuschwanstein Castle, oh, I got almost a hundred of the silly little things.  It’s pretty much the only souvenir I ever buy though, and one of the rules is they have to be less than $20 (oh, there are rules!).  Now I have a mini Saint Marks to add to the pile, and a mini Leaning Tower of Burano too.  

And speaking of segues, as soon as we found the afternoon beginning to wane we jumped ship and hopped the water-bus to the next island over: Burano.

The leaning tower of Burano

Which was a much nicer place really, and there were about 99% less glass shops.  The houses were all painted in bright colours and it looked extra magical as we meandered during the sunset, though it was a bit dark for the many pictures we took to do it justice.  There was a square (of course) with a church (of course) and we found a nice restaurant within sight of the church tower with a wonderful, friendly waiter.  We dined on the patio in the light of the twilight sun with the cobbled stones under our feet.  It was dreamy.

Our meal was good, and when we asked the the bill our waiter offered us complimentary shots of grappa, which is like tequila with an added kick.  Like I say: dreamy.

We swooned our way through the streets back to the water-bus stop where I almost made us miss our boat when in complete and utter consternation I kept trying in vain to scan my museum receipt instead of my water-bus pass.  If you saw the two pieces of paper I think you’d see that it’s not as stupid as it sounds.  I least I hope you would.  At the last possible moment I realized my mistake and frantically scanned the water-bus pass and leapt on the boat.

We ended up changing vessels on mainland Venice, our only stop after departing Burano.  We were only on solid ground for a moment though, just long enough to walk a few steps from our water-bus to the much bigger boat.  That boat carried us halfway around Venice back our ‘hood where we continued our swooning under the stars and the lights of the spectacular San Marco’s Square. 

On our short walk back to the hotel we had to push through a few guys touting us with free roses, but otherwise it was an excellent day in the books.  Again.

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