Triskaidekaphobia Confirmed

Sunday, March 13, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

3 MONTHS IN EUROPE, Day 13 (part 2)
Arrival in Venice, Italy.
Friends and family often try to convince me that my superstitions are unreasonable, that I am misinterpreting coincidences.  Yet when I wrote in my journal this morning that today was not only the 13th day of our journey but also March 13, fear and trepidation creeped into my head.  "Don't be silly," Ken admonished, "it's just a number."

When we quickly found a great place to plant a letterbox in Zurich this morning after seeking unsuccessfully all day yesterday, I began to relax a bit.  Then our train ride through the Swiss Alps provided one stunning view after another, much more scenic than the special Golden Pass route we had taken to Zurich from Interlaken a couple of days earlier.

I almost quit worrying about the 13s, and then when I looked out the train window at the snow capped mountains and later when we were able to catch an earlier train in Milan, saving an hour wait, I began question whether there was a possibility that two 13s might cancel each other out. 

No, they do not.  Yes, Virginia, there is a triskaidekaphobia, and you'd be wise to heed its warnings.  My list of proofs follows.  Think about it, Virginia.

1.  Train door malfunctioned.
When we arrived at the train station in Venice about 5:45 p.m., we could not get the door open to our train car.  We were the only passengers in our car by then and had to go back and through the conductors' car to leave the train.
2.  Directions to hotel were vague.

The meager directions we had to reach our hotel from the train station indicated that we should take vaporetto #2 (water bus) from the train station toward San Marco and get off at the San Samuele stop.  Line 2 had stops named San Marco at both ends of the line.  We selected the direction that included San Samuele as one of the stops, just two stops past the Rialto Bridge.

3.  The vaporetto didn't go to our stop.
When our vaporetto arrived at the Rialto stop, we noticed that all the passengers were leaving the boat except us.  When we were the only ones left, the conductor shooed us off, telling us Rialto was the end of the line.  "How do we get to San Samuele?" we asked.  "Sant' Angelo!" he replied, waving us away before we could inquire which line would take us to Sant' Angelo.  When we asked another conductor how to get to the stop for our hotel, she also told us Sant' Angelo and indicated we should take vaporetto #1.
Is any vaparetto going our way?
4.  Vaporettos have limited service on Sunday night in March.
After we arrived at the Sant' Angelo stop, we disembarked, thinking that we would catch a #2 boat from there to San Samuele.  Standing in the abandoned waiting area for #2, Ken read on a sign that the #2 only ran from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.  By then it was about 6:30.  We boarded the next #1 boat that came by and asked the conductor about getting to San Samuele.  "San Toma," he replied. 

5.  We had no map of Venice.
Very foolishly, we failed to get a map of Venice either before we arrived or at the train station.  Huge mistake!  Though whether having a map would have helped, we're not sure.

6.  Vaporettos stop on both sides of the canal.
Following the most recent directions from the latest conductor, we got off the boat at San Toma.  When we had asked him whether we would be able to take a vaporetto from there to San Samuele, he replied, "You can walk.  It's five minutes."  How he could mistake us for someone who actually knew what we were doing is a mystery.  He didn't mention that San Samuele was on the opposite side of the Grand Canal.  Nor did he enlighten us to the fact that there are very few places in Venice where one can just stroll across the Grand Canal on foot.

7.  We had no cell phone service.
By this time, we thought we would just phone the hotel and try to get their assistance.  As we soon discovered, we were not able to call.  Ken's phone battery was dead, and my phone was stuck in some vortex and kept indicating that it could not make a call.  I removed and replaced the battery, thinking it might be better later after the 15 minutes it takes to reboot.

8.  Most places in Venice are closed on Sunday nights.
Lest you think we could have walked into some shop and phoned the hotel, no.  Most places were closed.  We were walking around dark and mostly deserted streets, meeting other pedestrians only occasionally.  Many of them looked as lost as we were, even as they pored over their maps.

9.  Venetian "streets" comprise the world's most elaborate labyrinth.
Having no other feasible idea, we decided to try walking to the San Samuele vaporetto stop, from which the hotel website had assured, we would see the hotel "within 50 meters."  In any other city, we would have walked down the street next to the Grand Canal or down a parallel street and arrived at the stop with no problem.  On the other hand, in any other city we would have already tracked down a taxi to take us to the hotel. 

In Venice, however, there are no taxis except on the water and those can be hired only at a few places or by phoning a number we didn't have and would not have had a clue where to have the taxi pick us up.  We didn't know where we were.  And, of course, there was the problem of the cell phones...
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The hotel is definitely down one of these streets, but which one?
After we had walked a while, we began to feel great sympathy for lab rats.  Venetian streets— really just wide sidewalks between buildings since there is no vehicular traffic on the streets—change names every few feet, wind around like snakes, smack into walls, plunge into canals, or dead end at gates.  To walk in a straight line in one direction is impossible.

We walked and walked, in and out of the mazelike alleys, occasionally catching a glimpse of the Grand Canal and thinking we were maybe on the right track.  Then we found a rare open shop and asked for assistance.  "Oh," the proprieter exclaimed when we showed him the address of the hotel, "you're not in the right sestiere.  You're in Dosoduro; your hotel is in San Marco.  Just walk up the street here and turn right.  Then you go a ways until you see Accademia.  You can cross the canal there."

We tried to follow his directions as the streets wandered around curves and corners and eventually made it to a bridge which allowed us to cross the canal.  By this time, we were beginning to wonder whether we would be sleeping on the streets tonight.

Checking my cell phone, we discovered that it had finally finished rebooting and we were able to contact the hotel. 

"Oh yes," the desk clerk assured us, "you're just a few minutes away."  After some additional confusion caused by our trying to describe where we were and an additional call, she eventually stayed on the phone with us, giving us step-by-step directions to the hotel.

When we finally arrived, exhausted and soaked (did I forget to mention it was raining during this entire trek?), it had taken us two hours and several miles of walking to reach the hotel.  Google Maps estimates the distance at 0.8 miles.

Now you tell me.  Is the number 13 unlucky?
Note the lack of bright neon signs indicating hotels.