Life in the Big(ger) City: Carnevale in Venice

Just another ordinary day in Venice…

In case you haven’t noticed, I love travelling. Not only have I chosen to spend a year living abroad (or rather chosen to do a languages degree which is essentially the same thing) but I’m also spending as much time as possible travelling, rather than staying in the countries where I’m nominally spending my year abroad. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, especially as the languages department seem to think that my main aim this year is to learn German and Russian, while I think that it’s never to go three weeks without leaving the country, but it certainly makes for good article fodder.

Anyway, the story into which that rather long, rambling introduction leads is that I spent last Saturday in Venice. Venice is one of my favourite cities in the world, the evidence for this being that this was my third trip there, and I normally make it my policy never to visit the same place twice – there are just too many other places to see! But, just in case I needed an excuse to go, it was Carnevale. This festival, which lasts from late February to early March, is notable mostly for giving a purpose to the hundreds of intricately decorated masks made and sold to unsuspecting tourists year-round. During Carnevale (yes, it does just mean “carnival”, but I feel more intelligent when I use the Italian word!), masked and costumed figures will appear out of nowhere and pose for your photos, without charging you anything for the privilege. (Forgive my cynicism; I’m used to getting ripped off!) Its original purpose was to bring people from different social classes closer together, as the masks hid their identities, but now it’s just an excuse for a good party!

And speaking of parties, what better way to get over my hatred of public transport than by partying on a train? It takes twelve hours to get from Vienna to Venice, and while most people would at least attempt to sleep for most of the journey, the ESN office decided that sleep was for the weak, and provided us with a “party wagon”. Drinks were free for the duration of the journey, and some people seemed determined to recoup the cost of the trip in alcohol – vodka for breakfast anyone? The party wagon was also the one time in which the inevitable sticky floor actually served a purpose, to stop you falling over when the train turned a corner sharply. Unfortunately, most people’s drinks did not survive these sharp corners, and some people ended up wearing more drinks than they consumed – not good when you haven’t brought a change of clothes! Still, it was certainly an experience, and the alcohol helped me to actually get some sleep on the train, despite the drunken girls in the next compartment who seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with the song “Duck Sauce”. Guess what I’ll be singing for the next week…

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