The trouble with travelers like us is, before we even arrive at the destination, we already form a romanticised idea of the place from the scores of books we've read and other people's opinions. We often fill our mind with useless clutter like that.
When I was on the train to Venice, I had imagined visiting one of the most enchanting places in Europe. Afterall, Venice or Venetia (which instantly sounds more romantic) is also known as La Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic and city of canals and palaces.
Often described as a place that's achingly beautiful with a rich history to match, it was no surprise to find the streets so tightly packed with tourists. Instead of feeling enchanted, I felt suffocated by the hordes of people weaving past me, as if they were hurrying to get to San Marco square or vying for a place on the Rialto Bridge.
It was, all at once, too touristy for my liking. I thought something was wrong with me, maybe it was the lack of greenery or I was homesick by now, I just couldn't fathom why I was unappreciative of its beauty like the people around me.
Venice is a strange city. While it's sardine-packed on the main square and streets during the day, come night time after the day trippers had left, the city suddenly turns 'melancholic'. I couldn't find the right word to describe that eerie feeling until yesterday when I came across Elizabeth Gilbert's musing in her book, Eat Pray Love. Like me, she thinks Venice is a sad, melancholic place.
As the streets turn quiet at night, the decaying and scruffy-looking buildings groan and creak with the tide, sending shivers down my spine. The city is slowly sinking, you see. Now I can suddenly relate to that heart wrenching Chinese song Venice's Tears by Yong Pang.
That evening, I spent my time wandering through the innards, eschewing the popular alleys, often getting lost and finding myself at the watery dead-ends. There was no pleasure in getting lost in Venice, I was spooked and frustrated. I ended up buying a map which didn't help me very much.
I was glad to meet up with my friend Francesco the following day. With a local to show me around, the history suddenly came alive and the city became more charming. He knew all the secret nooks and crannies and brought me to tiny trattories where we feasted on the freshest and cheapest seafood and downed aperitif and vino like the locals.
After dinner, we sat on the jetty, watching the vaporetto (water taxi) jetting along the canals while munching on the succulent nectarines that I bought from the local market.