Friday, June 29, 2007

My First Bill

Just when I was beginning to think that living in Venice was free (yeah, right), I finally got my first bill! It was for my internet service....much more important than electricity, etc. I am happy to report that bills in Italy are just as confusing as they are in America (aside from the language, of course). My bill is 6 pages long, double sided and breaks out in great detail my service from May 21 to the end of July (yes, July).

There are a variety of charges and credits. For instance, I was billed 37.50 for the initial connection fee but apparently they were having some sort of special going on, and I have been credited 45.00 for that! So, I actually made money by signing up for internet. :-)

The taxes here are just as outrageous as they are in the US. The only difference I see is that this is the one thing they dont itemize...there isnt a list of intrastate, blah, blah, blah, federal excise blah, blah, blah, etc. Instead, my bill has one line for the taxes...20.24!

Usually, when you get a bill, you go to the post office, stand in line, pay the bill and the fee to pay the bill (i.e. for the postal worker to process your bill) and then call it a day (literally). Instead, I have chosen that they bill my credit card. I figure I either pay a fee to Visa to process and dont stand in line all day or I pay a fee to some rude cashier type, get yelled at for some unknown reason and break out in a sweat. I think I would rather pay Visa!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The New Me

Some decisions require alot of thought. Contrary to popular opinion, my decision to move to Venice actually took a long time. On the other hand, some decisions are best made on the fly. The decision to cut and color my hair is one of those! One of my new friends used to be a hairdresser in her previous life. She doesnt advertise this because I guess everyone wants her to do their hair. She has a great head of hair and I asked where she goes as it has been about 10 weeks and my mop needed some serious grooming. She said she has been dying to ask if she can cut and color my hair?! So, within a matter of minutes, we are at the store buying the supplies and I now have a new 'do. I lost about 2-3 inches of hair and picked a color a few shades darker than my natural color. The gray is all gone which is probably the biggest change. Another last minute decision was to forgo any highlights because this was enough change for one hour! Other than that, my only decision for the day was what flavor gelato to have......

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Update on Mr. Peabody

Thank you to everyone who asks about Mr. P. I have given him another name (Lazarus, since he was raised from the dead!). He is doing really well. He has gained some weight which is something he hasnt been able to do for over 3 years and is starting to play again. Although he doesnt particularly care for an entire house of marble floors--no traction allowed so he wipes out alot! Today he was feeling particularly frisky and we were playing on the stairs. He may only have 1 or 2 lives left but he sure is a great friend to me here in Venice!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


One of the big reasons I chose Venice as my new home for this year was because its an island and therefore no cars. I was (and am) truly exhausted from commuting in America for years and years. So, for the most part, I enjoy walking to my destination. The island is small enough that you can traverse from one side to the other (if you have to) in about 30-45 minutes. This is a nice feature, unless of course, you are carrying bags and are about to embark on your journey. Then it becomes a bit annoying--I try to think of the arm muscles I am building!

However, there is an option to get from A to B without walking and that is the Vaporetto (water bus) system. I wont even begin to lie and say it is quicker because it truly isnt as you stop at every bus stop along the way, etc. However, if you are tired or dont feel like carrying your bags around, the water bus is the way to go.

Now, getting on a bus is easy...they run an extremely tight schedule. Its probably the one thing in Venice that you can count on (other than daily siesta time!). There are numerous stops along the island in both directions, some boats even make less stops than others, some just circle the outside of the island (like the 101 freeway in Phoenix!), some run only in the early morning when there is more traffic from people trying to get to work, etc. So you see, its really like any other commuter city.

The drawback is the cost. Tickets for the boats are just plain outrageous. 6 euros for a one hour ticket, 13 euros for a 12 hour ticket, etc. The natives pay a flat rate of about 300 euros a year and they can ride whenever they want, etc by just flashing their pass. This includes the buses that go to the mainland as well as those that go to the other islands nearby. For those of us not citizens of Venice (at least not in the eyes of paperwork), we have the option of paying 26 euros a month for a card that allows us to then only pay 1 euro for a bus trip. This doesnt seem like such a bad idea if you truly use the boat system on a regular basis (to at least get your 26 euros worth). But so far, I havent done that and thus, I havent made the purchase.

So, of course, the question is do I pay 6 euros each time I get on? And the obvious answer is No! There are a few bus stops where they station workers to check your ticket stubs before you get on, but the rest of them are pretty much open. Because at each bus stop at each time you literally have tons of locals and tourists getting on and off, its a nightmare to check each person. This would severely delay the time schedule. People get on and off in hords--far from orderly. I certainly dont like to cheat the system, but I have. I just pick the bus stop that doesnt have checkers and I walk on with the hords of people and get my ride. I dont do this all the time, but I have done it. Its not that I dont want to pay, but 6 euros is ridiculous. When I was here at Christmas is was 5 euros and when I was here 5 years ago, it was 2 euros. So, at this rate, it will soon cost 20 euros to get on!

By 2009, they are switching from these paper tickets to a bar code system where you have to swipe your card/ticket in order to get through the turnstyle. This will apparently alleviate the freeloaders like myself.

There are plenty of warnings posted on the vaporettos telling you that if you dont have a ticket when you get on, tell someone immediately to make the purchase. If you dont and get caught, its a 40 euro fee on top of the ticket price. Yesterday, I went to the Lido for coffee and market with a friend and I tempted the vaporetto dice and lost. I was on my last stop when 3 guys walked on who worked for the company. They were on their way to the Lido to do their shift of checking tickets (one of the places where they are usually posted). For some reason, these 3 men decided to do a surprise check of all the people on the boat. And, of course, I failed to produce a ticket! It wasnt the fear of the 46 euros that got me, it was the fear of being yelled at or thrown overboard or whatever it is they do with low life like me. But in the end, I paid my 6 euros to the grumpy man, withstood a tonguelashing and went on my way. Lesson learned...maybe!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Electricity in Venice

OK....any of us who have traveled to Europe know how easy it is to blow a fuse or trip a switch here. Which is why I have been trying to be very careful and very un-American in my habits of leaving lights on and/or using too many things at once.

So, last Sunday, just before 4 guests arrived (and one that was already here), the light in the bathroom blew out. I tried to change the lightbulb but to no avail. Being as it was Sunday, there was no way it was getting fixed that day. So, we all fiddled around in dark that night. The next day I ran into my realtor and asked if she could call the handyman.

By Wednesday, I still hadnt seen or heard from anyone to fix the problem. I can tell you that it is less than amusing to not have a light when you need one. But we managed and just chalked it up to a cultural experience! Wednesday evening while we were strolling around, I ran into the realtor and she told me the handyman will be there Thursday afternoon.

So, from noon onward, I sat in my apartment waiting for the handyman (his name is Guido). This struck me as funny because we do exactly the same thing in America...just sit and wait--confined and imprisoned in your own home. Well, he didnt show up until 6pm (at which point I had already decided it wasnt going to happen that day). He told me my light bulb was burned out and put in a new one. I had already done this task but, of course, when he put in a new one, it worked. And he gave me some song and dance about not buying my lightbulbs from a particular store, blah blah, blah.

Knowing full well this was not the case, but no ammunition to keep him longer, he left. About 2 hours later, the light went out again (go figure). So, we spent another night in the dark bathroom. I ran into the realtor again in the morning and she said she would call Guido.

This time, Guido shows up at noon (thank goodness), does some electrical testing and then finally believes that I am not a dumb blonde who doesnt know how to change a lightbulb. He fiddles for a while, talks to himself in Italian with questions fully expecting the light to answer, and then looks at his watch! Uh oh, I think...1230pm--that means siesta time and I am cutting into his! But instead, he puts a metal plier like object into the mechanism (gets a nice little shock and then turns the switch off) and bends some of the connectors. Lo and behold, it works! As he is packing everything up, the light starts to flicker and he again asks it (i.e. the light) why?

Changing lightbulbs again (this time with one that was in his bag), the flickering stops. Its at this point I notice that my light bulb is 100 watt and his is 60 (and the irony of it being a GE lightbulb is not lost on me!). I point this out and he tells me that this is the problem because it is too hot, blah blah blah. So, he is happy with the work and tells me if there are any other problems, he will just replace the entire mechanism.

By now, Guido is sweating up a storm (it is insanely humid here during the middle of the day), we chat a bit about his wife and his other job and how great the water is out of the tap in Venice (as I offer him another glass). Then, he puts on his Cuban cigar looking hat, bows to me, and gives me a hearty Ciao goodbye!

I am amused by all of this because as I sit here and think of what happened, it really had absolutely nothing to do with the electrical capacity in Venice. Had I been at home in the US, I bet I would have figured it all out on my own because I would have left behind the preconceived notion that it was all the lights fault!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Wallet, Part 2

Ok...doing the right thing in a country plagued by illegal activities is a daunting task. Monday morning, I made my way to the bank to see if they could look up the identity of the person who belonged to the wallet I found. I figured they could call her, give her my number and we can call it a day--she gets her money and wallet and I get a warm fuzzy.

But no. Walking into the bank I pull a my ticket number (240) and notice they are serving number 190!!!! So, I take a seat (by the way--completely amazed that there are seats as it is next to impossible to sit ANYWHERE in Venice). I notice that people are doing crossword puzzles, etc. so I imagine they have gone through this before. I watch the different tellers and their demeanor. I have chosen the one I would like to get, because he seems friendly and helpful to everyone. I really hope I dont get this woman who has a permanent scowl on her face.

It didnt take as long as I thought--about 45 minutes later, my number is called and lucky me, I get the meany. With my heart racing (expecting to get yelled at just like if I was at the grocery store), I tell her I dont speak much Italian but I found this wallet and would like her to help me return it. Heavy sigh.....she puts in the account number and it clearly comes up on the screen but she informs me that without written approval from the owner, she is not able to contact her. In theory, this makes sense, but under the circumstances, I think this woman would be OK with a random call from her bank. But no, I am told to go to the police.

Ok....two people have now told me to go to the police now. Against every grain in my body, I walk over to one of the offices. This guy talks to me through a glass window and I tell him my story (in Italian with my standard clause of not speaking much) and he asks me if I have an appointment?! Why on Gods green earth would I have an appointment to go to the police department? What a moron. This time it is me who does the heavy sigh. He refuses to speak to me in English which angers me because I am certain that the police have to know English for their job. After a few 'no capito' from me, he calls someone else over who opens the door, we repeat the above conversation and he asks me if it is my wallet? 'Are you listening to me', is what I am thinking but, of course, it is the police so I bite my tongue. I go to reach inside the wallet to show the ATM card that is in there to help explain and I thought he was going to backhand me--apparently, I was touching the evidence and this is a no-no. Finally, he asks for my ID and I give him my passport and show him the VISA so he knows that I live here. He tells me to sit over there and wait.

So, as I am sitting, I am thinking this isnt good. This guy has my passport and the wallet and I am about to get arrested for something and no one is ever going to hear from me again! But after about 10 minutes he comes out, asks me where I found the wallet and then disappears again. 5 minutes later he comes back with 2 pieces of paper and he wants me to sign them.

I ask him what they are and he tells me they are are in Italian---yeah, no s**t, I can see that! (I know as you read these stories, you guys are thinking I am making this up, but I really am not that creative!) So, anyway, I browse the papers and they are 2 of the same listing the contents of the wallet and something to the effect that by verbal documentation, I gave him the wallet, blah blah blah. He asks me why I have a US passport when I was born in Germany and I figured this was the end of me. But I managed to get him to understand and he seemed satisfied. He has no interest in my VISA and thinks I am tourist who will soon be out of his hair.

I sign the papers, he signs the papers, I get one, he gets one and I ask if he wants my number or something. With a big smile, he says "No, why would I....I will take care of this". So, I am pretty darn sure that Mr. Policeman and his buddies had a nice dinner or drinks last night with this girls 140 euros.

No returned wallet/money for her and no warm fuzzy for me. Oh time I find a wallet, I am just going to leave it there and let the next person deal with it!

Pedicure and Power Tools

So, today was my big appointment to get a pedicure and eyebrow waxing at the salon recommended to me when I first arrived in May. This was the first available appt. so I had high hopess of a good service. And, compared to that other pedicure (most painful experience my feet have ever had), it was good. But oh so different than anything that happens in the US.

First, you go into this room about the size and dimension of a coffin. Sitting in a chair and facing your technician with the walls inches away is a bit disconcerting. There is no place to look or go in case of an emergency! It didnt hurt at all which is the good thing, but I can honestly say when the power tools came out and on, I panicked! Never before has someone used an electrical tool on my toes and feet! I am not squeemish, but I had to look away. There just isnt any way you can watch this going on in addition to the noise (similar to a dental drill)! I am truly amazed it didnt hurt.

The eyebrow waxing turned out to not be a waxing at all but manual labor plucking. You stay in the same chair sitting up after the pedicure and she comes at you with the tweezers, pushes your head back like it has some sort of flip top action to it and gets busy. Now that hurts! Its not a bad job for what and how she did it, but it definitely doesnt compare to a waxing.

They could learn so much from the Vietnese gals back home!

So, there it next appointment is July 19! :-)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Neighbors

The nature of living in Venice is that you see your neighbors all the fact, you see more of them than you probably want. Looking out your window implies looking into your neighbors apartment....there just isn't any way around it.

When I look out the windows of my kitchen and/or bedroom, I look across the way (50 feet maybe) into another building that has (as best as I can tell) only 2 families living there at the moment.

The ground floor (our first floor) is some sort of construction shop or storage place and the guys show up like clockwork Monday to Friday around 730am. They talk, sing, laugh, make manly construction noises and then go home.
But on the first floor (our second floor) is Old Lady Venice (as I call her). She dutifully pours out 2 extra large bottles of water from each of her windows onto the ground below each and every day. At first, I thought she was providing water on the ground for the construction guys (everyone in Venice cleans their front walk with water and a broom), but when she kept doing this on the weekends I ran out of ideas. I guess its just something she has always been doing and not wanting to break any superstitious law, she continues to pour water.

Above Old Lady Venice is the transplanted Asian family. Their dinner table is situated right in front of the window and I often see the slightly overweight husband eating his dinner without a shirt on. They do lots and lots of laundry in the Asian doesnt look like there are children based on the clothes I see hanging on the line between our buildings. But at least I know they are clean. However, probably the most intersting part about Asian family is how they have managed to bring some of their home traditions into Venice. As you can see from the picture, they prefer to cook their own chickens and cure them in the window!

There really isnt any place in the world like Venice! I am continually amazed and humored by my little island.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mr. Peabody and the wallet

Never a dull moment in Venice. Today I got the urine results back on the cat. Through a translator, I found out that Mr. P has a bacteria infection and that needs to be cleared up before we can do more tests. Its seems that the vet doesn't think this is the cause of his near death experience last week. And while my vet in Phoenix always thought he had hyperthyroidism, the tests would never confirm. Those same tests give the same results in Italy (thank goodness for some consistency). Everything is 'normal'. I picked up his antibiotics at that people pharmacy again....I am wondering if the pharmacists have to study both people and pet health to be able to do their job???? So, Mr. P is so much better, happier, playing and eating and we will take what we get with his 16 years.

Also, today on our walk home, I found a wallet lying on a bridge. This in itself is amazing. Consider over 150,000 people wandering around a small island all running into each other and pushing and shoving to get to their photographic moment before the next guy does--and I am the one to find this wallet!? Wanting to do the right thing, I rifled through it looking for some ID....what I found was about 140 in euros, some train tickets worth about 25-30 euros and a Bancomat card (ATM). I tried to reach the bank but this particular branch is closed on Friday. Couldn't find her name in the phone book so who knows where she lives in Italy. My realtor suggested I go turn it in at the police. Normally, this would seem like the thing to do, but I dont have a high level of trust with the police and I would rather not see them pocket the money. So, I will attempt to visit the bank on Monday and use my broken Italian to do my good deed. I am sure this gal is just feeling terrible about her loss...wish I could find her today but she will just have to wait until next week....once again proving that nothing moves quickly in Italy!

The Opera

Well, for the first time in my life, I attended the opera on Thursday evening. It was the Barber of Seville. Not knowing the story in english certainly makes listening to them sing it in Italian that much more difficult. To be honest, I probably got 5 words during the entire 2 1/2 hours!! They handed out a sheet (in english) at the beginning to give a synopsis of the show. It was such a soap opera, convuluted story that I am not sure it helped me any. But I did enjoy it nonetheless.

To be in a building that is several hundred years old with major artwork all around you and people singing opera in period style clothing is just something that one cant help but enjoy, regardless of the language.

Of course, I now know where the song Figuero comes from! The Barber was actually very good in his role--expressive and quite the voice. I have to admit, however, that the only other time I heard the song Figuero being sung was by Bugs Bunny in one of his cartoons!

So, there you have it, I am by no means an afficianado or even a little bit cultured but I can highly recommend a visit to the opera if you have a chance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I have been scarred for life by this experience and it is only now, 5 days later, that I can talk about it with you!

I went to Panorama, which is a takeoff of a Super WalMart on the mainland. They have a free bus from the island to entice the locals to go. I made a purchase of a microwave and a telephone. The microwave was supposed to be 39 euros and the telephone 19 euros. At the cash register, I was given some sort of discount on the microwave and it totaled to 27 euros while the telephone totaled 42 euros! Since the two adjustments almost cancelled each other out, I didnt notice until after I paid and was on the bus home. Oh well....

Back at home, the telephone that I was given was losing it's charge after about 5 minutes of talking,which is why I purchased a new one. When I shared that information, I was told that this is some special feature on their phones to remind you that you have been talking for 5 minutes (apparently it costs alot to be on the phone here and you need help staying off!). If you just push this little button, you get to talk for as long as you want...ok, whatever..I'm not even going to ask.

So, I go back to Panorama to return my telephone and in my broken Italian I explain to the service desk my dilemma. She sends me back to electronics where they ring up some receipt and send me back to the service desk where she prints out my credit of 42 euros on a receipt. As much as I can understand of the conversation and the writing on the paper, I have 60 days to use this credit and can only use it at this store....makes sense....lets go shopping!

I purchase 21 euros of items and stand in line at the checkout....keep in mind, I am now trained like a Pavlovian dog to expect something horrible to happen at the checkout line. Not to be disappointed, I got the heavy sigh when I handed over my credit paper. She informed me (rather overtly) that I had to in fact, spend the entire 42 euros in one sitting and that I couldnt get 21 euro credit after todays purchase. I cant even fathom this being an option let alone the rule, so I argue for a bit...she looks for people to speak English (even though I understand perfectly what she is saying), and the people in line behind me are patiently and unpatiently waiting.

At one point, I thought she was going to give in, but instead, she grabbed my bag of belongings and took them out one by one and out of reach from me and started to serve the next person in line! The extent of rudeness at the cashier line never ceases to amaze me. When you think you have seen and experienced it all, they one up you!

Well, I gave in, gave some snide remarks in English and paid her the 21 euros. As my way of getting back, I handed her a 100 euro bill and no change (just to tick her off!) I truly didnt know whether to be angry or just laugh. I chose the latter but I kid you not that my adrenaline starts to pump every time I get close to a cashier. Its a horrible feeling and it boggles the mind that this type of behavior goes on and is condoned. I am all about embracing the culture, but this event is beyond comprehension.

So, I have about 55 days now to use my 42 euros credit....I can hardly wait to go back to Panorama and get abused again!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Vet

What a long weekend. Left the apartment Thurday morning for a bit of sightseeing and was home a few hours later only to find my cat acting more than bizarre. He was dazed, walking funny and wouldnt raise his head (his nose was touching the floor). I thought perhaps he fell but didnt seem to be in any pain. Checking on him periodically throughout the day, he just seemed to worsen. So, I scrambled to find a vet on the island (very mad at myself because I should have done this before). Was up at the crack of dawn to walk to the other side of the island to verify that a recommendation of a vet actually existed and where it was. One hour round trip walking to and from. She only takes appointments but called pretty quick and told me to show up at 1030am.

Putting a cat in a container of any sort is not pleasant. Putting a sick one in even less so. The loud meowing caused me to get 'caught' by my realtor with the cat (he didnt know I brought him), so that jig is up! Traipsing across the island with a cat on your back in a backpack type container is stressful enough but add some humidity and worry, and you can just feel and hear the pounds falling off of you.

The vet speaks very little English and me, very little Italian. So, I got on the phone and had a translator for most of the visit. Blood tests, exams, IV's, and 2 hours later we are free to go. Perhaps Mr. P is having mini strokes and has some kidney trouble is the diagnosis. Bring a urine sample on Monday and we will see.....

Saturday, the cat is basically on his death bed....barely functioning. Many prayers later, Sunday afternoon rolls around and Mr. P is up and behaving like normal (well normal for him anyway). I truly cant believe it!

So now its Monday and I carried that urine sample with me all over Venice waiting for the vet to call and tell me she was in. Finally, I had my 'translator' call and she said to come by around 230pm. We get the results on Thursday.

The interesting part is his Rx...some potassium and amino acids which you purchase at the local people pharmacy--the boxes say for dogs and cats only! I dont yet know what to think of this--I guess I will worry about it if and when I have to get an Rx there!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Wedding

So, today my realtor got married. He and his bride went to the equivalent of the justice of the peace, but I was invited nonetheless. We went to the 4th floor of an old palazzo (palace) on the Grand Canal...what a treat since the general public doesnt get this opportunity. The view was fantastic. The ceremony was very casual and happy, lasting all of 15 minutes from beginning to end. I have noticed that simplicity is the norm here and I have a different perspective on American weddings now.

Obviously, I have not gone through an American wedding first hand but I know enough to know that it costs alot and creates much stress. There are no engagement rings with 2 carat diamonds--in fact, I havent even seen an engagement ring. The wedding rings in general for both are just simple gold bands--no platinum, etc. Here, the man can pull out a suit from a few years ago, change the tie, and the bride can buy a dress in the local store, pick up some flowers at the store along the way and they are ready to be married! They also walk to the place they are getting married (which is actually more fun because then the whole city knows what is happening!), take some pictures, say your I do's and then walk to a local osteria (bar) and drink prosecco (champagne like drink) while standing in a square. Probably costs $1000 at the most! So, all the money you save can go toward a nice honeymoon trip or something for your new home--another nice advantage. My realtor is heading off for 2 weeks in Malaysia!

Simplicity really is where its at....being in America, you have no idea how caught up you are in the marketing frenzie of bigger, better, faster. You lose track of your relationships and family because you are too busy going and doing or too broke because you are buying and paying. I sure hope I dont lose this perspective and I sure hope that America can figure it out soon.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Jordan and Syria

For those of you planning to do some world traveling and expecting to go to Jordan and/or Syria, I have some interesting news for you. Thanx to my friend Gerry, I now know that my blog is banned in Jordan but available for review in Syria. Who would have thought that little ol me would be banned!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Lido Market

Had another nice treat of my newfound friends invited me to the Lido (beach island) where she lives to experience the market that happens there every Tuesday. This is an open air market of just about anything you could want (except non aerosol hairspray, of course!). If I had to guess, I would say it is close to 1/2 mile long and just filled with vendors selling clothes, cheese, vegetables, plants, household goods, and best of all, SHOES! They are so cheap there....boy, am I in trouble. I didnt buy any today but I imagine I will have to go back to the market and check it out in never knows when one will HAVE to buy a pair of shoes.

I found out some insight to the whole cashier/exact change issue. But this was after my latest run in with them. When you go to the grocery store, you have to put a euro coin in in order to get a shopping cart unlocked (you get the coin back when you put the cart back). So, I had to go to the store and only had some 50 cent pieces and a 2 euro coin. Knowing this in advance, I stopped in a few stores along the way to the grocery store (Billa) asking for change. Do you think anyone would give me 2 euro coins for 1 two euro coin? Absolutely not. Not only would they not give me change but they felt the need to express what a cardinal sin it was that I ask such a feat of them. It was so surreal that it was almost funny. So, here I am now in Billa and need to ask a cashier for change to get the cart (what I really should have done is just go home and shop another day!). I ask the one who looks the nicest (hard to tell because they never smile) and she reads me the riot act--arms flailing all over, pointing to her cash register, blah, blah, blah. Well, being amused was not an option at that point and I pretty much rolled my eyes at her, said 'whatever' in a condescending tone and demanding the two coins. I got them! I didnt feel good about it...shouldnt have to be so rude for such a silly thing--in fact, what I really wanted to do was rant and rave at her and give her a piece of my mind (which we all know I can do quite well), but I figured she would only be receiving the wrath of the 6 other people who ticked me off earlier. So, I shopped instead.

Now, today, I asked my new friend about this change nazi issue and she laughed, knowing exactly what I meant. She said that when the cashiers open their registers in the morning (she has a friend who works at Billa), they only have one coin of each denomination!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, handing out change is a big deal because they might run out of coins. When asked why they dont start out with a roll of each coin, the standard answer was 'because we have always done that'. So, there it is...mystery solved. Guess I will just have to get used to this phenomenon and build more of a backbone for the verbal beatings I will be taking.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Many of you have seen either in person or in the movies all of the pigeons in St. Marks Square. This is truly the only place that I am aware of where disgusting, disease carrying, filthy, health hazard rodents are a tourist attraction! They start to make their appearance early in the morning (upon seeing the first human walk by) in hopes of getting some breakfest grub. By 11am, the Square is filled with tourists and piccioni (pigeons)....and I do mean filled. Then when the sun goes down and the people start dissipating to their respective hotels, the birds go somewhere (its a mystery to all mankind) to sleep off a hard days work. And the cycle continues daily--there are no holidays for these birds. Day in and day out they ascend on St Marks to feed and avoid the possibility of getting stepped on--or worse--picked up by a seagull overhead for an afternoon snack!!

Most people gladly give away their 1 euro fee for a bag of unpopped popcorn and start out tossing a few kernels on the ground, laughing in delight when numerous birds flock their way. Those more daring, put the kernels in their hands and outstretch their arms waiting for the pigeons to fly up and eat out of their hand....this, of course, causes some sort of bird frenzy and next thing you know, they are all over this person from head to toe pecking and jockeying for food. This is the point where most girls squeal with fear and exhiliariation at their predicament and then take off running to escape certain death ala The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock. Once to freedom, they open their bag of kernels and repeat so that family and friends can see and snap pictures. Pour, run and repeat until bag is empty.

This rite of passage is one that I have yet to participate in. I have less than zero interest in letting some filthy animal crawl over me while I provide him or her with food. I dont get it. However, I have been asked to take pictures over the years in my visits for those people who just HAVE to do this because 'when in Rome'....and I oblige because I certainly wouldnt want to deny anyone their opportunity to experience a good Hitchcock moment!

Over time, there has been a legend that has been created that having a pigeon poop on you is good luck. Probably created by the same people who sell the unpopped popcorn as a marketing ploy. However, today, away from the Square I was dive bombed by a pigeon and hit on my right thigh, full bladder. Lovely shades of green, white and black all over my clothes, legs, purse and bag. The best part is that I didnt notice it right away nor that it even happened. So I had plenty of time to walk around spreading it amongst my belongings before becoming aware. I wish I could have seen how this bird managed to poop at a 90 degree angle from my leg to hit me just so, but nonetheless, he or she did. Still waiting for my lucky event and you will be the first to know what it is!