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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Big Sis in a Small World
Lake Garda & Venice, Italy

Driving in Italy is like driving in Texas. Not only do people overtake on both sides, refuse to use their indicators, and drive bumper to bumper, but all the truck drivers also honk their horns at females driving convertibles.

Horn honking aside, after leaving the thunderstorms in Verazze, I headed to Lake Garda to see what I'd missed as a result of my diversion...

The answer was not a lot. Many people had told me I must see Lake Garda, but (and I may be a lake snob here) I was very disappointed. It was full of tourist attractions and adventure parks, and too packed with people to make it beautiful. Admittedly, the clouds didn’t help the mountains shine through, but... well, give me Lake Tahoe or Crater Lake any day.

So after putting a brave face on the situation...

... I headed on to Venice. And Venice is as beautiful as everyone says it is. At least in the quiet, non-touristy parts of the city. In the famous bits (like St Mark’s square) it looks like all humans and pigeons are fighting for a place to take a picture...

And obviously I was one of them. Meanwhile, some of the gondola rides on the Grande Canale looked more like bumper boats, rather than relaxing or romantic trips along the river.

But the backstreets and the bits where the maps and tourist books don’t tell you to go are very beautiful.

After a few hours of walking, I enjoyed some sunbathing, before deciding I was Veniced out and it was time to head back to pick up my car. That was at 2:30pm. I didn't escape Venice until 5pm. It took me 2.5 hours to walk back to where I had begun my sightseeing.

Admittedly if I had followed the signs (and not stopped for photos), I probably could have found it a lot quicker, but after many human traffic jams, I eventually decided to take my own route back. Which would have been fine if all the streets and canals were on my map. Which they weren't. So instead, I started following the sun. Which also would have been fine if I hadn't ended up surrounded by tall buildings and unable to see it.

Anyway, I eventually escaped Italy and headed to Slovenia. Unusually, I had done some research, and discovered that I needed to pay a 15 Euro road tax entry. But as I came up to the border, there was a huge queue which seemed to consist of just lorries. So I followed the car queue. Which turned out not to be a queue, but just a lot of cars driving straight into Slovenia.

As I continued following them, I noticed they all had 'SLO' (for Slovenia, not Slow) on their number plates, and had a horrible feeling that I should have joined the lorry queue. I seriously regretted not including the Slovenian language as part of my research, and started to wonder what Slovenian jails were like...