It is our first night in Innsbruck, Austria, yet the Michigan Ambassadors of Music must retire early, for tomorrow is our trip to Venice, Italy.
We wake up early, excited for our day.Showers done and ready to go, we head down to breakfast. The group eats quickly, anxious for our journey to begin. Once everyone is done, there is a final check to be sure that everyone has his or her passport. Then, we board the buses for our four-hour trip to the City of Bridges. The bus is noisy at first, with all of the chatter and excitement for what is to come. It soon quiets down, however, and we begin to watch the beautiful Austrian, and very soon Italian, countryside pass by. Before we know it, we are almost there. We wait for maybe half an hour for the ferry to arrive to take us from the mainland to the heart of the city. Once aboard the vessel, the magic of Venice grabs you, and refuses to let you go. The ferry powers through the water, carrying the eager musicians to the dock awaiting us on the other side. The briny smell of the salt water, the call of the sea birds, the sea spray tingling on your face, the sun shining down – all elements combine and tease the senses, beckoning you closer. Then, all of a sudden, we are at the dock and departing the ferry. The group splits up – we are given maps and a meeting place, told to be back here at 4:00 PM.
My friends and I quickly walk for a few blocks and arrive in St. Mark’s Square. The scene is amazing – the giant square, filled with hundreds of people, several vendors hawking their wares, and countless pigeons, greets our eyes. We wander through, stopping to look at the little trinkets that are being sold, passing by St. Mark’s Church and the bell tower on our way through. Beyond the square, away from the throngs of enthusiastic tourists, we discover a quaint fountain dancing joyfully in the sun. We stop here for a moment to decide where to go next. Looking at the map, we notice that there is a glass factory nearby, and decide to stop for a visit. The Vecchia Murano Glass Factory is just a few blocks away from St. Mark’s Square, so it doesn’t take us long to get there. We arrive and begin our tour. When we first enter, a magnificent green glass horse welcomes us in. Past the horse, a glass blowing demonstration is given. The skill and grace with which the artist creates a vase, a glass ornament, a set of glass birds, is amazing. Our group then heads upstairs, to the main gallery. So many beautiful glass objects, all lit from behind, glimmer and shine, everything trying to catch your eye at once. I purchase a few vases for my mother and aunts.
We then head back outside, and make our way to the harbor area. As we cross a bridge heading back to the docks, I notice the Bridge of Sighs to my left. The beautiful white structure, gleaming in the sun, spans the canal so gracefully that I do not want to leave. I must, however, as our next experience awaits – a gondola ride. We walk among the docks, finally stopping at one to haggle a decent rate out of the gondolier. Once satisfied, we step aboard. The gondolier pushes back off of the post, and we are on our way. We work our way to the mouth of the canal, passing under the Bridge of Sighs as we do so. Gliding through the water, seemingly skimming on the surface, he guides us through the city, showing us the most intimate and intrinsic details of the city that he calls home. He agilely bends as we come to a bridge with not much room between it and the water. I scarcely dare to breathe, lest he misjudge the distance and be knocked into the water, but there is no reason for me to fear. He knows what he is doing and we soon pass safely beneath the bridge. He charmingly sings us a melody as he smoothly poles around boats, posts, and other gondolas. Soon, too soon, we arrive back at the harbor area where our trip began. We depart with many thanks to the gondolier for such a great time.
There is a little time left before we have to meet back up with the group, so we go to a vendor that is selling gelato and purchase a small dish to enjoy before our day is over. We rest against a pillar next to St. Mark’s Square, savoring the sweet treat and reflecting over the day. As the time for our departure rolls around, we make our way back to the meeting place and join the rest of our tour group. We once again board the ferries, but this time it is to return to the buses that will transport us back to the mountains of Austria. Once back to the mainland and on the bus, everyone soon either dozes off or stares at the scenery passing by. The hours fly by, and it seems to be just a few minutes later that we are pulling up outside of our hotel. We slowly unload the buses and climb the stairs to our rooms, where we almost instantaneously fall into our beds and surrender ourselves to sleep. Dreams of glass horses and gondola rides fill our heads. It has been a long day, but surely one that none of us will ever forget.
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