Author Topic: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy  (Read 11676 times)

Offline shlonx

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #30 on: October 13, 2015, 04:11:16 PM »
were the tours in hebrew or english?

They were in Hebrew, and I translated for my wife.
Brevity may be the soul of wit, but floridity is its spirit.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #31 on: October 13, 2015, 07:38:49 PM »
Wow, quite the first TR! I really enjoyed the plethora of pictures. Looking forward to the rest.

Offline Chapshnell

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #32 on: October 14, 2015, 05:49:34 PM »
Nice TR, keep it coming

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #33 on: October 14, 2015, 06:45:54 PM »
Just got a chance to read this. Really, really enjoyable. Your writing style and the quality and amount of pictures really helps make it great. Thanks for taking the time to put it together, I know how hard it is to do. Keep it coming!

Offline tzifanya54

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #34 on: October 14, 2015, 11:40:34 PM »
Just got a chance to read this. Really, really enjoyable. Your writing style and the quality and amount of pictures really helps make it great. Thanks for taking the time to put it together, I know how hard it is to do. Keep it coming!
+1
What he ^ said. Thanks

Offline shlonx

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #35 on: October 15, 2015, 05:22:50 PM »
Monday morning, we packed up and checked out, and boarded the tour bus to Venice, arriving there around noon. The bus stopped in the parking lot at the edge of the city, and we headed in. Right near the parking lot, there is a market with a bunch of stalls, all selling more or less the same items, but for much cheaper than the stalls and stores inside of Venice. The cheapest place to buy souvenirs, in my opinion. When they caught sight of us, we were assailed by calls of “Hakol bezol, hakol bezol! Kamesh euro, kamesh euro!” We carried on, intending to return later, but not before I posed with a group of Indian tourists who requested a picture, never having seen a live, visibly chassidish Jew before.
We passed the train station, and began walking toward the Ghetto. Needless to say, it was a wonderful experience, hundreds of tourists notwithstanding. Although I had been to Venice as a young boy, it was still very much exciting, and probably will still be the next time I go… Our first stop was the Gimmel Garden restaurant. Our tour guide had taken our orders the day before, to make sure we wouldn’t have to wait too long for the food. Maybe that was behind the dismal amount of cheese on my pizza – the staff was probably in a huge rush to get 18 pizzas ready on time…



My pizza…





Taken from the restaurant courtyard




Ghetto plaza




Rabbi Rami engaging an Israeli tourist…




Tight security


We then davened mincha in Chabad, and then walked through the streets of the Ghetto. Our tour guide was talking, but I just tuned out and slowly strolled through the low archways, cobblestone squares and narrow alleyways, taking everything in. We carried on toward the boat to get our ride to St. Mark’s Square. We disembarked and, needless to say, it was packed. Boat after boat kept stopping at the dock to release waves of tourists, and selfie sticks and knockoff Prada bags were being thrust into my face, only to vanish when police constables were seen. One of couples were all excited when they saw a “granola” and wanted to get 8 people together to share a ride, but no one else was interested besides for me and my wife, so that plan was scrapped. We browsed the shops, bought a few glass sweets, and tried to get pigeons to perch on my arm to no avail. I thought of climbing the bell tower, since DDF’ers have said that the views were nice from up there, but another 350 people had the same idea, and after seeing the queues there, I just went back to the boat. The tour group reassembled, many of the womenfolk proudly sporting fake Louis Vuitton and Chanel bags, and we sailed back to the parking lot.

Venice views:












Italians sure do love their pets…







Trying to attract pigeons





Huge cruise ship leaving Venice –






The Ideal Tour group were carrying on toward Verona and flying back to Israel, but we were staying in Venice, so after tearful goodbyes and picture-snapping, we removed our luggage from the bus and shlepped toward the taxi jetty. I say shlepped, because since we were at the end of a 3-week trip, we had 1 suitcase, 2 large duffel bags, two hand luggages, a tote bag and a backpack. Which is why I was prepared to shell out the €60 it costed to get us to the hotel where we stayed overnight. It’s called UNA Hotel Venezia, and is part of an Italian chain. Small but beautiful, it’s located in a residential area of Cannaregio, and I had family members who stayed there in the past and highly recommended it. We paid around $215 for the night, via Agoda.com. The taxi driver had never heard of it though, so I had to call the hotel and have the receptionist give him directions. It was very restful in the taxi after running around the whole day, and seeing Venice from a boat in the middle of the Grand Canal was a whole different experience… The journey took around 15 minutes, and when we pulled up to the hotel the bellhop’s jaw almost splashed into the canal when he saw the amount of luggage we had. But he was nicely rewarded for his efforts… Although nondescript from the outside, the hotel was quite deluxe; our room and bathroom were nice and clean, with excellent UNA-branded toiletries provided, including delicious bath salts. For some reason, the mirror in the room had grime marks all over it, which was oddly inconsistent with the room décor. After settling in, we headed to the Jewish Ghetto.




Arriving at the hotel – check out the luggage ^

The hotel:















By the way, I had previously asked on DDF about the canals having an unpleasant smell on with differing responses, ranging from:

Definitely not like that,extremely overrated, was unnoticeable to me
They didn't IME
I'm trying very hard to recall if that was the case when I was there in July, and I can't remember it being an issue at all. I would say the fact that I even have to try hard to remember should say something about how little it impacted my trip, if at all.
I also read about the odor but it did not really bother me. Very slight in some areas and unnoticeable in others. I wouldn't worry!

To

Yes. It does smell a little next to the narrow quiet canals, not by the main canals, but you get used to it. Either way it is worth going  ;)
My sister didn't stop vomiting there, so for someone who is sensitive it could be an issue to consider.

And a quote from the July edition of the Zman magazine’s Venice article (which really came in handy):
“After all the improvements, the Zman team that visited Venice still did detect a distinct, unpleasant odor in some areas, although not everywhere.”


Well, to my mazel, the canal outside the hotel was the only place in the whole of Venice that we smelled rotten eggs. Other than that, we had a rather fragrance-free stay.

It was an approximately 10/15 minute walk from the hotel, but we didn’t mind it; half of it meant strolling through the quiet residential alleys, past buildings with pastel-coloured facades and over small bridges, and the rest consisted of walking down Strada Nova, a main street full of interesting shops… I dropped off my wife at Gam Gam, while I went to Chabad to daven Maariv. When I returned, I found her inside, since there were no empty tables outside by the canal. We ordered our food, pasta with pieces of salmon, which was really delicious.  However, it was quite stuffy indoors, and the table next to us – I mean right next to us, a foot away - was taken by an untzniusdig young German couple, acting inappropriately. We felt quite uncomfortable, but the place was packed and there were no other tables available. I was kind of upset we weren’t sitting outdoors, since there a pleasant breeze out, and a trio of musicians doing rounds of the restaurants in the vicinity were entertaining the crowd with a repertoire of Jewish songs. I decided that at breakfast the next day, I was definitely going to sit outside. We left prematurely and returned to the hotel.

The next morning, we checked out, left our luggage with the hotel reception, and I davened shacharis in Chabad. We then took a tour of the shuls in the Jewish Quarter.  There were tours taking place every hour, and they left from the Jewish Museum a few doors away from Chabad. We got a discount of a few euros, thanks to our student cards. It was led by a non-Jewish older woman, and I found the commentary very languid and monotonous, like she was just rattling sentences she memorized – no interest at all. And her English wasn’t great either. But still, it was worth it, since I think the shuls can only be accessed with a tour guide, and they are magnificent!! One of them is used only on Rosh Hashanah, and another on Simchas Torah. Hard to imagine so many hundreds of people fitting into them, but maybe they were shorter and smaller in those days. I also came to that abduction by looking at the height of the stories in the buildings in the Jewish Quarter – very low!




Odd drawing in the Jewish Museum…


The magnificent Shuls:














By the way, can anyone identify/explain this symbol? It was painted in the Levantine synagogue, and our tour guide didn’t know much about it…





Anyway, we went to Gam Gam Goodies afterwards to have breakfast. There was an impatient, snobby worker behind the counter. I ordered an Israeli breakfast for €7 and was not impressed, but their pizzas looked quite good. And the cookies that we bought were tasty. They don’t have anywhere to sit for some odd reason, so we took our food to the Chabad house, and just sat down there and ate breakfast with no disturbances. After eating, we went back to the hotel, and inquired about the free transportation offered by certain furnaces/factories. The receptionist told us that since the hotel was located in a residential area and wasn’t along the popular routes, it would take 30 minutes for such a boat to arrive. Being in a bit of a rush, we decided to take the waterbus instead, and walked to the closest stop. The weather was glorious, but the boat was horrendously crowded, particularly with Chinese tourists, their backs hunched over due to the weight of numerous huge cameras and other paraphernalia hanging off their necks. I instantly appeared in their viewfinder lens, and was photographed very unsubtly, feeling like a display in Madame Tussauds…






Gondolier preparing his boat for a day’s work…   


We got off at the first stop in Murano - Colonna - as advised by our hotel receptionist. As soon as we got off, there was a man in a bright pink t-shirt there, hawking free demonstrations. We followed his instructions, turning left at the dock and walking for 5 minutes until we got to the factory. Funnily enough, it was the same place I had visited as a child! While prepping my wife for our Venice trip, I had told her all about this place as I remembered it, with its humongous showroom full of glass figurines and whatnot. We waited on line until the demonstration that was taking place inside finished, and then went in.

The demo was as I remembered it, and narrated by a guy there who seamlessly switched between fluent English, French, Spanish and Italian. I don’t know why he works there; wouldn’t his multilingualism get him a better job as a hotel receptionist or something?? Anyway, after watching gobs of hot sand turn into a goblet and a horse, we were “prompted” to the showroom. I was very, very surprised: it wasn’t as big as I expected it to be, and wasn’t packed with glass stuff either. I forgot that I was only waist high as a child and had a different vantage point…  We did buy a glass bracelet for my better half, but kept the bulk of the spending for a store we had passed on the way, which was full of tchatchkes for great prices! For instance, I paid €2 for a “fake” glass candy in St. Mark’s Square, whereas there the authentic ones were priced at €10 for 12! They had really great stuff, and I’d recommend anyone who plans on buying glass souvenirs to go there.






We took the bus back to Venice, and then headed to a Traghetto dock, which I found out about in the wiki, and boy am I happy I did! It’s basically a ferry service across the Grand Canal, since there are only four bridges that span it, and people don’t want to have to walk all the way to the nearest bridge to get to the other side. Ergo, the Traghetto. It’s €2 each way for tourists and 70c for Venetians. A rather plain gondola, mind you - no fancy trimming or furnishings, and wooden planks for seats – but it served its purpose. I told the rower that I was from the Big Apple, and he whistled “New York, New York” all the way across; that was the closest I got to a serenading gondolier.... We sailed away, snapped away, and then went away. Thank you, DDF!




Entranceway to Traghetto…



The Traghetto, mid-crossing…


Hurried back to Gam Gam, as we had a 17:55 train to Rome to catch, and actually ordered the same dish we had had the night before….מה שבטוח בטוח. And yes, this time we made sure to book a table outside… We met another young chassidish couple there and exchanged pleasantries. As my wife waited for the food, I went to catch mincha in Chabad. I returned to see only one dish on the table, and a bemused wife. Apparently, both plates had been set on the table, but my wife turned her head for a second, and before she knew it, a pigeon was gorging himself on MY food! Thankfully, the staff gave us another portion gratis, but that was only a harbinger of what was to come. There were birds everywhere! Those fine feathered fiends swooped down onto nearby vacated tables, pecking at the rolls and buns that the waiters had neglected to clear off. They were dancing around our feet, nibbling at crumbs strewn on the street. Some of them had the gall to try hopping onto our small table WHILE WE WERE SITTING AND EATING!! The nerve!! Then, when I took a piece of bread and threw it far away, hoping for the birds to chase that and leave us alone, a waitress berated me, “Well, if you’re going to feed the birds, of course they’re going to come and eat your food” , like I was the cause of the problem! I don’t know who had more chutzpah, the fowl or the foul [waitress]. Oy, and the heat was unbearable. Needless to say, we lost our appetite and left. I don’t know if anyone else had this experience, but my suggestion to future travellers is to eat outside at night and inside by day (in the summer). We left Gam Gam, stopped in to Gam Gam Goodies to buy some more of those delicious cookies for the way, and walked back to the hotel.







Our Gam Gam experience…


On the way, as we crossed a bridge, an idling taxi driver was docked at the side of a canal. Catching sight of us, he shouted “You find restaurant?” First I didn’t know what was going on, then I chapped that the other couple must have asked him for directions on their way there (must’ve been having a slow day – he was apparently still in the same place all that time!), and since we all look the same to him, he confused us . I shouted back my affirmation and added my thanks.

We arrived at the hotel, and had them call a taxi. The ride to the train station was very pleasant – there was a soft breeze caressing the canals, and we caught our last views of a beautiful Venice as the colourful buildings were being splashed by the receding sun. It was a leisurely ride, and when arriving at the train station, I paid a porter the unbelievable amount of €20 to shlep my suitcases to the station. If the platform number for our train might have been displayed, he’d have schlepped our stuff aboard the train, so it would’ve paid off. But since we arrived a little early, it wasn’t on the screens yet, so he left us at the entrance and I ended up paying him around $30 for moving our suitcases 10 metres… Instead, some very patient passengers waited while my wife and I held up the line, manoeuvring our bags into the carriage when boarding began, then lent a hand when they saw it was taking too long…



The Italo train: sleek, shiny, smart…


I had pre-booked tickets online, deciding on Italo rather than Trenitalia, since they had newer trains. I “upgraded” to wider seats and more legroom (they have a few different coach classes), altogether paying €50 for two passengers. Initially, I was worried about my luggage getting stolen or rifled through, so I especially chose the two seats closest to the luggage rack, and was able to keep an eye on it. In addition, the train had special compartments to stow and lock your suitcases, where you insert a coin as a deposit, and snap a lock on. Flimsy, but deterring for any sticky fingered stealer … I didn’t use them though, as my stuff was too large. The carriages were clean and quiet, and it was a peaceful 4 hour journey. We passed Padua (I had originally wanted to stop there to visit the kevorim of the Abravanel and Mahara”m miPadua, but couldn’t due to time constraints…),  Bologna, Firenze, Florence, lots of cornfields, and a few other stations, eventually catching sight of the hills of Rome at dusk, and pulled into Termini station at 21:42.





The secure luggage compartment




Our carriage




Caught sight of a Trenitalia train through the window, which was a reassurance…



To be continued, iy”h…

By the way, I’d like to acknowledge SomethingFishy for his excellent instructions and explanations on how to post pictures. Thank you!!

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but floridity is its spirit.

Offline skyguy918

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #36 on: October 15, 2015, 05:55:22 PM »
Tintin! FTW!

Offline JoshNY

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #37 on: October 15, 2015, 05:58:59 PM »
Riveting and well written - thank you Shlonx!

Interesting to see the guy at the glass blowing - I'm pretty sure he was there when I was there the first time, back in 2001, got to dig out those pictures!

The horse is definitely the same as what he did then - I remember it clearly...



Offline yakrot

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #38 on: October 15, 2015, 06:44:21 PM »
Wow. Thank you for another great installment. When I was in Venice I tricked the pigeons into coming onto my hand by pretending to have seeds in an upturned palm.

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #39 on: October 15, 2015, 06:44:51 PM »
Wow, nice segment. I was brought back to when we were there 15 months ago. Good times!

Offline yesitsme

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #40 on: October 16, 2015, 02:21:22 AM »


Italians sure do love their pets…

Trying to attract pigeons




To be continued, iy”h…

By the way, I’d like to acknowledge SomethingFishy for his excellent instructions and explanations on how to post pictures. Thank you!!
;)

Offline moish

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #41 on: October 16, 2015, 07:21:21 AM »
thanks for taking the time

for the record, firenze = florence

Offline shlonx

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #42 on: October 16, 2015, 08:50:22 AM »
For those of you who asked:

plato.stanford.edu/entries/abduction
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Offline username

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #43 on: October 16, 2015, 03:54:04 PM »
For those of you who asked:
And those that didnt ask, but were scratching their heads...
^^^

Offline shlonx

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Re: The Hasidics Abroad - shlonx's travels through Italy
« Reply #44 on: October 18, 2015, 01:12:13 AM »
thanks for taking the time

for the record, firenze = florence

Thanks for pointing that out. So weird that lots of the towns and cities in Italy and elsewhere have different local names than the English ones. For example, how did an "L" get into Firenze, and a "V" into Padua and Mantua etc.? Beats me.
Brevity may be the soul of wit, but floridity is its spirit.