Cooking at the pictures of a submerged Venice that was hit by an exceptionally high tide in November—causing the worst flooding in more than 50 years—my mind raced back to my visit to the city nearly a decade ago.
It was one of the early summer months. The trip was finalised barely two hours before I boarded the evening train from Milan. As the train pulled out from Milano Centrale, I got busy weaving in my imagination the scenes of Venezia. How great would it be to see canals everywhere instead of roads.
The train arrived at Venezia Santa Lucia station after a couple of hours. Announcements in Italian filled the air. The moment I stepped out, I was awestruck by the Grand Canal lined with Gothic and Renaissance buildings. The rush of tourists made it seem that the entire world was there. Equally intriguing were the many water taxis, some private and some belonging to hotels that were waiting for their guests.
Without following any map, I strolled for hours and lost track of time. I crossed the many bridges above the canals, sometimes entering the narrow lanes dotted with small restaurants. Having realised all of a sudden that it was the middle of the night, I went searching for a place to stay, but there was no vacancy anywhere and even if there was, the rates were too exorbitant for me.
I returned back to the station side and spotted a large boat with a covered shed. With no one in, I entered and soon fell asleep with my small backpack. The morning cold roused me before the sun rose. I again started walking. It was so peaceful to wander all alone—there were moments that made me feel it was just Venice and me. I saw newspapers being distributed on boats, then the sunrise and later children going to school on boats. As the day passed, I explored touristy pockets of the city. I came back to the same boat when darkness took over.
The following morning, I left for Switzerland, where I was a 17-year-old international student. As I climbed the station’s steps, I looked back at the boat that was my perfect Venice-style accommodation. The stay there was memorable than even Venice. Maybe the city wanted to teach me, “When in Venice, stay the Venice way.” For now, I wish the city a speedy recovery from its current plight, but we should not forget that it is a warning about climate change to the world.