A tip for anyone who wants to cycle in and out of Venice; don’t!
In typical Brit style we arrived at the ferry to Venice at the exact time check in opened, only to then sit on the boat for a further 45 minutes while those more rested souls took their time. The boat was surprisingly deserted and we looked forward to catching up on some sleep, until we made a stop in Porec and picked up most of Russia. We had woken at 5am and were suffering a little from the early rise, but unable to catch up on sleep. It wasn’t boding well for a day in the busiest city I have ever visited.
On arrival we offloaded the bikes and wheeled them through customs and passport control. Most of our fellow passengers were on a day tour from Croatia and were hoarded off towards the city whilst we were left with no idea of where we were and how to get to the main road which would lead to the campsite 18km away. We asked an official from the customs office who sent us in one direction; asked someone else who sent us the opposite way and then asked someone else who sent us away from the water altogether! About an hour of stressful cycling over tiny bridges overflowing with dawdling tourists back and forwards was beginning to wear thin. Even though it was morning it was already getting hot. I knew this was going to be hard and whilst I was dreading the main road, I was desperate to get out of the city and at least get some speed up. Eventually we made it onto the bridge back to the mainland. The left turn onto this main road nearly killed me and an irate taxi driver, who had to hold back for 2 seconds while I pulled off, made it clear that he was not impressed – hand gestures and shouts of abuse flying out of the window.
It is important that I clarify that this road was not just a main road, but a dual carriageway, which turned into a motorway in parts. Buses and trucks were flying past at 70mph; we had no hard shoulder to cling to and I quickly realised my chances of survival were slim. Rather than have a melt down at this point (due to the lack of feasible space for one), I opted to just pedal for my life. About a mile along the road a path opened to the right, next to the train tracks and we opted to ride that. Safe at last…or so we thought!
A few miles of trains rushing past my right ear and HGVs brushing my left and the end of the bridge approached. The only problem was that so did the sign informing us this was now turning into a motorway…oh and of course the end of the path. We knew we needed to be heading left along the coast, however to take that fork would entail crossing 4 lanes of speeding traffic. Continuing straight meant a hill heading into the unknown over what resembled a mini spaghetti junction! The overdue meltdown came!
I won’t elaborate much other than to say I did actually stamp my feet a couple of times! As Andy pointed out though, there was nothing we could do; we were stuck on the inside lane of a motorway and we had to keep on until we could safely exit. So, quite proud of myself, I peddled on and up. I don’t think my little legs have ever peddled so hard; desperate was I to get to the top (walking was not an option due to the lack of space). I nearly lost my pace when I saw Andy wobbling all over the place, brushing the reservation with his panier, which reverberated him back into the road – a bit too close to the passing truck for my liking! Finally at the top we were able to pull off at a roundabout to the right, cross the road and then cross back again to head almost in the direction we came to join the road that we needed to be on (still a three lane road). A mile or so on this equally hellish stretch and we were able to cross lanes to take the road to the left.
Thankfully this road was a little quieter and after a while we saw it had a cycle path…amazing! We cycled through a rather dodgy industrialized area, dotted with prostitutes and trucks for some time. Eventually we arrived near the port, only to face endless diversions. A further half an hour and we saw the signs for the campsite. It was in the middle of nowhere, but ridiculously close to the port from which we were departing the next day, which meant no need to cycle back – thank God!
Sweaty, exhausted and suffering from a little PTSD we checked in; a process which took almost an hour due to the Italian family that pushed in front of us. We pitched up the tent, had a shower and headed to get the boat back to the city. Andrew had never been to Venice and was keen to explore. Having been before, and having undergone the past few hours of torture I was quite happy to never set foot there again but I joined him.
Venice is one of those places that in my view looks better in films than in reality. Take away all of the tourists and I am sure it is magical, but I have a slight allergy to crowds and overpriced tat. I like to experience places like a local, but I can’t really imagine there are many ‘locals’ in Venice. Nevertheless we enjoyed a couple of hours mooching about, eating pasta and getting even sweatier before making the excellent decision to head back to the camp.
Our next door neighbours on the pitch were from the Netherlands and also heading to Greece in a couple of days. They saw us cooking our dinner on the grass and took pity; offering us camp chairs to borrow for the night. I cannot explain the simple pleasure this gave us! For three weeks now we had been cooking on the ground with a wall providing the only seat for such an occasion. Never again will I take a chair for granted!