night train to Venice

Last night we took the train from Innsbruck, Austria down to Venice, Italy. We had booked night beds, and boarded the train at eleven, cold and tired. Our bunk beds were hard and warm, and we fell asleep almost immediately, exhausted from waiting for one cancelled train after another in a freezing Liechtenstein train station.

As the night settled around us and the train started to move we reached across from our beds to clasp one another’s hands. There was something utterly romantic about holding hands there in the dark midair, while an old Italian couple slept above us and the train rumbled smoothly below, snaking and curving with the rails, rocking us from side to side as we fell asleep.

We were woken by the conductor at six am, and sleepy peeks out of the Velcro curtains showed us a blurry landscape of glassy water and deep blue sky. Out in Venice it was cold, and when we arrived a few minutes later it was still dark, the night just lifting. Venice was a mass of shimmering water, gleaming with the reflections of hundreds of orange street lights. We walked silently around the tiny streets, our breath misting in the chilly air, stopping to admire the empty canals and feeling as though we shouldn’t have been there. The city felt like a film set, the boats silent and waiting for the actors, the sky above a painted ceiling.

It took us an hour to find the main plaza through the maze, with a few tired snarks at each other, each followed by a mumbled apology. When we did find it, San Marco, it was breathtaking. Only a few lonely travellers were there, each with an amazing camera and a tripod, all trying fruitlessly to capture the sunrise. We sat on a cold stone bench beside the surging green sea, surrounded by pigeons and birdshit and watched the sky change, mesmerized by the bright red sun.

The saying goes; red sky at night, shepherds’ delight, red sky at morning, shepherds’ warning. So I am still watching the sky, waiting to see if dark clouds will roll in above the city. But all above is clear and watery blue, and this start to the day is promising. I am sitting in a red booth with a hot chocolate and a custard croissant, while around me the Italians gesture wildly and sip their tiny, hot coffees like they contain the elixir of life.

And I wonder if just maybe, sometimes, the shepherd got it wrong.


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