Prior to taking off on my travels I usually get some words of wisdom from people who have done something similar before. Sometimes this means I learn something awesome that I would have missed or not thought of and I’m really grateful. Other times it means I have to listen to someone harp on about some little thing that they couldn’t let go of and I either smile politely or, which I hate, it actually affects my perception of the place.
I had an aunt complain about how Paris smelled when she visited it 40 years ago. Well, on top of it being a different place from when she was there, I knew she had her own biases about travelling that I did not share, such as a heightened sensitivity to being offended, an acceptance of clichés and being one of those Americans who has this strong loathing of all things French. Freedom fries and all that. Ugh. Well, all I could do was smile politely and know I was going to form my own opinions. Paris didn’t smell – Paris was great and I never had a run in with a rude person the entire time.
Then I went to Venice.
Venice has always had a special place in my interest, ever since I found out about the whole flooded streets thing. Then when I got older I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and I really wanted to visit it. The Merchant of Venice also influenced me but, uh, yeah, Harrison Ford solving mysteries always gets the win over Shakespeare – even my new found affinity for crystal skulls….
But when I was researching Venice I heard a lot of complaints from people about the smell of Venice (just as people would talk of the fog in London). I was kind of expecting this since it was a water city that was prone to flooding – plus it’s pretty old, so it would make sense. Needless to say, I was kind of surprised when I got there and found this not to be the case at all. Maybe I’m just not as sensitive as my aunt or maybe it’s true about the perceptions of people being affected more by negative opinions than positive, but I just couldn’t agree with that sentiment.
Sure, maybe it was the time I was there (3 days in August) which wasn’t as bad as others, but even if it smelled worse than Rome, it wouldn’t take away from the brilliance of the layout of this northern Italian gem. Touristy, sure. Crowded and boring after a few days – of course. One of a kind and utterly romantic? You bet. It wasn’t even that expensive to get to and we found some cheap flights out. So I can overlook these things I take to be minor flaws.
I had a discussion with a friend prior to leaving about his thoughts on Venice and he didn’t think it smelled bad. I posed him the common sentiment of others travellers relating to the poor food in Venice and he also didn’t think that was true. After being there, I would have to agree with him. Aren’t positive people better to talk to?
When I go travelling, I try not to get caught up in what other people think because I am not them. Sure, Venice isn’t much of a party town unless it’s Carnival or any of the insane parties it holds (plus you can’t forget about the casino!) but it’s still great for a good time. If I spent all my time forming my opinions of places based on something I’ve heard or fixating on its faults, it would seem to me I have no business travelling. If all I can take away from an experience is that it smelled, then maybe I should pick a less expensive hobby.