Gondola parking lot, Venice
This week I have been preoccupied with trying to understand the byzantine Schengen Visa laws for tourist travel in Europe. I have spent far too much time on traveler message boards where people with too much time on their hands swap a mixture of advice, warnings, or horror stories of scrapes with immigration authorities in various countries. The Internet can be both a wealth of information and a dangerous place for travelers. Sort of like when you have an undiagnosed health ailment and you decide to google your symptoms. If you’re not catatonic with fear after this little exercise, you obviously have too slow of a broadband connection. The same can be said when looking for travel advice.
As to the Schengen Visa laws, well I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t even know they existed when we started out on this journey. My information was a bit outdated, I admit, as I was relying on past experience from my backpacking through Europe days 20 years ago. At that time, you could indeed spend up to 3 months in each European country and easily execute ‘visa runs’ to another country, then turn around, re-enter and set the visa clock ticking again. Oh, those days are long gone, my friends.
The Schengen Treaty, signed in 1995, now mandates, in simplest terms, a 90-day in a 180-day period rule. This means that you can spend up to 90 non-consecutive days in any 180 period in the Schengen territory (most of what we consider Western Europe) as a whole, not per country, after that you must exit the Schengen and remain outside of it for another 90 days before re-entry is permitted. Now apparently, different countries are more strict about enforcing this rule on travelers, than others. According to all the reading I’ve done, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands are the toughest. But be careful where you exit to: the UK and Ireland can be tough on Schengen overstayers, either deporting them directly back to the country they left or on to their home country. Deary me. Unfortunately, I’m fairly sure that ignorance of the law is not a defense against violating it. Although it seems like it should be! At any rate, it will certainly mean some readjustment of plans for us.
Meanwhile, back at the Italian ranch, this week we took an afternoon and went to Venice to pay a special visit to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum which is housed in an old church, la Chiesa di San Barnaba. I know ‘old’ and ‘church’ in the same sentence are rather redundant when talking about Italy. More of an exhibit, than a museum, it was nevertheless fascinating. There were actual reconstructions of many of da Vinci’s machines and many of them you could get your hands on, turn the cranks, and see how they worked. L’s favorite were the flying machines and Archimedes’ screw, which I gather da Vinci experimented heavily with and perhaps improved upon.
We actually walked a hugely circuitous distance to get to the museum, following our noses (with a little help from the smartphone GPS), rather than the map, which requires far too much stopping and studying along the way. The temperatures were frigid as the wind was blowing off the Adriatic. This was alleviated somewhat by frequent ducking into bars for hot drinks, cicchetti (tapas-like snacks), and even gelato. For L, it is never, ever too cold for gelato.
The week ended especially well for L, as he got to go on a ‘field trip’ with his school which was basically a day out sledding and playing in the snow in the foothills of the Alps. It was hard, but someone had to do it.
Clockwise from L to R: the fate of shoes left in gondolas; a group of cadets visits the school; 'It is NOT a tea cosy mom!'; tired mama; the school; Italian political poster pulls no punches.
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, general renegade and rabblerouser.