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03/21/03 - Venice

Venetians think of their city as one of the great historic capitals of the Mediterranean, and with a look through the gloriously colored paints and curiously arching bridges and rooflines of this amazing city, it is easy to lose oneself in a time of grandeur, when the great societies of Western civilization were still in their infancies and the earliest forefathers of great Western art, cuisine, philosophy and music strolled the bustling corridors of this port. And great Western lovemaking, I remind myself, as the quaint water taxi I ride in passes the original home of the legendary Casanova, just to the side of the city's Grand Canal.

Today Venice is a dichotomy of the modern wealthy elite of Europe and the historic charm that only the local districts still nurture. The locals guard their charm jealously in the onslaught of foreign restaurants, tourist shops and street vendors peddling black-market Gucci wares. I chose to try to break into the culture of one of the local districts' sheltered backwater canals, only to find my *gondolier* had mischievously ditched at a low-hanging cross-street, leaving me in a rapidly-sinking watercraft in the back alleyway of God-knows-where. That is where I learned of Venice's OTHER closely-guarded secret: crocodiles.

Fortunately, the modernity of today's urban life coupled with the influx of wealth has provided Venice with some of the very best medical facilities in Italy, and the intrepid staff of Santo Bellini Hospital was able to repair my rather extensive array of bite wounds with the most delicate care. And thanks to the reforms brought about by the EU, my insurance was able to cover a thrilling and scenic ambulance ride through the waters of this lovely blossom of a city.

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