Friday, 25 June 2010

More Venice

I'm sure it's impossible to share adequately about Venice, but I'm going to try to hit the highlights of what we saw.  I know we missed a good deal of what was on offer and I hope we'll go back one day.  The man at the Hotel Ariel Silva wanted us to know that we could rent an apartment not far from the hotel; the nightly charge for an apartment that sleeps 6 is the same as for the small hotel room.  (On the other hand I see we might have done better had we known to book directly with his hotel...see, I just saved you loads of money right there).  

So let's start with the Piazza de San Marco (I have to be careful not to type pizza!).  There is found the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.  I heard something about the Bridge of Sighs sometime when I was a child and the name stayed with me, but I'd no idea where or what it was until we came to see the real thing. 

My first glimpse of the Doge's Palace looked like fairyland to me.   Once inside, we started taking photos until we saw the sign that we couldn't.  I did notice that many people took photos anyhow and sat on benches where signs said not to and that the guards were either texting on their phones or asleep (!).  

I was sad not to be able to take photos of the 42 pillars with ornate capitals that had been renovated and rehouses.  It sounds dead boring, but the sculptures (of the hats associated with the various trades, the 7 sins, the zodiac symbols, the races of man, etc) were lovely especially considering the material of the pillars looked like concrete (but it was marble).  

Perhaps they thought we'd be more likely to buy a tourist book as a memento.  After careful consideration, we did not; this is partly a frugal choice and partly to do with limited packing space.   I was counting on the internet to help me out and I'm happy with my choice.  If you want to see the inside of the Palace without paying the entry fee or punishing your poor feet, check this out (thank you, Wikipedia!).  The references at the bottom of the Wikipedia entry are all spectacular and worth seeing without all those pesky tourists.

If you were actually interested, you could find more about Doges, but just from what I recall a Doge was  head administrator of the city, elected by a panel of the very wealthy members of a council.  The Doge had very little real authority, but perhaps quite a lot of influence. 

Strangely, once elected he had to spend the rest of his life in the Palace, only going out if accompanied by something like 8 council members.   The Palace is a combination of the legislative and judicial functions of government and perhaps the Doge could be compared to a President, or maybe a President-Practically-in- Prison (come to think of it, we've had a few of those).

There were 76 Doges over roughly 1,000 year's time and all their pictures, bar one, appear in the huge great senate hall (the largest in Europe) in the Palace; a black drape is painted over his allocated space.  He was convicted of treason against the city of Venice, and condemned to "damnatio memoriae", removal from remembrance   (Which is what I do with the people I have most detested in my life - pretend they never existed). 

From the recorded lecture we got as we dutifully drifted from room to room (it's a BIG place) it sounded as though he was the only bad apple in the bunch, but apparently more than one got into hot water during their lifetime term.   Doges lasted up until the time of Napoleon, whose name crept up a lot on this trip, in Verona, Venice and elsewhere.   There were at least two significant paintings the recording told us about that once belonged to the Doge's Palace but are now - thanks to Napoleon helping himself - found in The Louvre.

An important symbol in Venice is the Lion of St. Mark.  From what I gathered, St Mark visited Venice and there was a prophecy that he would return.  However he died in Alexandria.  Some Venetian men stole St Mark's body from the Turks and buried him in Venice and so the prophecy came true.  The paintings show the lion as the symbol of the strength and power of Venice, his forefeet on the land and his hind feet in the sea.  Venezia is always represented as a woman, dripping with jewels and surrounded by symbols of her wealth.  Neptune generally figures large somewhere in there, given the source of Venetian wealth was the sea.

As it happens there was a new prison built next to the Palace, the first purpose-built prison, so they say.  The Bridge of Sighs, or 'Ponte dei Sospiri' in Italian (doesn't 'sospiri' just sound like a sigh?), is what connects the Palace with the prison and was so named by Lord Byron (a good friend of my namesake).  It underlines the Palace as more of an administrative building, like having police holding cells next door to the courthouse.   I would guess they all heave a sigh when they realise they are about to be locked up.  

I can't won't show you my photo of the Bridge of Sighs.  You'll have to see it here instead.  This is because it was all covered up with an advert (over scaffolding, I suppose, but who knows?) and I'm not going to help the advertisers out here.   I've never heard of them and I'm sure you can live without their product; I have.

[Warning:  more pictures follow than you probably care to see!  On the other hand, if you wish, you can click to make them larger...]

By the time we finished at the Doge's Palace, I didn't care that our ticket entitled us to see 3 other museums or some such.  

I was sighing to sit down.  

So we hopped on a vaparetto (having bought a 36-hour ticket) and rode all the way around the circuit, both merrily snapping pictures of everything at least three times.  

 It all seemed so magic, I couldn't help but try to capture it.  The day I begin to be blase about travel is the day I'm going to stay home.

You'll no doubt be bored to tears by the photos, but I'm certain I will long enjoy reviewing them.   I do love my digital technology!

Mind, to take these we insinuated ourselves onto the back of the boat and stood for a while, as all the seats back there were taken.   We did this in spite of the fact there were plenty of seats inside.

Eventually the back-of-the-boat seats were vacated, so it was a good move for taking photos, even if I thought it was a bit pushy at the time.  

On the back of that boat we met a nice young American  couple there for only about 4 days. 

She was originally from Denver.  

He said he was originally from Kansas, though he graduated from high school in  Claremore, Oklahoma.  (Who says it's not a small world?)

She had a great idea of taking photos of architectural details to make into a calendar as a gift for his has-everything-hard-to-buy-for grandmother. 

I suggested  street lights or  doors.  (Remember those?)

 The photos from the boat speak for themselves.  

I thought the ground floor gardens that faced onto the Grand Canal must be a very sumptuous use of space. 

Either that or the former building has completely caved and no one in their right mind would rebuild in this location given global warming, etc.

We did not visit the Peggy Guggenheim museum, neither of us being major fans of Modern Art.  

That said, Bill laughed when I 'interpreted' this piece to be
"... one definition of an Italian man's happiness:  a chair and a packet of fags..."
(You do know that 'fags' are what Brits call cigarettes?)  There were any number of times on this trip when an available chair contributed majorly to my own happiness. 

Bill fell in love with any number of old fashioned wooden boats.  

I agree that they are far more elegant than the plastic looking jobs.

Strangely, upon our return we learned that a friend in the running club, Terry, actually lived in Venice for three months, when he was a student.  

He's never mentioned this before and every time we learn something else about his amazing life, we're convinced he needs to write his memoirs...or maybe just a blog?


Struggler said...

Incredible city... I can't believe I spent 30 years of my life in Europe and never went here!

Rick Stone said...

Uhh, I'm curious. You keep complaining about tourist. Aren't you one of them on these forays?

Jo said...

Your travel photos and narratives are always great. As much as I enjoy the RV, I would really like to do some traveling across the water.

Shelley said...

Struggler - As much as I look forward to one day living in a warmer climate, I will really miss the grandeur of old European cities.

Joanne - So pleased you like sharing my holidays. Save up your pennies and come over! Bill loved playing in the RV - perhaps we should do a swap sometime?

Rick - So right, I am a tourist, but obviously that doesn't stop me whinging about the crowds. Who says I have to be logical?!