Venice, the most serene republic.
To those who are students of literature, surely the merchant of Venice would had been on the read list. Because even those that did not major nor feign any interest in this subject knows about it… that surely a vengeful person will adamantly want to exact a pound of flesh where so legally positioned.
And learn that a crafty lawyer can wriggle his client out of giving this pound of flesh too! No wonder some people label lawyers sn*kes…
When one speaks of Venice, one has to examine the complexity mesh of continental and maritime politics.
At the end of the Roman era, the lagoons became a refuge. It was settled due to invasions from northern barbaric tribes, in particular the Lombards who were a constant threat. But over the centuries of the early middle ages, the city rose to become a major trade chokepoint between the continent and the Levant (ie the east end of the Mediterranean). It invested into and created a mighty navy that came to be formidable. In short, it became an empire on water.
Thus while it does not look particularly large with territories, one overlooks the fact that the waters of the Adriatic sea “belonged” to Venice. Not immediately, but over a few centuries as their rivals fall by the wayside.
Alright we shall not bore you with yet more history, for that would take many more pages to fill. Instead, we are going to tell you a story. Long, long ago… on
The Blue Lagoon islands
Built on 117 small sandbars of islands, there is no real foundation to the city. Like St Petersburg, much of the city are built on wooden pylons too many to count. It is linked to the mainland service town of Mestre by a road and rail causeway, Venice is an tiny archipelago. Aside from this mainland link the only other way to get here is via the sea.
We had a day of bad weather in Venice because the rain set in as we arrived. A crowded Venice with lots of tourists like ourselves were stuck in the rain. So in all our photos you will see lots of water plus us in raincoats. You’ve got to be kidding if you think some rain is going to stop two red dotters from exploring the city. We are built for rain! Coming from a tropical dot of an island this was nothing, except the rain was cold… even though it was summer. Anyway, we digress.
Naturally, we like all tourists (60,000 per day we are told) gravitated to St. Mark’s square, where there are regular musical performances in summer time. In the background there was an modern art exhibition being held at the museum. Of course the key highlight in getting here is to soak in the atmosphere of hundreds (if not thousands) of pigeons while attempting to take a photo of the façade of the cathedral that bore the square its name. Pigeons and people. That’s what you need to contend with dodging here.
Now it can be confusing to walk the alleys of Venice, unless that you can follow the signs, which appear every now and then to indicate directions that seems either contradictory or unclear. Best to use your map on the mobile phone to tell you where to turn. But then that is the beauty of exploring Venice on foot. For Suan this was a boon, for it afforded her opportunities to stop at the stores that line the alley cobbled streets. For husbands, be aware that the city is decked with high end luxury branded ‘traps’ that will ensnare your wife! With painful consequence we might add… And doesn’t stop there. For you might be lured into one of them beautiful glass “factories” where gorgeous crystal glassware can be bought and shipped around the world! Our luggage got a lot heavier as we departed from Venice…
But eventually all that wondering (with lightened wallets) brought us to the bridge of sighs – the point from which prisoners cross over to the city’s dungeons. Said to connect to the Doge’s court, it can also be said as the point of no return for some. Not the place to hang out (no pun intended).
Some people call Venice a tourist trap. And indeed it does trap people here. Because it sure rocks! Yes the cost of a Gondola ride is exorbitant. And if you partake in a meal here it will definitely cost you an arm or a leg figuratively, as if you met with the mafia… However imagine being in an elegant dress and a beautiful mask during carnival in Saint Mark’s square. Wouldn’t that be one bucket list activity to partake in?
But Venice is not just the city for the is also something just beyond the lagoon.
At its height, Venice controlled the eastern half of Italy and as far as the island of Crete. Burano – is about 45 minutes from Venice by boat. It is a quaint old town and is also one of the original islands that were settled in the lagoon, boasting numerous pastel painted houses. Fishermen own most of the houses and you can see that they are definitely homes with clothing hanging out… Said to be really popular with artists who apparently come here to be inspired.
One thing to remember is that the tide in Venice varies with the seasons. It is said that in the winter the streets can be flooded. This due in part to the rougher seas in that season and also due to fact that the city is sinking. Recall the city is built on wood platforms supported by wood pylons driven into the lagoon ground. The millions of pylons like that of St Petersburg were driven into the marsh that reaches 5m deep. The weight of the stone buildings must give lots of pressure on the foundations don’t you think?
Perhaps climate change too had led to a rise of the water level? You might have seen pictures of the residents in rain boots navigating Saint Mark’s square on wood planks. And staying in the city itself? Now that’s goanna really cost an arm or a leg. Perhaps both. With property prices sky high and a huge pipeline of international demand, the locals have all but been booted out. We looked up hotel prices in the hope of visiting when we lived in Amsterdam. Don’t bother. There is no low season cheap accommodation though wonder if AirBnB would work well. It’s no wonder that most tourists can only come in on a day tripping basis – like us.
So is Venice the most serene?
Not by a long shot. With boatloads, trainloads and cruise loads of people disembarking at the piers and train station, there is never a quiet moment in the city without some tourist (or pigeon) screaming in the distant and sometimes almost next to your ear. If you are one of the lucky ones to stay overnight here, perhaps an early morning walk before the hordes come in would be one of those quiet moments. And how can you not understand the excitement of tourists? They manage to come to one of the most visited cities in the world.
This journey took place in July 2001
Aside from Venice, we also made a short trip to Verona – to view Juliet’s balcony. Of course it is fake! It does not exist except in Shakespeare. But that did not stop many people (including us) crowding to see the balcony.
Verona also boasts of one of the best-preserved coliseums in Italy. In fact, it is located right in the center of the city. We only made a stopover here, as we were driving westwards to the Italian lake district. Possibly founded by the Veneti tribe, it was of great importance in the Roman Age and became a Roman town in 49 BC.