Venice


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April 14th 2005
Published: April 25th 2005
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Grand CanalGrand CanalGrand Canal

This picture shows a boat "bus" carrying passengers on the Grand Canal, which divides Venice in two parts. We shared the bus with school children going home when we rode from one end of Venice to the other and back for 5 Euro, or about $6.50 apiece. We did this on a tip from a fellow passenger, who told us it was as good as the guided "tour bus" for 30 Euro. She was right!
Venice was a blast. We cruised into its beautiful harbor early one morning and were greeted by a strange sight: a large beautiful city busy with foot traffic and boats along its waterfront, but not a vehicle in sight anywhere! Mile after mile of beautiful old buildings seemly perched directly atop the water, interspersed with canals alive with pole-driven gondolas, taxis (motorboats) and buses (larger boats, like a small ferry). The effect was a bit like Catfish Row in Charleston suddenly dragged out into the harbor.

After the ship docked in an industrial area, we promptly took a smaller boat directly to the heart of the old city, the Doge’s Palace on the Plaza of St. Mark’s Basilica. The place and the old cathedral, both built hundreds of years ago, stand side by side. Our Venetian guide took us through both after firmly explaining that no pictures could be taken inside. (One reason is that camera flashes damage old paintings and decorations.)

All of Venice was built on several low lying islands, she said, beginning in the 5th century CE when a group of Italians from the mainland fled there to escape from the barbarians who vanquished Rome and
St Marks BasilicaSt Marks BasilicaSt Marks Basilica

Venice aspired to the the new Rome, but it lacked an apostle's remains for its basilica. A group of citizens went to Egypt, which was Muslim in the Middle Ages, and liberated St. Mark's remains, which they packed in a basket of pork. Muslim custom officials held their noses and refused to inspect it, so the remains were brought to Venice successfully. A fresco on the facade of the church depicts the citizens, the Muslim officials, and the offending basket. St Mark reposes inside under the altar.
its empire. The islands were cut off from the mainland by water, and the barbarians had no boats, so the newcomers were relatively safe.

The Venetians existed largely by trading and shipbuilding. When they were numerous and wealthy enough to build large elaborate structures, they brought in thousands of trees from the mainland, drove piles into the soft island dirt as thick as they could, and erected their stone and masonry buildings atop the piles. Over the centuries the wooden piles have petrified, so that the city now rests on a bed of stone pilings. It is quite stable, but unfortunately the level of the sea around it has risen somewhat due to global warming. The city’s long term existence is threatened, but meanwhile its inhabitants go about their business calmly enough, happily living in what must surely be one of the strangest and most beautiful cities in the world.

The night we arrived Crystal threw a party for the World Cruisers in an ancient brick convention center on one of the Venetian Islands. The theme of the party was the Venetian Mardi Gras. We were all given masks to wear, and were encouraged to wear any carnival-type
Bridge of SighsBridge of SighsBridge of Sighs

So called because it connects the Doge's Palace Hall of Justice to the old prison across the canal. It's said if you listen closely, you can still hear the sighs of prisoners as they left the Palace and entered the gloomy prison.
glad rags we happened to have. (I’m slowly learning what clothes to take along on these jazzed-up cruises. Not my leftover church-and-work clothes, that’s for sure!)

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, since - like many visitors - I was left just about speechless by this wondrous city. It was indeed beautiful.


More about Venice at this website, if you’re interested:

http://www.silkroadproject.org/smithsonian/venice/geography.html





Additional photos below
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Doge's PalaceDoge's Palace
Doge's Palace

The grand old adminisrative center of Venice, facing on St. Mark's Square by the Basilica. On the left of the stairway is Mars, and on the right is Neptune, representing Venice's sovereignty over military might and the sea. At the top of the arch is a lion, symbol of Venice.
GondolierGondolier
Gondolier

No visitor to Venice fails to take away a picture of this famous sight. There were numerous gondoliers in the canals, all taking tourists on tours. Residents prefer the faster motorboat taxis.
Carnival Character on StiltsCarnival Character on Stilts
Carnival Character on Stilts

This character was a realistic imitation of a Venetian lord taking his leisure on a stack of silk pillows. He was one of the local entertainers, not a member of the ship's crew.
Red MaskRed Mask
Red Mask

A character at our "Venice Festival" party. These tall mysterious figures called "Masks" appear at Mardi Gras, walking about among the crowds and never speaking. They also make great photo ops! At the end of the party they were unmasked, and turned out to be members of the ship's crew pressured into service by the cruise director.
Black MaskBlack Mask
Black Mask

In addition to the impressive Masks, we had local entertainers such as jugglers, dancers, stiltwalkers, fortune teller, caricature artist, and "hand shadow" experts who imitated famous actors and singers. A fun night, but not enough places to sit and watch. It was all supposed to be a carnival in the streets!
Dick with LadiesDick with Ladies
Dick with Ladies

More of the ship's crew, dressed for the occasion.
Mary with Silver MaskMary with Silver Mask
Mary with Silver Mask

We are standing against the brick wall of the old building where we had our party. It once served as a customs building before the city Venice renovated it to use as a convention and exhibition center.


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