Venice, a dream

One of the most beautiful weekends in my life came to end this morning with P and me reaching home tired and sleepy but smug and happy. This trip of ours came out the blue, as initially we were thinking of Amsterdam, Brussels etc… but the biting cold weather made us reconsider and land right amidst the tiny streets of Venice flanked with waterways and bridges and in spite of the delayed landing of flight at a wholly different location due to poor visibility it was trip to remember.

There are cities like Paris that are indisputably beautiful and take your breath away by sheer splendor and others like Venice, which are steeped in contradictions but slowly seep into you and haunt your dreams for years to come. I say contractions because it’s grand yet fatigued, magical yet ghostly, beautiful but dark, filled with color and noise in the day but fading into silence at night making you wonder about the dark faces of Venice you may never see.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we set off from our hotel in S Angelo towards Piazza San Marco in the Vaparato. The city of Venice, wrapped like a gift in the mist, unfolded in front of us; the Warf’s and the gondolas bobbing awkwardly on the waters, as if they would never get used to intrusions from the outside world, the ducks scurrying of on the feel of an approaching boat, the cluttered rows of faded buildings on either side opening up frequently to give us a glimpse of the small murky canals and the dark secrets that lay beyond…

We wandered around San Marco square for rest of the evening like two people too completely overwhelmed by city ( and perhaps the early morning hustle followed by the delay of flight) to actually formulate and stick to a particular plan. The pigeons held on to my attention for quite some time even though I was a bit nervous about feeding them. P did not relent into my repeated attempts at trying to get him to feed them either. Such a disappointment! We then entered the basilica which is a fine example of Romanesque-Byzantine style architecture. Some of it dates back to the 12th century. It is beautiful inside and out; full of old frescoes and gold gilding. The marble floors are in unique patterns too. We said a little prayer there before heading out again into the tiny lanes which take you away from the square.

Amongst the dull aging exterior of Venice lie tiny streets complete with sparkling lights and gaily lit shops that hold many items of interest; Masks, Glass ware, Laces, Wood work etc…I found the Venetian masks particular fascinating and time and again much to P’s dismay I was drawn towards them. The idea of concealing ones identity and creating an aura of intrigue has always been my weakness and it manifested there to the point when I had to tell myself to stop looking at the masks altogether.

We continued walking in the streets even after sun set and ended our walk on the edge of San Marco near the Vaparato. By now most of the way side shops were getting closed and one could see lights of the nearby restaurants and cafes were reflecting on the waters. Many traders rushed home probably seeking shelter from the cold or in search of a warm dinner, while there were others who came and set up temporary stalls. A guy selling crimson roses sold us one and I carried it around till late into night when we could not hold off the fatigue and slipped into deep slumber.

The crisp morning nine o’clock breeze took us straight back to San Marco. The architectural splendor (commonly referred to as Venetian Gothic) and artistic overtones are visible in many places in Venice. I found it most overwhelming in the breathtaking corridors of Doge’s palace situated on the San Marco Square. Our visit to this place along with the secret itinerary tour lasted about 2.5 hours and was worth every euro of the sixteen we had to shed per head. The Doge's Palace, which not only was once the home of the doge but also the official working place of the government of the former Venetian Republic is flanked by Saint Mark's Cathedral and a narrow and rather dinghy canal most notable for the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge is the one that connects the chambers of court to the clammy newer prisons. On googling I found that the bridge, constructed around 1600, only acquired its world famous name during the late 18th century when Lord Byron romantically recounted the sound of condemned prisoner's sighs. I found the idea pretty romantic myself as the view is not just simply of the sea and beyond but that it is marred by the bars and can be seen only through pigeonholes hence the paradox; A free sea from a caged bridge just before entering the dark prisons. Another place that was note worthy was the Rialto Bridge and the surrounding market area. It is a stone bridge completed in the 16th century to replace a wooden pontoon bridge. It was once the only link between the two banks of the Grand Canal.

The rest of the day was spent getting lost in the streets and bridges of Venice as we walked across the island in search of Jewish Ghetto and Santa Maria dei Frari. This was an experience in itself, as not only did we literally get lost in the lanes, but also walked across some very scantily inhabited areas of Venice. Here is where, the reality of the dwindling number of inhabitants in Venice really hits you with force. The semblance to ghost town is eerie and it feels as if the houses by the lagoon hold a dark story each deep within their confines. The walk ended in the evening by getting us back to where it all started; San Marco.

After all this I can say, to me, Venice is like an old woman struck by pains of advanced years, worn out and tired, by standing on the salty shores waiting for her old man for too long. Her joints are scarred, skin shaggy and peeling but the twinkle in her eyes and the curve of her lips continue to drag you in. Her decaying grandeur so different from all others, whispers tales of a time gilded with gold and exotic pleasures and all the while something in the air tells you that she will give you an experience like none else.

What we loved: Walking all over the city and seeing it in the true sense instead of catching a number of tourist’s spots and some shots.

What we missed due to delay in flight: The glass factories and Burano.


Seema said...

New places seen, new pictures painted.
A new view of the world and a new look for your blog.

Keerti said...

yup. Do you like this look?

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