Oct 23, 2013
We left sunny Dubrovnik yesterday and arrived in overcast Venice in the late morning. We left the ship a little after noon and entered the greatest show in the world. The venue is both human, architectural, artistic, quality crafts and kitsch. The visitor of whom there are many, is bombarded with images and experiences not found in this density anywhere else on the planet.
We have been fortunate enough to have visited Venice a number of times. As a result we have managed to hit all the must see spots in this greatest show on Earth. Today we just wandered the streets and canals. In these wanderings we bumped along the alleys and piazzas with folks dragging the ubiquitous rolling suitcases and the porters with their hand trucks. Thankfully we had none of these. Despite being unencumbered, you need to keep your focus on your surroundings. This is not because of the skillful bad guys but just to avoid stepping on some one or getting trampled from behind. These things occur as there are zillions of things to distract you including enticing displays of food and endless souvenir offerings.
We were looking for our own souvenirs and possible additions to our household linen collection. The tourist is faced with an endless choice of Venetian specialties. I know our kids would like an authentic gondolier hat or shirt or possible an I love Venice shirt. Too many choices. These include the masks, glass objects, jewelry and leather crafts that are in hundreds of shops and in the hands of street vendors. The store owners are very helpful and knowledgeable and patient. I have no idea how they manage to survive. Even reasonably affluent tourists like us find it difficult to find anything unique despite spending several hours wandering the streets. We actually wanted to spend some money but just got worn out. Maybe tomorrow.
One fun distraction were the gondola riders clustered six to a gondola. Theirs was a regular wagon train or flotilla filled with customers from our ship. They looked to be having a great time. The gondoliers keep texting while paddling. Also found a Venetian copy cat operation with locks on the Accademia Bridge like those found on the Lovers Path in Cinque Terra. A good use for padlocks, I guess.
Being surrounded by folks from all over the world and with all ages well represented is a recipe for wonderful people watching. Tour groups temporarily clog the narrow streets but they are amusing to watch. School groups have their unique energy. The elderly and somewhat disabled manage to climb over the numerous bridges just as readily as the more able. Most folks just keep moving through the pathways designed in some random process that only makes sense to resident Venetians.
It was great to see groups of school age kids playing soccer in the confines of piazzas. It is important that real people still inhabit this endangered habitat. While it is certainly unique tourist attraction, this remnant of a once glorious republic, it is also home to 60,000 residents. These include college students who go to class in decaying buildings located away from the tourist crowds. They did not to seem to mind our invading their barrio while wandering around in full lost mode. They actually seemed exactly like American college students with their faces buried in screens.
The buildings that are still sinking despite the best efforts of modern engineers need lots of work. Tilting towers and moldy canal level floors must be a nightmare. There are plenty of empty structures but rents remain high and life goes on. Hopefully the city will remain viable and not become an empty shell filled with only tourists and their support systems. In the mean time it is a great place to visit although it can be exhausting. Despite it being the fall and with rain possible, the walkways and piazzas are dry. Events that require wooden walkways are becoming more frequent.
We did wander through St. Marks Square. We manage of few pictures of some. Oasis that were covered the last time we were here. The pigeons are still there and seem to be a favorite for tourists who buy grain to feed them while they cluster on your head and arm. Great pictures. Reminds me of placing peanut butter on your kids hands for a great bear photo op. OK, pigeons don’t bite but they do some pretty disgusting things. The overdressed maître des command the seats in front of the restaurant string groups playing old standards like America the Beautiful. Not to be missed are the dozens of guys trying to sell plastic slime that regenerates its shape after being splattered on their cardboard stage. Fortunately there were no guys with the bird whistle contraptions. Maybe tomorrow.
We were going to do a night time Grand Canal trip but have decided to stay on ship and not venture into town again until tomorrow. The overcast conditions are cool. We did fine in shirts. The Venetians were wrapped in their down jackets and looked very cold although fashionable. We have our Vaporetto passes so we are all set.