Venice is an unreal place for real people
September 15-16, 1999:
Venice got its start as a refuge from barbarian invaders when the Roman empire fell.
Around the turn of the millennium (after the dark ages) they became a prosperous maritime capital. With Marco Polo and the other explores who opened up the Silk Road with the Orient, Venice grew to a rich and powerful nation. The Venetians worked hard to show how wealthy they were.
Nowhere else have we found marble sewer covers.
Then the younger colonial powers like Spain and England found new routes to the orient and cut off the flow of trade through Venice.
Then these grand palaces which had been built to be serviced only by expensively rowed gondolas fell into disuse and disrepair.
But the Venetians have held on, against all odds. Real people live here and go to work every day, leaving their laundry to dry over the emerald green waterways.
Only elite locals can afford to have a gondola anymore.
Most locals depend on the Vaporatti (a word coming from when these boats were powered by steam engines) to get around. At every stop the conductor must attach and detach the mooring lines.
Of course most of their industry revolves around tourists.
The Japanese seem to monopolize the daytime gondola traffic. Here a group has a veritable flotilla in charge. Each one has the dad in the prow taking pictures of the family.
The city is a romantic Mecca, offering all sorts of unique attractions.
Dining next to modern media.
Being dined on by frantic fowl.
Stairways to the imagination...
Many of the Venetians are artists, continuing a proud tradition.
Brusegan's face is more beautiful than his art;
Shops for woodworkers, potters, glassblowers, puppet makers and mask painters crowd the narrow streets of Venice.
Mask Making is particularly big because of a costume festival held annually for 20 days in February.
sometimes Venetians just sit and
The glories of Venetian architecture still abound. To the left is San Marcos, which grew gaudily decorated over the centuries as all ships returning from afar were required by law to bring a precious gift to add to its splendor.
Until the dawn of the 19th century, this was the private chapel of the Doges -- effectively the kings of Venice.
Rialto bridge was once the destination of deal makers and brokers in trade fortunes. Now it's the destination of tourists on the number 1 Vaporatti.
As the number one Vaporatti comes around the corner of Grand Canal toward San Marco, one's eyes can't stay off San Maria della Salute. It was built in the seventeenth century to commemorate the city's deliverance from a plague, hence the name Salute which means 'health.'
But our favorite cathedral was Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, which was recommended by the friends we met in Florence.
We got to see Renaissance masterpieces in the setting where they were intended: church altars. To the right is 'The Assumption of the Virgin' by Titian.
The Franciscans weren't going to accept this piece until the Bavarian ambassador said he wanted it.
Also in the church is an immense monument showing Africans holding up the weight of fair skinned figures on the top row. In 1479 this probably had a different meaning than today. As we looked up at it, we were awed by the humanity in their eyes and forlorn at the tattered clothing they wore.
It reminds us our civilization was built on exploitation such as this.
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