31 July 2012 Tuesday | 17:40 | 2012/06 Europe
- Surrounded by water with occasional floods;
- Reliance on imported goods;
- Got rich by being an important trading and commercial port…
Don’t the above sound familiar? Venice — home of Antonio Vivaldi, Marco Polo, and the oldest international film festival in the world — is breathtakingly beautiful. It benefitted from its prime position along trading routes and was Queen of the Mediterranean. The fairy tale of the rich crashed after the Americas were discovered.
The vast majority of Venetians have moved to the mainland because of high costs of living and obvious inconvenience. We didn’t stay in Venice, but took a 30-minute train ride, followed by a boat ride to St. Mark’s Square. I was back in full touristy mode and paid total attention to the local guide during the city tour and took triple the number of photographs compared to the previous day.
Just stand and stare. It’s worth the trouble getting there.
The Winged Lion of St. Mark — symbol of Venice.
Here is the answer if you were wondering why the top prize in the Venice Film Festival is the Golden Lion.
St Mark’s Campanile.
I muttered a quick thank-you when I learnt that the only way up was by the elevator, for the staircase was closed. It was extremely windy up there, and we got a bird’s-eye view of one of the most romantic cities in the world. Totally worth the couple of euros we paid. But it wasn’t funny when the deafening bell went off at the top of the hour. It was a good thing we were up there at 2 P.M.. I might have suffered permanent eardrum damage if I was there two hours earlier!
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) — de facto party venue.
St. Mark’s Basilica.
The guards in Doge’s Palace were more stringent than any of the places I went to in the last two and a half weeks. There was absolutely no chance of taking stealth pictures of the glaring golden ceilings and extravagant furnishings within. The Republic of Venice — though much smaller in size than its Roman and French counterparts — had an implausible liking for all things ritzy.
Peeking through a hole on The Bridge of Sighs.
The clever Venetian rulers had it all planned nicely. Interrogation, sentencing and imprisonment of criminals were done under one roof — no way for anyone to hijack prison vehicles (or vessels, in this case). A prisoner banished to the dungeons would pass this enclosed bridge and sigh, for it might be the last time he ever saw daylight.
Venice is a gigantic maze full of bridges, waterways and little alleys, which makes it one of the easiest places in the world to get lost. It is perfect for people who had always wanted to get off the beaten track. Just walk in any direction, for there will always be a tiny shop or quaint café you might fancy. And just by putting in a wee amount of effort — find colourful buildings + sky + water — you can get postcard worthy photographs with a basic point-and-shoot camera. Once you’re done for the day, simply look for the directional signs to get back to St. Mark’s Square. It is virtually impossible to miss those signs.
There are no cars in Venice. The essential services have their own boats, like this one for the Police in its corresponding blue colour.
They certainly weren’t kidding when they said Venice is an expensive city. One could get by grabbing a takeaway pizza or sandwich for a few euros. But I was rather tired from the walking and opted for a sit-down lunch. I was mentally prepared but still raised my eyebrows slightly when told to pay nearly €80 for two pastas, a plate of calamari, a bottle of still water and two Cokes. That, of course, included a cover charge for just sitting down in the restaurant.
If you still have money to blow, this mask costs a few thousand euros.
I was utterly ashamed when my new friend from Australia gleefully pointed this out to me and exclaimed, “Oh look! Someone in your country was here first!” Ladies and gentlemen, it is very unlikely that you will be caned for vandalism in most parts of the world, but please do not embarrass the rest of us by putting your stupidity on display. Thanks.
The mandatory gondola ride. And no, he didn’t sing.