Watching TV on the high speed train from Florence to Venice:
|Ilana is very hard to amuse.|
Let's talk about Venice for a second. Venice is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The place is quite frankly the most different place I have ever visited. Venice is an archipelago off the coast of Northeast Italy. The main island looks like a fish. There are no roads in Venice, only canals. The city exists without cars or trucks. All transportation within Venice consists of walking on narrow paths and by crossing Venice's over 400 bridges, and floating. Here's how it looked a couple hundred years ago:
|The river flowing through the island is "the grand canal", the closest equivalent to a highway in Venice.|
We love the map room!
Venice was once a major world power. It was a staging center for the Crusades, the most important merchant city in the world (perhaps because of the easy port access?), and like most Italian cities, it was an important place in the development of every kind of art during the Renaissance. Check out this map showing the influence of the Republic of Venice on the world:
|Big shot Venetians. The dark red and pink areas represent former Venetian territories.|
Venice declined. Largely this was because of the rise of Portugal and Spain as merchant nations, and encroaching Turkish/Albanians. Napoleon's forces delivered the killing stroke to the city-state. Venice became a part of Austria, and then was incorporated into Italy when it was formed in 1866. Since then, Venice has become a city-sized museum. The only industries on the formerly powerful island are tourism, art, and glass-works.
The population of the island has shrunk from 170,000 in 1951, to under 60,000 today. Native Venetians are going extinct while 20 million tourists visit the island per year. The population decline is largely attributed to lack of opportunities on the island, an aging population seeking easier lives on the mainland free of flooding and high living expenses. The island has also reportedly been slowly sinking, or at least more and more susceptible to flooding over time. Venice is quickly becoming a millionaire's playground. A Disney World for adults.
It has changed just a bit since it looked in that picture above:
We arrived in Venice by train with all our luggage in hand. There was no way we were going to carry our bags over all the bridges between there and our hotel (which was located just about halfway down the Grand Canal). We bought vaporetto tickets.
The vaporetto is the public water-bus service of Venice. It's relatively expensive. A single ride (good for one hour) is €6. A 12 hour ticket is €13. We bought four 12 hour tickets so we could get around Venice for the rest of the day. And down the canal we went...
|One of the four bridges that cross over the Grand Canal.|
|Of course my parents would make friends with strangers on the boat.|
|View from the top of the Rialto.|
|Because nothing says "I've been to Venice" like a $300 mask...the real reason for the masks can be found here|
|It looks nicer inside, trust me.|
Check out these old-school postcards for the Marconi from the first half of the 20th Century:
As per our usual mode of operation, we headed towards the Jewish sites in the city. This meant getting back on a vaporetto and heading back up the Grant Canal towards the train station, and taking pictures along the way, imagining that we were in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade like this guy:
|At least we weren't crazy enough to... go between them!!!|
|Newlywed gondola ride.|
|Gondola/barber poles. Moving on...|
|A produce market. On the right, that boat is a taxicab.|
|Still heading to the Jewish Ghetto.|
|Just soaking up Venice along the way.|
|On the left, that's what a waterbus station looks like. Beyond it, some gondola poles.|
|Even if I didn't know Hebrew I could probably translate it: Jewish stuff this way.|
|Taking a photo with the menu = tourist tendencies.|
|Not even a railing between my seat and falling right into the canal.|
The food was more Israeli style than Italian, but everything was delicious. There was some serious presentation put into the dishes:
|Lamb medallions... check out that drizzling action!|
|Some kind of goulash, it would appear.|
|Vegetarian lasagna, but no cheese. It's a fleishig restaurant.|
Venice is where the word Ghetto was invented. Did you know that? Generally, a ghetto is defined as an area inhabited by only one ethnic group, usually due to various socio-economic reasons. In the case of the Jewish Ghettos of Europe, Jews were forced to only live within a certain area. The first ever "ghetto" was in the north of Venice. In 1516, the Jewish presence in Venice had grown in size and influence to such an extent that the leaders of the city-state enacted a decree that restricted the residences of all Jews to a few city blocks. The result was an eclectic interspersing of Jews from all over Europe. Unlike other Jewish Ghettos, the one in Venice did not form its own identity. The different backgrounds remained separate, retaining their own languages and Synagogues.
|Ilana and I in front of the rest home.|
|David's Shop in the Ghetto. David's sister does all the work - every display has a sign like this one.|
|Don't touch his sister! More on David's shop and his sister in a future post.|
Please enjoy some pictures of the Synagogues here, and if you wish, there are descriptions and layouts to be found here.
|Speed Gondolas! They were going for some kind of record.|
|Can you imagine living in there? Crazy.|
|Standard minor canal - this could be your morning commute if you lived here.|
Where to go next? I'm pretty good at navigating - gotta figure out the right route to take next.
|Maps on maps.|
|Where are we?|
I've said it many times - but being a tourist can be hard on your legs. Having a chance to sit on the vaporetto gave us a much needed rest:
|The tourist season hasn't quite started yet... lots of gondolas are out of commission.|
|And we thought we were just taking a great picture...|
|Venice at night.|
We had a late dinner in one of the restaurants adjacent to the Hotel Marconi, right on the grand canal with the Rialto Bridge in the background.