Travels in Europe
Venice - The Dream Destination
By Ric Polansky
Jul 1, 2006, 12:09


                                                                             Ric Polansky  ©


The more enjoyable and exciting a holiday-- the quicker it transforms into a dream upon returning home. Just two days later and you can’t believe that less than 48 hours ago you were far from your own maddening crowd; routine chores obliterated. That designates a truly glorious time. You were so busy imbibing the airs of a distant culture or observing the relics that beguile the imagination you forgot to worry about home. The mind floated into new fresh visionary realms. A flight back to your domicile changes all that. PRESTO …. the same monotonous chores, familiar gripes and not even a whisper of recent gossip. Unfortunately, if holidays become a dream that quickly-- you already owe yourself another vacation.


But, there is one place on this planet where the dreams happen to you on holiday. Therefore, upon returning home you cannot, nor will  be able to shake off the revelation of what you witnessed. Even while there you had to keep pinching yourself to see if it was authenticate or not. Even weeks later the memories of your visit still remain fresh.


Venice, the living relic from the Renaissance built on one hundred and seventy islands and laced by an almost even one hundred and eighty canals. Only fifty thousand actual residents live there in the summer time but are confronted daily by more than five hundred thousand photo snapping, Babel tongued invaders asking where, questioning how, inquiring when. Tourists in Venice know only one thing for certain—they are never perplexed by the price, which borders on a knife’s edge between preposterous to outrageous.


Venice where on any one street you can buy a pair of shoes for 800 Euros that you wouldn´t accept a bribe of a thousand Euros to wear in public. Every shop beholds the glitter and glitz of every brand name concocted by every advertising agency since time began (with the exception of Kellogs Cornflakes). If you can wear it or it can be imaginably attired to your presence, you can buy it in Venice, and someone is wearing it already.


Venice where no guide book is ever needed. To discover all the wonders of the city would take at least ten years and by then you would be a full time resident. Venice of the antiquated dilapidation that veils herself in opulence and magnificence. Venice where each corner presents a new wonderment of discovery that even your later day back door Bar-B-Q embellishments will not diminish.


The Venice of Marco Polo, the one that told the fantastic lies that were written by his fellow imprisoned mate Rustichello is just that: unbelievable. Marco Polo of the  wonderful adventures to Cathay and Kubla Khan’s palaces. The stories of riches and worldly goods that astounded Europe of the dark ages—but were blatant fabrications to dwellers in the grid locked canals. They had it all already … living  the lavishness. A “Marco Polo” in Venice is a liar.


Do we talk about the Venice of Art and it´s painters. The pinnacle of the Renaissance ushering in more new types of art modes than the world had seen for the last 1500 years. Or is it the merchants of Venice that sent their ships everywhere plying their trade, buying and selling nations as if reams of carpet. Their navy just behind ruled the seas yet kept open the trading barriers between the Muslim and Christian world. In their “arsenal” they could build a fighting ship fitted and kitted, ready for battle in less than twenty four hours.


Do we speak of the Venice of deep and mystical Christianity with each mercantile supplicant building a church in his own honor and  each cathedral vying with each other for baroque splendor or grotesque Rococo.


Nor will I write to you of Venice’s palaces with dripping wedding cake facades and live white marble statues guarding each entrance. Works of art so sublimely carved that tourists often speak to them.


The Venice of the slight of hand and velvet gloved deceit needs mention. While walking in San Marcos square at midnight I was bemused by an entertaining ensemble playing Vivaldi (another Venetian). A most eloquent band of musicians adorned in tux, bow ties, tails and the women in long evening dresses. “Come and have an ice cream, pricey but good” beckoned the waiter.  It was Venice. A once in a life time happening. The boat had to be pushed out. The risk endured. I consulted the menu. Eighteen Euros each for two scoops of probably sugared ice. Gran larceny next to the Gran Canal. But four of us enjoyed forty minutes of stringed serenity in the elegant shadows of San Marcos square. The bill came. It was ninety-six euros. Of course I had not calculated, cover charge, where I sat near the orchestra, the secret name of the waiter (not Giavani but really Billy Bob Radical from Zanzibar) nor the angle cast by the tall campanile across the plaza and it´s proximity to me. It all could be explained … Venetian style. Just another of the 500,000 visitors per day awarded with another tale to tell.


“You should be wearing a mask” I quipped. “I do” he replied back. He too had probably heard my same refrain every day of the year…but what I didn´t realize was that Venice is as famous for it´s masks than it´s Gondoliers.


Possibly you´ve heard of the “car-neh-vale” (meat no good) which is  the Venetians carnival held just before lent when all dress up in lavish costumes and parade about singing, dancing, cavorting and being outrageous. Although the custom died out for a mere two hundred years, from 1780-1987 (it had lasted from the 1200´s) and has since been dramatically revived. At one time everyone in Venice wore a mask everyday to disguise his personage so that he could go about his daily mercantile affairs or frolicking about with the renown women of Venice in playful oblivion.


 For almost three hundred years this custom prevailed so you can imagine the deep seeded roots of commerce and fun that lurk just below the shallow waters of the canals. Deep passions that lured every traveler and conqueror in Europe to journey there to behold the depravity and extravagance that made the lagoon synonymous with lustfulness and hedonistic pleasures. In Venice you could do whatever you wanted, say whatever came into your mind, charge what you felt was a necessity to be paid or comport yourself in any manner befitting your mood or penchant for the day. The mask shielded you from criticism and judgment. Redemption— that was just around any and every corner in one of the five thousand churches.


Venice—a wonderful place to visit. If you refuse to wear a mask—take lots of money.


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