musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Guest Post: a day in Venice...

One of the Big Things on my ever-growing retirement wish list is travel. Faraway places beckon: Cornwall, Paris, Maui... So many choices! No doubt I'll eventually drag myself out of the wishful/dreaming stage and take off. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying my 'staycation' while feeding my wanderlust with the photos and journals of traveling friends. Here's Ian McCallum's tale of a day spent walking through Venice. Enjoy!

* * *

It is morning, a bright, sunny, cloudless morning. I take the bus from my hotel in Mestre to the bus terminal in Venice. Venice, ancient city of wood, brick and stone, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Byzantine styles, and there before me, a bridge, a bridge to the train station, a bridge by... Calatrava. Santiago Calatrava. A modern master! A clean curving arch of bronze, marble, glass and steel, its structure like a spine, metal intertwined, almost organic.

I cross.

I walk along the Grand Canal, its ancient stone borders wearing away from the waves produced by the constant traffic. 

The Grand Canal, loud, crowded, a mass of Gondolas, water taxis, boats of all descriptions, horns, bells, birds, a cacophony of sound reflecting off the centuries old structures. The path ends. I walk through the side streets. Stone paving, sometimes modern interlock, sometimes granite, worn, no longer even. The Doges walked these streets for over a thousand years. I have yet to see a street that runs straight for more than a few hundred feet. They twist, they turn, there is a maze of side passages, thoroughfares that may be twenty feet wide and lined with shops, to passages that are barely wide enough for two to pass. Sometimes they end, at a wall, at a canal, I must retrace my steps. 

I turn a corner, a piazza, at the end, a church, crumbling, the limestone and marble details blurred, sometimes indiscernible, I enter, there are carved marble columns in every style imaginable, in every colour, in every variety. The walls, the ceilings covered in frescoes, icons, statuary, relics everywhere. I go on. 

I walk along a narrow passage, at the end stairs, rising to the left, at an angle, straight ahead, a wall. I climb the stairs, over a canal, and down the other side to another alley, they do not line up, the stairs connect the ancient passageways. 

Another corner, the Rialto Bridge. The oldest bridge over the canal. First built of wood in 1181 it was reconstructed over the years. The present bridge, stone, built in 1591 has a central pediment at the peak of the arch, two lines of shops with a central passageway, and passageways on either side. I pause for the obligatory pictures.

Continuing on, more twists, more turns. Churches, monuments, homes, shops, never knowing what is around the next corner, the next bend. Sometimes a vista across the Grand Canal bathed in sunlight, the temperature in the 30s (90s), sometimes in a narrow passageway, cool, damp, encased by decaying brick, the only light from the clear blue sky glimpsed above the walls 3, 4, 5 stories tall.

Church bells.

Close by.

In the distance.

It is Sunday.

Everywhere, church bells.

Another turn, a tree filled park, birds chirping, once again alongside the Grand Canal. It is bordered by a large building and beyond, rising over the rooftops, the Campanile, icon of Piazza San Marco. At the entrance to the Square, two columns, in honour of St Mark and St Theodoro, patrons of the city. To the right The Doges Palace, beyond, St Mark's Basilica, straight ahead The Clock Tower. the square is a seething mass of humanity... and pigeons! I walk beyond the clock tower. A somewhat narrow street, lined with shops, rays of sunlight descend from above. In the distance, singing, chanting. A religious group walking through the streets. I move on.

I walk. I walk through more narrow corridors. Past more churches. Through many squares. I walk along a sun drenched street. It is interrupted by a canal. A narrow canal. Sunlit. Gondolas. Gondoliers singing, accompanied by accordions.

I am walking alongside a canal. Three, four story buildings line the street. In one, a passageway. Outstretched arms can almost touch the walls. Raised hand can almost touch the ceiling. The walls dark, damp brick. Embedded in one wall two columns, a beam. Wood. Rough. Lightly dusted with the white hairs of fungi. On the wall a sign… The Gheto.

The Ghetto?

I discover that 'gheto' is a Venetian word adopted into English.

I walk in.

Narrow passageway.

Long, narrow passageway.

It opens to a small square.

On one side, a Synagogue. On the opposite side another. The other sides are residential buildings. Tall buildings. Many floors. The ceiling heights are lower than most. A lot of humanity in little space. There is a memorial on one Synagogue wall. I continue on. A larger square. Sunlit. Open. A tree in the centre. On the far side wall I see bronze plaques. The wall is brick, old brick, there are doors, they are steel, old steel, heavy steel. On top of the wall, wire, rows of wire, barbed wire. 

The plaques? A memorial. To the holocaust, to the memory of those who were sent out from The Ghetto. In the square, near the memorial, a large booth, a manned booth, by the police, 24/7, because... in this day and age... they are needed... to protect those who live, those who live in The Ghetto.

I leave.

I walk to the Calatrava bridge.

The sun sets.

Ian A McCallum is a Canadian horticulturalist, educator, and enthusiastic world traveler. Find him on Facebook

All photos ©Ian A McCallum, used with permission.

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At 6:20 pm, Blogger Joanne Guidoccio said...

Great pictoral essay! I could easily imagine myself in Venice. :)

At 8:58 pm, Blogger Sheila Seabrook said...

Beautiful descriptions! And those pictures...I longed to follow in Ian's footsteps!

At 2:27 pm, Anonymous Susan McNicoll said...

What a great walk through Venice, with photos and words complimenting each other beautifully. I had the sense was there walking with Ian.


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