Venice is a dream. It is unreal. But to me, it has also always been kind of uncanny. Maybe because it’s sinking, or maybe because of the scary masks everywhere for the balls. Or maybe it’s the labyrinthic maze-like streets, where you can get lost and never find your way out. Or maybe I just had the wrong guide…
THE HAPPY BEGINNING
You start out happy:
“Ah, Venice! A magnificent city! A city full of irresistible attraction to the well-educated, both due to its history and its present charms!”
When you first arrive, it’s all spectacular and golden. You enter the UNESCO-listed city by boat, and from afar you begin to make out the different palaces until you finally set foot on this floating city.
As my guide Gustav said:
So he again set eyes on the most astounding landing, that blinding composition of fantastic architecture, which the Republic has to offer the awestruck looks of the approaching seafarer: the light grandeur of the Palace and the Bridge of Sighs, the columns topped with the lion and the saint close to the shore, the flauntingly projecting flank of St Mark’s, the view of St Mark’s Clock, and thus contemplating he thought that arriving in Venice from the train station was like entering a palace through the servants’ entrance and that one should always, like himself, travel across the ocean to the most improbable of cities.
LOOKING FOR ST MARCUS
You can certainly follow him, when he describes this magnificent city. Climb the campanile and look into the maze of this city. The first glimpse just puts you in awe. You cannot visit Venice without heading for the square of St Marcus. Here you find the symbol of Venice – the winged lion- high above your head on a pillar.
The symbol of Venice is also found all over the Adriatic sea, since the republic of Venice was a large financial and maritime power during the Middle ages and the Renaissance. Many of the crusades also started from here and the wealth came from trade with silk and spices.
CHANGE OF WEATHER
Venice is actually quite damp. And when the sun is gone you can really feel it. Everything looks grey.
A revolting sultriness could be felt in the alleys, the air was so heavy that the odors that emanated from the apartments, stores, and cookshops, like those of hot oil, clouds of perfume and many more, remained fixed like clouds without dispersing. Cigarette smoke hung in one place and only gradually escaped. The jostle in the narrow streets was a burden, not an enjoyment to the stroller.
You might also want to ride in a gondola, but it is a bit overrated. And way overpriced. But do it if it is important to you. I did the first time I was in Venice. Even though the guides description was somewhat off-putting. Not your usual tourist blabber. It went something like this:
The strange vehicle, which seems unchanged from more fanciful times and which is so strangely black like normally only coffins are, reminds one of silent and criminal adventures in the lapping night, furthermore it is reminiscent of death itself, the bier, the drab funeral and the final, wordless ride. And has one noticed that the coffin-black-varnished, black-upholstered chair in such a barge is the softest, most luxurious, most deeply relaxing seat in the whole world?
Venice is a place of mystery, and love. And my guide did fell in love on the beach near the city. We also stayed by the lido, the two times I’ve been. He just kept on rambling about this love of his, it was like he was obsessed.
THE SAD ENDING
But then and some people at the hotel caught some virus. Don’t eat oisters and clams! When you asked people they said:
“Purely a precaution, dear sir,” he said, gesticulating. “An order of the police that has to be observed. The weather is oppressive, the scirocco is not conducive to health. In short, you understand — likely an excessive precautionary measure.
But what happened to my guide was even more sad. He died. By a horrible disease. Everyone else was leaving, but he stayed just so he could be with his love. So he died in a chair on the lido. Made me cry, when I heard.
Did I mention my guide was the poet Gustav von Aschenbach? He is the main character in the world class novel “Death in Venice” by Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann. So don’t worry – no humans or animals were harmed. But the experience of Venice was. Travelbooks are not for the faint-hearted, but if you’re up for it find more here.
Once the largest sea empire ever – now a sinking ship. Due to environmental change, pollution, mass tourism (yes, us) and bad political decisions Venice is disappearing in many ways. Another reason not to visit Venice is the massive overtourism, that is destroying the city and making it intolerable for the residents.
I don’t think I will go back ever again. But I guess that is easy for me to say, when I have already visit the Venice of the world.
Want another travelbook to show you the dark side of St. Petersburg? Go to the ugly side of St. Petersburg, Russia with “Crime & Punishment”.