Sunday morning six people stand in a purple gondola, stripped of all of its ornamentation, pulling on long gondola-oars from alternating sides of the boat. The oarsman in the stern yells out a cadence, a rhythm for rowing, steering a safe course through the flotilla of boats using the Grand Canal in Venice.
This particular boat holds what appears to be a family of four kids and two adults out for a Sunday on the water. The side canals are choked with pleasure crafts, plus sight-seeing gondolas, vaporettos (large transit taxis) or individual water taxis.
It's organized bedlam. It's noisy, and colourful. It's fabulous.
As we work our way towards St. Mark's Square at the entrance to the Grand Canal we are swamped by crowds, tour groups faithfully following their leaders with earphones plugged into a wireless system listening to the explanation of what they are seeing, and what famous person lived in which house. The languages are from a myriad of countries with Chinese groups being the predominate factor.
People jostle, and squish their way through the narrow winding streets of a city that has an ancient history.
Built on a collection of 118 tiny islands the city eventually grew to over 270,000 inhabitants. The first of 120 churches is San Giacomo on the islet of Rialto was dedicated on March 25th 421 AD/CE. Sadly, as our third-generation Gondolier recounted to us - due to exorbitant land prices, the high cost of restoring the ancient buildings, and the lagging Italian economy - most of the workers of Venice live elsewhere. The city population of Venice is now around 63,000 giving the back streets and side canals of the city a ghostly, deserted feel at night when the tourists have returned to their hotels and cruise ships.
|Lawrie, with his sister Linda and Richard G.|
By the end of the day we are tired. Happy but tired. With 425 bridges in this city crossing the myriad of canals we are sure that we have trekked over at least 400 of them. Time to head back to the hotel to nap, and later we will join our travel buddies for a glass of wine before dinner.
Ah, Sunday in Venice. Quite, quite lovely.