Story Blog

Codine's off for the moment, but if you haven't read 'Turning Stones' it's still up there - free read!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

16th January 2011 (Monday)

GUESS what WE found, in the middle of Venice. A playground!

Yes, that's right. Yesterday we had a day in Venice. Here are Lara and the Whale doing morning reading on the train on my Kindle. Some peculiar story it was too, a random thing I downloaded... wish we had more Magic Pony Carousel editions, you know where you are with those.

Isn't this a lovely gardeny thing, again, in the middle of Venice?

The day's explorations started, as usual, with knocking on the lids of wells. What the fascination is I still don't understand, but there we are. You knock on the lid, and yell 'Hellooo, is there anyone in there??' repeatedly. To the consternation of passing tourists. Mind you, it does appear that I'm emerging from a well in the pic above, so perhaps the supposition isn't as erroneous as might seem at first.

Just a pretty pic of some canal.

Ah, now here they are, sitting on the steps of the church of the Misericordia (I think that's what it was) eating chocolate croissants and donuts. The Whale regaled us with an anecdote about the place, which I shall share. Said that it used to be a church, and has lots of frescos all over the place. Then (this being Venice) the powers that be decided to turn it into a gym. So people went to their aerobics classes, went to the showers and came out into a space still fresco-covered. Eventually it became run-down and, it seems, dangerous, so it was simply shut down. Now we just eat pastries on the steps. Only in Venice.

Ah, now here they are, spotting the very first gondola. Lara decided to count the number of gondolas she saw, and became quite obsessed with the project throughout the day. I'll be running a (totally non-prize-giving) guessing-game as to just how many gondolas the Non managed to spot. Answer at the end of the blog.

Here she is at her favourite occupation of lighting a candle in what I believe was the church of St Crisostomo. May have been that, or something else - some name that sounded like Christopher spelled by someone who'd been at the communion wine with considerably too much gusto. All the other pics are just the usual grainy things that one ends up with in dark churches pointing a non-flashing camera at murky paintings - none the less it was an interesting church. The Non, however, was most impressed by a massive 10 Euro candle which someone had lit, and stood about three feet high. They must have had a mega-wish.

We attempted an abortive visit round the Jewish quarter, but missed the hourly tour of the synagogue by a few minutes and got in a general tizzy up and down the steps of the museum, so decided to go and pay Calle dela Bissa a visit instead. The Whale, of course, had mozarella in carozza - I tried an arancino and also ended up eating the Non's polpetto, so was pretty sunk for the rest of the day. Lara herself drank a hot chocolate, with consummate dignity despite the moustache.

More spotting of gondolas.

Then, of course, there had to be a ride on the stone lions in St Mark's, which the Whale ogled Venini next door. Traditions, traditions.

No pics from the inside of St Mark's, of course. I handed Lara my binoculars so she could see the mosaics better - or so I thought until I took a closer look at what she was doing. Holding them the wrong way round and giggling quietly to herself at the resulting tiny ceiling. What was a stunner, though, was the INSANE ... well, I don't know what to call it, jewel sticker-album of the Dodge, I guess. I'd never seen it before, and didn't know what to expect. Came round the back of the altar and was practically slapped in the face by the merciless glare of gold plate and brick-load of precious stones. I wonder if I could find a pic of it somewhere and paste it here just so you can see what I'm talking about... Ah, here we are . Palla d'oro. Mind you, you really can't see any of the rocks (and I mean, rocks) that are all over the damn thing. ****ing gobsmacking. Which I'm sure was the intention. As the Whale said, divert the odd Crusade, pilfer for a thousand years or so and that's what you get.

Afterwards, Lara discovered another tradition outside. Pigeons! Ah, joy, we had some pastry left over. Weren't the pigeons glad, and wasn't Lara mesmerised!

Learned an interesting thing about this bell-tower. Fell down completely in 1902. There's a picture of a black-and-white square with a mega pile of rubble and no tower. Been rebuilt since then, obviously. One would never know, would one.

Here's Lara 'touching the nail'. You have to walk down a certain stretch of alcove without anyone crossing your path and touch the nail to to be 'lucky'. Place was deserted at the time so she had no trouble. I tried as well, but was told I was disqualified because I walked too quickly: you have to do it at a normal walking pace. My protests that that's my normal walking pace fell on deaf (and frozen) ears.

What do you think the gondola count was up to by this time?

Here's a rather refreshing church, I think it was Mr Barbaro. Instead of going through the charade of having images of Christ and the saints made, he just converted a church into a private mausoleum for himself. Stuck life-size carvings of himself and his whole family (which numbered many) all over the facade, and for good measure also posted up reliefs of all the places he'd had military victories over around the bottom.

Ok, this might seem like an uninspiring photo, but look at the building at the end of it. This is the only church in Venice that's  built (partially) on a bridge. Now here's the anecdote. For many years, the altar was situated right on the bridge. The congregation was greatly perturbed that while serious devotions were going on over the bridge, less devotionally minded were doing unspeakable things in gondolas under the bridge. Eventually, the altar was moved. Interestingly, I noted that no-one even considered the possibility of stopping the gondolas or their occupants from 'indulging' under the bridge. This is Italy, after all. Can't be stopped, not for heaven or earth.

Just a nice pic of the Grand Canal.

What's the gondola count NOW?

An another one - this one from the 19th century!

Last stop was the Ca' Rezzonico. Not, I have to say, Lara's favourite, though entirely splendid. The argument that she wasn't going to get the opportunity to traipse round a Venetia palace in a while didn't seem to hold water with her. No pics from here again (no cameras), and there were many marvellous paintings crammed into every nook and cranny - but we did notice one painter - Pietro Longhi - who frankly ... well. Firstly he appears to have had only one model, for both male and female, old and young, as all the people look exactly the same. Secondly, that one model bore a remarkable resemblance to a potato. A whole room full of 'em. 'Strodinary.

Today's caption competition...

View of Venice from a room in Ca'Rezzonico .. note the gardens to the right, that'll be important in a moment...

YES! In the grounds of a PALACE in the middle of Venice, what do we find?? A PLAYGROUND!

Towards the end of the day, just near the train station before heading home. The newest bridge in Venice.

Now I really must get ready because I'm meant to be picked up in a few minutes for a spritz... wish me luck, as I do intend to come back in one piece!

..And yes, thank you for the reminder - was too hasty yesterday and forgot to put in the all-important gondola count. The total was... (drumroll) 146!


  1. And the gondola count? My guess was 55 ... ?
    Thank you for the lovely pics, Vesna, enjoyed them all, along with the interesting accounts of your exploratory endeavours! Congrats to Whale for the supply of anecdotes and spicy details. Good to see you all happy and some blissfully and deliciously moustached :)

  2. John Chrysostom - the golden mouthed.

  3. Ah, thank you, on both counts.

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