05 March 2011

The Floating City

No matter how many paintings, photos or movie scenes you've seen that feature Venice in all its canal-ed glory, nothing really prepared me for how gobsmacking it is. How stupidly beautiful the whole thing seems when you think about the fact that people went, "yeah, let's build that!" And/or how much water there actually is.
I expected canals and bridges and gondolas. An email from Merlin when he was in Venice four years ago, told me about construction boats outfitted with cranes, garbage boats, boat taxis, delivery boats. I expected these things - but not the streets that would abruptly drop off into water or the smell of sea wafting through the air. I wasn't expecting the seagulls that fly and squawk overhead and swooped down to pick at raw fish scraps left on the ground as the six hundred year old Venetian Fish Market closed for the day.
Oh, the fish market and the restaurants around it. Last night, we made a meal of hopping from place to place and standing at the bar for a glass of wine and cicchetti (Venetian tapas). From Poland until Moldova, we pointed at prepared food and ate it plopped simply onto a plate a billion times - but in those four months, we never wound up with grilled eggplants stuffed with fresh baby octopus, shrimp with pumpkin and poppy seeds or smoked salmon wrapped around tabasco sauced ricotta.
I wasn't expecting the magnificence of the light at night, bouncing off of ripples in the water - how it all really makes you feel like you're floating.
In the first week of March, I also wasn't expecting the crowds. But we didn't know it would be carnivale. There is panic-attack inducing congestion right now and it's easy to feel like the whole city is sinking fast below the weight. The labyrinthine streets feel claustrophobic and the fear of papercutting my eyeball on someone's open map sends shivers down my spine.
But then, you notice how happy everyone seems to be there - and you realize that you are, too.
Because it really is that beautiful.

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