Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Smooth Getaway Postcard From Venice

Mysterious, yet so very entrancing. Venice by night may be the most romantic place on earth, or so I was told by the thick accented French in Paris. Delectable enticing Pair-eee had been my previous hangout. Paris is indeed magical but built up somewhat larger than life by imagination and expectation in the tender vision of foreign dreamers. So I ask myself, "Is this also true of Venice Italy?"

Still, I am confident that when I look back on these travels in the future, I will remember them as absolutely glorious. I will almost certainly believe with all my heart that this was the peak of my life. Oh, how the mind makes fools of us all. The consistency of its inaccuracies is a predictable and merciful crime as we slip gently behind the veil of rosy memory. Though I can’t help but marvel at such optimistic favoritism.

The still waters of Venice ache with the anxiety of reminiscence, with wild tales of olden days, of highest rule and greatest conquest. The soft waves of the sea splashing against the ancient facades are like a tune often sung. A melody composed of misery and longing. Burdened with the sorrowful memories of a once grand Venetian existence, a culture that was as strong as any before it is now a mere sight to be overrun by the advancing tourist. Every ripple in every canal represents the essence of a soul who once called Venezia its home.

My skin met the warm gentle breeze of the Italian summer sea as I stepped out of the train station's open doorway. My heart began to calm from the overexcited pace of moving row to row and pressing my nose to the window glass of the train as it rolled across the lagoon. A beautiful sunset was masked above the precious blue waters, highlighting the scenery with a valiant orange glow.

As the sun abated, the alien footsteps of tourists likewise disappeared. Alone I wandered through whimsical stone alleyways, over canal bridges and past tiny trinket shops. I felt pensive, even mystified by the mood that enveloped me, as it likely has many who experience Venice by night. Dim yellow lights revealed the peeling paint and distressed wood of ancient doors with rusted iron railings and prim window gardens.

I bypassed intertwined love-drunk couples and the occasional back alley cafe. Men lounged around a tilted wooden table, yammering loudly at each other with heavy Italian voices as smoke billowed from their cigars and drink sloshed from their hand-held glasses. Briefly, I lingered nearby, watching the friendly heated discussions, fascinated by the men’s gestures and verbal articulations.

The farther I wandered along, the more comfortable and even enamored I became. I envisioned falling in love in this place and living a serene Italian fantasy till my last breath. It was beautiful, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what made it so ideal. Focusing on the details, I noticed the buildings were crumbling, the canals gave off an occasional putrid stench and the lighting vacillated between romantic and eerie.

I wasn't committed to much of a plan. I had no itinerary but blissful solitude. I arranged nothing prior to arriving here, so I knew of no attractions or tourist-traps. My only desire was to become lost, gloriously astray, so that I might find what Venice truly wanted me to discover. I stumbled around every which way, changing course just for the hell of it. I deliberately played the fool, losing all sense of direction.

I continued in this manner for some time, until I encountered a large opening. Some sort of a square, lined with shops and patio restaurants and centered on a small lifeless fountain. Children pranced around, laughing and enjoying their time without a care in the world. "Damn, I wish I'd grown up this way, without the greed and selfishness I experienced in the States," I pondered to myself, as I watched the merriment of real living unfold before my eyes.

Moving slowly around the spacious plaza, I glanced from storefront to storefront. I stopped to taste fabulous cheeses and some enticing wines. I made off with some lemon gelato from a lovely older woman. She gave me a praying hands gesture as I walked away. I felt her wishes of good will upon me as I turned a corner in the general direction of the Grand Canal Bridge Ponte dell' Accademia. My lack of a destination had been altered, when the kind lady thoughtfully directed me toward the town center along the Adriatic sea.

Even with my newly-acquired plan, I continued at a leisurely pace, taking everything in. A few blocks away, I was serenaded into bliss by a lone street-accordionist. He bobbed and swayed back and forth, spreading mirth with his festive melodies. He was a massive dark-skinned fellow, dressed in red and white pinstripes with a black-rimmed hat. He had shiny grey shoes and suspenders to complete his ensemble. I stood transfixed, happier than I can remember. I was bewitched for what seemed like ages, until the sticky, cold, melting gelato reached my fingers.

I proceeded several blocks, yet I still had a distinct glide in my step. My mind couldn’t shake the man’s music and my hand couldn’t stop waving conductor-style to the rhythm playing in my head. I couldn’t help but subconsciously hum his savory tones, as they filled my empty spaces and made all seem right with the world. Excitement flushed across my face as the path curved and the immense bridge came into view.

A group of shoppers were crowded into a small alley on my right, where several shops clustered together. A sloping Italian sign reading "Apothecary" hung over the first storefront. A cluttered window of ancient bottles emitted a green glow to which I was immediately drawn. The store was cramped and packed to the ceiling with a middle isle of lopsided hanging shelves. The product selection was divided between medical and recreational substances. The green glow emanated from an impressive collection of Absinthe bottles. Squealing like a little girl winning a carnival prize, I snagged a bottle, paid for it and ran out the door.

I’ve long had a fascination with liquors, beers and wines. Anything that has alcohol in it must be given a try! This was the real stuff with all of the right ingredients - not that garbage sold under the same name back home. I decided to save this rare find for another night on my journey.

I found my way to the Piazza San Marco, where I saw endless hints that it was closing time. Restaurant employees were taking down their patios and the musicians were packing up their instruments. I felt a bit sad that I’d missed all the hoopla, but the realization that I was one of only a few still wandering the great square vanquished all sadness and filled me with pure wonder.

The architecture of the plaza and of San Marco’s Basilica held me transfixed. No longer paying attention to where I was walking, I tripped over a ledge then righted myself, only to stand gazing before the great Adriatic sea. There were several gondolas tied to wooden poles and bobbing with the waves. I sat on a stone step looking at the lights on the water stretching off to where San Giorgio Maggiore church stands on a nearby island.

“The only thing missing now is a gorgeous Italian girl to fall in love with and a vintage wine to inspire bad decision making,” I mused. Seeing no obstacle to spending the night lying on Venetian stone and falling asleep to the sounds of the sea, I did just that. There really is something magical about that place.

Brandon Elijah Scott is a travel writer and photographer with over eight years of experience. He is also an adventurer, storyteller, book lover and filmmaker who currently lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Check out his work at http://www.eyeandpen.com.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the tour, Brandon! It's one of the places I must see for myself someday.