Friday, June 19, 2015

The European Trip, Day 13 - Venice: Day 2

An early morning start for the Chang boys this morning; as we had a 8:45 meet up time with a tour company for a  "Best of Venice" walking tour.  As we were lodging in Mestre, a city next to Venice and part of it apparently; we would have to take a bus to the island, then a vaporetto to the the Rialto Bridge and walk a couple of blocks to the start point.

We made it with plenty of time, arriving at the bus and vaporetto with no waiting time for either.

Here's a couple of pictures taken by Martha from yesterday while up in the Clock Tower in Saint Mark's Square:

Punta dela Dogana(Customs)
 and Basilica di Santa Maria de Salute

Island of San Giorgio Maggiore

Soon, we were checked in and wearing radios so we could hear our tour guide.  Elenora or "Ellen" spoke very good English and was a very good tour guide.  We would start from the Rialto Bridge area as I mentioned before and end up in Saint Mark's Square, finishing the tour with a walk through of the Doges Palace.

One of the first stops, was the Venetian Hospital, the fancy
palazzo behind Martha.  Not too shabby eh?

We followed a route that meandered through narrow streets and alleys, wide Campi or "Fields" which once were farm plots, now paved over.  The tour guide provide us interesting tidbits of information about the history of Venice, details about the ubiquitous Gondolas and Gondoliere and assorted building we walked by.

Did you know, Gondolas used to be painted whatever color the owner wanted.  But, after the Black Plague that devastated Italy as well as Europe, the city fathers decided all Gondolas should be painted black in remembrance of the victims of the plague.

Bridges before the Bridge of Sighs

Many details later, we ended up at Saint Mark's Square where she proceeded to tell us about the mosaic art detailing Saint Mark's travels from foreign lands to where his remains now rest in the Cathedral.

There's four arches framing the the four panels of art, the last one being the original....the first three being restorations.

Above shows the two Venetian merchants smuggling the remains of 
Saint Mark from Muslim lands.  The body was hidden under layers of pork
apparently, causing the Muslim to shy away from inspecting the contents of the basket.

Above shows the arrival of St Mark to Venice, being greeting
by the Doges and Religious authorities

Above shows the Doges, authorities watching the saint's
remains being carefully installed within the cathedral
(I think)

The last is a depiction of St Mark's Cathedral in its
heyday, note the colors and adornments.

We toured the inside of the church, sorry no pictures allowed, it was pretty awesome as I'd remembered it but I think Saint Peter's Basilica is more impressive still.  Not to mention, they allow pictures!

Taken outside of St Marks, on the balcony on the upper level
Most of the facade of the Cathedral facing the water was hidden 
behind scaffolding and sheets due to restoration work by the way.

Next was the Doges Palace, which served as the seat of government for the city of Venice back in the day.  Gorgeous paintings, of mostly religious themes, abound in almost every possible flat surface it seemed.  I took lots but will forgo posting all but the one below as I've no ready context to go with the art.

In the main council hall, is displayed what is supposed to be the
biggest mural painting in the Western World.  Over 500 faces
are supposed to be on display.  The rest of the room, to include
the ceilings is not too shabby either.

All along the upper edge of the walls, are paintings of past 
Doges (elected figureheads) who presided over the city's government.
The tour guide made sure to point out the one spot where a simple 
painted on veil blocked one's view of a former Doge who
betrayed the city and tried to make it into a kingdom instead of an
aristocratic republic.  He ended up beheaded.

There used to be, before Napoleon conquered the city, many of these
letter drops where one could "report" evil doers to the authorities.
The above was for reporting people who'd failed to pay their taxes!

Next we took a tour of the jail cells within the Doges Palace, with the main exhibit being the Bridge of Sighs, linking the Doges Palace with the jail.  Apparently, the prisoners upon being led from the courtroom to their cell, would look through the stone work and sigh as their freedom vanished.

Closeup of exterior of Bridge of Sighs

The tour soon ended after the jail portion and we were left to wander about the Doges Palace.  We went and sought out the spot where 19 years ago, Martha and I had posed for a photo while on our honeymoon.

April 1996

June 2015

Maybe someday, the Things will come back and replicate 
the above picture.

A view of a nearby San Giorgio Maggiore from the second floor of the 
Doges Palace.

After we exited the Doges Palace, we found a place to get a quick sandwich and drinks.  Afterwards it was time for Martha's Gondola Ride.  Back in 1996, we'd passed on such a ride due to reasons which time has obscured.  Today, it was time.

Martha picked out a couple of Gondoliers who seemed ready for passengers and after some negotiation all four of us were on board and enjoying a 40 minute ride in the quieter canals near the Grand Canal by Saint Marks Square.

Miles, my youngest son, did a pretty good job capturing
the ride for us.

A crystal horse being worked on.  The Gondolier pointed it
out to Martha as they all waited for me to get additional
monies from a nearby ATM machine.

Gondolas are designed with asymmetrical bottoms, to allow
for them to be steered and driven easily with a single oar.
Note how the gondolier causes them to tilt to the right in order 
to clear some of the low bridges!

yep, texting while rowing.....

About 40 minutes later, the ride was over as we neared our starting point
at the Grand Canal.

We left Venice by water bus, the slowest one possible it turned out, but we finally made it back to the bus station where thankfully it was a short wait in the hot afternoon sun and humidity before our bus showed up.

The family relaxed in the heat of the afternoon back at the apartment as I worked for a bit, then we went out to a nearby pizza bar for our last dinner in Italy; for tomorrow we dine in Austria!

I hope you liked our Italian postings, stayed tuned for Austria.


Andy & Laura said...

We've loved your Italian posts. Thanks for including us in your travels with such nice write-ups each day.
And I must say, the years have been very good to both you and Martha. You looked good in 1996 but you look better in 2015!

redlegsrides said...

Glad you liked them, Laura and Andy....we'll see what we can do in Austria and later Germany.

SonjaM said...

Love the then and now pictures. I was going with: You haven't changed a bit but as Andy and Laura said: You look even better now ;-) Thanks for bringing back memories from my time in and around Venice. Looking forward to the next leg of your journey. See you in about one week's time.

Unknown said...

Great pictures. Venice is one place I wanna visit some day.

Trobairitz said...

Texting and owing? Unbelievable.

I enjoyed then then and now pics. Would be cool if the kids came back and took a pic years later just like you said.

Thank you for the wonderful tour of Italy.

Bluekat said...

Love the pics. Venice is beautiful.

agent713 said...

I just finished reading Dan Brown's "Inferno" which largely takes place in Venice so I'm fascinated by pictures of there now.

redlegsrides said...

SonjaM, we're looking forward to meeting up with you and Roland. Glad the Venice pics brought back good memories from there as well.

George F. Venice is worth a visit for sure, thanks for commenting.

Trobairitz, yep, I am glad I had my back to him, would have been much more concerned during the tight 90 degree turns with oncoming gondola and small boat traffic.

Bluekat, thanks to you also commenting.

agent713, am going to have to read that book while the memories of Venice are fresh in my mind!

ToadMama said...

Enjoyed all the pics, but the "then and now" shots were my favorite. What a fabulous vacation you're all having. Thanks for doing such a fine job letting us tag along.

redlegsrides said...

Always been a sucker for the and now shots, glad you liked them

Keith Simonian said...

I found your blog while doing some research on the Room of the Immaculate Conception. My wife and I were in Rome about 10 days before you on our vacation. It was interesting to read your blog and get your take on the same sites we visited. I noticed you mentioned the weather in Rome several times, it wasn't quite as hot just 10 days before, but you certainly wouldn't call it cool either.

I also noticed your disdain for the crowds that certainly were everywhere. As I read through your Italy trip and your arrival in Venice, and then heading over to St. Mark's square, I was thinking, you haven't seen crowds till you get there. The break we caught in Venice was there being a boat race on the Grand Canal with grandstands just outside Doges Palace. We toured the entire Palace and there were at most 100 people inside. The next day, we saw that many people lined up to get in even before it opened.

Thanks for posting your photos. I know how much work it is. The link on mine leads to the first post I made about our trip.

redlegsrides said...

Keith, I've never liked being in crowds, probably ever since I was trapped in Venice during Carnivale, wow that was a nightmare....I basically got on the first train I could find out of town and ended up somewhere unknown to me. Had to have my team sergeant come out and fetch me, thank goodness I had a good one.

Thanks for the link and your comments.