Friday, November 11, 2005

Venice A Fleeting Impression

Coming into Venice for the first time is something strange and wonderful but also vaguely familiar. There is almost a sense of anti-climax inasmuch as the Grand Canal, the view across from the Doge’s Palace to San Giorgio Maggiore, the towering Campanille next to the Basilica of St Marks and the ever present Gondolas, they all look so familiar. Just as people say that stepping out of the station in New York is a little like walking into a movie set, so arriving in Venice is like stepping into the pages of a thousand books. It wasn’t until I’d been there twenty-four hours that I discovered the first page of the Rough Guide to Venice notes exactly this phenomenon. It’s not until you have spent your first three or fours hours wandering the tiny streets and heaving jet-tired legs up and down a thousand little bridges that you begin to sink into the place. It’s only after a while that it sinks into you and the realisation comes that this place is real and that you are there.

I was there for only a weekend and impressions are still fleeting. I was with the perfect travelling companion – someone who didn’t mind in the slightest simply wandering with no direction and no ambition.

Fleeting impression: St Mark’s Square at night. I would hate to guess how this must be in the height of summer but in October on a mild night, the lights come on, a slight mist is rolling in off the lagoon, three or four expensive cafĂ©-bars are spread out around the edges of the square and each has a band – a curious combination of classical trio or quartet always augmented by an accordion. By some unspoken agreement the bands regulate themselves so they do not all play at once and a small crowd of those on a budget, who can’t afford to sit at the tables and drink, moves from one side to the other as the bands take it in turns to show off. And in the middle of it all, a completely ordinary middle-aged couple, tourists in tourist clothes, holding each other close and waltzing in the middle of St Mark’s Square, oblivious to the world… I guess they will still think of that evening in twenty years time.

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