Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Every Door A Water Door: Venice Submerged

We don't usually have a water door in our apartment building, but last night our cortile became a canale (and our son sweeps out the water that surmounted our front steps)

Two common misperceptions about acqua alta are that:

1) It signifies the same kind of flooding that commonly strikes other parts of the world when, for example, a river overflows and inundates an area for a full day or two (or more) before receding. In contrast, acqua alta is simply part of the usual movement of the tides here, which follow an alternating cycle of roughly 6 hours up and 6 hours down. So that, for example, while a normal instance of acqua alta may impede your path through a certain part of town some morning, it's likely to be out of your way by noon.

2) If there's acqua alta in Piazza San Marco, the rest of the city must also be flooded. This depends, but as Piazza San Marco, which centuries ago was one of the highest points in the city, is now (thanks to subsistence) one of its lowest, there may be flooding there but very little anywhere else. That is, acqua alta is not necessarily general throughout Venice.

But when the tides surges 156 cm above its mean level, as it did yesterday, then even buildings situated in higher parts of the city find themselves with water doors, which had led out to paving stones before.

70% of the city was flooded yesterday and most of the city was shut down. In fact, in anticipation of the high tide all schools had been canceled as of Sunday evening--and not just for yesterday, but for today as well. The Rialto markets didn't open yesterday, nor did supermarkets, and though most of the Rialto produce stalls were open today, and a couple of the fish stalls of the pescheria, the supermarkets were still closed today as of noon due to the extensive cleanup necessitated by the flooding. I don't know how many, if any, were able to open by this evening.

The most famous instance of acqua alta that stuck around for far longer than usual is of course the flood of 1966, whose waters rose to over 190 cm and were prevented from receding by an extraordinarily strong scirocco forcing water up the Adriatic, and topped off by heavy rains and rivers that overflowed the diversionary routes Venetians had laboriously dredged for them centuries before.

There were strong winds yesterday and last night as well, and our upstairs neighbor, who'd weathered the 1966 flood in the same building in which he (still) and we (now) live, alluded to that disastrous scirocco of old and hoped the one blowing last night wouldn't have anything like the same effect. The next high tide was due in just after midnight, and at 11 pm I looked out our window to find the previous one still filling our courtyard.

But this morning our cortile was no longer a basin whose water exceeded the height of our just-below-the-knee stivali (rubber boots) and it was time to clean up. 

Of course, one is tempted to note here that if MOSE, the multi-billion euro flood prevention system, was working all of this might have been avoided. But then one remembers that MOSE is working perfectly--on its own terms. For it has done what seems to be its real job of transferring billions of euros of public money into the bank accounts of well-connected private interests--flood prevention and the saving of Venice serving merely as the pretext for this admirable operation.

Meanwhile, as today's New York Times reports, the basilica of San Marco's interior was submerged yesterday to an extent recorded only four times before in its 900 year history and, according to one of its board members, "in just one day aged 20 years."

And thus I find myself further convinced that, considering the cultural and historical importance of the city which it was charged to protect and the amount of money that has been spent on it, the forever non-functional MOSE project must surely rank as one of history's great swindles. Anyone and everyone involved with it should be very proud indeed: they assume their well-deserved places among those Venetian and/or mercenary miscreants who sacked Constantinople and bombarded the Parthenon. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Not Dead Yet, This Afternoon

Chivalry, that is. 

Acqua alta, like that which was driven into the city this afternoon by a strong scirocco, tends to bring it out in some people (as above).

Just a few minutes before this I'd seen a woman carrying a man, piggy-back style, across a stretch of water, but didn't have the chance to capture that instance.

Alas, the many participants in today's Venice Marathon had no choice but to simply slog through the water, as you can see below.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Rowing Lessons, South Lagoon

photo credit: Jen

I'm fortunate that my ten-year-old driver (of our small outboard motor boat) is also very keen on rowing. He picked it up so quickly when I first taught him a year ago that by the end of the second lesson he was good enough that we could venture down the Grand Canal with him rowing in the prua (or front of the boat). By the third he was able to row the boat by himself in the open lagoon--even one-handed at times, mimicking the style of gondoliers--while I lazed on the front deck of the boat.

He now goes rowing twice a week from the Giudecca with other kids, usually in a two-person mascareta with his best friend, and wishes he could do it more often. To which end, he's now urging me to rejoin the remiera I used to belong so that we can go out rowing in a proper boat together (as the forcole and oars of our own small boat are really intended simply to noiselessly shift from one fishing spot to another in the lagoon, or in case of engine trouble).

There's a lot to be said for lying flat on your back with the sun on your face while your child rows you around--in fact, it's one of the best arguments I've come across for having a child (at least in Venice). But I suppose it's been too long since I've regularly rowed and it will be fun to do it with my son, though he's pretty insistent that he will be the poppiere (the one in the tail of the boat who steers).

What's it like to row in the Venetian style for one who comes to it many years after childhood? Here's a post about it from when I'd just finally started to get the hang of it and was able to go out into the lagoon on my own: https://veneziablog.blogspot.com/2012/03/voga-alla-veneta-one-oar-one-master.html

For my son, who's lived here since he was almost three year old, rowing has come much more naturally, as easily as learning to ride a bike. 

For visitors to the city interested in learning to row in the Venetian style, I've always heard very good things about this non-profit organization, though I have no experience with it myself: https://rowvenice.org/

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Single Entrance Into Two Eras

This is one of those rare instances in which to enter a single doorway is to pass through two distinct eras. Of course when the Renaissance-style doorway was originally installed within the older Gothic doorway, the latter would likely have been plastered over, rendering the out-of-style out of sight.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Rarely Seen Venice: Around the Rii of San Polo, This Afternoon

Having first been given charge of a tiller at the age of three in the boats of our friends, my now 10-year-old driver (aka, my son) has over the years become skilled enough at navigating the narrow rii of Venice that I'm now sometimes able to take pictures of those stretches of them that are mostly impossible to see on foot (as in all five cases here).

Passing by grand facades and water gates (as in the second-to-last image below) fronting narrow and otherwise humble canals, you're reminded of how completely oriented toward the water was Venetian life, and not just on the Grand Canal.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A Little Water Music, This Morning

Okay, so it wasn't actually Handel, or anything resembling Handel, that this complete band of about a dozen musicians played as it was being ferried across the Grand Canal from Santa Sofia to the Rialto fish market, but whatever the lively number was--and whoever the band was, and whyever it was in Venice today--it provided a rousing accompaniment to a memorable sight. This short passage completed, the band then disembarked and headed to wherever their next performance was supposed to take place, making no more noise than any other group of visitors to the city.

Thursday, October 4, 2018