Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Flashback to the Age of Postcards

It's not unusual in Venice to turn a corner and find some aspect of the past--usually architectural--right before you; in fact, it's one of the reasons people come here. But in the midst of running errands the other day I turned a corner and encountered something from a more recent era, which for all its relative temporal proximity seems as distant and irretrievable as some 16th century social custom: what appeared to be two people writing postcards.

There they sat, posed in just the way once common among tourists everywhere: having paused to refresh themselves with a drink following a day of sightseeing and bent over the table, scribbling some words in haste to the folks back home.  

In fact, they might not have been tourists, and indeed, they might not have been writing postcards at all. 

I didn't dare check as I passed. I didn't want to know. Like some romantically-inclined tourist myself, I didn't want to risk ruining what appeared to be a perfectly lit tableau of a time long lost.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

There's Light That Never Goes Out

Post-sunset sky behind Murano lighthouse, last night

I was reminded last night, once again, that the spectacle of sunset in the lagoon is not over after you've watched the orange disk drop beneath the horizon as definitively--and almost audibly it can sometimes seem--as a coin into the slot of a vending machine. The above image was taken some time after that had happened, and it indicates the kind of "prize" all of us here receive after the sky's flaming coin has dropped out of sight. 

And this reminded me of when I first noticed this fact in the lagoon, about 6 years ago, in a different boat than the one we have now, in December. Rather than plagiarize myself, I'll just re-post the original post from December 20, 2014:
Sandro is disappointed when I don't pick him up from school in the boat, which, in truth, is most of the time, especially these days when the sun sets shortly after 4:30. As I use the boat to pick him up on one of his two long days of school each week, when he gets out at 3:45, this means it's typically pretty dark when we get home. And cold.

At this time of year the days disappear fast in the west, the light, color and special effects changing second-by-second as the sun slips downward like a rain drop on a car windshield. But hardly had the western horizon gone dark the other day and Sandro and I set off homeward in earnest from the detour we'd taken out behind the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, my camera safely stowed in its water-proof bag, than we noticed all at once behind us an encore, blooming in broad ragged folds of electric pink from the southern horizon beyond Isola Santo Spirito almost to the top of the sky's dome.

On many winter evenings, even at the close of days when the sun has seemed too weary and infirm to shuffle out from behind a thick gray velvet curtain of clouds, sunset still turns out to be a two-act performance, with more to come--and often the most drama of all--after you think the show's over. The sun has surely vanished below the horizon line, you think, and only then, after the big headlining star has left the building, so to speak, does some obscure chorus line of clouds in some forgotten quadrant of the sky--way off to the east over Lido, even--cast off their coverings and put on their own closing number, flushing all over with their effort.

It's almost hard to believe your eyes, which had just been adjusting to the featureless dark, yet the width of the lagoon before you mirrors the sky's flaming pageantry--as did, the night before last, Sandro's face.

Living here and seeing the sky every day and night you realize that the great architects of Venice did not, as is sometimes suggested, construct drama in a wide waste of water otherwise devoid of it, but in the face of the stiffest natural competition. The lagoon was not merely the flat, passive, perfect foil for architectural effort, but a potentially overwhelming stage whose own natural effects were likely to make any uninspired efforts of builders look very small indeed.

All of which are reasons for me to take the boat to pick up Sandro from school more often, even in the coldest weather, even in the supposed dead of winter. Or, if you're visiting the city, for you to seek out an unobscured vantage point at the end of each day from which to take in the sky's theater.  


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Regata Storica 2020: The Pageantry


The first sight of the "Bucintoro," the first boat of the corteo, rounding into view before Ca' Foscari is always exciting. (Note the mask worn by the spectator in foreground.)







It's no problem when gondolas float alongside the corteo, as above, but it can be come rather hairy when a clueless gondolier finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time during a race. This year a gondolier who thought he'd found the perfect spot on the San Tomà side of the Grand Canal (just about where the above image was captured) for himself and his passengers to watch the six man caorline race found himself directly in the rower's route. For the water current in the center of the Grand Canal was strong, so by the last races of the day as soon as the rowers passed Ca' Foscari they thundered toward the quieter waters on the edge of the canal--and directly toward the unfortunate gondolier and his passengers, the former of whom panicked (understandably enough) and crashed his gondola into the prow of our boat. Or would have, had I not happened to have been sitting on the nose of our boat and stopped his with my foot, while the large heavy caorline, and their large strong men, pounded past. Then he apologized and sheepishly rowed off (and I missed the chance to take any close up pictures of the caorline).

Three years ago I saw a similarly clueless gondolier and his passengers almost get run down by the leaders of the gondolini race: http://veneziablog.blogspot.com/2017/09/six-views-of-sundays-regata-storica.html (4th image from top).

Spectators watched from all manner of vantage points (above and the two images below), some of them decked out in the colors of the rowers they supported (the different colored boats are assigned to the rowers some days before the regata, allowing friends and family time enough to supply themselves with the appropriately-hued clothing and decorations).

The last place finishers of the final race had hardly rowed two strokes past the finish line when the dash for home (or bars or restaurants) was begun by those spectators who'd watched from the water.

Just to the right of the red carpeted stairs stands the mayor of Venice, waiting to present the third place finishers of the gondolini race with the green flags (made and hand-painted in Venice) they've won.

We followed our son and his voga partner as they rowed to the Giudecca to return the boat they used in their race to its cantiere there, and saw this other group of rowers completing their day on the water.

Then we headed homeward, our son stretching himself out on the front of our boat in a rare acknowledgement of fatigue--our boat his bed, and the city, it seemed, as homey and comfortable to him as his own room. It made me think I remembered a brief similar sense of things from my own childhood, though my experiences never took place on a boat, and never in Venice, but in another small town far away and bearing no resemblance to Venice--nor, now, to its former self. (photo credit: Jen)

Monday, September 7, 2020

Regata Storica 2020: The Races (18 Images)


I'm afraid it might seem to some that this has become a rowing blog, as the last three posts have had la voga alla Veneta as their subject, but this is the last in the series, as it features images of the adult races from yesterday's Regata Storica.

Our 12-year-old son and his partner did not place in their junior race, but they had a good time and our son was especially thrilled that before the competitions began he was able to row down a good stretch of the Grand Canal by himself (as well as race down it later with his partner).

The images are grouped in the order that the adult events took place: first, the Regate delle Caorline a Sei Remi, then the Regata delle Donne su Mascarete a Due Remi, then the Regata dei Gondolini a Due Remi. In the brief intervals between these races were a series of two boat heats--with the boats rowed backwards--between university teams from Ca' Foscari (in Venice), Roma, Padova, and Trento (and this is the order in which the teams finished). An image of this appears in this post after the six caorline man race and before the two man gondolini race.

Masks were mandatory along the route of the regate for spectators (not everyone kept them on, despite periodical reminders by police passing by in boats), and in the case of the university teams you'll see that the coxswains wore face shields to protect their crews from any germs their exhortations might carry with them (and a good thing, too, as the coxswain picture below, with the Ca' Foscari team, I believe, was particularly vehement).

Final results of the races can be found here.

I'll put up one more post about the Regata Storica, but the next one will focus on the pageantry rather than the rowing.  




Friday, September 4, 2020

Training for the Regata Storica, This Afternoon

Two pair of unidentified rowers training near the island of San Giorgio Maggiore for Sunday's Regata Storica

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Training (Seemingly In the Style of Veronese), This Evening

With the Regata Storica just five days away (Sunday, Sept 6), training sessions for those competing-- such as the crew of six in the caorlina above--have become even more serious than usual. Our 12-year-old son has competed in other regate before, but this year will be his first time in the Regata Storica, in the two person junior division race, in which he will row in the position of poppiere (the rower at the stern).

After a stormy day of rain yesterday today's sky was very blue and mostly clear, except for some dramatic heaps of clouds to the west and north: combined with the colors of the crew and their boat-- intensified by the lowering sun--the scene above looked something like a contemporary scene rendered in the style of Veronese.