Quiet, peaceful, serene... These are some of the thoughts that come to mind when people think of Venice: a medieval city lost in time, bypassed by the modern world. The reality certainly includes all of this and more, but it also includes mass marketed tourism, modern cruise ships by the dozens and a city living on borrowed time. During the tourist season, there is an immense press of tourists that flood into the city every day, and it's a city that caters to them entirely.
But Venice hasn't always been this way, nor is it like this in every part. It's not hard to escape from the crowds and lose oneself in a medieval world of quiet canals and ochre-coloured architecture. One simply has to "dive" into the city, and in doing so, abandon all sense of direction or time. The anarchy of medieval city planning (or lack thereof) combined with this very foreign concept of using canals for streets defies any modern sense of efficiency.
Venice surprises and astounds the visitor, the mixture of charm, quaintness and historical pretentiousness is constantly in your face. The first impression by many visitors to Venice is of the view from the steps of the St. Lucia Train Station; nowhere is there a more surprising scene. The busy Grand Canal is filled with numerous power boats, vaporettos and gondolas all in one massive melee, churning the water into a froth and creating green waves that would be more at home on the ocean. All of which is presided over by the white marble, green-copper domed church of San Simeone Piccolo. It's truly a surprising sight.
Farther along on the Grand Canal, large, ornate marble-faced palaces sit side by side, each one proclaiming the wealth and importance of some long dead patriarch. One cannot help but remember Shelley's Ozymandias when looking at these pretensions from the past. But the future holds an even bigger problem for Venice. The irony of the bands playing at the expensive outdoor cafes in Piazza San Marco while Venice sinks must be apparent to both the musicians and audience. Because just like the titanic, Venice is sinking and world sea levels are rising; not a good combination for a city with the sea quite literally at it's front door. During high tides, the water rises within one step (about 30 cm) of the ground level of many buildings and piazzas, and it floods when ever there is any amount of storm surge. Already the ground floor levels of many buildings are abandoned.
Venice has survived for centuries and it will no doubt endure for years to come. But the question is in what form? Will it be abandoned and turn into a modern Atlantis? Will parts of it be built up to stay above the frequent floods? Will it somehow be protected by dykes? It's hard to say, and really it's for future generations to decide, but the future doesn't look all that good for Venice right now. But it's this those dark clouds on the horizon that are part of the city's charm where one is encouraged to live for today, for tomorrow may never come....
Reflections on Venice is available for sale as a fine art print here.
|Camera & Lens:||Sony DSC-RX1 with Zeiss 35 mm f/2|