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WHEN THE GONDOLAS ARE WEARING MASKS - Venice 2020

Andrea | 27.12.2020 | | Italy

A very special time to visit this famous old city at the lagoon. What was it like before that time? Tens of thousands of tourists a day, crowded places without getting through, terrific long queues, super-large cruise ships, high prices, dirty and often smelly canal water. Taking photos was rather no chance. At the beginning of October 2020 everything was completely different. The cruel corona virus rules the world! Nevertheless, we made good use of a kind of Corona low time window in northern Italy and Veneto. we set off from Lake Constance with the aim of taking a lot of photos.

After almost 8 hours of driving we were finally there. An admittedly inexpensive, huge parking garage awaits us after crossing a long bridge, which has to be mastered first. Because how does a 192 cm wide Land Rover Discovery Sport fit into a parking box that is only 220 cm wide? Firstly without damaging the neighboring cars and secondly with the option of still being able to get out. Bathed in sweat, Matthias successfully managed it after several attempts at various parking spaces. Without car damage. The parking garage part is really a grenade. Best practice area for learning to park. The public "water bus" (Vaporetto) takes us from there through the Grand Canal to the Rialto station and another 10 minutes, armed with luggage and photo equipment backpacks, directly to our centrally located, small hotel called "Canaletto".

A fever is measured right at the entrance. More precisely, the hotelier does not measure a (corona) fever with us. We were lucky again. The first thing we notice and see is that everyone here is wearing face masks. Incredible! The Italians, who were badly shaken by Corona in the spring, are consistent. Very consistent. Without moaning like many others in our home country. It is more than unusual not to be able to look at (and photograph) the face of all living beings on two legs, but only at the eyes and the hair. It is definitely not possible to tell whether someone is smiling or looking serious. That's just what makes a face. What is immediately noticeable after a first tour is that the water of the canals and the Great Canal shimmers turquoise-green-transparent, sometimes it is even crystal clear and there are lots of fish swimming around. This is a good side of Corona and the consequent decline in tourism in front of and in the venerable lagoon city.

Andrea tells me about one of her visits to Venice in the distant past, which is and has been confirmed again and again by pictures, videos and travel blogs: The city is usually bursting at the seams because of the thousands and thousands of tourists. No more getting through on St. Mark's Square. Say and write 15 million visitors per year against 60,000 inhabitants. But on our flying visit in 2020: "There are really only  a few!", Andrea notes. Matthias thinks there are still enough tourists there, but has to admit defeat because everyone we ask or know says the same thing as Andrea. It's more empty than full. Very pleasant. You can actually see and photograph the great buildings and remarkable architecture without a horde of Asian vacationers constantly disturbing the photo subject. We cross beautiful places and stroll through the sometimes super-narrow, light-flooded alleys. And have so much space around us.

One late afternoon just before the blue hour, an RTL TV camera team surprisingly spoke to us on St. Mark's Square and asked for an interview for a Saturday TV program called "Life - People, Moments, Stories". Topic: "Where to go during the autumn break?" Life reporters have been in Sweden and Italy since the beginning of the pandemic. Two countries, two completely different approaches to the fight against Corona. Now both were considered a safe travel destination for autumn. How could the experiences of these two countries help in Germany too? Of course we say yes to that. For 30 minutes we were asked questions in front of the camera. We did our best wearing masks and answered well. As the new RTL TV stars, we actually appeared on the TV screens on the following Saturday morning. At first we didn't even notice it. Only when Andrea's cell phone was ringing and constantly announced WhatsApps did we receive the message at dinner in a restaurant on Lake Garda that we could just be seen live on TV. Believe it or not, more people saw this show than we ever thought. An old friend from Mallorca also called us about this. So, now we know how to get into the goggle box. And we were also able to do some advertising for Spicy Artworks from Meckenbeuren.

Here you can see and hear the excerpt from the TV program yourself by simply clicking on the following link. Please don't be surprised at the bad quality and sound. The small video clip was created with the smartphone of friends directly  from the television screen. But better than not at all, right ?!

Even before and during the outward journey to Venice, the photographer asks herself the central question of what and how to take photos if it should be something special? Because thousands, thousands upon thousands, probably even millions of photos of this gondola city already exist. So what can you do in order not to go home without having achieved something (of course that's not entirely true, because you always find new photo opportunities somehow)? In addition to numerous really good time-lapse videos and detailed and special single shots of building architecture, gondolas and colors of the city, the super wide-angle is unplanned and used widely from now on. Such an extreme lens can lead to very special views from narrower or nearer photographic angles: famous towers, columns and turrets on St. Mark's Square, lines are grossly distorted. Venice's world looks really different. Quite a hammer! Let's see what is visually exciting from it. We don't know today. But the dark winter time is coming soon and there you have enough time and leisure to collect and implement ideas. And creativity is always there with Andrea. A lot, actually.

Now a little about Venice itself: It really is a single colored photo subject. The madness! The lagoon city of Venice appears fairytale-like and surreal. Built on millions of wooden stakes around AD 500, it gives the impression that it is levitating on the water. Venice is rich in history, charm, art and traditions. Playful domes, aristocratic palaces, shiny black gondolas and ships of the line shape the image of the water-washed city. Here the visitor encounters the splendor of a playful Renaissance architecture at every turn. Seen from the air, its silhouette looks a bit like a fish made up of 118 small islands. The Canal Grande, the longest and most beautiful waterway in the city, flows right through this “fish”. It runs like a 4 km long queue under the 400 bridges of Venice. One of them leads to the magnificent St. Mark's Square in the old town. Where spices and luxury goods used to arrive by ship and made Venice incredibly rich, today travelers from all over the world arrive. Many languages mix here in a colorful crowd strolling back and forth between mobile souvenir and mask stands. And of course those who are fascinated by one of the 400 straw hat adorned and red and white striped gondoliers poking through the water. Finally, a few short words about Venice's ancient traditions: For a natter, mostly men meet in small bars, away from St. Mark's Square, for an "Ombra". This is how the local (mostly pink-salmon-colored) Prosecco is called here, which is drunk both as an aperitif and with a meal. There are also delicious fish and meatballs, baccal (stockfish), squid, polenta and mussels.

Suddenly it happens: It gurgles and bubbles. From the roof edge of St. Mark's Basilica we see with growing enthusiasm that it is slowly getting wet on the famous St. Mark's Square, despite bright sunshine. But it's not raining, so where does the water come from? It comes from below. From manholes and the hundreds of permeable joints and cracks between the large stone tiles that adorn this square. Incomprehensible! We can't believe our luck. Where you can get such excellent photos of when the Adriatic water slowly covers the super place. Everything is reflected, everything is double and is upside down. People start to take pictures of what the rind is holding. Suddenly you see dancing photo models, screaming and playing children, tourists trapped on small "islands", amazed people. Some of the shops located in the romantic arcades later have to somehow get the water out of their shops with pumps. Andrea sets up her large tripod, which is soon also washed around by the water. We can't really find out when this phenomenon occurs here regularly. But it can very well be that the strong wind blowing from the sea pushes the water more than usual into the lagoon and thus of course also into Venice's canals - like a kind of small spring tide on the North Sea. The water level rises below the city and in some places a little deeper - such as at St. Mark's Square - it then comes up through all the cracks. As with us. It's a lot of fun and we are very happy about this reflective "flood of the century" in the lagoon city.

Venice can also be a great maze. Otherwise, Matthias is a master of orientation - even without a compass, navigation system or map. But there are tons of narrow, dark alleys. Almost 400 bridges over canals will eventually look the same, or at least look similar. The houses, house shapes and facades are often the same as one of the other. You can't see the sun, the position of which we could have adjusted, because the buildings are tall and cast a lot of shadow. All of that would still work. But: A pedestrian bridge does not lead over every small or large canal where one would like it to be. So you have to remember these rather rare transitions well if you want to get ahead. As in a labyrinth in Versailles, there are only right-angled branches and paths, of which one does not know whether they end at the edge of a canal or continue. This reminds us a lot of the adventure PC games we love so much, where there are such mazes in abundance. Somehow it's fun, even when we run flat on our feet. You come out of a particularly dark corridor and suddenly stand in a sun-drenched place where you can drink or eat a cappuccino or fresh Italian ice cream. This is really an experience! Most people walk around with their mobile phones and Google Maps - their heads tilted downwards - to find their way around. Inevitably, we often do that too. But over time Matthias recognizes some paths and corners. We just say: after two months we would be a walking Venice hiking map!

On the penultimate day of our photo tour, we take the "water bus" for around an hour to the offshore lagoon island of Burano. Known for the colorful houses of Burano. We just have to go there. There are no cars, motorbikes or bicycles on the small island.

Besides Murano, famous for its glassblowing art, Burano is one of the most famous islands in the Venice lagoon. The almost circular island is made up of four individual islands, between which narrow channels run. Several bridges lead across the canals from one island to another. Burano is only about 21 hectares large or small, but has the highest population density of all islands in the lagoon. Around 3,000 people live here. Today tourism is the most important source of income, in earlier times the people of Burano lived from lace making and fishing. To this day, according to our opinion, the place has retained the charm of a small fishing village, although we have the feeling that there are more tourists here than in all of Venice.

The most famous sight on the island is also the most beautiful photo opportunity: The houses on the island shine in a wide variety of colors. Red, green, blue, purple or green they stand out against the sky and the canals. We stroll comfortably through the alleys and let the sympathetic, colorful houses have an effect on us. By the way, the colored paint serves more than just an aesthetic purpose. According to legend, the locals painted their houses so that the fishermen could head for the island of Burano even when visibility was poor. Painting the houses became a tradition that has continued to this day. In the middle of the small town the church Chiesa di San Martino Burano is located. The church tower can already be seen when approaching the island of Burano and is particularly noticeable because, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it slopes more than clearly to the side. What is the reason for that? We don't know, but the tower is 53 m high and - from the bottom to the top - a slope of 1.85 m. Originally there was an angel on the top of the tower, but it fell during a storm in 1867. Let's see how long the tower will stand there, firmly rooted in the island floor.

 

They were quickly over, our Venetian days. It was nice there. Even if the gondolas had to wear masks.


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