The air smells like water and springtime – flowers and growth and life. I could smell the sea and it made me miss swimming. The training, the strength, the commitment, the single mindedness of a group of people swimming together. I miss the satisfaction at the end of the event. The travel. The reward of being alone in a body of water. To be cold beyond the limits of most humans. To be uncomfortable and to be comfortable with it. I miss the sea.
We got on a boat and headed toward Venice this morning, stopping for a glass blowing demonstration first. Glass blowing is a longstanding Venetian tradition. It is passed from father to son and master glass blowers have rigorous training and have to have years of experience before they are qualified masters. The glass has to be pure, without imperfection. The colors are astounding, the oldest coloring – amethyst, using manganese – is the oldest coloring tradition which they have used for 1,050 years. That is incredible to me! The United States is so young compared to EVERYTHING else.
The glass blowing demonstration was incredible and the showroom was room after room of endless glittering color. The glass is so sturdy, that the salesman could slam them against the table with a loud bang and not break them! I was so impressed by the quality of the craft. It made me think of Vermont craftsmen and how young their trades are and how long it takes for a craft to become honed and established and fully expressed. I wanted to bring back, not just glass, but an appreciation for craftsmen. What a hard time to begin to be craftsmen in the world, only the last 200 years when everything is about progress and manufacturing. It’s sad that we lose so much contact with individual expression, craftsmanship, and the tradition of pride in these things that leads to generations of quality and wealth and artistry.
We proceeded from there to Venice. We walked down the main arrival area to St. Mark’s Square. The buildings are so extravagant with different architecture, materials, and elements speaking to their time period. I would LOVE to take more time to explore architecture and to understand the means and methods used to build these buildings and decorate them.
The best part of the arrival at Venice was that there was a Hieronymous Bosch exhibit at the Doge’s Palace and “Bosch” was hung on the side of the palace in big letters. It was actually quite moving that my favorite artist would be on exhibit at the same time I was in Venice! I wanted to go in the worst way, but when I went up there – it was only accessible with a separate ticket. I was really heartbroken not to be able to go in. I so wanted to see some of his artwork and learn more about his life.
The rest of the palace was really incredible. The tile and sculptures and weapons and portraits and trim were really stirring – it astounded you and filled you with awe and appreciation and made you think and feel still inside. I wondered about such wealth and extravagance. Is there a place for it in the world any longer? With such trends towards socialism and disgust for the wealthy, what is the future of great homes and wealth and architecture and artwork?
From the palace we went on the gondola ride! There are no wheeled vehicles through Venice, so everything is by boat or by foot. The streets are sometimes very narrow and even with low overheads. The waterways are also very narrow in some places and the gondolier was incredible at navigating the water way. It was great fun to share the experience with some other VTC people! I really enjoyed that.
From there we went to the Rialto to look at the bridge over the Grand Canal. They have pallets stacked in the centers of some of the streets for when the streets are flooded, they put them down so you can walk them. Venice is practically centimeters above sea level, so that happens regularly, I guess. Venice has an incredible history for thousands of years. It’s arrogant for the United States to call itself a melting pot after you see places like Venice where cultures have been melded together and layered upon each other over the centuries.
When we went inside the Basilica I was so impressed and overcome by the detailed mosaics. They covered everything. I so appreciated the silence that was requested. People talk too much. They don’t listen to the silence and whisper or see things or people or themselves as being sacred anymore. There is an incredible need for sacred space, I believe. For silence. For honor. For respect.
We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the square near the tower that used to be the light house before we took the boat back to get dinner.
Dinner in Padua, Italy was lovely. Padua is a college town with a lively night life and perfect atmosphere – we sat outside in the night air and enjoyed the live music from the market in the square. We explored the open market afterward and I found an ENTIRE stand of BLACK LICORICE! I can’t even tell you how excited I was about that! All kinds of it – sugar covered, extra small, flavored inside, etc. Some had salt on them – with raspberry filling! It was all SOOOO good. I couldn’t get over it! To walk in Italy and enjoy the night air and the lights on the church in the background and just to know that I am, indeed, one of the most abundantly blessed people I know.