arcanamundi: (Default)
( Mar. 26th, 2009 11:33 pm)
First off - I can't get my damn cut tags to work in this entry, so for those of you who are reading this via an f-list on LJ, apologies. I just can't spend any time screwing around with it when I'm paying for internet access by the minute and it's way past time for me to be asleep.


Piazza San Marco
Down the Grand Canal
Over the Rialto Bridge
Pesceria fish market on Rialto
Up and down the Grand Canal some more
Murano, Cemetery Island, Burano
Basilica di San Marco & Piazza San Marco
San Marco neighborhood amble
Hotel Antico Panada, home sweet hotel.

Want to go for a ride?
A Preface.
I have recently found myself easily irritated by pretentious statements from young acquaintances about their uncanny ability to pass for native when in Foreign Lands. First off, when you're a tourist, everyone knows. Your attempt to seem not like a tourist just makes you seem young and insecure, not extra worldly. Second, if they speak to you in their native language, it's not because you're so effectively camouflaged in your international urbanity that they've somehow been fooled. They are speaking to you in that language because THAT IS THEIR LANGUAGE and you are in their country.

NB: The French will speak to people in the language which they believe is that person's mother tongue because that in turn is part of how they show off how cosmopolitan they are, because they are also pretentious gits. The reason I am pretty sure that I can pass for Euro (which I do not in particular take as a compliment, just as a misperception) is specifically because French people will typically address me IN GERMAN instead of in French. This is ironic because my shortcomings in that language are so epic that the first time it happened I thought the guy was trying to clear his throat, when in actuality he was telling me the Pariscope come out on Mittwoch (Wednesday).

The greatest tragedy, in my opinion, of this sort of tourist's lofty insistence on being able to appear utterly ordinary as the ultimate accomplishment of being extremely worldly (haha Americans haha, such funny people) is that by insisting on this farce, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to be awed, because you are too busy cultivating your air of blase ordinariness. Are you really sure that's a great bargain?

The people of any country will, if they are certain that you'll be appreciative, be pleased to show you their marvels and wonders, large and small (the most valuable and special of these are certainly those that are small and quite specific to the person demonstrating - it could be a piece of lace they are making, the unusual gills of a fish they caught that morning, the special dyed wax and technique they use in their leathercrafting, etc.) and to greet you as a visitor from faraway lands who has made a long and perilous journey for no other reason - at that exact and precise moment in time - than the chance to find yourself face to face with them. People will honor that if you do. They will enter into that encounter in that spirit, but you have to invite it, encourage it, will it to happen - and that kind of receptivity has to come from being genuinely and truthfully in that moment. Which you cannot do if you are prancing around pretending to be someone you're not.

Travel humbly and ready and willing to be impressed and amazed and educated. People will reciprocate by showing you marvelous fish and exotic fruits, their workshops, their child's picture, hidden doors and directions to places that are not on maps, and by telling you stories that aren't in books. And these will be the things that you will remember. These things. More than any other.

Everyone you will meet has something they know is special, and that they're dying to show or tell. They know that you, as a traveler, will find it exotic. You will not find it ordinary. And so to you they will show their treasures, trusting that you will, in fact, treasure them. And this is a moment they cannot have with their neighbors or fellow lacemakers or fishermen. This is a moment they can only have with you.

So don't blow it.


I have been reading Marco Polo's Travels. I bought a copy here. It is a good book to read while you are traveling.

Early morning on the Grand Canal

Today I got up earlier than I usually go to bed back in America, but although I have long speculated that this crossing of the temporal streams would lead to a catastrophic rift in spacetime, the world nevertheless continued to turn. So much for my main excuse for regularly sleeping in until 8 or 9 on this trip. My secondary excuse, which is that sleep deprivation makes me an insane person and I can rarely manage to sleep before midnight, will have to continue to serve.

When I got there the street sweepers were still sweeping last night away.

Everyone else was still getting set up in the part of the market with fruits and veg:

The exhausted fishermen, who have already put in near a full day's work, are finishing up by cleaning and slabbing their catch while talking quietly and smoking cigarettes:

You know the fish is fresh when it's twisting up in rigor right on the table:

At the fish market I saw these tiny silver fish and I thought they were really pretty. Make a note: these are going to come up again. Around lunchtime.

Hilarious conversation with no words: between me and a fisherman at the Pescaria. I indicated my camera and made question face. He nodded, expressionlessly. I started snapping.  Still expressionless, the fisherman came over and made an amusing tableaux of fish, in which he made it look like the decapitated head of a swordfish was eating the cleaned body of another fish. I burst out laughing. Still expressionless, he made a little bow. SO CUTE!

Another fisherman brought out a spiny rock lobster for me to take a picture of, depositing it with a flourish in the center of his table and then whisking it back out of sight into a tank under the table after:

I am glad I knew enough about how rare and hard to catch these lobster are to have been suitably impressed and to have produced uninhibited oohs and ohhs at the sight of him. That's another one for you, Tony!

Another fisherman came over while I was looking at his fish and wordlessly opened up a fish to display its odd bony gills to me:

I liked these too:

The fishermen were really all very kind and generous in showing me cool stuff. I believe this is a perk of showing up at 7 AM, while they're all still setting up. They've been up for absolutely ages of course, and are now at market and whacking and chopping and cleaning their morning catch for the market. I was the only civilian in there when I was there - I'm sure that when it gets busy they don't want any goddamn tourists getting in the way of responsible commerce (evidently a fishmarket in Japan actually had to ban tourists because they were making such pests of themselves), but at such an early hour when there's no harm to it, what the hell. It makes the time go by until the paying customers get there. I'm sure that was part of the secret to the success of my market pictures from Paris - getting there early, asking permission, and trying not to be a hindrance.

I rode around on boats for awhile, taking them to the end of the line and then getting off and getting on another one. Then I met a nice Australian lady and her two sons. She said I should go to Burano because it's very photogenic (I gave her my flickr card so she could get copies of the pictures of her and her sons).

So then I got on a boat for Burano. While on the boat another lady said I should stop at the cemetery island because it was strange and beautiful, so I did that too. It was strangely unphotogenic for all that it was quite striking in person, but it could be that I just had entirely the wrong kind of light for it - it was nearly noon. Perfect light for Burano's crayola-box houses, all wrong for ethereal mossy cemeteries. I'm sure it would be stunning in the early morning or evening. Cemeteries, like Italians and rabbits, are crepuscular.

Burano was amazingly bright and colorful and cheerful:

Overheard on Burano: "I don't know why they're all coming off dark when the sun is *right behind you*! I watched as a British mum fumed at her camera's inability to take a proper picture, clearly getting aggravated. "Try putting her on the other side of the bridge and she'll light up," I suggested. I am, after all, an academic. Born to the tweed, even. And like all academics, I'm never one to let social propriety or decorum stop me from being a smartass know-it-all who can't resist a chance to teach lecture show off tell people stuff they don't already know: "In general you want to put the sun behind you when you're shooting so it lights up what is in front of you." I saw them later on and could see they'd become kind of unhealthily aware of where the sun was when shooting, so I called over: hey, you know, all kinds of shots will look good, it's mostly just with quite close subjects that it's an issue! And the mum was all "Noooo! Your method works! We're using it all the time now!" I did not tell her that it wasn't so much my personal invented method of photographing things but a kind of basic fact of physics and light not being able to bend around solid objects to illuminate them, but because I am not a galloping jackass 98% of the time, 96,  95, 92, definitely 92% of the time, I did not do this. I just waved and carried on.

Another Burano photo tip: in post, do not use the saturation tool. You will burn your retinas. All the colors that you see here? Actually that bright in real life.

Slightly alarming food moment: when the pretty silver fish I'd admired in their freshly caught state, above, were presented to me on a plate in their cooked state. In my world those are BAIT fish, if they are what I thought they were, which is to say smelt, which I only saw once before when the whole family was visiting Uncle Mike in San Diego and we went deep sea fishing at fucking-hell-are-you-sure-I-wasn't-adopted o'clock in the morning. I picked at one with a fork to check the bone situation and it fell apart. I decided to pick one up and just eat it. They're whole, mind. Not been cleaned on the insides. But they're clearly finger food. So I stuck one in my mouth up to the tail and chomped down.

It was delicious. Thank God. If it had been disgusting I would have had to watch all my fantasies of taking over No Reservations some day go swirling down the mental drain. I mean seriously: if you cannot handle eating fried chum, you're pretty much not on Anthony Bourdain's list of adventuresome eatin' buddies.

That slab of fried polenta on the side was pretty much made of awesome, no sauce required.

Burano: is it laundry day or is there some kind of town code requiring that everything be as picturesque as possible ALL THE TIME?

I was very tired so I had some chocolate gelato and it was delicious. I was too busy shoveling the melty, drippy cone down my piehole to take pictures of it.

This made me smile:

And this made me smile:

And this made me smile:

Venice is freaking expensive. intertext will be here soon and asked for advice - here's some initial words of (dubious) wisdom: get up early, buy a vaporetto pass for the week at 50 Euros, you will not regret it, especially if you end up taking the vaporetto 10 times which is to say for 5 trips to and from any destination in Venice, and believe the old packing adage that goes: "Pack for your trip and draw up a budget. Now take out half of what's in your suitcase, and take double the amount of money." Seriously. I have hemorrhaged money here like crazy just on vaporetto fares - I bought one ticket from the rail station (6.50), and had to buy one this morning because I was out and about before the booth had opened and there was no automat at my station (6.50) and then bought one for 12 hours (20 Euros) and then proceeded to ride up and down the Grand Canal, and out to Murano and Burano and back again and generally all over the damn place because I took the boats roundabout so I could see the most stuff instead of just  jamming up and down the #1 line and taking the DM to Murano and back. So anyway: that's 33 Euros in vaporetto fare within 24 hours. Two meals while out and about set me back another 25 apiece, and that was me getting off easy - this city makes its living off tourists and it's not holding back. That's 50. I spent another 20 on handful of Murano glass trinkets and a piece of lace at Burano. I spent 100 Euros in a day, not including my hotel. I've been living much more frugally than that in general - so much more that I feel slightly horrified, but it was money well spent. Tomorrow, Saturday morning, and Monday (possibly also Tuesday) I'm in the library, safe from the allure of shiny objects and boats that are Going Places. I'd like to make it to the Doges Palace and the Campo Santa Margherita. If I had to pick, I'd pick the Campo. If I didn't make it anywhere else I'd feel like I still saw a lot and really got a feel for the place. Knowing that the weather was about to go bad on me meant that I packed a hell of a lot into my day of sunshine.

It is supposed to rain torrentially on Saturday and Sunday. I think there is a fairly good chance that I will be spending most of Sunday in the luxy lounge of the hotel, curled up on the sofa with a book, though I have it in my head to go to services there Sunday morning.

Saturday, I don't know. So much depends on how things go tomorrow at the library. I'll have a better idea of whether I'll have any free time on Monday or Tuesday by the end of the morning once I've seen the manuscripts. Wish me luck on that - despite the fact that I've written all my emails in English with my apologies, every reply back has been in Italian. I'm pretty sure I understand them, but if I show up and there's nobody at the Marciana who speaks English it's going to be a wealth of vexations, I know from experience.

I re-enter lands in which I am fluent in the languages in SIX. DAYS. I suspect that I may actually kiss French soil which will come as a shock to absolutely all of us, myself included.

Linguistic hilarity is on tap and flowing freely here, because Venice is jammed with tourists and as far as I can tell in this month they are split pretty evenly between all the languages guidebooks are written in. German, Spanish, French, English, Russian, Chinese, Japanese. There are actually quite a few Indians but they all speak nearly incomprehensible English and then fly into black rages when the Italians don't understand them, which is totally inevitable because they pretend like they understand English but don't actually grok what you're saying - instead they make up an assumed intention and react to that, so a question like "Is this pass good on *all* the lines?" will prompt them to start screaming directions to the bathroom at you. So the Indians are doomed. I find their quickness to take offense and become enraged baffling because first off, according to my worldview, they are supposed to be a peaceful, tea-drinking people too busy exploiting the shit out of their peasant slave classes and lepers to bother anyone else. Second, I'm a native speaker, and I have no idea what the hell they're saying most of the time, so I think they're wicked unreasonable.

Another travel tip! If confronted with a screaming Italian, act bored. They will stop. There is no point in yelling at someone who is bored by it. An Italian will only scream for as long as there is someone else paying attention or screaming back, regardless of whether that person was involved in the original verbal transaction. Sources: some chick at the billeteria who started screaming at me about the bathroom when I was trying to find out if my pass worked on Alilaguna lines; a group of Italians who got into a 23 minute long and extremely entertaining screaming match after their dogs all got into a fight with each other in the street, which will happen when the street is three feet wide. 

On Zerging.

Which reminds me of a moment I had which made me want to burst out laughing so hard that suppressing it actually hurt my throat muscles: I stepped onto a street and found myself in the path of what my geek brain identified immediately as a horde of zerging n00bs. ACK! said geekbrain. ZERGING n00bs! And that struck the rest of my brain as really hilarious. Zerging is kind of hard to explain but basically it's a mass attack, either deliberate or based on sheer do-what-the-other-guy-does n00biness. If you show up someplace where there are a lot of new players they'll pretty much all attack one monster all at the same time.

What you do NOT want to see when you are on your way down a three foot wide street while carrying a grocery bag filled with bottles of water, juice, and beer is a horde of zerging tourists converging on your present location, bent for leather on a location which is on the other side of you. They have the strength of numbers, plus blind panic at having found themselves in something approximating a cattle chute while surrounded by natives who are all wearing sunglasses which readily identify them as the human-eating aliens from V: The Miniseries, and given the total lack of any way to turn right or left they will forcefully and with great velocity zerg their way down the passage until they are presented with the option to go in a different direction. Going backwards is not possible because of the similarity of zerging to the natural phenomena of lemmings and salmon runs. Really, your only option for survival is to crouch behind an elderly Italian man who survived The Black Death waving a cane and screaming imprecations at the fucking Allied troops.

The best way to get a good picture of a gondolier is to cut the tourists out of the picture - the ones who take the gondoliers are inevitably not picturesque. To put it mildly.

You would have died of the cuteness which was this kid learning to feed pidges from her mom and dad:

I walked over to give them my card after getting off these snaps and ended up covered in real live pigeons. I liked this a LOT LESS than you might have thought I would based on generally kind of liking pigeons in the abstract. NOT IN MY HAIR THOUGH.

They were a really lovely young family. They laughed so hard when the baby decided to try the pidge food:



NOT ON THIS BOAT is ranking pretty high on the list of places I'd like to be in an emergency.


I'd like to know what he was reading, standing in the window with his cigarette (and cup of coffee, not in frame).

Evil Impulse suppressed: desire to push douchebag American youth with carefully Eurosculpted facial hair and matching Eurotard glasses off the vaporetto due to crime of sitting five feet away from his friend on a nearly empty bus boat, then yelling about his material goods, personal wealth, and friends of consequence by way of topics of conversation. Die, douchenozzle! What are people like that even doing AWAKE at 7 AM? Also, to the sign on the boat saying no standing, only sitting, I have this to say: WTF, did we need 2 "NO"s?

I am pretty sure some kind of Catholic holiday involving Easter just started because the church bells are going bizzonkers and it's midnight. I still feel like I'm on a boat, and it's been almost 7 hours since I got off the last boat and put to land. Hilariously, this includes a lot of the bonk-jolts that the vaporettos get when docking. The brain is a funny thing.

I know this got really disorganized toward the end - but I wanted to finish it before I hit the sack.



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