Thursday, April 14, 2011

Venice thoughts

I was sitting on the steps of the Ferrovia waiting for my train back to Austria when I realized that Venice is essentially an archive.
It's a living archive, which changes a bit, but not radically.  For example, 13 years ago, on my first trip to the city, the hotel I stayed at was pink  Now it's yellow.  It suits it better actually.  I'm assuming they renovated and just decided that painting the outside was a good idea.  I didn't go in.  Just saw it from the vaparetto.

Of course there's not a lot of room to grow in Venice.  I mean where would they get the land?  So I understand the necessity of the permanence. But it doesn't make it less sad.
Again it's like an archives.  You will be reading letters, wills, someone's unfinished diary and suddenly realize that this was someone's life, and for good or bad, we have reduced it to papers and websites, finding aids and metadata.

With Venice I also feel that it's a bit theme park-y.  It tries so hard to sell itself that it comes off as fake.
And it's not really.  It was a major power in the world for centuries.  It brought art, architecture, sailing expertise to the people of it's empire.  Now in the 21st century people come for gondola rides, and view San Marco and wonder about the Bridge of Sighs.

I also thought that if you dropped a Venice Doge or even Lord Byron into Venice right now they would recognize their city and have little trouble navigating the place.
Oh, there's the new stuff.  The mechanical boats, the vaparetto docking stations, the satellite dishes, the souvenir shops...even the railroad station.  But overall?  It's the same.
I thought, as an archivist and historian, I would like that.  A snapshot of the life of a city 100 years ago.  It would be something to be studied.  You would get a better idea of the life of the people if you knew their city as they knew it.
But it is sad.  They can't grow and expand like other major cities.  You can't build on available land, and in Venice you also can't build up without serious structural supports. 
And then they are so dependent on the tourist trade, they probably can't change too much.

Just some philosophy at the train station as the sun set over the Grand Canal.

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