Archive for December, 2014

Dec
26

Bring on the Santas

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Yes, Virginia, those are  Vikings masquerading as Santa Claus.  Hide the chickens and the cow.

Yes, Virginia, those are Vikings masquerading as Santa Claus. Hide the chickens and the cow.

Before we leave the subject and the scales and bones and gift-wrapping of Christmas behind, one last glimpse of holiday merriment. I wasn’t there, I’m sorry to say — I was sorry to say it the day it occurred, too, which was December 21.

The event: A “corteo,” or boat procession, in the Grand Canal, composed of anyone who wanted to row as long as he or she was dressed as Santa Claus (or “Babbo Natale,” as he’s known here).

The reason: First, because it seemed like a fun thing to do.  Second, because it seemed like an amusing occasion for the Coordinamento delle Remiere (the association of rowing clubs) to give a prize and a big round of applause to the dwindling group of hardy souls who have rowed in all 40 Vogalongas.  I say “dwindling” because in May there were 24 such persons, and on Santa Sunday there were 22.

The special bonus: Fog.  Fog and just enough wind to make the air feel even sharper.  But would this deter anyone willing to pull out the boat and pull on the red-and-white outfit?  Obviously not.

Because I was busy elsewhere, Lino armed a modest sandolo and headed for the lineup joined (happily for Lino and I think also happily for the others) by Gabriele De Mattia, a former rowing student of his and ex-cadet of the Francesco Morosini Naval School, and his girlfriend, Francesca Rosso.  She had never rowed before, but Lino soon took care of that.

So the three of them spent the morning rowing, and Lino was awarded a red pennant, such as those given to the winners of races here, with his name on it, and everybody was happy. Especially when the sun finally came out.

So a big shout-out to Francesca, who when she wasn’t rowing, was taking pictures.  If she hadn’t been there, you all would just have had to imagine it.  As would I.  This is better.

Floating around while waiting for the official start ("official" being whenever somebody said "We're ready, let's go"), this batch of Saint Nicks had time to make sure their reindeer was comfortable at the bow.

Floating around while waiting for the official start (“official” being whenever somebody said “We’re ready, let’s go”), this batch of Saint Nicks had time to make sure their team of  reindeer was comfortable at the bow.  It appears that one of them is either trying to get in, or attempting to disembark.

No reindeer, caribou, or moose were harmed in the making of this boat.  But I would like to see the paperwork on those beards.

No reindeer, caribou, or moose were harmed in the making of this boat. But I would like to see the paperwork on those beards.

How very "Be Prepared" -- they brought their own tree, in case somebody needed a place to put their presents.

How very “Be Prepared” — they brought their own tree, in case somebody needed a place to put their presents.

DSCN6794  babbo crop

Here is Gabriele, rowing away.  It wasn't snowing, but evidently there were interludes of unusually aggressive fog-flakes, or drops, or crystals, or something.

Here is Gabriele, who clearly had forgotten nothing despite a year into university life. It wasn’t snowing, but evidently there were interludes of unusually aggressive fog-flakes, or drops, or crystals, or something.

It's the invasion of the Kris Kringle-Snatchers, heading upstream to the Rialto Market where something hot to drink must be waiting.

It’s the invasion of the Kris Kringle-Snatchers, heading upstream to the Rialto Market where something hot to drink must be waiting.

Not strictly Venetian, but any boat bearing a Saint Nicholas is welcome at the party.  If this boat were to capsize, they'd all be bobbing around like Yuletide buoys.

Not strictly Venetian, but any boat bearing a Saint Nicholas is welcome at the party. If this boat were to capsize, they’d all be bobbing around like Yuletide beach balls.

And speaking of the party, here was the entire regiment waiting for the prizes and refreshments. Did you know that in the Germanic tradition, it ws Odin, king of the gods, who left presents in the boots left by children by the chimney?

And speaking of the party, here was the entire regiment waiting for the prizes and refreshments. Did you know that in the Germanic tradition, it was Odin, king of the gods, who left presents in the boots that children left by the chimney? Not that I’m trying to rank Saint Nicholas, just trying to add to the holiday atmosphere.

 

Categories : Boatworld
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Dec
24

Picture this

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This is the Scalzi Bridge, linking the fondamenta of the train station to the fondamenta of the rest of Venice.  Today we know it as a gracefully arched marble bridge, but from the mid-1800s to the early 1930s, the bridge looked like this.  (as did the Accademia Bridge).

This is the Scalzi Bridge, linking the fondamenta of the train station (left)  to the fondamenta of the rest of Venice. Today we know the bridge as a graceful marble arch, but from the mid-1800s to the early 1930s, the bridge looked like this (as did the Accademia Bridge).

Now here is something different you can do on Christmas afternoon, if you’re not watching football and your family has allowed you to live. You can look at oldish photographs of Venice.

Not quite as old as the photograph above, but the last 50 years has produced an immense trove — some 80,000 images — of places all around Venice, and some 7,000 of those are now online. They belong to the Urban Photographic Archive of Venice.

These photographs weren’t made for any aesthetic reason, but as sturdy visual records of all sorts of projects, restoration, maintenance, new public works, and so on. Prose, not poetry.

In case anyone imagined that Venice has been encapsulated by time, like the proverbial black spitting thick tail scorpion in amber, a random scan of these pictures will show how much change has been going on here since the Sixties.

So go have a look at the Album di Venezia, click on the red words in the center that say “Archivio Fotografico Urbanistica Online,” and on the page that comes up, click on the red rectangle that says “Sfoglia l’album,” and go to it.  As per frequently, there is no English translation.  So working out the words ought to amuse you for a little while.

By then it will be time for another piece of pie, and you’ll have something to talk about that doesn’t involve pigskin.

 

Categories : History
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Dec
23

Christmas cheer

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IMG_4403  xmas blog USE

Yes, I have returned to my mooring here and have been grappling with the holiday trappings — more mental than physical.  Translation: I just haven’t felt like doing or writing or thinking anything, really.

But the ghosts of Calvinists Past have reared up and made harrowing threats if I continue to indulge this revolting lethargy.  And I always respond to harrowing threats, in case you ever need to know.  Hideous predictions about the afterlife usually do the trick.

In any case, Christmas in our lobe of Venice this year is so low-key that it’s hardly noticeable.  The atmosphere in the city as a whole is so far from festive that I’m not going to go into it at all.  But I don’t need lights and spangles to know that it’s just about show time.

We will do the traditional Christmas food and possibly the traditional staying-up-late, though that’s becoming more optional as the years go by.  Then we will go to the mountains for the New Year phase.

And then we’ll all be back here together, not making it up.

The Nativity scene at the F. Morosini Naval School has once again focused on the lagoon.  The innovations here are the starfish as stars (no surprise there), and the comet's tail is the shell of a pinna nobilis (fan mussel) painted gold.  The cradle for the still-in-transit Baby Jesus is a clamshell.  It looks pretty comfortable, at least to me.

The Nativity scene at the F. Morosini Naval School has once again focused on the lagoon. The innovations here are the starfish as stars (no surprise there), and the comet’s tail is the shell of a pinna nobilis (fan mussel) painted gold. The cradle for the still-in-transit Baby Jesus is a clamshell. It looks pretty comfortable, at least to me.

IMG_4391  xmas blog USE

One creche (or presepe, as it's called here) isn't enough at the Naval School, where the chaplain and cadets put heart, soul and all sorts of useful bric-a-brac into their scenes. The lifebuoy adds a touch of metaphor to the arrangement. As is usual, the figure of the Bambin Gesu' is only installed on Christmas Day.

One creche (or presepe, as it’s called here) isn’t enough at the Naval School, where the chaplain and cadets put heart, soul and all sorts of useful bric-a-brac into their scenes. The lifebuoy adds a touch of metaphor to the arrangement. As is usual, the figure of the Bambin Gesu’ is only installed on Christmas Day.

The woman in command of this family was getting everything ready a week early, from socks to reindeer.

The woman in command of this family was getting everything ready a week early, from underwear to reindeer.

This curious but strangely appealing effort at spreading holiday cheer didn't last long.  An hour later it was gone.  Why ?  Were they  breaking some municipal ordinance?  Or did they suddenly discover that they really needed these three balls inside?

This curious but strangely appealing effort at spreading holiday cheer didn’t last long. An hour later they were gone. Why?  Were this in contravention of some municipal ordinance? Or did the family suddenly discover that it really needed these three balls inside?

Humans are preparing to gorge over the next few days, but a Little egret (Egretta garzetta) has already started noshing.  The vaporetto dock is an excellent place to spear anguele (Atherina boyeri).

Humans are preparing to gorge themselves over the next few days, but a little egret (Egretta garzetta) has already started noshing. The vaporetto dock is an excellent place to spear anguele (Atherina boyeri).  When the birds are happy, I’m happy.  I wonder if they’d like some panettone, we’ve got three of them already.  It’ll take me till Candlemas to finish them if nobody helps me.

 

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