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Tails From the Vienna Woods

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Venice

Where the Tourists Are: Piazza San Marco

Without doubt, the least favorite time of our holiday. Not because we weren’t humbled by Basilica di San Marco or wowed by the “Secret Itineraries” tour and history of Doges Palace, but because we had to wade through the “Follow the Sunflower” groups of stodgy old people, and skirt around the stupid college students walking barefoot in the “Aqua Alta” (high tide) taking selfies and families waiting to pose with sky rats pigeons in order to appreciate what we had come to see.

These two photos alone equate to approximately 4.000 visitors, of which 3.900 want to tour Piazza San Marco at the same time. Feel our misery.

Venice, legend has it, does not offer benches and sitting spaces in order to encourage visitors to step in to a restaurant and to not picnic on the streets. There’s no time for that when you’ve got to meet the “Hello Kitty” balloon or the “Winged Lion Flag #34,” though, so the raised walkways (for Aqua Alta) become repurposed.

Aqua Alta is a serious matter in Venice, and though we had packed Wellies, we thought to sneak a peek at the tide levels before heading to Piazza San Marco dressed as if expecting to board Noah’s Ark. On the day we visited, the high tide levels reached approximately 8cm (3inches). This family, though, was taking no chance.

Of course Basilica di San Marco would be under scaffolding for our visit. Our family travel photo album is filled with scaffolded Neuschwanstein, Brandenburg Gate, and Sagrada Familia. What’s another scaffolded famous European landmark for our photo set?

It must have been “Ready Spaghetti” time for the tour groups, for the queue to enter the basilica was not more than 15 minutes. “NO PHOTOS” signs abounded, but I was weak and gave in to the peer pressure of those around me snapping away with iPads and full Nikon flash. Forgive me.

Doges Palace, once the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, now a museum that is best viewed with the small and informative Secret Itineraries tour. This was a highlight of our time in Piazzo San Marco.

Tony and Anna Grace took the lift to the top of the piazza’s bell tower while I basked in the warm sun and people watched. Pretty views.

And last, two of our favorite photos, taken long before the tourists left their hotels and after most of the day-trippers retreated to their cruise ships. This is how we choose to remember Piazza San Marco.

(Some of) The Churches of Venice

Venice and its islands are home to 141 churches, including deconsecrated and non-Catholic churches, though the vast majority are consecrated and Catholic. It was never in the itinerary to see every church on this holiday; in fact, that’s not even possible, as some of them are only open for Sunday services. In doing the travel research, though, I discovered that the kind folks who run Venice’s Chorus Association offer what is known as the Chorus Pass.  While it is hit-or-miss with the other 125 for entry, for a mere €12 one is granted access to 16 of the city’s prettiest and most art-filled churches, with proceeds going to help restore all of Venice’s houses of worship.  
With the Chorus Pass one also receives what we deemed the second-finest street map of Venice to ever exist, the first being the Marco Polo Venice map we brought with us. The Chorus Pass map includes not only the Top 16, but every church, palazzo, and museum of interest that Venice has to offer. Genius.
But aren’t all the churches essentially the same? Oh, no they are not. By the second or third church visit (we did not see all of the Top 16, either) even Anna Grace was getting into the spirit of it, if you’ll pardon the pun. All told, I think we viewed five versions of The Last Supper; a presentation of women kidnapped by pirates to noblemen; faithful dogs waiting for their masters; and even a fresco of the 14 Stations of the Cross (there’s a Monty Python quip in there somewhere). Not to mention a pagan pyramidal crypt.
Photography rules were a little lax. “No Photos” was the general guideline, but a blind eye was usually turned to those snapping away without the use of flash. That said, I hope you enjoy this brief tour through 1.000 years of faith, art, and history. We certainly did.

The Life of an Ex-Pat Foxhound: Adventures in Venice

Clayton Theodore has developed a less-than-charming little ritual whenever a lengthy car trip is involved: the first 45 minutes to an hour are devoted to excited whining. It is similar, I believe, to the whining that small children engage in toward the end of a long car trip. Our drive to Venice was no exception. CTF is just special, I guess. 
Once in Venice, though, the nose went into overdrive and the need to whine was forgotten. Seagulls to chase!  Salty sea water to drink! Seagull poop to eat!  Vaporetto rides! And on and on his days went. Some would call him a spoiled hound.

Waiting patiently while I shopped. Good boy!

Venice is as dog-friendly as Vienna. Dogs were welcome just about everywhere; and beneath almost every fountain we encountered, kind souls had placed containers from which the local cani could lap.
Every once in a while, though, a little assistance was necessary in getting a drink.

CTF explored it all, from costume shops to kiosks (though, he did attempt to eat one of the shells!) to the many fellow dogs we met along our outings.

Taking an afternoon riposa along the canal.

Finally, the bridge nearest our apartment was guarded by two of the biggest and meanest cat trolls CTF had ever met. Neither of them were the least intimidated by him, and it took several days before he had garnered enough courage to growl at them. Of course, the moment one of them arched and hissed at him, he ducked his tail beneath and hastily reversed course. Silly, spoiled dog.

Jewish Venice

The Venetian Jewish Ghetto (incidentally, the word “ghetto” is derived from the Italian, gheto) was the first to be instituted, in 1615. The main square is composed on three sides by some of the tallest structures in Venice, owing to the population density and restricted building space.
Synagogues were built into existing buildings, not only to conserve space but because under the Venetian Republic, synagogues were not permitted to be freestanding structures.
One of the four synagogues, the Levantine Synagogue (on the left).
Ornamentation on the entry to a Yeshiva. 
In November 1943 Jews were declared “enemy aliens,” and over 200 were rounded up by summer 1944, with most being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  In the main square there are memorials.

Venice’s Jewish quarter is small in population, with more tourists than Jewish residents.

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