Read, Write, Run, Roam

The beauty, tragedy, and lessons of Venice


Readers, sorry for the delay in posts. I went from being a Housewife of Belgrade to a Jobseeker in Washington, which is twice as busy and isn’t half as fun.  Still, I thought I would share one of my last trips while I was a Beogradjanka: Venice, Italy.

Early on, I asked Muz to take me to Venice. We’d heard it was only a six-hour drive from Belgrade (seven hours if you don’t drive Serbian/Muz/Italian-style) and I wanted to see it with the man I love. Cheesy, but true.

I first went to Venice with a girlfriend from college. It was a lovely trip, but we kept looking around the impossibly romantic city and asking, “What am I doing here with YOU?” Also, she had no interest in food and kept demanding that we eat cold pizza margherita off the street. It killed me.

So when our last group of guests (FK Milos) was visiting, we drove to Venice for one night so they could make their return flight out of Italy, and Muz could avoid hearing me say “I can’t believe you never took me to Venice,” for the rest of his life. Clever.

We took the vaporetto (ferry) into Venice just as the sun was setting. It was just as lovely as I remembered it, if not more so.

It’s often said that Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I have to agree. The buildings are beautiful, the waterways are calming, and there is a distinct sense of stepping back in time. Though Venice is almost entirely tourists, it doesn’t detract from the atmosphere. Venice is a living museum, and tourists are part of the tableau.

Venetian glassmaker tools

I love the buildings, churches and museums, but the true beauty of Venice is its sense of tragedy. The entire city is sinking an average 7 centimeters (2.75 inches) a year.  Every November, floods erode buildings. There is a doomed urgency to see it, feel it, drink it in before it becomes the next Atlantis.  Walking around its famed canals, I wondered if the next generation–or even next year’s visitors–will get to see it the same way I did.

I try to remember this feeling wherever I travel. Most places aren’t sinking, but they change in other small ways, millimeter by millimeter. Customs fade away, global food chains dominate the marketplace, and villages empty. Travel allows me to be a mini-historian; I can witness and enjoy how places differ from each other and in time. The differences can be good, bad, or simply different. It doesn’t always matter. What matters is what I can learn from a new, or revisited, adventure.

In Venice, I remembered that history is important, the future is uncertain, and the present is meant to be enjoyed with pastries. As I start this new chapter in the States, it’s a lesson I’ll try to keep close to my heart.

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4 responses

  1. Agnieszka

    Dear RHOB,

    It’s so true that you must visit Venice only with the one you love. I secretly scheduled this trip for St.Valentine’s day of course only in my mind but I hope my Serb can read minds!! So far he always does!

    November 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm

  2. @Agnieszka, I hope he can too! I’ll bet it’s beautiful in the winter, with snow on the ground…now I want to go back….

    November 10, 2011 at 12:09 am

  3. Morgan

    I usually go for the Biennale, but stay on the Lido or even Pellestrina in the lagoon. To me it’s worth the inconvenience to avoid tourists. Plus, I can’t stand to see what’s been done to the Ponte dei Sospiri in recent years, incorporated into huge billboards.

    November 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm

  4. I was surprised by the graffiti on the Ponte Vecchio. Of all the places I like to see artistic expression, that’s not one of them.

    November 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm

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