Venice – a City of Boats and Bridges

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The city of Venice is made up of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It is located in the marshy Venetian Lagoon which stretches along the shoreline, between the mouths of the Po and the Piav Rivers. The city and the lagoon are listed as a World Heritage Site.

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Many tourists arrive in gigantic tour ships towed through the shallows by tug boats

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Gondalas are now mostly used for the tourist trade. We had an excellent look through many of the narrow canals and stopped to be serenaded and drink champagne to celebrate the occasion.

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Only one Bridge is covered, the Bridge of Tears which leads to the court room where many a Ventian was sentence to death.

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The local equivalent of a taxi took us for a cruise of the main canals.

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The local garbage boats are limited in their pickup schedule by the tides as are some of the “buses”.  At high tide they cannot get under the low bridges and have wait for the water to drop.

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BoatsandBridges05Behind the boat stop is Venice’s main link with the outside world is via the train station in the background which travels via bridge over the lagoon.

There are many other islands in the lagoon that are not part of Venice because they are not linked by bridge to the original 118 Islands.

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Traffic jam in the main canal.

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Deliveries by boat. The only artificial Island in the lagoon is a huge car park and docking area where daily hundreds of semi trailers are unload onto delivery boats like this one.

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Another boatload of workers head home.

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A wave from a taxi driver for our Tour Director Barbara.

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A Last Look at Florence and Tuscany

Tuscany from the top of the Tower

Tuscany seen from the top of a tower. This image, made from six frames, covers about 270 degrees which explains why the horizon is curved.

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In an earlier post, more than two months ago while still in Italy, I commented on the relative size of David’s hands and was reminded of this by an artist friend, roddyewrecka, recently. Here is the proof, if you can raise your gaze to the hands!

This is one of two replicas of the David. This one overlooks the city from a large car park, the other is in the main square, while the original is in The Gallery of the Fine Arts.

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The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna  1579 -1583_DSC8044

The Medici’s patronised contemporary artists and architects and collected great art works of antiquity.

Centuries of weathering and pollution of works and acts of vandalism of produce damage on these masterpieces.

In the factory above an original is repaired and cloned. The copy goes back outside while the original is kept safe in a museum or gallery.

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If you want a souvenir you can pretend it is great art.

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The architecture is impressive 

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Cars are tiny and in this case electric – check out the charger.

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A spot of local colour

Positano – The Town that Steinbeck made Famous

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Positano was a prosperous port in the Amalfi the first established of the Italian Maritime Republics, heavily involved in the Crusades. Larger ships meant it was no longer useful as a port and it became dependent on its fishing fleet. By the middle of the last century the decline of the fishing industry meant that more than half the population had emigrated, mainly to Australia.

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Then in 1953 John Steinbeck arrived in Positano, escaping from Rome’s summer heat. He was already a well established novelist, later to win the Pulitzer Prize, but then working as a columnist for Harper’s Bazar magazine . Below is a link to what he wrote about Positano, early setting the tone with this amazing statement.

“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

If you love good writing follow the link to this his description of this village in 1953 and consider my recent images.

http://www.sirenuse.it/fileUpload/downloads/1/Steinbeck.pdf

ImageWe were told it was worth making our way down to the beach because we would find the world’s best gelato – it was good but so was the view back up the hill towards the town best described by Steinbeck.

“Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it……. The small curving bay of unbelievable blue and green water laps gently on a beach of small pebbles. There is only one narrow street and it does not come down to the water. Everything else is stairs, some of them as steep as ladders. You do not walk to visit a friend, you either climb or slide.”

ImageOn the way down we passed The Church of St Maria Assunta, famous for its mediaeval art. However a wedding was just about to start so we couldn’t get in. Next best thing for a storyteller however, was the arrival of the bride. She walked up, all smiles, gave us a pirouette,  raised the flowers in salute that was a YES of triumph. I captured the her later, with new husband smiling for the video and  walking the narrow, main path through the shops to the beachImage

ImageThis is an eternal bride, walked past by 10,000 people a day, but she doesn’t get to go home at night. No wonder she doesn’t smile.

Pompeii – an Environmental Calamity Set in Stone

ImageWhat do you think about when you see news of another natural disaster killing thousands of people? Has media coverage of cyclones, tsunamis, bush fires, and famines desensitized your feelings so that you feel more for a road accident victim in your neighbourhood than masses of people who you feel no connection with? The photo above, of my American friend John in Pompeii, seems to catch the moment of realisation that, nearly 2000 years ago, this was a man like me, whose life just ended like switching off a light.ImageImageSome visitors to this amazing place were only expecting a small ruin and were surprised to find a Roman town which once housed 20,000 people. Except for the lack of a roof on most buildings, it is almost as it was when people looked over these town walls into the rich agricultural fields that surround the town.ImageImageImageWalking in through the Gateway in the wall, imagine driving your donkey with its heavy cart over the deeply rutted road. The only reminder that you have not arrived in this town prior to Vesuvius blowing its top in 77 AD, is the dress of the tourists thronging its main east west road.ImageOur guide directs us towards a traffic jam on a narrow side street. He says it was always this way on market day outside the largest of the cities many brothels. A feature of this particular establishment was the wall murals that allowed clients to point out the particular services they required.ImageImagePompeii had an articulated water supply carried along lead pipes. Wealthy households had the water running into their homes but water was supplied publicly to everyone. The water was carried in lead pipe which are still in the ground. When we travelled to Bath in England we were told that the lead for Pompeii actually came from the mines in England. Except for the new brass tap, this is an original drinking fountain.ImageImageImageLooming in the background is continental Europe’s only active volcano. Vesuvius is just as dangerous today, well over due for an eruption with nearly a million people living in close proximity.ImageHere are pictures of some “old crocks” in Pompeii. The Pottery in the shed has been recovered, in many cases with contents intact. The walking crocks are Julie in I amongst the ruins.ImageImageImageAncient Pompeii ruins on the left with modern villas on the right. Only two-thirds of Pompeii has been uncovered in excavations of the site which began in 1748. They have revealed well-preserved remains of buildings, mosaics, furniture, and the personal possessions of the city’s inhabitants.

Unlocking River Power

Someone asked on my post about Amsterdam’s bicycles whether I would comment on the River Locks to Budapest. What a good idea!
In Roman times the rivers of Europe were unsuitable for transport, too shallow with strong currents and dangerous rocks. The Romans built good roads on the banks to allow quick movement of troops and commerce and used the rivers as boundaries between their Empire and the Germanic barbarians.
Four things changed this: Explosives to clear the rocky shoals, powered ships to overcome the currents and the development of Locks and Canals to join the European rivers into a complex continent wide network of river roads. The last only occurred within the past 20 years.
While the luxurious River Cruisers like we have travelled from Amsterdam to Nuremberg get a lot of attention, and bring in the Euros, it is the commercial traffic that dominate the rivers and Locks. Barges 135 metres by 11.5 loaded down with building materials, food, petroleum products, coal, rubbish what ever go streaming past endlessly. In Australia these are often transported by road.
This movement pattern is controlled by Locks – think of elevators for those giants vessels, that allow us to navigate gradually from sea level to 406 metres and back again. They also are a flood migration aid.
On the Rhine and the Amsterdam Rhine Canal, with its greater commercial traffic these locks were paired allowing one for each direction, double width and double length, allowing 4 maximum sized vessels to move in each direction. On the Main River and it’s Canal, the locks are one way, single width and shorter meaning that a vessels often has to wait for Lock space before moving on.
There are doors at both end of the Lock which close, water either floods in from a holding pond alongside or floods out down the river, depending on whether you are going up or down. This is one case where a picture sequence shows more clearly than words.
The greatest height our boat will be moved is yet to come – 24.7 metres or 81 feet vertical movement will be just after Nuremberg, on our next sailing day. Imagine lifting boats and cargoes the size of these to the height of an 8 story building just with the power of water and gravity, using technology which has hardly changed in a century.

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An Australian in Europe

Title refers to the song by Sting that I very much like. I know Sting says it is about his friend Quentin Crisp but I can live with that.

In my early post about my loss of passport, my son Simon suggested it was time I used a bumbag, saying I should not be afraid of what others think of my fashion sense. So cruel!
I replied I used a bumbag already, filled with camera stuff and my passport is normally safe in a money belt.
In the interest of helping other travellers, I will let you into my traveling tips, complete with photo, taken with self timer, camera perched on bench, thus explaining my odd pose. The Jurassic Coast is background with wife as companion. I will not comment on her dress – no way!

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# I wear trekking sandals by Teva all the time! I have worn shoes twice in 5 weeks. I wore the sandals to church and continually in freezing wet London. The two times in shoes were to dress up dinners in Italy. Why sandals? Arthritis in my feet means shoes hurt, sandals don’t. Are my feet cold – not if I’m moving.
# I wear shorts almost all the time. In London when it was wet, windy and cold I did wear jeans for a week. I have worn my good pants twice (see above). My new American friends were surprised to find my knees covered on dress up nights. My favourite shorts have wide cargo pockets which can hold my mini iPad. Otherwise it is in the back pack. It has been invaluable on this trip.
# If it’s warm it’s T shirt time but then it’s layers as the temperature drops. Next stage is a thermal singlet under the shirt. Cooler still – replace the shirt with a long sleeved polo necked warm shirt. Really cold – add light weight polar fleece top. Wet or windy – an unlined very light crush resistant Gor-tex jacket on top which otherwise lives in my backpack.
# Bright sunshine requires sunnies and sometimes my World Cup Wallabies Cap. I have found that the cap is not needed to identify me as Australian. Usually saying hello is enough. Occasionally locals are disappointed to find I am not a Kiwi! I explain that we are better losers – more practise.
# The bumbag is carried in my waterproof backpack unless the photography is getting serious, when it gets belted on. It contains my fast ultra wide(11-16mm f2.8) lens, spare battery, additional memory cards, etc. It is heavy.
# My Nikon D300s with my travelling lens(18-200mm f5.6) usually hangs from my shoulder on a swivel sling – it is a big camera for travelling, so goes in the backpack if not in use.

I dress for mobility and convenience. I will leave the fashion concern for my son.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford on Avon

This is a cheap tour of where Willian Shakespeare was born – his father’s house. Even though he
Inherited this property, he probably did not live here or write in it as an adult. This is a cheap tour because it saves you the airfare and the £15 entry cost. In my English courses in High School we studied a major Shakespearean play every year. Reading his work certainly impacted on me as a reader and a writer.

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Exterior of William Shakespeare’s birth place in Stratford on Avon

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A contemporary portrait of the greatest writer in the English language

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A First Folio of the works of Shakespeare, published by his friends and available for £1 sold about 750 copies. Now the 200 remaining originals are each valued at up too £15 million depending on condition
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A Bedroom from the time

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A child’s room

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A contemporary bust of Shakespeare

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These houses took a lot of heating

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Every room has an actor filling a role from Shakespeare’s time, and doubling as security. The lass pictured here was in the midst of declaiming Juliette’s famous call for Romeo from the windowsill to an audience in the garden below. After a generous bout of applause she went down to deliver “Shakespeare on request”