Amid waterways and architecture
Monday, October 17, 2011 AT 03:15 PM (IST)
Camil Parkhe shares the thrill of gondola ride on the canals of ‘floating city’ Venice
We had just arrived from Rome to our next destination during our Europe tour. After alighting from the bullet train, all of us — my wife, daughter and I — were heading towards our hotel when we heard the siren. We looked in that direction and were shocked to see an ambulance moving speedily on waters. It was a speed boat with the familiar Red Cross symbol! Another siren followed and now it was a police team in another speed boat heading towards the site of their call. It took a few minutes to realise that we had arrived in Venice, the floating city where everything is surrounded by water and also moves on waters.
We had arrived on a fortnight-long Europe tour. Although Paris, Lourdes, Rome and Vatican were on our itinerary, Venice was included in it at the last moment as we failed to get the UK visa during our travel schedule. Some fellow travellers had strongly recommended us to visit Venice — a marvel city in the world. And here we were witnessing it within a few minutes of our arrival.
We checked into the hotel, refreshed ourselves and hurriedly came out again on the streets. Our stay in Venice was only for two days and so we were very eager to see how the city looked at night. A journalist colleague, who had been to Venice the previous year, had said that she was yet to come out of the chasm of this wonderful city. I could believe in her words now.
In Venice (spelled Venezia in Italian), one sees flowing water everywhere just like the land we see elsewhere. Venice is a famous tourist centre and so we were surrounded by tourists everywhere — moving in pairs or groups, enjoying the boat rides, snapping photographs of the ancient castles and in the churches. The buildings, houses, churches, with typical Venetian Gothic architecture, are located right on the banks of the canals. Naturally, bridges here are in plenty, especially at the Santa Lucia Venezia railway station which is the heart of this famous city. In fact, almost all buildings and structures were not less than minimum 50 years old, our three-storeyed hotel was not an exception either. We did not see any structure with modern architecture, or perhaps they had taken good care to have build new structures in a such way that it would not be an eyesore amid the historic setting.
Ride in gondola (boats) in Venice is a must for every tourist, as it offers glimpses into the inner parts of the city. Pope Benedict XVI, who had been here just a couple of weeks before us, too was treated to a royal boat ride in the city. We had a ride in gondola when the sun was setting; the view of the floating city, lit up with so many lamps everywhere, was just breathtaking. My daughter went on clicking photographs to capture the beautiful setting.
The next morning, I watched a boatman throwing up a parcel of newspapers on the pavement near our hotel. There were also other boats carrying vegetables, stationary and other goods. I also snapped two photographs of a newly-married couple getting into a small hired boat.
The only downside of Venice is the high prices of the goods. Unlike the other tourist destinations in Europe, Venice is a costly affair.