Sinking, or shrinking?

Or maybe both!

No matter how much you’ve read about Venice sinking, there’s nothing quite like rounding the corner through the vast mass of people to find yourself in St Marks Square, ankle deep in water!

St Marks Square, under water

Suddenly you realise that those brightly coloured “shoe covers” you’ve been seeing on the occasional fellow tourist are not, in fact, a new trend, but rather the hawkers’ inventive approach to getting another €10 from you to protect your shoes from the floodwaters.

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Though quite what this man was thinking as he dragged the rest of his (and probably her) luggage through the water, his own shoes admittedly protected, remains a mystery!

Finally, an advantage in clumping round Europe in my African tramping boots … These boots have seen plenty of water before!

Mind you, I had been lulled into a false sense of security by our lovely tour guide on the tour of the synagogues of Venice… five of them in all… who was adamant that the main problem for Venice is “shrinking not sinking”. And not just the Jewish community, down to just 450 people, all extremely orthodox hailing from the Ashkenazic or Sephardic migrations. The tiny group of Hasidic Jews from New York, who own and run the kosher Gam Gam restaurant just round the corner from our rooms, are not, in our guide’s view, part of the local community, because they come and go back to New York!

In fact, the whole Venetian population is shrinking, down from 60,000 justo few years ago, to the current 56,000, as in our guide’s view, people move to the mainland where “life is easier and cheaper”.  Even for locals, living in Venice is, she says, about 60% more expensive than elsewhere in Italy.  And after two weeks of €1 coffees – maybe €1.50 if you want milk – the €4 to €6 coffees here are, shall we say, a natural barrier to excessive caffiene consumption!

But back to the ghetto.  Who knew I would come to Venice to enhance my knowledge of Judaism! At the kosher restaurant tonight I discovered that you can’t have Parmesan on your pasta, and that you can’t bring your own wine because if it’s not kosher, you will contaminate the glasses. Came a bit unstuck trying to explain “kosher” to Jenna! Hope she looks up the more accurate version when she gets home!

Where we are staying is the original origin of the term “ghetto”… An island which was originally a foundry “gietto”, where the Jews were allowed to live, provided they wore yellow hats when they went into other parts of the city, and returned by nightfall before the gates on the three bridges into this Island were locked, and patrolled by Christian watchmen.

This a “Venetian skyscraper” …. 8 storeys in the height of a ‘normal’ 5 storey building, the very low ceilings designed to fit in more and more people as the tiny island became overcrowded.

Venetian skyscraper

The synagogues are incredible, dating in some instances back more than 400 years.  There are two currently in use – the Spanish one in summer and the German one in winter (it has heating), with the bonus that the one not in use can be used for tourist visits in the “off season”.

The "Spanish" synagogueThe Spanish one (above), and the German one….
And the German one...

And an added bonus this morning when I discovered that the “Christian” bakers are on light duties on Sunday…. My favourite crusty breakfast rolls were thankfully fresh on offer at the kosher bakery around the corner!

The plus… and the minus … of our location is that we are literally miles away from the major tourist things, means LOTS – and I do mean LOTS of walking. According to Rob’s GPS on his phone, which thankfully navigated us through the alleyways for the past two days, we did close to 13km yesterday, much of it battling the hordes of tourists who are no doubt adding to the sinkage!

Highlight of the visit was the Vivaldi concert – including the full “four seasons” played in the Church of San Vidal by the world renowned Interpreti Veniziani. There is something about classical music played live and very very well, that simply fills you up  with wonder – wonderful, in the true meaning of the word. And a huge relief to SIT in wonderment for 90 minutes, having almost been late for the 9pm start after what was an almost as wonderful dinner of tagliatelle with lobster, mussels and clams… The half lobster with great big meaty claw framing a pile of freshly made pasta that was something to linger over. Not to mention Peter’s excessive wine selection… Well, it was a belated celebration of Rob’s birthday, after all!

So now it’s off to Modena for the next 3 days, with a vague intent to fast tomorrow to make room for the lunch on Tuesday. I guess it’s just as well we’re doing so much walking, and of course, while you’re walking, you do see some interesting sights….

… like the man walking his dogs in a baby stroller…

imageThe leaning tower, even though we are definitely NOT in Pisa!

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Old love, and young love…. (the latter complete with a “selfie stick” so you can both be in every photo you take)!

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imageThe child suddenly discovering her mother IS actually walking away….

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…and the dog trying just so desperately to keep up with his owner, and much younger lady bulldog!

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