Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Venice - City of Haunting Dreams

“So, o’er the lagoon
We glided; and from that funeral bark
I learned, and saw the city, and cold mark
How from their many isles, in evening’s gleam,
Its temples and its places did seem
Like fabrics of enchantment piled to heaven.” (Percy Bysshe Shelly)

To many, Venice is quite simply the most beautiful city in the world. At first sight, it appears like a dream - its breathtaking architecture and almost overwhelming weight of centuries challenging us to question the pace and purpose of our modern lives.
It is a city of many contradiction - something grand but faded, magical yet ghostly, beautiful but with dark, sinister undercurrent running through its canals and a pervasive sense that a second spectral city exists beneath the façade of everything you see. Sense too the silence and churches, feel the aura of the once mighty Venetian Empire and the decadence of its fall from grace.
Step away from the Grand Canal, let the gaudy masks and plastic souvenirs fade into the background and enter this ghostly world. See the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ as it must have seemed to the friends of prisoners marched along it, San Michele Cemetery, ‘The Island of the Dead’, with its barred and locked door set low on the water-line, the peeling walls of a once proud palazzo, the mossy steps of a canal-side residence, a gilded funeral gondola, a solitary cloaked figure walking home from carnival, St Mark’s Square in winter, wreathed in white as mist sweeps in from the sea...

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