Sunday, December 9, 2012

Venice Water Buses

Glass objects reflected in a glass case in the glass
capital of Murano, Italy.
After spending three or four days wearing the nubs off our boot soles, we decided to spring for a 12 hour pass for the Venice bus system: boats  that run up and down the Grand Canal, around the outside of the island and over to other islands like Cemiterio, Lido, and Murano, famous for its glass work.

Even with the 12 hour pass we were routinely kicked off the bus at the end of each run, had to get off, re-run the card on the reader and re-board to continue. I'm sure tourists take advantage of the distances the buses run and go all over for the price of one trip ticket if they can get away with it. We rode all day without our pass ever being checked but on the last trip which was at night, two women in uniforms, with meters, boarded our bus to verify the passes were legitimate. Had they expired, we would have had to pay a 56 Euro fine. The ticket for 12 hours is only 19 Euros.

The past week has been cold, but Saturday it actually snowed a little and boats in Murano had snow on their canvas tops. We weren't quite prepared to be this cold. Fortunately most shops have some heat and certainly museums and restaurants do. We noticed a lot of places in Murano were just shut up, closed for the winter. Not so in Venice, but I wouldn't be surprised if many close after Christmas for a few months until it warms up and the new crop of tourists arrive.

A public sculpture in Murano
The workshops in Murano usually give tours of the factories and demonstrations of their amazing glass construction techniques, but not this Saturday, it was some Saint's day, the factories were closed. So we were reduced to wandering Murano's narrow streets and canals, popping into a shop here and there. The offerings ranged from jewelry and touristy trinkets, to useful dinnerware and interesting sculptures. Outside along the walkways were several impressive public displays of glass that reminded me of the American artist Dale Chihuly. The Museo Vetrario was under renovation so it was closed too! While autumn and winter are good travel times to avoid crowds and insane prices, there are drawbacks.

We rode up and down the Grand Canal of Venice on the bus-boats just to see the palaces, government buildings, and gorgeous hotels that are all but invisible from the street side where their facades fade into a cacophony of shops. Many buildings are in worse shape than I expected. Blackened fungal growth covers the stone blocks, weathered wooden doors are rotted at the bottom, wrought iron gates are disintegrating where they've rusted, buildings are covered in graffiti, and some windows were never replaced but boarded up to keep out invaders. However, some have been restored to, and even surpass, their original splendor. White marble exteriors glisten in the sunlight. At night, Christmas decorations of Murano sculptures hanging from high ceilings light up the golden interiors, creating a sumptuous repast of visual gluttony. We gorged ourselves on that feast, passed the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and got off at the next stop to see a church and then her art collection. What a contrast that was! Modern art and artists: Calder, Picasso, Max Ernst, Klee, Pollack, Agnes Martin, Kandinsky, Chagall, Dali, Miro, Giacometti, and others; some of the pieces touching and brilliant, much of it not understandable.  Then we rode the water-bus back up the Grand Canal in the darkness to see the palaces again, now dressed in their evening clothes.

Gondola under the Rialto Bridge on a cold windy day.


The Leonardo da Vinci Museum with many
working models from his great mind

The Archimedes Screw, a device that captures
water and raises it to a higher level.
And it works!!