Date: June 22, 2014
Time: 10:21 pm local time/4:21 pm EST
Place: Venice, Italy
I wrote the blog post for yesterday on the train this morning (the 22nd), and managed to finish it in a little less than the hour it took us to get from Bern to Brig. From Brig we were to get on a high speed train to Venice, but unfortunately the train had trouble. They sent us a temporary train, which was smaller and much less plush. It was so small, in fact, that it didn’t allow me to have a seat. I stood in the space between the cars as we wooshed by.
We went down one stop (which was about 30 minutes or so), then we got off and switched to the right kind of train. We had been given specific seats, which were nice. I sat next to Kaiti, with Dr. Laughlin and Mrs. Goddard sharing a row facing me, but down and across the aisle. They slept most of the time. Lisa Diller was in the same row as them, but on our side of the aisle. Joel sat behind me.
It was a very leisurely ride with beautiful scenery. I worked on reading my Bach book for a while, and I’m sure I dozed for a couple of hours. We made sandwiches for lunch, figuring that we could save some money. They were so good!
We arrived in Venice about 3 o’clock our time (about 9 o’clock your time), and we walked the few blocks to our hotel. Our next appointment was at 4, so we had a bit of time. We walked up the four flights of stairs, and as soon as we opened the door, all four of us were drenched in sweat. It was so completely hot. We saw an air conditioner on our wall, and we eventually figured out that we needed a remote from the front desk. It’s set to 16 degrees right now, which is equivalent to 60 Fahrenheit. Maybe for the first time this trip I’ll sleep all the way through the night.
We met in the lobby of the hotel at 4, then went to take the water taxi (which has an Italian name, but I can’t think of what it is) to San Giorgio, a Renaissance style church down the Grand Canal. We managed to get on the wrong boat (the story of my life), and so we got to see a lot of the city, and finally arrived at San Giorgio (the church of St. George, the same George who supposedly slew a dragon) about 15 minutes before closing time.
Our large group is quite loud (we have several South Americans), but as soon as we entered the church a hush fell over the group. It was absolutely breathtaking. There was a feeling that I couldn’t quite place. It was reverence, but more than that. I can’t quite place it. There is a late Romantic/early Baroque painting of the Last Supper, painted by Jacopo Tintoretto about 100 years after Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting by the same name.
When put side by side, these two pictures don’t really compare, but we can compare them because they are of the same subject. Leonardo’s painting is very austere and is painted from the front. The room is well lit. In Tintoretto’s painting, however, the room is very dark, but he masterfully uses light to bring new drama to the story.
The organ of the church is quite beautiful. It sits above the altar, and in front of the choir loft. The choir actually sings from the floor, but from behind the altar. They sit in a deep ‘U’ shape, where they face each other which allows them to hear each other well and stay together in the rich acoustics of the church.
Dr. Diller gave us a lecture on the importance of Venice in European history, which I wasn’t able to take notes on, so I’ll do my best to recount a little bit of it for you. Venice was built up out of the ocean after some invading army forced them off the main land. They were the center of trading, especially during the Crusades, as they were a stopping off point for English and French crusaders who didn’t want to march to the Holy Lands.
The city has ties to Greek Orthodox Church and to the Byzantine Empire (which really was the remnants of the Roman Empire, saved in Constantinople). During one of the crusades, the Venetians had been hired to take a large number of Crusaders to the Holy Lands, but they couldn’t find enough people to go on the trip. The Venetians made them change their deal to where they would attack Constantinople before being taken to the Holy Lands to wage more war.
Venice was the heart of European culture, and they therefore became very rich. Italy wasn’t unified until the middle of the 19th century, but Venice began to come together much earlier than that (I want to say 14th century, but I don’t remember for sure) under the leadership of the Doge who was elected, though not by popular election (more like elected by the parliament).
It became the heart of culture when the Arab world (Turkey, Syria, etc.) were opened up to scholars. There they found old manuscripts in the original languages, documents from Italian and European history (think Plato and Aristotle) which had been forgotten in Europe for centuries. The scholars came to Venice because that was where they could find the documents. Venice was one of the first places that the Renaissance took place in Europe, but it quickly spread.
After visiting San Giorgio we were released from our group and allowed to roam around for a while, looking for food. Lisa Diller told us on the boat that Venice was not the place to go for pasta, but it was good for pizza, so a group of nine of us went looking for a pizza place Kaiti had gone to a few years before. We couldn’t find it, but we did find another one and we all sat down to enjoy our pizzas.
People hadn’t been able to get cash yet, and the people at the restaurant didn’t want us to do separate checks. I volunteered to pay with my credit card and let them pay me within a few days, though most of them were able to pay me right then.
Part of the group decided they wanted to go on a gondola ride, but both Laughlins, Joel, and I were tired and ready to head back to the hotel. We walked through the city for a while, then got on a crowded boat for a while, which was very hot. When we landed at our stop, we paused at a gelato stand (yummy!) and we got various cones. I had a scoop of mint and a scoop of a wonderfully rich, but not particularly dark, chocolate.
That’s about it for today! Love you all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.