It was a rough trip from Innsbruck to Venice. I boarded the train at oh-dark-thirty in the morning carrying a pack full of wet laundry because the dryers at the Innsbruck hostel didn't work. The sleep I had on the train ride down was fitful, restless. I was vaguely aware of another passenger in the compartment with me, vaguely aware of a latent, silent hostility. I must have been snoring something awful.
The beauty of the city, a city with canals instead of streets overwhelmed. I took the water taxi from the train station to the city proper and immediately set out to find accommodations and a place to dry clothes.
The laundromat was easy. The proprietor let me stow my guitar there as well. But there was nary a room to be had anywhere. Wandering around the maze of sidewalks it became apparent that most of the people were tourists from America and Europe. Not so many Venetians. The beauty was awesome, but it began to take on a Disneyland-like surrealism. This is not a city so much as a tourist's amusement park.
After several attempts to find a room, disillusionment growing, I arrived at a decision: spend a few hours enjoying the sights, snapping some photos, then catch the late afternoon train for Florence. Venice is beautiful, yes. But tourist trappings endow a falsity that is mildly offensive.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, they say. If so, green-veined Venice is a woman.
|Shot before disaster|
Whoa! Splash! Into the canal. Ugh!
Very well, pull yourself out, Dade. Maintain your dignity. Resist the temptation to beat the sh*t out of smirking on-lookers. Drag your sorry, sopping ass to Piazza San Marco. Sit in the sun at an open-air café. Ignore the dirty looks from the waiter. Take off socks and hang them to dry on the chair next.
|Flying rats in feeding frenzy|
***The train ride to Florence was beautiful. Gentle, fertile countryside, for some reason, evoked memories of the Sacramento Valley in far-away California. The clime was warm, sunny. But I was exhausted. The clack-clack of train wheels lulled me to sleep.
Florence train station bustled like an anthill. There were lots of people running back and forth, lots of trains pulling in and pulling out. I booked a room in a fancy hotel, mostly because it was the first room available. It was certainly the most luxurious accommodation to date: a queen-sized bed and a real bathroom. Luxury! But Florence beckoned. I dropped off the pack and the guitar and headed out.
Sidewalks were very crowded. I weaved and bobbed past tourists proceeding at a more leisurely, less purpose-driven pace. Two-cycle scooter engines rattled the narrow streets. Haughty Italians zipped along, heedless of anything beyond their forward momentum.
|Entrance to El Duomo|
At the center of it all, the Duomo shone, with its dazzling colors. A crowd of people stood in line, waiting to enter. But I would admire only the exterior on my way to the art museums; after all, I came to Florence to see the works of Renaissance men in the birthplace of the Renaissance.
The Renaissance: that Catholic movement that endeavored to offer some dim vision of what surely must be the Glory of God. And, well, God's Glory must surely be great indeed. Because these earthly imitations on display in the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, and Galleria degli Uffizi cannot fail to awe even the darkest cynic.
|One of Michelangelo's more obscure works: "The David"|
In 1504, Michelangelo completed the David, before he had yet reached his 30th birthday. A life such as his . . . immortality is not for the children of God. But the longevity of one's works is surely a measure of one's service to Him. Well done, Michelangelo.
Rape of the Sabine, near Uffizi
The Renaissance may prove to be the era in which humanity attained the pinnacle of its artistic vision. I felt it; felt that I was standing at the source of the prime fount of human creation. The works of these men and their contemporaries, and the great works of the Muslims in their rival empires . . . these approached His Glory.
It surely must be so.
To be continued...
- Pt. I Amsterdam - Arnhem - Copenhagen
- Pt. II Copenhagen - Oslo
- Pt. III Bergen
- Pt. IV Flam fjord - Goteborg
- Pt. V Stockholm - Gavle - Stockholm
- Pt. VI Berlin
- Pt. VII Prague
- Pt. VIII Budapest
- Pt. IX Vienna
- Pt. X Munich
- Pt. XI Salzberg - Innsbruck
- Pt. XII Venice - Florence
- Pt. XIII Siena
- Pt. XIV Rome
- Pt. XV Naples - Pompeii
- Pt. XVI Cinque Terre - Geneva
- Pt. XVII Avignon
- Pt. XVIII Arles
- Pt. XIX Barcelona
- Pt. XX San Sebastian
- Pt. XXI Bordeaux - St. Lo
- Pt. XXII Paris
- Pt. XXIII Brussels - Waterloo
- Pt. XXIV Brugge
- Pt. XXV Amsterdam at last