Sunday, December 1, 2019

City of Venice

City of Venice
 Venice is a rare urban landscape with  no cars or motorcycles and no modern high rises.  It is a walk-able city with water transportation across the Grand Canal, to islands further away, and for a less circuitous route than the maze of narrow pedestrian streets and bridges. Historic and beautiful, it is also,unfortunately sinking.  I was there for the November 2019 Acqua Alta, a series of high tides that covered 88% of the city in water.   Only an Acqua Alta in 1966 had tides higher than the 6'2" high point of this year

The city, built on a series of low islands within a lagoon used special techniques of wooden stilts below a wooden platform.  The wood, below water level didn't rot because without oxygen, the microorganisms which cause decay did not survive.  In time, with the flow of salt water, those piers, spaced very closely together, petrify.  The city has survived, its beautiful buildings, a testament to a long and colorful history.  But, today, both the islands are sinking and the waters are higher.  A number of years ago, Venice quit pumping water from underground aquifers as that was contributing to the sinking.  Cruise ships created surges and are now routed to other docking areas although some people are calling for a complete ban.  Geology of tectonic plates play a role.  Still the subsidence is somewhere between 1 and 2 cm per year.   Rising waters account for most of the flooding.  San Marcos Basilica has flooded six times in its 1200 year history, four of those in the last twenty years. As oceanic waters arise around the planet, low lying areas like Venice are more threatened.  A storm gate to help protect the city has been stalled by years of corruption and mismanagement.  And when designed,  the issues of climate change and rising oceans wasn't as dire as it is today.  

I was there for the multiple floods of November 2019.  My friend, Chris and I, had signed up for another of the superb photo workshops presented by Margo Taussig Pinkerton and Arnie Zann of Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  And yes, if you are wondering, Margo is generally barefoot or in flip flops,  In Venice she wore cheap plastic knee high boots over the flip flops.

Did the floods ruin the workshop?  No way.  Yes, we had minor inconveniences and had to change some of our plans, but these were minor compared to what Venetians experienced in loss to livelihoods, furniture, boats, and damage to homes and businesses.  Did we get to see a lot and have great photo experiences?  To that, an unequivocal, YES.  I've learned a great deal in the workshops I did in the Outer Banks and Charleston, but things came together better for me this time and I felt a level of satisfaction that I broke new ground.   

Rather than my usual  presentation with captions, I think the impressions of Venice are better if you view as a slide show.  Click on the first photo then scroll thru them all.   If you have a question about a particular photo, you can ask me.  There are two posts, one of the main city of Venice and one on the fishing village of Burano.  

And I want, before you look, to pay tribute to the wonderful people of Venice.  Restaurants closed (refrigeration systems destroyed) most museums were closed, vaporettos (water buses) had to stop running during the highest parts of the flooding as they could not clear bridges., our hotel moved people on the ground floor to upper floors and despite a foot of water, almost to the rather high electrical outlets, they provided friendly, helpful service throughout. People on the street and in shops were busy using sump pumps to remove water, sweeping out flood debris, and checking damage yet I didn't hear shouting or harsh words.  Two gentlemen, carrying a replacement mooring post, met me on a narrow strip between the flooded canal and houses.  I greeted them, found a narrow door sill where I could stand to give them more room.  They smiled.  When I pointed to my camera, they laughed and said, sure, I could photograph them. I photographed then let them pass.  Mothers laughed at their kids splashing in the water of what was normally a plaza.  

Its all about the light :

Roller suitcases were useless.