Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday Night By Gondola

I think that too often people get caught up in the circles of their own life and they forget that the world is not just what they view on a daily basis.

Imagine living in a large city in the United States. You probably commute to work via a car, fighting your way through traffic lights to reach the highway. Once you are on the major thouroughfair, your stop and go tapping on the brakes all the way to the office.

Maybe you pop in at Starbucks for your morning cup of coffee in a to go cup and jump back in the car. Whatever you do, it is your routine and you probably think little about how different a day can be for other people around the world.

Without even touching on the conditions in under developed countries, it is facinating to visit other cities to see that things can be vastly different, and yet amazingly similar.

I live in Austin, Texas - which by all accounts is an fantastic place to live, work and raise a family. The population of the greater Austin area is close to 1.6 million people. Venice, Italy's surrounding area has about the same number of people, and yet these two wonderful cities are so different.

I wish I could explain how taken I am with Venice. It is a city like no other that I have ever seen. The things you see on television and in the movies do not do it justice. Before arriving I was warned by others that Venice in the summer can be hot, overrun with tourists, expensive, smelly and dirty. While all of those things are based in some truth, those who only see that part of the Venician world have missed one of the true wonders of the world.

The city is a metropolis that sprung from the water over 2000 years ago, and has a rich history and architecture like nothing eles I have ever encountered.

A few years ago the U.S. Insurance industry freaked out over "mold" growth in homes. The scare was so large that you could not get insurance on a piece of property is you had ever spilled a glass of water. Meanwhile Venice is surrounded by water and these palaces that line the Grand Canal have survived hundreds of years of a game of give and take with the sea. It makes me laugh at those State Farm guys.

There are no cars in Venice and finding coffee to go is virtually impossible. There are no Starbucks in Italy, and when you want that morning expresso you stand at the bar and drink it with the locals. You smile and talk to those around you who are interested in discovering where you are from and how long you will be visiting their beautiful city. That does not seem to happen in the long lines of an American coffee house.

The talk in the media about how the world hates America seems to be highly overstated (sorry CNN), as everyone I have spoken with has been wildly friendly, and interested in discovering more about Texas. People are just people, and those I have seen (locals and fellow travelers) are trying to have a great day the best they can.

You walk a lot in Venice. You also take the bus, but that bus is a very old large water craft that circles the Grand Canal. There are no cars, or other vehicles, in the main city. The streets are a series of twisting and turning alleys that all look the same, and yet are spectacularly different.

The La Fenice Opera House was burnt to the ground in a raging fire in 1996, and was restored in 2003. Only the facade of the building and a few other back rooms survived, but to tour the new theatre was an amazing testiment to what can be accomplished. The grand theatre looked spectacular, and was true to the design of the 100 year old hall that had stood before. What struck me was the the Italians had the resolve to make it as it was, where it was - and damn, it is incredible. To the the detail of the craftsmanship and know it was created just 5 years ago is inspiring. Even my 11 year old found the theatre a highlight of the trip. Wow.

The pace of life is slower in Venice (in a good way). People are not in a hurry. The locals appreciate that they live in the surroundings of breathtaking beauty. One person told me that his "home city is one of the world's best museums", and he cherished living here.
I cannot seem to get enough of Venice. The camera shutter goes off like telegraph machine as each turn of a corner brings something eye-catching.

We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Have A Great Day.


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