Thursday, March 20, 2008


So we made it to Venice, and with that we begin our jaunt through the second and final country of our trip. Recall if you will all of those paintings and pictures of a picturesque town full of vivid colors, and waterways flowing with singing gondoliers and know that they are not exaggerating. The city has gone to great lengths to preserve the city's historic feel, and they have done an uncanny job. Who knows if it will be here forever, but while it is, it is beautiful.

Now, that isn't to say it's all sunshine and lively pealing plaster over jade colored waterways... that's all there, but there are also lots of tourists, (even in March) along with the tacky shops that cater to them, and you have to go to extraordinary lengths to find a restaurant that doesn't break one of cardinal rules of either being next to a train station, near an airport, has a menu in more than one language, and in the worst cases, PICTURE MENUS! In a moment of weakness and desperation brought on by sun and hunger, we convinced ourselves that it was worth the risk to try one against our better jugement near the famous Piazza San Marco. Wow... just wow... we should have known better. For example... the barley soup starter with squid fritti served next to potatoes daphne, finished with desert, was actually, salty can quality soup, diner quality fried calamari with over salted fries, finished with canned fruit salad... ya... we left hungry and were much more satisfied with our later slice of pizza from a street on the walk back to our hotel.

While exploring the small wandering streets of Venice, we had a few destinations we felt we absolutely could not miss, and one was a famous craftshop that makes Venician masks, and boy were we not disappointed! The shop was fantastic-- full of plaster and leather masks from Venice's history, local plays, and mythology.

Many jester and harlequin masks were better versions of what you might find in Mardi Gras down in New Orleans, but others were unique and new to us. After some seriously hard debate, we decided on a the "plague doctor" mask. It looks kind of like a bird mask with a huge beak and round eye holes, and that's what we thought it was, but the shop lady gave us the rich background that it was in fact a historic piece modeled after a mask worn by physicians during the Black Plague that spread through Venice in the 1630's and wiped out a third of their population. The large "beak" of the mask would have been filled with herbs and lots of garlic to both block out the horrible stench and to hopefully cleanse the air before the doctor breathed it in, (at the time they thought the plague was airborne). The round eye holes look like the spectacles they would affix to the mask and hat to seal their head from the bad air. The "current" plague doctor masks around in other shops have stylized that particular style of mask much further and actually has a slit along the mask's beak to make it more bird-like but less true to the original design. Ours is dark and made from leather. We will take a picture and post it when we get back to the States.


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