Elysium and Venezia
Consider the “pastoral field” as a type of Elysium – the Fields of Asphodel in legend – a type wherein are found the immortal horses of Achilles, Xanthus and Balius (e.g., Pegasus, et.al.). In Venice, a campo may originally have been a small but vital community field, but the true Field, The Elysium of Venice, is The Lagoon.
Are the “immortal horses” in Venice the replicas of the four famous purloined steeds perched atop the portico of the Basilica? Certainly not! The heroic steeds of Venice are watercraft ancient and modern, singing, purring, puttering denizens of the City who carry their masters astride their backs as they ride through the Ria and Canale, in and out of the Elysium Lagoon, hefting people and goods between fondamente, jostling gently as they bring into the heart of the City its means to survive, its lifeblood.
The Dragons Invaded Elysium
What else might modern behemoth cruise ships represent? Perhaps they are like giant rumbling and roaring, smoke-belching UFO’s actually shaking the City’s foundations, driving mini-tsunamii against ancient construction, dwarfing the historic buildings with their gargantuan forms blotting out the sun, then disgorging thousands of day-trippers – cruisepersons like swarms of locusts misplaced. The swarms are super-concentrated, of one mind, programmed only to devour every single trinket, drink, and fast food item without thought, and perhaps a occasional Venetian by accident.
Unending clicking of thousands of camera shutters like crazed cicadas on hot summer nights accompanies them on the voracious march, tornados of fast food wrappers spiraling skyward behind each group as assuredly as umbrellas or giant daisies march before them.
Others roll off their leviathan intent to “overnight” on the way to the airport and home, mountains of “cruise luggage” in precariously teetering piles seeking to roll over you, crush you against masonry and display windows, or block your narrow path like a cork in a bottle as their unguided masters aimlessly seek to find their lodging unguided through calle and into rambo (from which they may never return!). The wheels roll across stone pavers with a sound like a million angry bees, and careen up and down the steps of 400 bridges sending up a din like an army of industrial riveting machines. Bang, bang, bang!
Minuscule hotel lobbies and ancient rooms fill to the rafters with railroad car sized monstrosities in neon colors (usually the luggage, sometimes the people) while their masters complain about sub-standard sized spaces and demand non-existent elevators.
Pity the Cruiseperson
Cruiseperson – the new royalty coming off of their floating palace, jaded by spoon-fed hyper-service from hovering servants. Thus habituated, cruiseperson expects – yea, demands! – the same in the City and cannot have it, cannot cope with the loss of handmaiden. Their reactions to the reality of Venice range from madly critical, past merely dazed and bewildered, to the far reaches of scornful Master of the Universe. Sometimes, all moods and attitudes are displayed simultaneously in epic displays worthy of a new Nobel Cruiseperson Prize, accompanied by a Times column, and all are imposed without distinction in the City including everyone and everything in it.
Please, take pity on the beached whale or runaway train of cruiseperson (I love mixing metaphors!), but watch your back, front, side and toes or your first swim in a Ria or Canal may be precipitated by an out-of-control Luggage Leviathan!
A Cautionary Tale
We sat for dinner one night at Antico Dolo, a very special and small trattoria near the Rialto, truly enjoying place, people and food as reserved (personally as well as for table and time), polite, respectful and therefore honored guests. We are guests, not customers!
Too soon, the next table was filled by a loud four-some that we immediately recognized as new arrivals from a cruise at our lodging place. We had been forced to employ Class 5.0 mountain climbing moves without belay to navigate over their mega-monstrous assemblage of cases in the Lobby, as they glared menacingly at us (Our Alpine Club medallions would be assured if witnesses had been available).
Too soon the too loud ordering came from the four-some – via the “main man”. The others did not speak Italian, so he took command to order for everyone, in English of course since he also did not speak Italian. We learned that “pasta” must be an English word, as it had to be said very loudly, slowly and repeatedly while jabbing a finger at it on the Carte. Too soon, at about ten minutes into their invasion, complaint about slow service began. Soon enough for the cuisine, but not for our embarrassed ears, the glorious aroma of their first courses presaged its delivery to their table, and they began to dine. Too soon, “it” happened, the ultimate horror! The alpha-male of the group barked angrily at the waitress (and hostess, and co-owner — all the same),
“What is the matter with you people! Why can’t you make spaghetti like we do at home in America?”
We spent the rest of our time in that delightful place showing humility, embarrassment, sympathy and understanding – trying to mend international relations and unwittingly assuring a wonderful dolce e espresso in the process – after the cruisepeople departed.
Yes, A Cruise Would be Nice – Please Don’t Blacklist Us!
We know that many truly fine folks enjoy ocean cruises and visit Venice with respect and care, before and after their cruise. We look forward to “cruising” the Mare Adriatico and the Aegean in the future, on a small ship with a handful of passengers, carefully pre-screened and tested before re-insertion into Venice when the ship returns – hopefully on a course other than through the Giudecca Canale!
Modest Mitigation Measures (Until Things Change)
Mandatory pre-arrival training for cruisepeople must commence at once! Luggage compressors (like automobile salvage yard car-crushers, only more powerful) must be deployed dockside. Electro-shock treatment shall be delivered to miscreants when behavioral outrages occur, administered through ankle bracelets like those portrayed on prisoners in “thriller” movies. Group sizes shall be limited to ten persons. Each will be provided with a GPS to guide them to their destination. Cruisepeople shall think of these measures as a bonus to their adventure, and the obligatory extra charge shall be contributed to the Commune for maintenance and repair.
Fair Warning! (A Public Notice to be Published Two Weeks in Succession)
If you are a cruiseperson, when you are propelling your mountain of cruise luggage along an oh-so-narrow aqua alta walkway (passarelle)or a railing-free Fondamente, oblivious to others, unaware of spatial limits, filled with the mighty hubris of cruiseperson, and you knock me into the water…
I’m taking you with me! All of you!