lunedì 5 marzo 2012

A Venetian Carnival

On Saturday, February 18, Scott and I decided to visit the quiet, romantic streets of Venice. As our train arrived to pick us up from downtown Vicenza, we peered into the windows only to see faces, shoulders, and butts pressed firmly against every corner of the train car. Hoping that everyone on the train wanted to see Vicenza today, we waited for them to come spewing out, though only a few trickled out as they squeezed past bodies and backpacks. Scott and I gave each other that, "do we really want to get on this train...what are we getting ourselves into" kind-of-look. Of course, Scott was more than willing to turn around and head back to the house because he is the smart one. I, on the other hand, grabbed him by the arm, affirming him that this is totally going to be worth it...though I knew it would take a lot more than a forced smile to convince him that these crowds are worth it. 

We were the first ones to attempt to enter our train car with three others behind us. The passengers already on the train subtly expressed their thoughts on their pleading faces that I could only interpret as, "Oh, please. For the love of Pete, please do not get on this car!" The seat section was completely full with people crushed against each other in the isles. The small entrance was stuffed, but we squeeze in somehow. Scott called this, "standing 'nut to butt,'" which was, unfortunately, extremely accurate. The other unfortunate aspect was that not everyone had the best hygiene, and I really wished I had my Purell with me to pass around to everyone coughing and sneezing into their hands then touching the same walls and bars that I had to use to balance myself on every wind in the track. I burrow my mouth and nose into my scarf in attempts to not catch every bug or virus that was flying around, though, wishing more-so that I could stick my head out of a window. Even though the train was not heated, it was so hot, and I was thankful to at least have the bit of wind coming in from the cracks in the doors to alleviate some of the body heat. After three more stops with only a few people worming their way out and several more people piling in, I realize that everyone is going to Venice. 

This is what we saw as soon as we stepped off the train and that's when I knew for sure that this was Carnival! This is why they were selling masks at the Post Exchange! This is a major festival held every year 40 days before Easter and then ending on Martedi Grasso meaning Fat Tuesday, (or as better known in the States, Mardi Gras).

There were several booths set up painting faces or masks. 
We got there pretty early so the crowds were not terrible just yet, but we jumpped right in and started following the flow of the crowds. We were not exactly sure where we were going; we just knew that where ever it may be, EVERYONE was going there. We stopped by the first cafe we saw to try out a pastry (I got tiramisu, go figure. And Scott got the "hot chocolate," which is more like hot pudding or a melted chocolate bar in a cup!) 

The lady behind the bar wore a festive blue wig with horns!
We marched on, continuing to follow the crowds, taking pictures of all the interesting costumes. Some people just wore masks with their regular clothing. Most likely bought at a street vendor like this one.

Others wore full beautiful costumes with intricate details. Apparently there is a contest for the best mask (one of the most important events held on the last week of Carnival), called La Maschera piu bella. Here are some of the more interesting costumes, though there were hundreds and hundreds of good ones. Some of the best, I did not capture since people crowded around to take pictures, and I was just not that patient, I guess. Then there were those who did not dress up at all (such as ourselves), but enjoyed the atmosphere nonetheless.

"Double, double toil and trouble..."
I thought this was so funny, three witches gathered around. 

The puppy people (or sheep), I'm not sure, but they were cute old people in cute old costumes!

I ran ahead to get a picture of Scott walking with this band of masked ladies (he's trying to blend in and act natural!) When the ladies saw my camera pointed in their direction, they, all at once, stopped to pose for me.

Wizard/Elvan family
Remember, remember the fifth of November!
Along with the many mask/hat/scarves/food vendors that lined the roads, there was plenty of entertainment.  We came across men making beautiful music with wine glasses filled with water and surprisingly, a mariachi band. (I took video, but I still can't seem to figure out how to post them. I will add them later if I ever figure it out.)

We continued to walk with the crowds for hours, though we did stop for some pizza and gelato. When we reached our final destination, we were in a beautiful plaza stuffed with tourists, and masked men and women. St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) is the Bourbon Street of Venice. It is where historic masked figures, dating back to the renaissance, gather to reunite and dance. 

There were stages set up for concerts (we came in with YMCA playing). The plaza is where the cream of the crop costumes were sitting/standing about, getting their picture taken by the hundreds of tourists. 

It was such a great day getting to experience part of a true Venetian Carnival! Although we both knew the real parties wouldn't start until later in the evening, both of us were ready to head back home. Walking with crowds can be a little more exhausting than you would think. But, walking with crowds, we soon discovered, was nothing compared to walking against them. 

The crowds grew thicker as the day grew older, most people came here to party hardy. Finding wide open streets like this one was a pleasure compared to the tiny narrow roads where I wouldn't dare reach for my camera in fear of dropping it in the rushing and pushing flow of people only to never see it again. 

Once we made it back to the train station, we snapped a few more last-minute shots of our day in Venice. Getting back through the crowds was stressful and tiring, but seeing the calm streets with boats floating by, made for a nicer ending to our trip.