Venice, a city that everybody dreams of visiting! Venice – A City of water, A City of Bridges and A City of Lights…..I think that is what I would call it!! A city which flows with the rhythm of the tide that changes every 6 hours. Since I lived in France, I’d intended to visit Venice at least once and first time I vacationed here was in the winters of February 2002, as a student with a real low budget!
Before starting from Grenoble, we’d heard stories about the Venetian carnival that was going to happen around the time we would be in Venice. None of us had an idea about the magnitude and extravagance of this carnival. When we arrived in Venice early morning, the atmosphere was celebratory and saw a lot of preparation going on at the Piazza San Marco. The subject seemed to be on everybody’s lips.
The carnival began at 4pm on February 02, 2002. The tradition of the carnival began by masked artists who, with drums and torches, ignited the Carnival in the city. It was still day light when it all started and we couldn’t wait till it got a bit darker to see the flooding lights in the Piazza San Marco. It was very chilly but the hustle-bustle in the city didn’t make us realize the piercing wind. After the masquerade parade which traditionally opened the Carnival, a first toast was made to the reborn Carnival in the hall of the elegant Caffé Quadri. This apparently is the first meeting-point for everybody in costume. That’s when someone told us that the carnival dates back to 1162 AD to celebrate its victory though the celebration gradually grew and 1268 AD which dates the first document mentioning the use of masks. I was quite amazed with its aged history.
The drapes, costumes and masks looked classy and baffling at the same time almost scary, with the empty eyes, as if the people are mere ghosts. There were people dressed in icy 18th century noblewomen or boogeyman masks and long capes, etc. Inspired by all the costumes, we decided to by ourselves some cheap masks made of papier-mâché and some hats. Since the ones made by artists were way beyond our budget, we decided to buy ones that were sold by some street vendors and try to be a part of the affair. After actually wearing it, we realized how difficult it was to keep it on for so long.
As we moved through the crowd observing and enjoying the ambience and of the carnival, entertainment filled every square, road and alley and there are numerous masked parties and balls. We saw a lot of street plays, some acrobats done very elegantly by the locals with their fancy attire. The one thing I saw for the very first time in my life was an opera in a small opera house. Though I didn’t understand much of the technicalities, I quite enjoyed its intense dramatisation and denotation. At the centre of the piazza we also saw the masquerade ball. It was so unbelievable; it felt like being in the 18th century and actually witnessing the olden times. The couples just swayed so easy with their heavy costumes, some with and without masks. The whole setting was just so full of life and vigour, something I can never forget in my life.
All this made the time fly so fast.
It was almost midnight before we realised how late it was and how much time we’d actually spent walking around the place. The life in the city, at that point seemed unending and didn’t look as though the night was going to conclude the celebrations. In fact the deeper we got into the night, the more boisterous, animated and lively it got. I loved being a part of it, I realised how lucky I was to witness it all!