Travelogue 4: Italian Experience

Venice- a dream destinations finally. When I had suggested, back in India, to a friend that I wanted to visit Venice I was advised to re-consider this as it was overrated city. My opinion- Super glad I am to have gone ahead with the visit or else I would have missed something in life. Agreed that, invaded by tourists all through the year, it is too noisy and crowded yet undeniably it is a place to be seen. Thanks to an advice that I read on some internet advice to tourists, I went for discovering Venice around from 9 am to 12 noon and then again set out for my walks post 5–6 pm, thus encountering thin crowds. So also i was able to choose a hotel away from the central location yet not so far that I needed to carry my luggage up and down the umpteen bridges.

Soon after I reached did I realize, much to my joy, that the city was not so big to not be discovered on feet? What I did was that I kept walking for 30–40 minutes, all along trying to soak in the ‘veniceness’ of Venice, and then at one point refer to the map to get hints of my location. For again, I found it liberating to walk around — aimless, directionless- in its lybrinth of lanes. As a dancer, when disoriented in the lanes, it was challenging to keep guessing the direction of your walk and finding a way out. It became a game of bhul bhuliaya….

I was spellbound by this truly unique city, so much so that words fail me to describe it. Ofcourse its a feeble attempt to catch an experience within the fold of words, especially to a non-writer like me; yet I would like to discuss a parallel to notate my feelings about what i felt about it….Venice, I do not know how and why, was like dance for me- classical Indian dance. I remember, when i had the good fortune to watch for the first time, dance performances of Leela Samson at NCPA, Malavika Sarukkai and Raja-Radha Reddy at Nehru Centre, Rama Vaidyanathan at Music Academy, Mandakini Trivedi at Prithvi Theatre, Sujata Mohapatra at NCPA and many other stalwarts I fell in love, with dance ofcourse, but moreover with life itself -thankful to be born a human who loved arts. (I have named only a few names that came to my mind instantly as I wrote this, not to say that the other artistes have not made a lasting impression. To be honest, as I ponder on this, there seems to be a need for me to write a series of articles not abot just inspiring classical dance performance but the ones that have transformed me). Venice likewise made me fall in love with life itself and I don’t wish to analyse the reason for this. It cast a spell on me indeed.

When one travels to different locations the mind starts to analyse, to compare-contrast between the different places that one has visited. Why, I amusingly wonder, do we do this? has not it become, the world over, a human addiction or rather obsession ? For we are constantly asked to rate our experiences; be it dance- music-theatre performance, movies, tele-serials,restuarants, performances levels at job, kindergarten/school/college/universities/innumerable courses, online portals of all kinds, cars, bikes, academic grades and so on. phew…. So was I was asked, initially by my mind and later by a student who was travelling in Amsterdam around the same time, to rate Venice in comparison to the many cities I had seen. Of course the task began but only to end in realising the futility of this it. Thanks for my student who urged me to rate the two cities, I was forever rid of this wasteful exercise, for I realised that to be immersed in the ‘now’ is a more rich and fulfilling experience. Why do I want to compare and decide between the fragrance of a chameli flower to with that a mogra or a prajakta to a raatraani. It means as I am immersed in the act of smelling the intoxicating fragrance of one flower I am exerting my mind to think to the fragrance of another flower. Each has its own standing, and is an experience in itself. The vital question that arises in such situations, more often than not, is “what am I experiencing?” For in racing between ‘now’ and ‘then’ I tend to lose the richness of the present moment. It seems so now at least that I am liberated from this burden forever. Praying that I can apply it to all aspects of my life.. ha ha… ain’t I expecting too much. While , small beginnings are better than none.

Venice I enjoyed immensely in spite of being all by myself…had a lovely home wine and dinner in a quiet little restaurant besides a canal and later once near the seaside…. sat in a coffee bar run an elderly Italian couple on a busy street corner listening to locals coming in the mornings and evenings hold long and animated conversations (of course Italian) …. sat late evening near the Basilica and watched the sun setting down over Venice (next time hope to catch the sunrise at the same spot)…just watched the canal water at different locations and the locals navigating through (on one such evening I decided to write all this)… and on the final day took a guided tour to two islands -Murano and Burano

One of them, indeed interesting, I had seen on many a travel shows on television. Murano was the one seen so often because of its history of glass making. It was, I must agree, quite fascinating to watch the artisans make glass and give it a desired shape. And the factory that we visited had a splendid showroom of its own with some exquisite works of art at display. Not to say that the island has umpteen shops selling glass items; from earings to chandeliers but their authenticity or whether they are made by traditional artisan family is difficult to say. You can study that later if you really wish to buy something expensive. The other Island Burano is known for its tradition of lace making. I must admit my ignorance for I never realised that lace making was so intricate, of course when hand woven. But apart from that the island is undeniably unique for its colorful housing of the traditional fisher folks living there. Each house standing wall to wall is painted in vibrantly different colour, of course it has a story to why this tradition began, on which I don’t wish to dwell. For now I suffice to admitting that I have never seen a village of this kind and its, simply, a must see.

How we wish and pray that vacations should never end… hmmm… but all things started must end. Next day I flew out of Venice but for the first time kept my mind attached to the moment of ‘now’. Also the fact that post breakfast, I was flying on Eurowings from Venice-Dusseldorf and Desseldorf-Berlin, I received a message saying my the second leg of my flight was cancelled. After much attempts, when I was able to contact the local office, I was told curtly that they could offer me the next flight to Berlin. Yes, and which happened to be next morning so I had to sleep at Dusseldorf airport. Phew… what an end to the vacation it was to be… still I was sure this for the best. But the last hours at Venice were spent on looking at what options I had for an overnight stay at Dusseldorf city or else I would enjoy my airport stay as an extension of my vacation experience. On reaching Dusseldorf airport I was offered a train ticket to Berlin and there was just 15 min for the train to leave. You can guess there were four of us running to catch the airport shuttle to the train station, and as it happens often, the lift instead of going to the required floor smilingly halts at the other floors first. And then you catch the shuttle just in the nick of time and the train with one minute to spare. And one knows better about the timings of German trains so you run and run, huffing puffing enter the compartment and settle down. As i kept feeling I was happy to travel by train. I love the journeys in train, unlike the flight, for the sense of travel is amazingly good there. They might be time consuming but if not in a hurry nothing like them. Finally after a six hour ride I reached Berlin late night.