Monday, August 31, 2009

Taxi Siesta

Climbing off a vaporetto in front of the train station, I saw this water taxi driver napping in his boat. It was about 4pm, and in all honesty I was a bit jealous - I could have used a little siesta of my own at that point.

Here's a shot through the door:

Then I shot this one through the side window as he woke up and looked at his cell phone.

Anybody out there feel like a siesta?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Gondolas at Rio Frari and Rio San Toma

I noticed these guys on my way to Franco Furlanetto's shop one day. They'd set up shop on a well-trafficked bridge not far from the San Toma traghetto. Two nicely appointed gondolas, two gondoliers, a makeshift sign, and a bridge with tourists walking by. They had all the ingredients necessary.

One gondolier was busy messing with the boats, while the other was stationed on the bridge.

And as you can see, the two gondolas were easily visible from the bridge.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

USA Today

USA Today just published an article called "Ten Great Places to Stream Through Cities".

Not surprisingly, San Antonio's Riverwalk made the list. Oklahoma City's Bricktown Canal made the list - quite an accomplishment considering how new it is.

But my biggest congrats go to the gondola operation in Providence, Rhode Island.

Take a look at the article for yourself.

Blog Header Roundup - Week 3

8/22 – Livin’ the Dream”
This postcard, circa 1900, is one of my favorite images. It’s one of the only ones framed and hanging in my home. The gondolier looks like he’s literally about to take flight. The original post for this postcard can be seen here.

8/23 – Disdotona
I shot this photo during Regata Storica in 2005. The boat is a one-of-a-kind vessel known as a “disdotona”. This 18-oar vessel is the pride and joy of the Societ√† Canottieri Francesco Querini - a rowing club in Castello. The boat and the club are discussed in more detail in a post entitled “Holy Remo – Part 2”.

8/24 – Sunset Gondola Banner (ferro to the left)This photo was taken during a visit to Sunset Gondola in October of 2008. To see some of the other photos from that visit, go to the original post.

8/25 – P.O.V. in N.B.
A typical gondolier-point-of-view, taken while rowing in Newport.

8/26 – 1893 fair
This one comes from a large photograph from the World’s Fair in Chicago of 1893. I did an extensive post on it back on November 30th of 2008.

8/27 – May 7th “Hey!”
Shot by my daughter Cassandra in Newport.

8/28 – Piazza Quay at night
This began as an attempt to capture the full moon from the quay at Piazza San Marco. I was in a bit of a rush to catch a vaporetto, so I really didn’t know if what I’d shot was worth anything until I downloaded everything.
The photo ended up residing at the top of the blog for quite some time afterward.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Voga! Voga FORTE!!!"

For those of you who don't give a "crusty cavallo" about reading the conclusion of the Melissani Cave series of posts, here's...

...a shot of some gondoliers rowing their butts off to get out of the way of a charging vaporetto near Accademia.

Greek Cave-Boating Part 3 - A Squeeze and a Song

Like many cave-boating locations, the Melissani Cave waterway isn’t very big – this one is around 160 meters long by 40 meters wide.
Nevertheless, they still call it a “lake”.
Several excavations have taken place in this unique location. Most of the artifacts unearthed, date back to the third and fourth centuries BC.
Artifacts found often point to the existence of a religious cult there that revolved around the Greek god “Pan”.
Statues of female “Nymphs” have also been found there, resulting in the cave also being called the “Cave of the Nymphs”.

A lone boatman approaches to pick up passengers.

This boatman was either holding a camera or lighting someone's cigarette, I'm not really sure which it was.

Melissani boats approach the dock with passengers to offload.

There’s an island to one side, which we had to squeeze our boat past to enter the covered portion of the cave.

The covered portion with it's small island overgrown with foliage.

Approaching the "squeeze" from under the covered area. Notice the rope attached to the wall so the boatman can pull his boat along.

As the boatman pulls the vessel through the "squeeze", everyone takes photos and video of the aperture...

...including me!

Other passengers in our boat learned that I was some sort of “gondolier” and asked me to sing. As I thought it over, and my kids pushed me to do so, it became clear that if I didn’t – the folks in the boat would think I was an awful dad.
Most of the passengers seemed to like the song, and more importantly, the boatman took notice and motioned for me to stand up and row.
Without hesitation, I jumped up and began to row.

photo by Elisa Mohr

This was a fairly wide boat, and the oars were so worn that they hardly had any paddle surface to speak of, but with no wind or current, they worked just fine.

Someone cried out “sing another song!”.
I couldn’t pass up the chance.

video by Elisa Mohr

And for a few minutes, I was an American tourist, rowing like a “Greek cave boatman” singing like a Venetian Gondolier, and truly,
Loving life.

Then I sat down, let the guy dock his own boat, and after the others had disembarked, I showed him my appreciation…with a handshake and a big fat tip!

Passengers disembark.

As I was headed back up through the tunnel, I turned around to get one more shot, and found that our boatman had once again parked his boat out in the middle of the lake.
All was quiet again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Caorlina Photo

For those of you who don't give a "rat's remo" about reading more on the Melissani Cave, here's...

...a not-so-long-lens sniping shot,
taken from the dock at Alamitos Bay.

To my knowledge, these are two of the only three caorlinas in the US.

All have been built here, with modifications to serve as large party boats.

To see photos of the other one, check out my post from June 9th, 2008.

Greek Cave-Boating Part 2 - Quay and Away

Walking down the sloped corridor at the Melissani Cave(which was more of a diagonal mine-shaft than anything else), we arrived at the quay and surveyed the place.

video by Elisa Mohr

As you might expect, I was determined to not only ride in the boat, but to row the boat as well.
My family and I waited until the present boat, which had a load of people in it already, had shoved off.

Then, as soon as the next guy rowed over, I had a brief conversation with him, decided that he was the most easy-going of the group, and asked him if we could ride with him and if I could try rowing the boat. He looked like he was on the fence about it, then my wife told him I was a good rower and my two daughters chimed in cheerfully. I don’t know who was most convincing, but he nodded, and said something about rowing “later”.

video by Elisa Mohr
The cave there is half covered, half open.
The locals say that for the longest time it was an unknown cavern and then some say the roof fell in during an earthquake. Other islanders claim that it had been open for five thousand years, but the obscuring trees kept people from finding it. A cave of the same description was mentioned in a book by Dr. Joseph Partsh in 1890. The Melissani Cave was rediscovered in 1951. The entrance tunnel was made and the cave officially opened in 1963.

Once they found it, and the tunnel entryway was excavated, not long after, someone thought it might be fun to put a boat in there. I wonder if any of my readers here can identify with that.

In the middle of the day, when the sun is overhead, the rays of sunlight hit the water directly, illuminating the stone floor of the lake – turning the water amazing shades of turquoise and deep royal blue.
As the lake is only disturbed by a few guys with rowboats, the water stays clear – clear enough to see all the way to the deepest point – some one hundred feet ( 39 meters) below.

As we boarded, a few other people showed up and climbed in too. Our “gondolier” rowed us into the center of the lake and directed our attention to the “aperture” above, which is ringed by trees of the surrounding forest.

Among the many unique features of this location, is the atmosphere within; it could be scorching hot and oppressively dry as you walk across the parking lot to buy your tickets and enter, but by the time you reach the water, you’ve cooled down. The cave and the crystal water of the lake have a remarkable regulating effect on the air inside. Breathing in the cool damp air was refreshing. Our boatman informed us that some of the stalactites were as much as 20,000 years old.

The tour concludes tomorrow – remain seated please.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Illusion Island"

...and for those of you who couldn't give a "flying forcola" about Greek cave-boating, I've posted this for your viewing pleasure.
Shot in Newport, just after passing under the Newport Blvd. bridge, I took this of Newport Island.
The palm trees on either side of the tip of the island, and their reflections, give an interesting sort of optical illusion.
And the sunset aint bad either.

Greek Cave-Boating Part 1 - Intro and Entry

Some time ago, Sean Jamieson and I were talking about the Gondola Blog and he said:
"So basically you just go places, row boats, and write about it".
This wasn't exactly the way I'd envisioned the whole thing.
It seemed to downplay the significance of things.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was pretty much right.

I go places, row boats, and write about it.

Not very important, but not a bad deal either.
It's pretty darn fun, and as a gondolier, there aren't that many things I'd rather be doing.

So how does a guy who "goes places, rows boats, and writes about it" come up with a plan?
Yes, sometimes I put a lot of thought into it, say to myself: "I need to go to such-and-such-place, find the gondola I've heard about and row".

Sometimes I have to talk my wife and family into stuff.
Quite often, my wife (who is a travel agent) will say something like:
"Hey Greg, wanna go to (insert any random place here)?"

And I'll reply with either:
"Oh, yeah! Hey, we could visit the gondola that operates there."

…or simply:
"Are there gondolas there?"
Either way, she will roll her eyes, and remind herself that she's a "Gondola Widow", and then count her blessings that I'm not hopelessly obsessed with Ferraris, gambling, or other women.

And while there are times when I build a trip around what I call "gondola tourism", or squeeze a visit to a boat operation into an existing trip, there are also times when something will just fall into my lap.
Such was the case with the Melissani Cave.

The Melissani Cave is rather dificult to find, but with a good local taxi driver, who knows the area, you can find it.

We arrived on shore at Argostoli, the capital city of the Greek island of Kefalonia.
This was the third Greek port we'd visited on the cruise we took after Vogalonga, and aside from finding the best gyros on the island for lunch, I had little on my agenda for the day.

Then I heard about these rowing boats that gave a tour through caves.

Sound like something that would interest a gondola fanatic?
Oh yeah!

We talked to a few different cab drivers, found one who had a good command of the English language, and made a deal.

We drove across the island to the town of Sami, traveled a few kilometers further to Karavomylos, and ended up at the receiving area of the operation.

After buying tickets (7 euro for adults, 4 euro for kids), we followed a staircase down that brought us to the top of a diagonal corridor - at the end of which we could see the turquoise water of the cave and boats crossing in and out of view.

This wasn't my first "underground boat ride", we'd done this type of thing a few years back in Kentucky (see part one and part two), and of course the Blue Grotto in Capri was a highlight of a vacation to Napoli in 2006 (read my post from Jan. 3rd of '08).

Like Napoli, the boatmen stand and row with two oars, in a forward-facing position. It’s not unusual, really – I’ve even seen some guys do it in California.

Here’s a video clip of our entry into the location:

video by Elisa Mohr
In my next post we'll take a look at what's at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There's a New Ganzer in Town

I noticed this guy hooking-and-holding at a servizio near Campo San Maurizio.
In fact it was the exact same spot I observed Silvio Sibbezzi performing the same job in 2006.

Generally ganzers are older, retired gondoliers. This guy might be pinch-hitting for someone.

You can read more about ganzers in my original post, and in the follow-up post about Silvio.

Give me comments about ganzers, people.
Come on, I know some of you have seen them.
Have any of you been "ganzing"?
Ok, I admit that I made that term up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Just the Photo - "Brow-Beaten Prow"

Forcola Door Handle - Answered

Last week I posted this photo, asking if anyone could find where it was located.
A few readers posted comments, and I received some e-mail guesses, but nobody had the answer.

Nereo, the guy who took the photo, sent in the answer:
"The doorknob is on a door (hu!) in a narrow calle close the fish market / fruit market."

Thanks for the great photo, Nereo.

Anybody else out there have a good mystery photo?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Umbrella Guys

Gondoliers in Venice often work out of a traghetto - with it's casotto, tables and chairs, a cooler full of beer and cold drinks - heck, some even have locker-room facilities.

But other guys just set up shop somewhere and wait for customers.
You may have seen them "camping out" on or near busy bridges.

This guy and his buddy staked a claim along the fondamenta near the Pescheria in San Polo.
They grabbed two careghini from a gondola, strapped a big yellow unbrella to one of those little chairs, and they were ready for customers.

Job title: gondolier.
Opinion: nice work if you can get it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Scenes from Piazzale Roma - "Keeper of the Canoe"

You never know what you'll see in Venice, especially around a big event.

Piazzale Roma is a prime example of that, because a lot of what comes in and out of Venice goes through there.

While sitting on a bus the day after Vogalonga,
I caught something out of the corner of my eye.
It looked like a canoe.

Now a canoe in Venice is not all that amazing, but a canoe on the curb is a bit less common.

Put it next to folks standing around with luggage, and I'm curious.

I suppose a canoe on the sidewalk just after Vogalonga isn't all that strange. What really cracked me up was the guy in a dress shirt and suit pants who was unpacking it, while the two women sort of stood around as if to say:
"it was your hair-brained idea to bring that stupid canoe, I'm not helpin' ya".

Of course the woman in the upper right hand corner of the frame also deserves a chuckle.
I can just hear her saying "WHAT THE...?"