Wednesday, October 31, 2012


photo by Tamás Fehér

This seems to be the most appropriate color for the day.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Night of the Harvest Moon

Here are a few photos I snapped this evening from the back of my gondola in Newport.
Bob passes by on the Phoenix (with a hungry duck trailing him).
Brilliant colors after sunset.
Towards the end of my sunset cruise, I got a text from the office telling me that the Harvest Moon was rising.  The timing was perfect - the moon rose bright and full right there in front of us. 
The photo truly doesn't do the moon justice.

Friday, October 26, 2012


photo by Tamás Fehér

Venice isn't all tourism and gondolas.
Many different kinds of large ships dock and depart in the lagoon.
This shot was taken from the water while navigating past the north-east tip of Venice, in an area where several drydock facilities operate.

This Dutch cargo ship, the Dolfijngracht was floating in one of the drydock slips.
It's not clear whether the Dolfijngracht was waiting to be drydocked, emerging from a drydocking, or if the ship was simply using the large slip for mooring purposes.

I'm fascinated with this part of the city.
Thus far I haven't had much time to explore it, but I've investigated it quite a bit through photos and aerial images.
I love how even a shipyard building looks like part of a modest palazzo.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Fireboat Free-Ride

photos by Tamás Fehér

Stuff happens.

Mhmm, there are other versions of that statement,
but the fact remains that things don't always go according to plan.

Depending on what you're doing, the aftermath can be different.
When stuff happens on a boat, the worse thing that can happen
is that you end up swimming.  It's not quite that simple when it
happens on an airplane - that's why I like boats.

I'm not really sure what happened with this particular boat.
Nobody appeared too stressed out, but they were willing to accept the assistance of the gentlemen of the Vigili del Fuoco (fire department).

 Fortunately the windshield on the port side of the fireboat collapses forward.

The men of the Vigili del Fuoco are trained professionals;
they get things done despite distractions.
They didn't even notice that frighteningly large blue sculpture.

Rowing boat secured, everybody seated,
Vigili del Fuoco to the rescue.

Seriously though, like the FDNY, these guys are true heroes.
They use boats instead of trucks, but when the radio crackles,
they know there may be a life or death situation in their near future.
When "stuff happens", these guys come in a fast boat.
On this beautiful day during Vogalonga, these Venetian firefighters got to lend a hand to someone in a less serious situation, but I can tell that they appreciated the help...and enjoyed the ride.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leaving Venice by Cruise Ship

I've seen Venice from a lot of different angles, and while my favorite is from a boat that I'm rowing with friends, the view from the top deck of an obscenely large cruise ship is pretty cool.

After the 2009 Vogalonga, my family and I made our exit
on one of these behemoths. 
Since then I've told a lot of people about the experience;
big surprise, a lot of them were planning to cruise out of Venice
and asked me
"What will I see from the cruise ship?"

Many of the images I shot from the top deck are featured in posts at the end of this piece, and here are a few more.

The bridge at the Rio di San Giuseppe.

The "Molo" in front of the Palazzo Ducale.

Funny thing about shooting pictures from a huge ship:
everybody is looking, smiling and waving.

Canale di S. Elena.

Having the right lens and keeping people from stepping in front of the camera are important, but the high vantage point gives some great photo opportunities.

Here are some previous posts with photos from the same journey out of Venice:

"Zattere from the Ship"

"Ship View - Rio dell'Arsenale"

"Yachts and Venezia"

"Just the Photo - Salute and Campanile"

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Golden Lama

Yes, I know, what a title: the "Golden Lama".

No, this post isn't about a strange long-necked animal from South America.
I'm also not going to wax poetic about a Buddhist monk that entered the world as a golden child.
The decorative tail-piece on a gondola is called a "lama",
and they almost always have a shiny silver finish - almost always.
This one, which I spottend on a busy day in gold.

Typically the lama piece is a non-colored metal.
I've seen stainless ones, and many with plating finishes.
I like to have the lamas on my gondolas nickel plated.

Once in a while we see a gondola with her main metal pieces plated in gold.
In the case of this gondola, the cavalli are not gold plated, they're, well, quite unique.
This is the tail of the boat featured in my post "Barbarian Cavalli".

Yeah, not all cavalli are created equal.

The owner of this gondola went way above and beyond to set his boat apart.
A broader view of the boat can be seen in my post "One-of-a-Kind".

He went with over-the-top details throughout the vessel, so we should not be surprised that the gondola was finished off with a golden lama.
Other boats with gold elements can be seen in the following posts:
Nice boat - I'd happily buy it, but I'd never steal it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Red Gondola in Murano

photos by Tamás Fehér

While following the Vogalonga through the lagoon,
Tamás snapped a few photos of this bright red gondola being rowed solo as it passed through Murano.

I don't know if there's any sort of Freudian meaning behind it, but for some reason I've had several dreams which have included a red gondola.
Maybe I was a fireman in a previous life.
Unlike the gondola featured in my post "The Red Racing Gondola",
this boat didn't have the trademark vent holes at the stern,
but I'm pretty sure she belongs to a club who's colors are red and blue.
Thirty-six feet is a lot of boat to row in an event like the Vogalonga,
but this guy looked like he knew what he was doing.
A red gondola - it's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halloween Costume

With the 31st fast approaching, some of you might be looking for costume ideas.
I'm really not sure about suggesting this one...but you've just gotta see it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Working, Talking and Fighting

While touring the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia,
I saw lots of amazing paintings.
The first one I posted about here was an exquisite Canaletto called "Reception of the French Ambassador"
(which you can see in my post "A Piece of Venice in Russia). 
Not far from that masterpiece of Antonio Canal, was this lesser-known,
but quite impressive painting by Michele Marieschi.

Marieschi wasn't as well known as Canaletto, but he did a great job of capturing interesting details of Venice in a landscape,
and his piece "Rialto Bridge in Venice" is a perfect example.

One thing I love about this painting is the angle that Marieschi chose. 
There are a number of good angles to choose from when it comes to the Rialto, but looking at it from this perspective gives the bridge a dramatic appearance - it almost looks like it's physically heaving up over the water.

Ahh, but it's not just about the architecture.
If you're gonna paint a picture of Venice, you've gotta show her people, and their boats.

Looking at it from my background, I am of course interested in the boats (and we see a lot of them), but the people in this painting tell so many stories.
Working, fighting, and talking to or about each other - these appear to be common themes of the scene depicted here.

Let's begin at the base of the bridge:
The artist was wise to include working people in this piece; as a major center of trade, Venezia was always buzzing with people moving stuff around.  Most of the moving was by boat, but they didn't have forklifts around back then, so workers carried loads on their backs, which is what we see with the guy in the red trousers.
Beyond the stairs we see a fleet of cargo-carrying boats,
complete with forcole for rowing.
Across the water we see boats moving people and goods around.
Of course not everyone is working.
One guy sits on cargo and listens to another guy talking, and gesturing to the right.
Looking to the right we see what the artist appears to have chosen as a sort of centerpiece; while he's not in the exact center of the painting,
and the whole scene doesn't revolve around him, the guy with his shirt off does seem to have the attention of a few people, both on the water and atop the bridge.

The shirtless guy:

The lookers:

Was it scandalous to remove your shirt back then?
or was he late for work or something? I'm sure there's a story there.

Another thing Marieschi included was people telling other people what to do.
Just below the shirtless man we see a guy who appears to be a boss of some sort, giving direction to the two workers closest to him:

So let's see, there was the working, the talking, and, oh yes, the fighting.
Seems like there was a bit of that going on back then too.

In the lower right hand corner on top of a large vessel, there's something going on between two people.  It's really hard to tell what; I mean the one guy could be praying for the other with a "laying on of hands"...or he could just be smacking the guy.
But out on the Canalazzo we definitely see a fracas of some kind going on between two gondoliers.

I'll be the first to acknowledge that my interpretations of art are not those of an expert, but having spent a lot of time on the water,
I'm pretty certain that these two guys weren't saying
"Hey, look at my new remo. Isn't it pretty?"
"Oh yes, a real beauty. Hey, look at mine".
No, this was a less-than-friendly exchange.
What I do wonder is what the third gondolier was saying.
Was it "Hey, watchit, that guy's gonna whack you!"
Or was he cheering one of them on?

Here's a closer look at the fracas:

In the lower left corner of our "fracas close-up", we see another guy telling someone else what do do - no telling whether or not that will lead to some kind of fight, but we've got a full-fledged fistfight going on across the way:
Someone really felt the need to get their point across.
Now tell the truth,
how many of you thougth this was going to be a boring post?
No, nothing boring appears to have taken place when this was painted.
There at the base of the Rialto bridge we see:
one guy lying on the ground,
another guy receiving a similar smackdown,
from a third guy who's getting barked at by a dog,
while at least five other people watch
(either in excitement or fear).
What we see in Venice today is fantastic, and some of the themes have remained constant, but it looked a little different back then - maybe because there weren't thousands of tourists walking around, following tourguides carrying signs and umbrellas.
The boats have changed as well.
Working, talking, and order-giving still take place.
Fighting in Venice still goes on, but not as much as it appears to have back then.
In centuries past there were actual designated places for such disgreements to be "worked out" - places like the "Ponte dei Pugni".

There are many other things going on in this painting, all are interesting depictions of a Venice from long ago.  Some attention was also given to showing the different ways people dressed back then. I must also note that the artist did a great job of capturing the buildings and other elements of the city.
Both then and now, Venice is a remarkable place that can only be upstaged by her inhabitants.

"Rialto Bridge in Venice", by Michele Marieschi - I can't wait to look at more of his work.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Market Street - that's what you're looking at here, well, that's what you'd see if you were to gaze at this view today, but a hundred years ago this was the "Alderbaren Canal".
When Abbott Kinney made his dream of a "Venice of the West" a reality over a century ago, this is what it looked like.
Canals were dug, bridges were built, landscaping was planted,
some homes were constructed and gondolas were brought in.

Here we see a few people enjoying their time on the water.

Years later we can see that the landscaping took root nicely,
and folks continued to enjoy time on the water.

It's been a while since we saw postcards here on the Gondola Blog,
but we've seen this canal before - in my post:
"Venice, California - The Alderbaren Canal"

Somehow I think the next time I'm in the neighborhood,
I'll be shooting a photo of this same view...on "Market Street".

Friday, October 12, 2012

Canottieri Sile

photos by Tamás Fehér

A little ways north of Mestre and the shore of the Venetian lagoon,
is a city called Treviso.
Like so many cities and towns in the region, Treviso was part of the Venetian Republic, and if you look around, you might find a winged lion here and there.

There are lots of canals and small rivers running through the region,
and Treviso is no exception. 
The above photo shows the Societa' Canottieri Sile Treviso - a rowing club on the Sile River (which flows into the Venetian lagoon).

Peruse the official website of the Canottieri Sile and you'll see that they are aggressive in seated rowing styles, but it appears that they have also taken part in the Regata Storica - rowing in the way of their Venetian ancestors.
I suspect it was on board the boat we see covered in this shot:

These photos were both shot from the Lungosile Mattei - a road that follows the Sile River.  These images were both taken in the evening;
they appear to be somewhat long exposures, giving the river an interesting appearance, especially with boats blurring through the shot.
If you click on them you can see them in larger format.

The website for the Societa' Canottieri Sile Treviso is:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

They Row AND Sing!

I must admit that I didn't see this one coming,
but in retrospect it doesn't surprise me.
The GSVVM rowing club has a choir!
Here's a link to Nereo Zane's blogpost "Voga & Canta".

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One Last Detail

photos by Cassandra Mohr

On a slightly overcast day in May, I had the opportunity to row a remarkable little gondola in England with my wife Elisa as my passenger.
It was something I'd wanted to do for the longest time, having traded
e-mails with the boat's owner for several years. 
Finally I managed to get out to the historic town of Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The hospitality of Nick Birch was beyond what I'd expected,
and before I knew it the boat was launched and dressed for a row.

Elisa stepped on board and took a seat, I released and stowed the lines, and away we went on a journey that lasted only about an hour,
but provided memories that will be with us forever.

The Corelli Gondola is unique in many ways, but the most prominent is that she's a scaled down version that was built in Venice. 
No, she's not a "half-size", (those boats are impressive in their perfect mathematics of measurement) this boat was built with a more practical approach, and she's a dream to row.

I pushed a few gentle strokes and we were moving easily through the waters of the Avon.
I was pleasantly surprised at how nimble the boat was.
All was tranquil, all was perfect, until I heard a buzzing from behind me.
I turned around to see Nick motoring toward me at quick clip.
Nick had a determined look on his face and I began to worry that I'd done something wrong.
Nick pulled up alongside us and said
"I thought you might want to borrow my hat".
I was so relieved, and laughed at the situation.
Like I said earlier, The hospitality of Nick Birch was beyond what I'd expected. Here was a guy who'd let me use his boat (even launched it for me), and then he chased me down with one last detail - his own hat!
The hat fit nicely, I put it on and I thanked Nick again.
It was an honor to row such an historic vessel.
We had a great time and we owe it all to Nick (and his hat).