Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Video - Madonna della Salute

Nereo Zane has added a new video clip to his site, vogaveneta.it.
Each year there's a procession to one of the most impressive churches in all of Europe.  Blessings and ceremonies are to follow.

"Madonna della Salute 2012"

Previous images and thoughts on the day can be seen in the posts:
"Get Me to the Church On Time"
and "Thanksgiving and Salute".

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gondolier's Forum - "You Won't Believe What I Saw..."

Spend enough time on the back of a gondola and you'll see some great things - proposals, celebrations, and lots of perfect moments - these can actually become commonplace for those of us who are lucky enough to have this job.  Now and then, however, we see something that's rare even for a gondolier - something that sends us trotting up the dock, in a hurry to tell our fellow gondoliers what we saw from the back of our boat.
Sometimes it's something that happened in the boat.
Sometimes it's something on land, or in the water.
I've shared some of my stories here,
I'm interested in hearing about some of yours.

For many of us, the list includes stories of a sexual nature, but I need to keep this site acceptable for all, so please keep that in mind.

So if you've spent some time on the back of a gondola, and have seen some amazing things, share them with us - leave a comment or send me an e-mail at greg@gondola.com
I'll post a follow-up, depending on the responses that come in.

So tell me, what have you seen?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Territorial Marking in Treviso

photos by Tamás Fehér
In so many ways, things have changed over time, and this is certainly true when it comes to civil defense.  It used to be the norm that a city was built within a walled perimeter, and in many cases a moat was even added to make it even more difficult to approach that wall.  If they didn't want you coming in, you'd have to be clever, fast, and really committed.
This appears to have been the case with the ancient city of Treviso in northern Italy.
On a recent trip to the city, Tamás spotted this familiar sight on the wall of the ancient part of the city:
These walls were built over six hundred years ago, during a time when Venice and Austria were, or had been at war.  The city of Treviso had volunteered to join the Venetian Republic, then when Venice was at war with Austria, the city was captured and ruled for a time by the Austrian Duke.  Later, when Treviso returned to Venetian rule, these grand walls were built.
At that point, I think the Venetian fathers wanted to be sure that nobody could take the city, and that if they tried, it would be clear that they were up against Venice - winged lion and all.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Blessing of the Remi

photos by Rick Rosen
In the spring of 2003, we had an Ascension Day celebration here in Newport, and while it was a rather, um, "entry level" affair,
we did the best we could with the resources we had.
It all started with a blessing of the oars - presided over by the highest ranking clergyman available.

Everybody was on their best behavior through the ceremony,
and then they messed around a bit with the remi.
It was nine years ago, but it feels like it was "forever ago",
and a lot of things have changed (including my weight - yeah, I'm the fat little guy on the far right).

Some of the gondoliers in these photos are still piloting boats, some are alumni, but all are friends.  We had a great time that day back in 2003 - one more link in a chain of fond memories.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


On this day of Thanksgiving, I'd like to take a brief moment and mention just a few of the things I'm thankful for as a gondolier.
Getting together with friends.
Rowing beautiful boats.

Meals with amazing people, in amazing places.
Being part of some of the biggest moments in people's lives.
Friends who become family.
Just being out there, on the water, with the breeze in my face
and the setting sun as a backdrop.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.
Thanks for reading the Gondola Blog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Boats from Armida

In my post "Three Easy Pieces" we took a look at a remarkable
three-piece pupparin from the Canottieri Armida - a rowing club in Torino ("Turin" to those who insist upon changing names upon switching languages).
While hanging around the GSVVM club a few days before Vogalonga,
I met some of the rowers from Armida and saw some other boats they'd brought in from Torino.  Here are a few shots I snapped as they were wheeling them out towards the hoist.

Ugo Sandroni and the bow of a beautiful boat.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leaving Venice by Cruise Ship - from the Giardino to the Adriatic

There's so much  to see in Venice, and it really is a shame to see people trying to really take in the city in a matter of only a few days. 
This is a place you need to rent an apartment in, and spend time living among the locals.  Sure, you can walk the Piazza, marvel at the Grand Canal, buy some t-shirts and masks and take a picture of the Rialto,
but then you've really only taken a small bit out of a very large meal.

And just as there's more in Venice to see than the Piazza and Rialto, there's so much more to the Venetian lagoon than Venice.

Murano and Burano (known for glass and lace respectively) are also common draws for visitors, but there are places in the roughly 200 square mile lagoon that would amaze you, with histories and structures that speak of the lives and struggles of people centuries ago.

Riding out to the Adriatic on a gigantic cruise ship I can guarantee that you will see things from a very different angle than usual.  I can also guarantee that you'll get a lot of attention - there's no shortage of people smil waving and smiling as you go by.  We got plenty of waving as we passed Piazza San Marco, and a few more onlookers going by the gardens.  Next we passed the Scuola Navale Militare Francesco Morosini - a military school that is patently Venetian and one that any mariner would be proud to be a graduate of.

My first encounter with a boat from this academy can be read at "Scuola Navale Militare Francesco Morosini".
The academy is on an island known as Sant'Elena. 
This island is one of the many that make up the eastern end of Venice. 
Also on Sant'Elena, you can find the official soccer stadium of Venice,
the church of Sant'Elena, and a lot of sailboats are moored there. 
Tucked into a corner, I spotted a hoist with some guys hauling out a boat for the evening.

Let's take a closer look:
Looks like two men and a boy, getting a blue sandolo squared away on one of those rolling cradles that usually include car parts in their assembly
(a clever use for a used axle and wheels). 
Meanwhile, around the corner is another man sitting near some of the other boats of this club.
It's fun for us to look at, but to most Venetians, this is a common everyday sight around the lagoon (lucky people).

Coming into view next was the Isola della Certosa, an interesting island which I was fortunate enough to visit several years ago; there was a small community of international craftsmen working together on several different types of boat building.

Behind Certosa I could see the island of Vignole.
Nereo Zane tells me about how the island probably got it's name:
The name Vignole most probably comes from the word vigna (vineyard). In the past there were lot of vineyards in that island.

An old building on the corner of the Isola di Sant'Andrea came into view,

Followed by the remnants of a fortification,
A closer look revealed some archways with rather characteristic top-stones.
Passing Piazza San Marco, you know where you are and what you're looking at, but some of the other landmarks in the lagoon can be confusing.

Once in a while you see something that you know used to have great significance - I knew that to be the case when I spotted the lion carving on this wall.

This classic fortification is placed quite strategically at one of the best places to fire cannons at invading ships.  It stands as a sort of territorial marking for anyone entering the lagoon, and the lion carving makes it clear.

I wrote to Nereo Zane asking his thoughts.
One thing I've heard, and am honestly still learning about, is that in times of war, and in places of military significance - the lion holds a sword.

His response:
The lion on the front of Forte S.Andrea holds an open book because the plaque below him was placed to celebrate naval victory of Lepanto (1571). (The Doge was Alvise Mocenigo).
Please consider that all the lions holding a sword were removed by Napoleone troops. There are a few only in villages or small towns that were part of the Venetian colonies located on the eastern shore of Adriatic Sea. (Croatia, Slovenia, etc.)

More winged lions with books (in a fashion I've seen in other places) flanked an impressive face over a wooden door at water level.

I looked over my shoulder and spotted a familiar shape off in the distance, zoomed in and snapped a shot of what I'd recognized even as a speck in the distance: "Unmistakable Shape".

Heading past the area where we will one day see the MOSE system in place, I spotted a small beachside cabana:

Then, cruising towards the Adriatic, I spotted the beacon house at the end of the breakwater:
European breakwater structures often have these curious pieces that remind me of enormous versions of the jacks children used to play with.  I'm guessing that they stick together well in their many battles against the rage that the sea can bring.

And in classic form, there was graffiti:

Swinging the camera lense around towards Venice one more time,
I snapped this final shot before we steamed off towards other ports.

Beyond the fortification at Sant'Andrea, we see domes and campaniles from lagoon islands, then the tallest and most recognizable campanile in the region, and then far off in the distance we can even see the unique arch of Marghera on the mainland.

I'll be the first to admit that I've still only managed to enjoy a portion of the meal that is discovering-Venice (and quite an amazing meal, it is).
I'm also quick to agree with anyone out there who might venture an opinion that there's more to write about the things I displayed in this post.
If you know something more - please share it with us.
We are all, in one way or another, on a voyage of discovery.

Next time I'm in Venice, I hope to discover more amazing places,
and I'm sure I will.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Just the Photo - Canadian Brass

Here's a close-up look at the brass trim plates on the trasto da prua of a passenger sandolo in Ontario, Canada.

Anybody want to guess the meaning of the engravings?


Read more about this boat at:
"Carved Boat in Canada"

"Attention to the Details of the Tramontin Sandolo"

"Serious Sandolo Scimier"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Warming Up the Lucias

In the days leading up to Vogalonga, Venice seems to attract boats like a giant magnet, drawing them in from all over Europe and even from other continents.

Rowers, paddlers and practitioners of all sorts of human-powered conveyance make the pilgrimage to La Serenissima - and if they can manage, they bring their boats too.
Some boats are more portable than others, and such is the case with a certain type of boat that is particular to the lake country north of Milan.

I spotted these two guys just off the hoist by the GSVVM - they were out for an afternoon row in preparation for the Vogalonga of 2009.

These boats are generally referred to as "Lucias",
and most famously represent Lake Como.

In a way they remind me a lot of wide sandoli,
but most folks don't see past their characteristic three hoops.

rowing is usually done by one or two vogatori per boat,
and traditionally they stand, facing forward, and row with two oars
(but not crossed like in the Valesana style).
Tamás Fehér snapped a few shots of a Lucia at the starting line of the 2012 Vogalonga:
"Lucia at the Starting Line"

A closer inspection of one of these vessels can be seen in my post:
"Three Hoops from Lake Como"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just the Photo - Brentana from the Back

photo by Nereo Zane

This was taken at the 2012 Regata Storica.
As is often the case with Nereo Zane, he was in just the right place,
at just the right time to capture this moment of the "big boat from Brenta" as she was about to pass under the Rialto bridge.
We've seen this impressive boat here before, but she is usually seen from the side or the front.  The Brentana even looks cool as she leaves you behind, and I understand that during Vogalonga, it happens a lot
More views and information on this unique vessel can be viewed at:
More of Nereo's photos from the 2012 Regata Storica are posted on his blog in the post Regata Storica 2012.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Shadow in Providence

photo by William James Ignatius Oberg

On November 6th, the folks at La Gondola in Providence, Rhode Island were busy; they hauled out all three of their gondolas for the winter. 
To the uninitiated, that doesn't sound like much, but hauling a gondola is most definitely not like hauling the family waterski boat.  A Venetian gondola is designed to float in the water - out of the water, she is a delicate piece of rolling art (and thirty-six feet long).  Hauling three of them in a day is an undertaking.

I like this photo for so many reasons.
First it's an interesting reverse image - taken through the rear view mirror.  With highway and guardrail in both views, it takes the viewer a minute to realize that most of what they are looking at is a reverse.
The second reason I like this shot is that it shows something most people don't see - gondola trailering in process.
What I really love about this shot, is the shadow on the road.

Maybe I should display it more clearly:

The complex curves of a Venice-built gondola are like no other shape on earth.
It's a beautiful shape that could only come from the creative hearts and minds of Venetian builders.
Some of the best representatives of that group are the Tramontin family. 
This crescent-shaped boat was built by the Tramontins;
she is a wedding gondola with an amazing story of her own
(which I hope to share with you in the future).
Among gondoliers, boatbuilders are highly revered.
After all, it's one thing to row gondolas,
It's quite another to build and repair them.
Matthew Haynes and William Oberg of La Gondola do both - they row and build.
William tells me that the photo was taken on Route 6,
on the way to their winter storage location.
Looking at the photo a little deeper, I noticed a car behind the gondola - following rather closely.
So, what do you think?
Is it:
a. the "follow car" of another staff member,
b. a curious tail-gater (I sure get a lot of those when I tow a gondola),
c. an unmarked police car trying to figure out if there's a reason to pull this weird thing over.
Or am I missing something?
What do you think, my friends?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One Last Time

Joe Gibbons in Boston sent me this beauty.

photo by Mark J. Hunt

One last cruise,
one last song on the violin,
one last perfect gondola moment on the waters of the Charles River.

That's Charlie (also known as "Carlo" or "Boston Charlie")
rowing, with Lis playing something timeless on the violin.

Joe tells me:
We got our first blast of snow today!! Our boats are now sleeping for the long winter.

Yes, like most gondola operations above a certain lattitude,
the Boston Gondolas are out of the water and tucked in for winter,
but here's how many of the folks who have cruised with Gondola di Venezia will remember things, until next spring when the boats grace the waters of the Esplanade once again.

One last cruise,
one last song,
one last time
(until the next time, of course).

If I know Joe, right about now he's probably firing up a snowmobile and heading out onto that fresh snow.

Thanks for the great photo, Joe.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Russian Gondola Newlyweds

A bride and groom enjoying a perfect moment
on the gondola in St. Petersburg.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Just the Photo - Looking Back

photo by Rachel Oviedo

One of our staff photographers shot this aboard one of our cruises a few days ago here in Newport.  I love it when the sun touches down on the horizon, but the real colors come out in the afterglow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

French Tripod Kayakers

photos by Tamás Fehér

Each year there are thousands of boats participating in Vogalonga.
They come from all over, and every one of them is interesting for different reasons.
This one caught my attention and made me grin a bit.
There are many things we could assume about the two people paddling this kayak, but I can think of two things that are certain:
1. they are French
2. they have full faith in their tripod.

I wonder if the camera made it all the way to the finish without being "baptized".

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Acqua Alta Link

Our friend Kathleen Gonzalez at Seductive Venice has a great link to images of folks experiencing the high waters of Acqua Alta. 
Check it out at:
"Acqua Alta This Week in Venice"
and while you're at it, spend some time looking at Venice from the perspective of a "casanovist".

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Blog Header Roundup

Now and then I'll choose a new photo to serve as the header of the Gondola Blog.  Here's a short description of the last six images.
Kerschbaum on the Curci
Taken on Valentine's Day of 2011,
this shot was posted at the top of the Gondola Blog on the eve of Valentine's Day of 2012. 
John Kerschbaum wasn't with us this year, so I posted this to let him know we were thinking of him.  The gondola is, of course the "Lucia",
also referred to here as the Curci gondola.

Duck's Eye View - Taken on of 2011, this was one of my more risky shots     (if you consider dangling an expensive camera out over salt water).             This is one of several shots taken using the same method; more can be seen in the "Hanging it Over the Side" post. Getting this shot didn't just involve hanging my camera out on the end of a long bundled tripod, I did so while rowing and trying to outsmart the timer on the camera.

Hat and Prows - photo by Cassandra Mohr.
My daughter has a knack for climbing around and getting interesting angles; sometimes it involves climbing up as high as she can get on the stern of the gondola - such was the case with this shot.  It's not a part of the post, but it was taken on "Girl Scout Day".

Danish Country - I shot this over the bow of Simon and Franco Bognolo's gondola in Denmark.  Simon and I were rowing tandem on a beautiful lake just a short drive from Copenhagen. This photo and a description of my encounter with the boat and her owners are in the post "A Short Row and a Loud Dinner in Denmark".

Waiting for the Start - Tamás Fehér shot this at the 2012 Vogalonga as rowers were ready and waiting for the start.  This was part of the post "Vogalonga 2012 - Before the Start - Part 3" .
Brilliant Colors in Bavaria - Ingo sent me this shot, and I put it up immediately on the post "Vivid Colors in Wörthsee" .  Such photos are almost as timeless as the moments they capture.