On Thursday night we drove 3 hours from Lux to Frankfurt to catch a night flight to Venice. We chose the fastest route according to our GPS, but the computer selected a route that no sane human would choose that led us down pitch-black, winding German country roads in the pouring rain. We snatched some traditional German pretzels at the airport, took a water taxi through the canals and arrived in at our traditional Venetian guesthouse after midnight.
The next morning we embarked on a looping walk around the major sights in Venice like the Academia Museum, San Marco Square and the Rialto bridge. We picked up Masquerade masks along the way from Ca'Macana, the mask-maker from Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Erin selected a hand-painted design in burgundy, lilac and gold. At Atelier Nicolao in Camp del Ghetto, we were measured and fitted for traditional Venetian attire for the Carnevale weekend. Erin had a team of dressers pulling dresses, corsets, hats and accessories straight out of the days of Marie Antoinette. Dave gravitated towards a french military attire along with a sinister Venetian mask.
After the Atelier, we headed straight to Antico Forno for crispy focaccia pizza, the best in Venice. We sat along the bank of the Grand Canal near a line of docked gondolas. We spent the evening dressed in full traditional attire at La Fenice opera house, where we took in Verdi's La Traviata in a theatre box. While exiting our box Dave startled a Japanese tourist and she shrieked at his mask.
Saturday morning we visited the Basilica di San Marco and marveled at the gold tile mosaics that covered the walls and ceilings. We also climbed to the roof of the structure and took in the views of the square, canals, bell tower and Doge's palace.
We decided to change into our costumes to gather with other revelers in town for Carnevale in the afternoon. People paused to take our picture, or to take pictures with us, and Erin was surrounded by professional photographers on a few occasions which was a surreal experience. A group of Russian Tourists handed Dave a tip after asking to pose with him. One of our favourite parts of the weekend was walking the bridges and canals of the city in costume. It felt like traveling back in time, with no modern buildings, advertisements or technology in sight. The weather was sunny and pleasant, great for just walking around with no destination in mind. Dave found a couple choice spots for parkour.
Saturday evening was the big night - "ball night". Venicians have consistently thrown Carnivale masquerade balls every year for hundreds of years, often in original palaces. To gain entry into our gala, full period costume was required. After taking a water taxi across the Grand Canal, we entered into a courtyard and drank welcome cocktails while viewing dancers and listening to a string quartet. We entered the palace and observed the frescoed ceilings and rooms lit only by candles. In the entry area, there were dancers preforming traditional waltz-type Venitian dances. The pink-hued dining room featured hundreds of candles and flowers. The final room featured a live model on a pedestal wearing very little. A body painter designed her outfit in real time with black and white paint. Dave borrowed the paint brush to add a few inspired strokes.
Opera singers and burlesque dancers performed while we dined on six courses of Northern Italian delicacies - seafood risotto, squid ink pasta, seared fresh cut fish, truffle shellfish and vanilla mouse. The wine and champagne were flowing, which added to the surreal atmosphere. The costumed guests, unfamiliar languages and palace environment made us feel as though we entered a different era. French dominated the conversation at our table - 3 couples from France, Italy and Belgium. Dave did his best at translating for Erin.
We stayed out late and took a water taxi back home. Sunday morning was rainy, so we kept it simple and walked around our area, ate some brunch and headed back to the airport. We made quick time home to Luxembourg on the German Autobahn in a rush to catch the Super Bowl, which starts here at 12:30 am.
Participating in the costumed event allowed us to depart from modern civilization for the weekend by becoming anonymous characters. We interacted with the city and its guest in a totally different way than our usual role as passive visitor. The themed costumes synthesized with the enduring architecture to create a lasting dreamlike experience.
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