Five months living in Venice. A goodbye.

When the city gets out of the water


Nine days. Nine days left.

This idea is as bizarre as sometimes the city from which I am soon to leave. After almost five months in Venice, it's time to say goodbye, I'm not sure exactly what day it started. I'm sitting on the Campo Santa Margherita, it's one o'clock in the afternoon and the air is vibrating with heat. Under my umbrella in front of the Caffè Rosso I am protected from the glowing rays, but the chocolate on my brioche had melted before I even looked at the pastry. On Venice's liveliest Campo there is a lot of activity, no trace of lazy noon. The barely penetrating smell of the fish in the middle of the square blows over and I try to catch the scent. I think it smells wonderful - to Venice, to home port Hamburg, to the sea. Four Venetians are sitting next to each other at the table, three young women are sitting in the middle of a crowd of shouting and laughing children who have just been picked up from school and play football, while their mothers with some frugal gestures make another round of Aperol Spritz with the waiter Order a bar next door. Two old men, each with a glass of wine in their hands, are heading for a high wall and are driving away a group of tourists in Venetian. This is impressive and the group gets up immediately, unresisting, but a little confused. Satisfied, the two elderly sit down on the wall and cheer each other. I have to smile, because in the past few months I've seen and watched many such scenes. Many Venetians make every effort to keep their city from any foreign body with the help of a passionate rudeness. Only over the last few weeks have some people here noticed that I have allowed me three seasons long time for my journey through Venice. This has a certain effect: if I courageously dare to make verbal rapprochement in Italian, they no longer defiantly answer in English. One of my greatest achievements of the last months.

As I sit in front of my laptop, sipping my cappuccino and watching brioche chewing around people around me, I try to grasp the number nine. And all that happened between my arrival in a wondrous city on the water and that number.

I saw Venice.

Not only visited and streaked in passing with a devout look, no, really: seen. I saw it on misty, gray February morning, when in St. Mark's Square, washed over by the Acqua Alta, their own steps are reflected, before they trample on their reflection again. I saw it during the carnival, when crowding tourist crowds push over bridges that are too narrow, and only look at the city through the lens of their camera. I have seen it at night, quiet and withdrawn, if only it owns itself. And that is something very special, because Venice is almost never itself. In these hours, the narrow streets whispering about all the people who have steered their steps over the pavement during the day.

If cities can be vain, then Venice is destined. But can I blame the city? It is surrounded by water, in which it reflects each new morning, and filled with people, whose bright eyes she looks at every day. If cities, hidden behind an imposing façade, can be dismissive, then Venice is for sure. But how should this city be different? Countless people come to admire it and take a selfie with la Serenissima. But few want to see what lies behind the impressive backdrop and understand Venice. Venice no longer needs compliments, because everyone already knows them. So what am I doing here? With what claim do I write some miserable observations about a city that inspired Rainer Maria Rilke and Thomas Mann to intellectual effusions? Why should a city take notice of me whose streets and canals served as the scene for Shylock and Antonio? A city where Ernest Hemingway got drunk in those bars where such dizzying prices are impossible today?

The reason is simple: I fell in love. It was not love at first sight, not even the second. I had already judged, arranged and interpreted Venice, and then - yes, then the city suddenly caught me, quietly and secretly and quite unexpectedly. For as daunting as Venice may be, sometimes it turns your head and looks at me. We look each other in the eye for a few seconds, then the city turns away again and closes itself. These moments rarely happen. Mostly they happen in moments when we are alone with each other, Venice and me. Only yesterday it happened again, on the vaporetto from the Lido to the stop Accademia. It was evening, blue hour, when the city rises from the water after a blistering summer afternoon, full of new power, and suddenly hints at a hint of the old splendor. Time then always seems to stand still for a moment: when la Serenissima looks at the mirrored surface that surrounds her, and looks at everything for a moment. The facade and what is behind it. Today and yesterday, which has buried itself so deeply in the stones of the palazzi, that it is felt longer than anywhere else.

Nine days left.

The Venetians at the next table get up and nod to me. One of the four men even smiles friendly. I greet you back and have to think for a moment. Right, we know each other from the Paradiso Perdutto, a restaurant in Cannareggio where live music is played regularly. Over a glass of heavy red wine we discussed a few days ago whether Venice was doomed or not. Maybe the city would make me one of their own if I stayed longer instead of leaving in nine days? I remember the cold, northern German January day, when I left home - out of the comfort zone, into the unknown, into the great adventure Erasmussemester in Venice. Since then, I have done many things, some have failed, golden moments for the memory collected and overcame overwhelming days. I flew through the streets and across the water at night on the back of a winged lion and threatened to sink in the green canals of Dorsoduro together with the water rats. And soon I'm flying home, full of gratitude, sadness and somewhere between homesickness and wanderlust. Nostalgia means that in Italian.
I think I can not say goodbye.

Saying goodbye would mean leaving Venice behind me. Anyone who has been here long enough has learned that you can not do that, leave Venice behind. It is often said about this city, everything that has to be written about it has already been written. I think that's wrong. Anything that someone writes about Venice must come from a deep feeling as the city is deeply touched. Granted, a short break in Venice, thanks to the masses of people, can be quite awful and may not have much to do with a soul-moving experience. The real encounter with Venice takes a little time. And not everything has been written or said about Venice - there will always be something to write and say about this place. How could it be otherwise in a city where the alleys are so intricate that sometimes they do not take you to a destination, only a small, moss-covered staircase whose steps lead into the water and are completely weathered by the constant beating of the waves , Some of the streets here are so small and hidden that they do not even have a name. How can anything ever be written about a place so peculiar and mysterious? True, the architecture and infrastructure have stopped somewhere a few centuries ago, as if the city were desperately trying to cling to its old size, afraid that the water it was fused with everywhere else might engulf it. But maybe that's why you might think that if there was magic in the world then it would have to be at a place like this. The soul of Venice is still alive, a little elderly and perhaps slowly. But not dull. She grows and changes subtly even further and sometimes she quietly does a miracle. Yes, this city has touched me, and I hope that I too have touched something about this city, that we have actually looked each other in the eye a few times.

What do I leave behind and what do I take with me to make it a part of me these days between Venice and Hamburg?

There are probably a lot of little things. But all these little things can be summarized as follows: I take part of Venice with me, so as not to forget anything from the past few months and not to lose any of the experience, to be able to close my eyes from time to time, and the back of the winged one To climb lions. Part of me will stay here, so to speak in return - may Venice keep it well and occasionally let it wander its streets.

"And? What is the true Venice like? Do you feel at home right now? "I was asked a lot in the last weeks. No, it will not be a home, my Venice. Everything that made it a home, I take with me on my departure, stow it in my suitcase and my memories. These are the wonderful friendships that have been made here. It is this one dark alley that is so narrow that two people side by side can not fit in, and that has led me on so many evenings from Campo Santa Margherita to the vaporetto - la linia 1, direzione: Lido. It's the day the waitress at my favorite café knew me and my usual afternoon order. It is the view from the Lido to Venice, especially in the morning, when the city is almost swallowed by the fog, or the air is so clear that the Alps can be seen on the horizon behind the Campanile at St. Mark's Basilica. It is my favorite refuge especially what has been difficult in recent months, Torcello, a small island on which the history of Venice once began. Torcello is not a place, but the soul of a place that, tired and old, has withdrawn into the lagoon to slowly sink into the surrounding waters. These are my moments, impressions of my Venice. But none of this will have the same meaning when I come back for a visit, so I know that the city will not stay home to me. She has housed enough people over time, she is a little tired and very old. But I think I have a new girlfriend.

Yes, I think, Venice and I, we became friends.

  1. Wow. I can not say more ...

  2. A beautiful homage to Venice, I've read it two times in a row to not lose anything. Written wonderfully and touching. One gets the desire to break up in January and to try if one can find this intimacy, this splendor and this Venice. Thank you

    • Thank you very much for this very touching feedback! Hopefully, the city soon literally gets out of the water, leaving us with its beauty and the people there at home.

  3. Such a magical declaration of love to Venice, complimenti! My Bucketlist has been a longer stay in town for some time to learn Italian. That's why I read your experiences with great interest. Mille Grazie!

    • Surely you will also meet the enchanted sides of Venice. All the best, I wish!

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