Time plays funny tricks. It turns facts false, actual imagines into illusions, and memories into mush. Tick-tock ‘n’ gone. Venice has been tricked by time into becoming a tourist treat. After visiting I can honestly say that I’ve been to Euro-Disneyland. Everything is overpriced, most of the hotels are a half and hour bus ride away and it’s hard not to think that the city itself is a fake. Beautiful in its decay, but the heavy tourist presence has manipulated its character and integrity in my eyes, creating an in-genuine luster that heavily coats the otherwise charming brick walls of the canals. Yet, when the crowd clears and you find yourself in a quite side street, you can see it. You can see the eerie unmasked beauty of the Venetian streets. Velvet sunlight filters through the golden autumn leaves and its rays either dive into the robin egg’s blue water below or simply stay and float on the surface gently twinkling in a silent backstroke. You hear the slapping of the water against the hull of the boats as they bob lazily. Deep green moss clings to the abandoned marble steps that lead into a once occupied home. You imagine what the real Venice must have been like before the tourism demand came and conquered. How does a city cross that line between being a functioning community and being a shell, gorgeous on the outside but hollow within? Who honestly lives here? Few lit windows shone silent goodbyes as we took the ferry back to the bus station at the end of the day. Where did the real citizens—the real Venetians go? Are they hidden in the crowds or have they simply vanished from the island, forever exiled?
These questions preoccupied my mind while I tried to fully enjoy and appreciate the city, yet I did see evidence of what was Venice’s golden age: the art, the architecture, and the amazing color of the water. All of it was proof that this is the Atlantis of the Adriatic Sea—a capital of a once rich and full with culture, now turned into a monolithic myth by time, and it’s the weight of time that is slowing sinking the city at a steady rate of seven centimeters per century. The slow decay of the city is in plain sight, yet no major restorations can be seen. The walls are not freshly painted. Red brick pokes through as the paint slowly chips away. Doors begin falling of their hinges as the salt water tarnishes their strength. Tick-tock ‘n’ gone.
Yes there are tourists, but perhaps they are here for a reason. Perhaps they come for a reminder of a glorious time in the past: today a preserved city–Italy’s biggest relic. Perhaps they come for a city that the world stops and admires an example of elegance in age, an example of a forgotten beauty hidden deep within the wrinkles. The graceful reminder of morality that is the quite side street, the abandoned canal. Maybe they come to see the tricks that time can play on us all, or maybe, they come simply to see the sinking, stilted wonder that is Venice.