Even though this has been a blog in Estonian and for Estonians for some years, I recently found myself from a thought – what if I sometimes write here in English as well? The more I considered it, the more it started to make sense, given that many of my friends (and, indeed, some of the closest ones) can really understand nothing of what I’m writing about for one simple reason – they do not speak Estonian (yet).
I have to say, I’ve always been sceptical of people writing blog entries in English instead of their mother tongue. Sooner or later you’re making a mistake that you wouldn’t perhaps make in your own language and I’m sure it can be rather annoying to read any text if you feel like correcting grammar. Still, despite living in Estonia, I’ve grown accustomed to speak and write in English at least half of the time at work or after work, being fully aware that it doesn’t come error-free. So, I guess, I might as well give it a go here too.
When brooding over the above-mentioned thought, I happened to be in Venice for a long weekend. 7 years ago I used to live in Rome for 5 months, in the course of which I picked up some basic Italian. Sadly, not a lot of the language has remained with me from that time and even though I could still make out a lot of what Italians were saying to me, I couldn’t bring myself to respond in proper sentences. I was left dumbfounded by their miraculously sounding language, so smooth, fast and full of emotions.
Not surprisingly though, the best way of experiencing Italy is through speaking Italian, and the array of other languages you may also master does not really make up for it. Language is defining this country and its people, just as the sweetness of looking at life, along with good food and good wine. After some time I gave in trying to be considered as part of the inner circle of Italian language speakers and blended in with the crowds of thousands and thousands of tourists visiting the city claimed to be one of the most romantic in Europe.
As Italy is one of my favourite places to be in Europe, it is a country that I have visited most in this part of the world. I had been in the North by the Swiss border, seen the colourful Cinque Terre, witnessed the undefinable beauty of Tuscany and its surrounding regions and crossed the Southern part of Italy as well as Sardinia and Sicily, but for some reason, I had never been to Venice. Just like everybody else, I wanted to go there with someone special and was secretly hoping that the city would be every bit as charming as I imagined it to be when the opportunity would finally present itself. And it was.
Composing of more than a hundred islands in the Venetian lagoon that are separated by narrow winding canals and united by beautifully arched foot bridges, Venice seems to be floating in the sea. The rich and outstandingly well-preserved Gothic architecture has had influences from the East, characterized by a certain lightness of style. I was fascinated by the tall windows surrounded by oriental details and the abundance of colourful flowers decorating the majority of houses along the canals. Sooner or later you cannot help but wonder how did they manage to build it all on wooden piles?
What I loved most about Venice, is that it is so peaceful. In the central area, the only means of transportation is offered by boats in different sizes and the rest has to be managed on foot. Only later did I find out that apparently it is Europe’s largest urban car-free area. Staying away from the Grand Canal and the tourist buzz that has conquered the Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge area, it becomes a whole new city. Escaping the harsh afternoon sun wondering along the narrow alleys, you may easily become disoriented but unlike any other place in the world, in Venice it is a nice pastime to get lost.
No doubt it can be romantic. Especially if you’re willing to pay the price for the “one thing not to miss in Venice” and take a ride in one of those traditional rowing boats. Even if you may witness some serious gondola jams in certain places, it is really quite nice to cruise around the quiet canals, bathing yourself in the soft evening light and sipping a cool Bellini. And contrary to what I had heard, the canals did not smell at the time I was there.
It is probably not the same thing when the weather is cold and damp and the streets are submerged under water with the autumn rains but it is hard to think about that at the moment when the sun is shining in the clear blue sky. For me Venice was such a pleasant surprise that I could even imagine myself living there. If anything, it is not so easy to find good eating places serving the food that Italy is really famous for in the centre. And after a while I would probably grow weary of all the tourists walking around. But other than that, the city of Marco Polo, endless number of masks and Murano glass kind of won me over.