Monday, July 30, 2007

A quite senseless monument

Ponte Visconteo, near Valleggio, Italy; click here for large version

Sometimes history is just plain silly.

In 1393 Gian Galeazzo Visconti - the most powerful of all the Viscontis - wanted just another city. In the years before he had conquered Verona, Viczena and Pavia, and now he was out to besiege Mantua on his way to a Kingdom of Northern Italy.

To add Mantua to his collection, he shelled out the gigantic sum of 300.000 golden florins to build an equally gigantic dam near the small city of Valeggio that would cut off Mantua from the river Mincio - a river that flows out of the Lake of Garda on its southern end.

In only two years the 600 meters long, 10 meter high and 26 meters wide dam was built - but, alas, never used for its original intention. The water of the Mincio continued to flow merrily towards Mantua, never to be disturbed by the dam.

After Viscontis death in 1402 nobody cared for it anymore, and its rather slow detoriation begun. But since this monument of senselessness is quite resilient, this process of detorioation is far from being finished today. The dam is still in use today as a bridge, and cars and busses pass it frequently. Do all passing it really know just how absurd this dam is?

Ponte Visconteo, seen from the Castle of Valeggio

An addendum: The dam was large enough to cause another unbelievable story. It forced the Venetians - at war with Milan in 1437 - to hoist a complete fleet of ships over the northern mountains of the Lake of Garda. Six galleys, two galleons and 26 barques were moved within two years over those quite high mountains, and on November 20th 1439 the battle with the Milan fleet began. The Venetians lost, and this time had the brilliant idea to built new ships directly at the lake. With those they finally defeated the Milans in April 1440.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Trattoria

Garda, Italy. Late in the evening on Friday, July 13th 2007. The Trattoria is named Al Pescatore - fish will be served here, hopefully fresh from the lake that can be found around the corner.

It's warm. The pair on the right doesn't look at each other, but at the passing people. Are they tired - or don't they have much to talk about anymore? Who knows.

The man of the left has done some shopping - alone, or his wife is hidden by the girls passing in front. His wife? Could also be his mate. Can't be sure, can you?

Those two girls. They seem to have fun, don't they? They're on the move. They're young.

Then the waiter, in the Trattoria. Guess he's looking for the fresh fish promised in the menu displayed on the left. Sure hope he finds some.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reading a Journal

She hides behind the newspaper on her balcony, not to be disturbed by people that walk by in Lazise, Italy. It's July 20th 2007, friday evening. Another week of work behind her. The iron bars protect, we almost don't see her at all. We better leave her alone, I guess.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Venice and Brunetti

At home again after my visit to Venice I somehow feel the urge to reread some of the "Comissario Brunetti" novels by Donna Leon - book in one hand, Venice map in the other.

I grab "Death in a Strange Country" - the second Brunetti case - and on its first page I read:

"The body floated face down in the canal. [...] The head bumped a few times against the moss covered steps of the embankment in front of the Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, lodged there for a moment, then shifted free [...]. Close by the bells of the church chimed [...]."

At once I visualize this scene - because I photographed it only a few days earlier, on July 18th during my recent visit to Venice. Here the panoramic picture of the Campo SS Giovanni e Paolo, stitched together out of several single shots (click here to see it in its original size):

It's all there: On the left the canal where the body is found, in the middle the church Santi Giovanni e Paolo with its red facade - and on the right in the background you can see the bar where Brunetti drinks a caffè in chapter two of the novel. ;-)

The canal you can see on the left leads to the cemetry island San Michele - and of course it's just a conicidence that the hospital of Venice is located at this canal ... You can see the hospital's entrance here - it's the white building to the left of the church, named "Scuola di San Marco". It's used as a hospital since 1815.

The police headquarters - the Questura - is located only a short walk away from this Campo, and that's where Brunetti heads after he has drunken his morning caffè ...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A visit to Venice

18th of July: It's a hot, sunny day. I arrive in Venice after a two hour train ride at around 11 a.m.

The following four short hours are full of photographic possibilities, even if the brutal midday sun and the throngs of tourists make it not that easy to capture the atmosphere of this city.

See my impressions of Venice at my new Venice gallery. It incorporates three panoramic pictures, one of those showing the densely populated Piazza San Marco. More doves or tourists on it? Click to find out! ;-)

Piazza San Marco - click here for large version