Baggage Carousel

The Baggage Carousel

So, I came back home again. This time I traveled from Copenhagen in Denmark and just like many times before I lost my luggage. You know the feeling… You stand in front of the baggage carousel. You’ve booked a good spot where you can see the bags coming down and then just grab yours before it passes you and disappears on the belt and you can’t reach it because of all the other passengers who also got good spots. And you have to wait until it comes back from the other side.

Baggage Carousel
by courtesy of Rachel Amito

Actually, it was my own fault, sort of. In Copenhagen, flying with SAS, there is no manual check-in. You have to do it all by yourself. Get the tag from the machine, put your bag on the scale, scan the tag, and… And that’s where I missed it. The bag shot away with such speed and force that I found myself with the tag in my hand while the suitcase disappeared behind the desk. 

So, a Danish lady who would have made Miss Trunchball, the headmistress in the wonderful book Matilda by Roald Dahl look like Cinderella, made a few phone calls. Then she assured me that the bag would turn up in Venice. So much for that.

The baggage claim desk

Well anyway, mine didn’t show. So I checked the baggage ticket and walked up to the baggage claims desk. 

    –    Color… well, it’s blackish… Kind of grey, black… Ish. 

And the lady convinced me to go home without my bag and wait for her call. But the call never came. Instead, I called… Many times, and each time I spoke with someone who didn’t understand why I called when it’s obvious that they’re the ones that should be calling. And every time they said that my suitcase is in Copenhagen and will be delivered the day after. Even the day after they said that.

Baggage carouselUntil I got hold of someone who said that it should have been flown to Venice but Venice hasn’t confirmed it. And now it gets interesting. Because this is when nobody knows where the stupid suitcase is. It’s not in Copenhagen and it’s not in Venice, so where did they drop it?

And I remember another time when I flew into Milan from somewhere I can’t remember. The luggage was gone. — Baggage claim, it’s black… ish, a referral number, a PIN code and then we went home. The day after I called, and the day after, and the day after that…

To sum it up, the bag was lost. And after almost a month it was still lost. I had been to Venice airport a lot and I had called all kinds of numbers but all anyone could ever say was:

     –     We’re very sorry about this and we do our best to find your luggage and we’re convinced that we will find it. 

At this point, I even had to write down what was in it, for compensation reasons.

Round and round on the Baggage Carousel

About a month after I’d lost it I was at the airport again to pick up a friend and I went to the counter once more just to check. And this time I found someone who really knew what she was doing. It was amazing. A young girl, smiling and charming. With one hand she answered the phone and with the other, she checked every airport in every corner of the world. When she got back to me, after ten minutes she said:

     –    Actually, there is a bag in Frankfurt that matches your description. 

     –    Is it black? … Ish? I asked.

     –    Well, they’re all black. That’s not the issue. But this one has your things in it.

??? If a bag is found on the baggage carousel or elsewhere, the tag is lost and there’s no address, then it is opened and all that’s in it gets listed. 

     –    One pair of grey underwear… Not new condition, she said.  One pair of socks, black… Not new condition. 

And in fact, it was my stuff. 

     –    Great, I shouted not being able to understand that after a month I was going to get all my laundry back. When can you fly it here?

     –    It will be delivered tomorrow, she answered.

At that time I was only glad and hopeful. I hadn’t yet understood that the phrase “It will be delivered tomorrow” really means “I have no idea. But you just go home and maybe in a few days it will show up and if it does, maybe I will send it to you if I can arrange delivery.”

No sign of it yet

So it didn’t show up the day after. And not the day after that. In a very short time, I was back to calling people who didn’t understand why I wasn’t just waiting for them to call. Something one imagines only happens in old films with a bad manuscript had happened to me. They managed to lose my suitcase twice. 

So, after a week I was back at the airport to drop my friend off and I went over to the lost luggage desk again. A miracle… I found the same girl. 

     –     No, it hasn’t shown up. I don’t know why, but there’s no record of it here.

And after a bit of arguing and small talk, she said:

     –     Why don’t you come back here and check the luggage room yourself? Maybe you could find it as you know exactly what it looks like?

baggage carouselSo I went through the rigorous security controls, passed bleeping machines and angry looking guards and police officers and finally ended up in the inner hidden domains of the building, together with pilots and stewardesses. My friend, the super-woman, guided me to a huge room. There must have been a thousand bags in there. I started looking while the valuable employee talked on the phone, finding things, helping people with the computer and telling them where this and that document where. 

After 15 minutes I had to accept the sad fact. It wasn’t there.

     –    Well, she said, at least we’ve tried. 

The Baggage Carousel Super-Lady

Then she looked at me and her eyes narrowed just noticeable. I almost thought she was going to make a pass at me…

     –     There is one other room, she whispered and now I was convinced that she was hitting on me.

I didn’t know what to say. But she led me to another door a bit further ahead, opened it, and there, in the middle of the floor was my suitcase. In a huge, almost empty space my bag waited for me all alone and abandoned. I shouted with joy. It was as if I was looking straight in the eyes of a close friend or a lover after thinking he or she was dead. Like finding the tressure you’ve been looking for all your life. 

     –     O my God, I shouted. Where have you been my darling… After all these years!

fondamenta dei gavariWell, the thing is, there are two (2) systems. Since there are too many companies to be handled by one computer system, they have two. The first room was the room for Lufthansa and others. The second room was the room for Easyjet and others. Since my flight to Milan was Easyjet the bag had been stored in the Easyjet-room. But the flight from Frankfurt was with Lufthansa, and therefore, it entered the Lufthansa system and should have been stored in the Lufthansa-room.

Another funny thing is that the Lufthansa-room was crowded while the Easyjet-room was almost empty. My bag shared the space with maybe 15 other suitcases… Poor thing.

Conclusion: If they don’t find your baggage, ask them to look in the other room. Just to be sure.

Venice Boat Show 2019

The first Venice Boat Show

It began in 2002 with a modest opening. Local boat clubs and local contractors joined forces to give Venice a Boat Fair just like many other coastal cities around Europe. Venice Boat Show grew and as larger companies came in, the organizers and financiers also became larger.

Venice Boat ShowThe first years it was on Tronchetto. The island to the right before you get into Venice … Where the cruise ships are now. La stazione marittima with its 150,000 m2 and almost as much water surface held large and rich exhibitions.
Around 2010, the cruise ship terminal was built, more ships came into Venice and the boat fair had to move.

The Boat Show in Mestre

In 2011 and 2012 it was held in Parco San Giuliano in Mestre with less success as a result. First of all, it was far from Venice and it had a small water surface for the boats in the water. In addition, the Park with its terrain was not suitable for heavy vehicles, heavy boats, and large crowds. It got pretty muddy after a few days.

After that, the Venice Boat Show was abandoned.

La Salone Nautica in Venice

Traditional Boat buildingUntil now: 2019 it opened again. This time in Venice, in the Arsenale, the historical shipyard. What once was one of the ground stones in the creation of the Republic of Venice and where they outpowered all other boat-building nations in terms of efficiency and production capacity.
Venice Boat Show has come home.
How is it then? Have they managed to recreate the Fair on Tronchetto? Is Venice Boat Show worth visiting?

Fastest boat on earthWell…
First of all, it is much smaller. The water surface is about 50,000 m2 and the indoor area is 6,000 m2 (?) (On Tronchetto it was 150,000 m2). This means that there are very few smaller boats, accessories, innovations and everything that is a bit outside the boats themselves; travel by boat, financing, renovating boats, caring for boats.
There is a small area to the east, under the hot sun, with smaller boats. The 6,000 m2 indoor area is enough for some gadgets, design companies, and a gondola. In addition to that, there isn’t very much.
Venice Boat ShowIn the Arsenale Basin lies the jewels in the crown. The large and luxurious yachts from all the major producers in Italy and abroad. It is unusual to have so many representatives of such large yacht companies in one place. It´s impressive.

And there are also a few examples of new trends. As the electrical- a hybrid boats. As with the cars, the electrical propulsion is hot. 

Verdict:
If you’re filthy rich, it’s a great possibility to see all kinds of different yachts in one place. You can go from boat to boat and compare before you sink down in a very comfortable armchair, sip your drink, decide all the extras and discuss the price tag.
If you’re not very rich, don’t bother.

Venice Boat Show

Cruise ship accident

Cruise ship accident

Today, Sunday, June the 2nd 2019 there was an accident with a cruise ship in the Giudecca canal in Venice. Around 8.30 a.m. the Opera, a 13-stories high and 275-meter long ship of MSC cruises lost control and crashed on a bank involving a passenger boat.

As seen in the video, nothing really tragical happened. The ship came into the quay with a very small angle and at that precise point, the harbor is equipped with structures that can hold big vessels. It’s in concrete with heavy steel reinforcement. And the ship landed between the quay and the passenger boat and pressed the other vessel outwards instead of downwards.

5 people were brought to the hospital, none in serious conditions.

The president of the Port Authority of the Northern Adriatic Sea Pino Musolino was urgently summoned to Rome by the Ministry of Transport, to explain how this could happen. But like so many times before and like in so many other fields, the difference between probability and actual facts is huge.

This is not supposed to be possible. The security measures are too strict. Still, this is not the first time.

In May 2018 another ship, Marella Discovery, 264 meters of length and 50 meters high, was drifting out of control for half an hour in the middle of the Giudecca-Canal. She too was dangerously close to the Zattere side before three tugs were able to pull her away. And before that, there have been other incidents.

Are we really going to trust luck to keep Venice and the tourists as well as the Venetian safe? 

Because it was pure luck that prevented a serious cruise ship accident this time too.  

cruise ship accident

The ‘MSC’ “Opera”, with 65,000 tons of tonnage, was unable to stop. She had the engine damaged, but “somehow continued pushing ahead”, an officer of one of the tugs in service, explained. She continued to accelerate, and in the end, even the hawser of the tug that held it back broke. The marine ‘skyscraper’ continued, scraping away a piece of the quay, then hit the ‘River Countess’ on the stern, a tourist riverboat, where 110 passengers were sitting calmly eating breakfast, before the scheduled trip on the river Brenta. There was plenty of time for them to see the giant coming towards them and people started screaming, running away in disorder falling, then getting up again to escape the monstrous steel mountain coming straight at them. 

So, this time it went well.

A disaster was avoided. But what if the ship had had a different angle? It could easily have cut the smaller boat in two and drown everything and everybody on it. And what if it had come against the quay a few meters earlier? At Zattere, where the foundation is the normal wood poles and marble? And if the angle was greater? It could easily have pulled down half of Venice. It could have destroyed hundreds of palaces and killed hundreds if not thousands of children, men, and women. Tourists and locals alike. 

  –  I saw the bow approaching and I thought it would reach my house”.

The words are those of a Venetian lady, living in Santa Marta, describing what she saw.

  –  I was on my terrace, on the fourth floor and I can see the Giudecca canal very well. When I saw the bow of the ship approaching towards us it seemed it was coming straight at me. There was a deafening noise, all the horns sounding. All I can say is that fortunately, it went well… This time…

Edit June 4th

A recording has emerged of the captain of a cruise ship describing an engine fault.

Speaking with the harbormaster he says the engine is locked but in thrust. He also said he had dropped two anchors but that didn’t stop the ship. The tugs tried to widen the gap between the ship and the deck but as one of the cables broke the bow tug couldn’t do anything more than just watch how the 275-meter ship hit the smaller passenger boat.

The captain sounded the horn continuously in an attempt to warn tourists on board the docked boat ahead of impact.

 

Rooftop Terrace

L’Altana

The rooftop terrace, or as it is called in Italian; L Altana. They are visible everywhere. High up there, over the roofs, they are like bird’s nest high up in the treetops. Often they seem to defy all the laws of physics, those about gravity … Newton and his apple. Looking fragile in relation to the stable and well-built palaces below.

rooftop terraceWhat are they for? Why are they up there? Had it not been better to build a real terrace with mortar and stone, of steel and concrete instead of that thin structure of wood?

L’Altana. The word comes from the Italian word for high – alto. And higher up than on top of the building itself one cannot be. They appeared for the first time roughly when the palaces began to become so large and stable that it was possible to build something on the roof. The first documents are from the 1200s.

The rooftop terrace

It has always been very loved and appreciated by the Venetians. Down in the city itself, it was crowded. There were the diseases, which were sometimes so serious that it was life-threatening to just leave the house. Down there was also the dirt, the stench, the horses and the other animals. And there it was crowded. The streets of Venice were, and still, are, cramped. The narrowest street is 53 centimeters, Calle Varisco.

L'altana on a Venetian housBut up on the roof … There you could enjoy wide views, the wind and the sun, and the rain and the cool. It was simply a wonderful place for the crowded Venetians where they could breathe clean and fresh air for a few moments.

In the beginning,

they were service spaces. They were there to hang the laundry, to grow some tomatoes … And to bleach the hair. There is even a name for it: Venetian blonde. The women used various home-made, but probably rather powerful, recipes. Then they went up to the Altana, put a special screen, which protected the skin of the face under the hair and let the sun do its job. The result was that the hair became brighter.

Nowadays, they are the perfect place for a spritz in good company, or for sunbathing … and not just the hair. You can also escape from the tropical heat during the summer months and even if it is warm up here too, it might blow a little and in this way, life becomes a bit more bearable.

But don’t they fall down?

No, actually they don’t. Occasionally, parts of buildings collapse, a cornerstone, a piece of the roof by faulty building techniques or material, earthquakes, or other natural disasters. But it is much more frequent that masonry terraces fall down than these wooden structures. They’re completely made out of wood. The pillars and railings can be in other materials, but the law states that the actual platform can’t be built in anything but wood. And wood is flexible and light and is maybe less subject to cracks.

Being up there it doesn’t always feel very safe though. Especially the ones that don’t have at least one brick wall to lean against. It can be a bit nervy.

Is it possible to build a new one?

Yes, it is, and every now and then you see a new Altana up and running. But it is quite difficult to get all the permits, e.g. you have to have all the neighbors’ approval, and that alone can be tricky. Not everyone appreciates getting something above their apartment or getting the view obscured.

Italy has always had major problems with illegal buildings. It is expensive and difficult to build according to all the rules and meet all the conditions, so many build without authorization. Building a new Altana was previously completely forbidden. But the Venetians have never been a docile and compliant people. They built anyway.

Now that you actually have the opportunity to build a completely legal rooftop terrace, many have become accustomed to the old ways. The municipality has been putting the heat on unauthorized constructions for years and many are those who after a court decision have had to dismantle their beloved open space.

So the ones you see these days are all, or almost all, authorized and respecting all safety conditions. Next time you walk through Venice, look up. Because up there you have le Altane, there’s air and light … And up there you can still see some of the old Venice, the chimneys, the Venetian windows, without the souvenir shops and the tourist traps.rooftop terrace

25th April

What is it about the 25th of April?

Well, first of all, the 25th of April is a public holiday. It’s the day of the liberation. In 1945, on the 25th of April, the North Italian National Liberation Committee CLNAI declared the final and total uprising against the German occupiers and around that time the occupied territory in the north was freed, Venice was liberated the 28th. 

LIberation? What liberation, you might think. Wasn’t Italy allied with the Germans? So it must have been a surrender?

what's it all about?Not really. Italy was a part of the Axis forces but had surrendered already in 1943. The Italian people were never really so enthusiastic about the fascism, the treaty with Germany or the war. When the allied invaded Sicily, the fascist party decided to limit the power of their leader Benito Mussolini. Something they actually could do. That fact explains something about the authority or none authority of the Duke and the contradictions inside the Italian political landscape. Just imagine the Nazi-party firing Hitler, and you understand something about the difference between Italy and Germany at that time.

Mussolini was dismissed.

Anyway, the king Victor Emmanuel III simply fired Mussolini and put him in jail. Then he formed a new government together with the General Pietro Badoglio. Still fascist, but secretly negotiating with the allies for a surrender. The 8th of September an armistice was announced, and Italy had formally surrendered. From that point although there was quite a bit of confusion on the Italian peninsula, the Germans strengthened their presence, the allied troops advanced from the south and the Italians mostly started fighting their former brothers, the Germans. In Rome, only one Italian division was defending and the Germans could easily take the eternal city. They freed Mussolini and he then created the Republic of Salò in the north. 

25th of AprilSo the situation was that of liberation. The 25th of April represents the beginning of the final victory for the resistance and the allied forces. The Partisans captured and killed Mussolini on the 28th of April. On May the 2nd the Republic of Salò surrendered together with the German troops in Italy and on May the 8th the war ended.

The 25th of April is the anniversary of the liberation in Italy. As such it is a national holiday and we have the speech of the President, parades, brass bands and the Italian flags with its three colors… Il Tricolore.

The other 25th of April.

But in Venice, we have yet another public holiday (Couldn’t they have them on two different occasions? So we could be home from work on two days instead of one?). So here you can choose: Celebrate the liberation… Or, commemorate the death of the Patron of Venice, San Marco. He’s supposed to have died on that day, although deaths and births 2000 years ago are a bit approximative. 

25th AprilSaint Mark’s day the 25th of April was a very important holiday in the days of the Republic. There was a procession at Saint Mark’s square in which all the authorities of the Republic participated, the Doge, the Patriarch, and every other important person. But the Saint was such a central figure in the Venice’ life that they celebrated him on two more occasions. The 31st of January, when the relics arrived in Venice in the year 828, and the 25th of June, when the bones were placed inside the Basilica of Saint Mark’s. 

… So what about it?

25th of AprilAnd now to the present political situation in Venice and Veneto. The separatists in many regions in the north of Italy are strong but nowhere as strong as in Veneto. The last election gave an absolute majority to Lega Nord, whose full name is Lega Nord per l’Indipendenza della Padania, The Nordic league for Padania’s independence. Padania being the Po-valley often used in a sweeping political sense as northern Italy. Interestingly they dropped the “Nord” in their name and got so many votes in the last national elections, that they could form a government together with the 5-star movement. A party who was founded on an idea to free the north from Rome is now governing the nation in Rome. 

And this leads up to a situation where celebrating Saint Mark and celebrating Italy becomes contradictory. It’s a bit like a soccer derby. Two teams from the same neighborhood meet and the fans are just a bit too enthusiastic about cheering for their own boys. It can get rough. 

lega nordThe Saint Mark’s fans don’t want to hear the national anthem, they don’t want the President of the republic and they don’t want the Italian flag. They have their own flag with the Venetian Lion in blue or orange.  

The Italianists don’t come to Saint Mark’s square. They go elsewhere or stay home to be able to watch national TV without interruption. 

And on the 26th life goes on a usual, Because there is no people in the world with as good spirit, welcoming attitude and forgiving approach as the Italians. One day you’re enemies and the day after you offer a cup of coffee and that’s that. 

Another holiday? How many do they have..?

Yes, there is another reason for celebrating. Or maybe not celebrating, because this is a very sad story. (… Now, come on. One holiday when we could have had three days off work..?)

At the end of 700 when the Republic still wasn’t in Venice, but on the mainland, the daughter of the future Doge Angelo Partecipazio, Maria fell in love with the young, handsome but inexperienced Tancredo. He needed to make a name for himself to be able to ask for her hand in marriage. So he went with Charles the Great to Spain to fight the Arabs. He was a brave soldier and had already started to distiguinìsh himself for his value on the battlefield when he was hit by the enemy in a counterattack. He fell in a  rose garden and with his dying breath he took a rosebud colored with his blood. He asked his friend Orlando to bring it to his beloved Maria and tell her that his last thoughts were of her. Maria got the rosebud but the day after, 25th of April, she was found dead with the flower pressed to her chest. 

From that day it’s a tradition in Venice, to give a rosebud to the lady of your heart on that day. the rosebud