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Venetian Carnival

© By D.R. Ransdell
  For a special memorable treat, visit Venice during carnival. For the ten days before Ash Wednesday, the city explodes with beauty. Masqueraders come from all over the world, though principally Northern Europe, to don costumes costing thousands of dollars. They parade around San Marco until reaching the narrow strip between the Dodges' Palace and the sea. They stand with their backs to San Giorgio and wait patiently as tons of amateur and professional photographers vie to get their lenses in the right position.
     The masqueraders usually come in pairs or even triplets. For the most part, they wear big, billowing costumes with bright colors, three-foot head pieces, and matching boots. They often carry props such as purses or staffs or hand mirrors. The more impressive participants wear masks that completely cover their faces, leaving only small holes for their eyes. They refrain from speaking so that they don't have to reveal either their gender or their ethnicity. Sometimes I've heard them exchange a quick word to one another in Spanish or German or French or even Italian, or they might exchange a quick word with a photographer who seems especially avid or who has an especially good camera; then they might hand over their business cards so that the photographer can send pictures afterwards.
     There are other events in Venice during carnival. On the first Sunday, the festivities kick off with a parade featuring the best of the masqueraders followed by the "volo del angelo," the flight of the angel. From the top of the campanile in San Marco, an "angel" descends to the piazza via a cable put in place especially for that purpose. As the angel nears the earth, the crowd cheers wildly, thankful that carnival has begun in an auspicious way. Then pandemonium breaks loose as all the people in the square decide they want to be somewhere else and can't get past one another! For the rest of the day, musicians, dancers, and actors perform on a special stage set up in San Marco. There are musical events on most of the other nights as well. There are also expensive balls, some of which are open to an elite public.

Bird couple  Black and white  Blue & yellow  Blues  Carnival mask  Pretty in pink  Red pearls

     Most visitors, however, concentrate on watching the masqueraders and capturing them on film. Much as bird-watchers delight in spotting a bird for the first time, carnival visitors relish in spotting a new costume or one of the favorite masqueraders in a new setting. There are so many participants that the stream of novelty seems endless. Just when you think you've seen every last costume, a new couple arrives in yellow and blue or orange and black, and you have to pop a new memory stick in your camera so that you can keep documenting your experiences.
     When I mention that I'm going to carnival, friends often assume that I hope to find as many parties as possible, but as opposed to carnival in Brazil or New Orleans, Venetian carnival is about creating images of beauty. Imaginations soar as masqueraders gracefully strut from one part of the city to another, pausing by baroque churches or the Arsenale or the pastel houses of Burano. The cheerful colors combat the cold weather and stir such a sense of wonder that each visitor is granted a renewed sense of vitality and a camera full of images that will be treasured, revisited, and repeatedly shared.

D.R. Ransdell teaches writing at the University of Arizona and moonlights in a mariachi band. During summers she travels as much as possible. Her novel Amirosian Nights traces the adventures of a mariachi player on a Greek island in the Dodecanese. Please visit her website at www.dr-ransdell.com.

Photo Credits
D.R. Ransdell

If you go
Venice, Italy #1  ~   Venice, Italy #2  
Venice, Italy #3  ~   Venice, Italy #4
as seen on YouTube
Venice Carnival 2009: www.venicecarnival.com
Venice Carnival 2010: www.carnivalofvenice.com
Venice Carnival 2010: www.carnevale.venezia.it
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venice,_Italy
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Venice

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.arabji.com/Jordan/media.htm
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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