When I saw that this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge subject was Opposites, I immediately thought of this photo which I took in Venice.
Nothing is quite as synonymous with the beauty and romance of Venice, as the gondolas and the gondoliers. Yet, there are few objects and professions which are so emblematic of a city, while their origin is simultaneously so shrouded in mystery. The first accepted documentary evidence of the gondola appears in 1094; however, neither then nor now can anyone agree on where the name “gondola” comes from. Some say it has Maltese or Turkish origins, while others say it comes from the Greek for “cup” or “mussel”. The poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote of the gondolas that they “are things of a most romantic and picturesque appearance; I can only compare them to moths of which a coffin might have been the chrysalis”.
As ancient a vessel as the gondola may be, so the profession of gondolier is just as historically enigmatic. This was the primary reason why I took this photo. For here we have a gondolier, one of whom Mary Shelley wrote in 1840 that she, “enjoyed the gondoliers singing Gerusalemme stanzas about Clorinda’s death (after her lover tragically and unknowingly kills her in battle)“, imbued with all the history, romance and tradition that his profession implies, checking his iPhone – that opposite of tradition and history, that epitome of modern technology and whose romance extends about as far as sexting and Grindr!
But it would be remiss of me to end on such a sour note, so I will return you to Shelley for the last word on Venice. “The silent streets are paved with water, and you hear nothing but the dashing of the oars and the occasional cries of the gondolieri.”