Transport me back in time and take me to the Piazza San Marco. It was my first reaction when I read the writing prompt. I was there with my family many years ago when we were all still kids living at home.
If I were to visit it now I might describe this Piazza differently but this is what I remember. This is what I smelled and saw as a child.
I think that I was maybe eight years old. I remember that from a docking station we stepped into a gondola. I looked down and saw the greenish waters.
There was a lot of algae floating near the gondolas. I tried to see the bottom of the canals but of course, could not. The green water intrigued and disappointed. I had expected the waters to be crystal clear if not a heavenly shade of blue. Remember that I was a child. Instead I saw this solid green color.
As I sat in the gondola, I tried to get closer to the water. Even held back by my parents, I could get a little closer. I saw that the green that I thought was a solid color, contained different shades.
It had a golden glow in the streaks where the gondola’s peddles caressed the waters. Behind the gondola, the water left a broad foamy stream of light green-tangerine flows. It mesmerized me and I wanted to make sure that I bought a souvenir that held those colors.
When we arrived at the Piazza, the first thing that struck me was the noise. The Piazza is home to many pigeons and they were quite chatty that day. I was lifted from the gondola and saw people feeding the pigeons. I saw street artists juggling, mimes enchanting the tourists and of course, the many tourists with cameras trying to get their best shot of the Basilica.
The noise of the pigeons started to fade away and the human chatter started to dominate. I had never heard so many languages being spoken at the same time. If I turned left I heard Russian, turning right I heard French. Turning back to the gondolas, I heard my native language, Dutch. I heard Asian languages spoken in high-pitched voices and heard Italian baritone voices guide tourists along the Piazza. I tried to follow the languages with my head and ended up dizzy. But I had to look up. There was the Basilica in front of me. An imposing building with San Marco on top.
The first thing that I saw were the horses on the front of the Basilica. I did not want to go in. I wanted to count every statute, every golden spike, every arch, and no matter how long it would take me, I wanted to draw the building.
Years later when I heard people speak about Venice they always mentioned that the canals smelled bad, the pollution in general irritated them and of course, the many annoying tourists arriving continuously at the Piazza. Pushing people aside, getting angry if someone accidentally walked in front of their camera, and complaining about the many birds.
Me? I still see golden streaks in green-tangerine waters with horses and arches. I still hear the dizzying booming sound of the world’s languages. And if I look up, I can still see San Marco surrounded by angels.