I gave a talk there on Venice's maritime empire recently - obscuring a perfectly good slide of a Canaletto (and apparently grasping a Venetian sailor by the head). Thanks very much to Louise Simkiss and the team for a very warm welcome. Followed up by a fascinating cruise up the Thames to Westminster, something I've never done before. A great day out.
Thursday, 25 October 2012
Sunday, 21 October 2012
In September I went, courtesy of Zegrahm Expeditions, to visit some outer reaches of the Venetian empire along the Dalmatian coast, which I have long been curious about, but never visited. My interest had been aroused many years ago by Jan Morris’s romantic evocation of the Venetian sea, by the long association the Venetians had with what is now
and its outposts along the Albanian coast. It started with a circumnavigation of Montenegro Sicily – spectacular not least for a shattering thunderstorm in , which kept us trapped for a long hour in the porch of the city’s cathedral with a confirmation party of smartly dressed Sicilians whilst thunder crashed and Bangladeshi umbrella salesmen demonstrated the effectiveness of their wares in the atomic rain: Syracuse
A day later we entered the long Mediterranean fjord of Kotor at dawn, a deep water harbour backed by the dark hills of the Balkans. The ship followed the sinuous curves up to Kotor itself, a red-roofed, splendidly walled miniature of an Italian city nestling under the
|The last day|
Monday, 15 October 2012
It has to be said that the blog has not exactly been active lately, but this week I was lucky enough to stay in Istanbul on the banks of the Bosphorus. In the early morning, with the water flat calm, the sun just coming up - before the heavy criss-crossing of ferries from the Asian to the European shore and the cavalcade of huge tankers to and from the Black Sea - I was rewarded with the sight of a line of dolphins arcing in and out of the water about twenty yards in front of me, in shallow curves, black fins cutting the surface, as I walked on the hotel terrace, a fantastic sight and a reminder of the wonderful wealth of this extraordinary waterway. So rich was the Bosphorus in marine life in ancient times that in the migration season, it was said that you could scoop bonito from the water with a net from the windows of water-side houses. The dolphin features deeply in the iconography of Constantinople, stamped on coins, carved on city walls - an emblem of grace, nobility and beauty - a sign of good luck, a reminder that this is a city garlanded in water, like a glimpse of the sea caught at the end of a street. And by association I remembered Patrick Leigh-Fermor, whose biography was published last week, for two astonishing pages in Mani on the transformative magic of dolphins: ''These creatures bring a blessing with them. No day in which they have played a part is like other days.' And it's true. I felt touched by some light enchantment. I thought about them all day.