In Case You’ve Ever Wondered How the Floating City Stays Afloat…

(As I certainly have,) Ancient Origins has a great, short article on the history and construction development of  Venice. How did they ever manage to build such magnificent architecture seemingly floating upon the waterways? The secret is petrified toothpicks. Well, not really toothpicks, but not far from it. Many of the buildings sit upon wooden platforms supported by wooden stakes driven into the ground below the water line .  The surrounding salt water and lack of oxygen beneath the surface of the water works to petrify the wood, effectively turning it to into stone.  Ingenious!  I wonder if early builders were aware of this magical chemical transformation or whether they simply lucked in?

One of the things I’ve loved about studying art history is understanding where the architectural influence of cities comes from. Florence for instance, has a very different feel architecturally than Venice. Venice’s architecture is more Gothic; lighter, more graceful and more intricately designed. Venice’s location also brought to it Byzantine and Islamic influence from the Near East.  The arabesque-like cut outs on the portals leading to the Bridge of Sighs and in the window frames are forms originating in Islamic calligraphy. (Interesting side note:  the word ‘arabesque, typically known as a ballet position, has ‘arab’ as its root, denoting Arabic or Moorish design.) As if I needed another reason to be enchanted…

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Camping, anyone?

How about an overnight in a 16th century English country church?  The Churches Conservation Trust in England is a national charity protecting and preserving historical architecture.   You can spend a night beneath a medieval window or in an intricately carved stone ‘tomb’, believed to be a Norman shrine to St Augustine for about 60 pounds a night, including breakfast.  Sigh.  More info here.

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