about venice in words & pics, with and without my 9-year-old son
For me any poetic mood that a fog can bring to San Marco is dispelled by the peddlers throwing their ...I don't know what are these, the things that glow blue in the darkness...these things into the sky and approaching all passers by with an offer to buy the toy. I don't remember such pestering five years ago, but this time while walking across the Piazza I was approached all the time. There were - and still are - the souvenir stands there but one can just walk keeping the distance from these. Peddlers are a different story.
In spite of the fog & cold when I took these photos, Sasha, the peddlers were still out in great numbers. In fact, this time they actually started to remind me of mosquitoes, as telling each of them I was not interested in their items had as little effect on them as if I'd asked mosquitoes to please leave me in peace on a summer night. The thing is, there are so many of them crowding around the same area--in this case, the piazzatta--that I don't know how any of them manage to sell enough of those flying things to survive. The competition is fierce. It seems like a hard life. And, yes, more than a few of the photos I took and didn't use have glowing blue time-exposure lines of their whirlygigs flying heavenward or falling to the ground.
When I am in Turkey or Egypt I usually stay at my hotel and do not venture into a nearby town. The locals have such a strong tradition of relentless nagging that a relaxing stroll there is simply impossible. In Mexico it's different, I can just say - No, gracias, no lo necesito. - I smile, they smile, they desist easily.But to have the same kind of pestering in Europe is something very unwelcome, I didn't expect this. I don't like to be approached, to react.Said to one peddler - Non sono bambino. - and - Va dormire! - to another, but mostly just walked by without acknowledging them. I was staying near Ponte del Diavolo, so on my way back to the hotel passed the Piazza often - and every time the guys were trying to sell their staff.Another unpleasant news - Libreria Mondadori is out of business and Fantoni also. It was very unexpected - both stores looked well-off when I saw them the last time. I don't mourn Mondadori, it was a pretty standard chain store, but Fantoni seems like a serious loss for the city.
Being a street peddler is a hard way to make a living, it's no surprise one might be driven to desperation--especially in this weather--but surely they must know as well as anyone that persistence is simply not going to make any difference with people who have already rebuffed them once. Mondadori is perhaps even more missed because of how many events they held--and no other business has moved into the empty space. Sadly (and not only in Venezia), selling books from an actual store is becoming as challenging as selling those whirly-gigs in Piazza San Marco--and with a much worse mark-up than the street peddlers have on their products.
Yes, I was ashamed after I've asked for a "small discount" at the Libreria Aqua Alta while buying there "Venice: Fragile City, 1797-1997" by Margaret Plant. The book is monumental, and 40 Euro is a good price for it. What would I have gained? 5 Euros? And the book was sitting on the shelf for years, I'm sure, this business is very low-profit.
Well, thinking in terms of discounts becomes kind of a habit--though with the vendors in the Piazza, one need not ask for them and they're offered. I've been offered a dozen of those whirly lit flyers at once for some bargain price. I had to ask, "What in the world would I do with 12 of them when I don't even want one?"