Domani: Regata de Carnevale

Laissez les bon temps rouler! It’s Carnival time!   I’m not talking about those Johnny-come-lately Western Hemisphere bacchanals in Nawlins and Rio-by-the sea-oh, either.   Nope, for rowers the only carnival that really counts as a proper celebration is the Carnevale de Venezia.   That’s because the annual carnevale is fundamentally an aqua-centric one, paying tribute (pun intended) to the maritime heritage of La Serenissima –-this despite the Renaissance costumes and masquerade balls that get most of the media attention.  In fact, the term “regatta” originated in Venice.  So there.

Even in the 21st century, European carnivals retain their traditional role:  marking the pivot between nature’s seasons with a collective demonstration of human (i.e, social) significance.   Beyond making the (dubious?) assertion that humans actually are significant in the larger scheme of things, carnival traditions are a way of ritually proclaiming what is significant to people of a particular time and place.   Often, the inversion of customary social order and hierarchy that occurs during carnival season is intended —and actually serves—  to reinforce that hierarchy during the remainder of the year (because carnival is definitely an exception to the humdrum norm).   Of course, in order to reinforce your social hierarchy —either implicitly or explicitly— you’ve got to actually display it in public so that the pecking order is unambiguously present in the forefront of collective view.   Thus the Corteo Acqueo (see vogavenezia.com for more pix from last year):

This is 2011: the weather was nicer in 2010 --source: carnevale.venezia.it

2010 -- source: vogavenezia.com

2010 -- source: vogavenezia.com

2010 -- source: vogavenezia.com

This year’s Carnevale opened February 20th with the Festa Veneziana and its corteo acqueo to Canale di Cannaregio.  After two solid weeks of celebration, each and every Venice Carnevale concludes on Fat Tuesday with La Vogata del Silencio:  a candle-lit, waterborne, midnight procession through the canals.   In between –tomorrow, in fact–  oarsmen and oarswomen of Venice take to the water once again in the Regata de Carnevale.

If you want all-out competition, you’ll have to wait until the first Sunday of September for La Regata Storica, a series of  stake races in traditional and modern wooden boats from Canale di San Marco into the Grand Canal, up to Santa Lucia railway station and back to Ca’ Foscari.   The full regatta course appears to be between 6.5 and 7K, although the distances are shorter for women and youth rowers.   All this while standing up and facing the bow, rowing Chinese-style against a tholepin post called the forcola.   Wish I could be there.   Maybe next year!

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