Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vintage Armchair Travel: Italy

Another consignment shop find today.  This stereopticon card from 1898 shows Saint Marks in Venice.  I love the scene of the lady in a hat surrounded by pigeons.  The scanner didn't get the caption, which says San Marco, Venice, Italy -- An Oriental poem in marble, mosaic and gold.  There is also printing on the back of the card which gives quite a detailed history of the place, a fact I somehow missed until today.  I bought the card because of our upcoming trip to Venice, and because I liked the vintage look at a place that has been a destination for visitors for centuries.

My grandfather had a stereopticon viewer when I was a child.  I remember playing with the cards, though I don't recall what views he collected; the set-up disappeared long ago.  Looking at the woman with the birds also reminds me of a slide show Grandpa Pierce's brother, Uncle Bard, showed us of one of his trips that included a stop in Venice.  All I remember was the pigeons, and an image of hundreds rising up from the square.  I suppose the canals and architecture weren't that interesting or familiar to me then, but the birds were.  I actually visited Venice for an afternoon in 1972, when a high school friend and I celebrated our university graduation by taking a six-week rail pass and youth hostel trip across Europe.  Honestly, it was so long ago, and I took so few pictures, that what I remember best is - you guessed it - the pigeons.  We'll be staying a couple days this time, so I hope I do a better job of paying attention and photographing.

Browsing through old viewer cards at the resale shop I see lots of themes: travel, history, culture, humor.  I suppose my little plastic View-Master was the technology upgrade of my 1950's childhood - though my cards were mostly about Disneyland and national parks.  I have yet to see the either the theme park or Yosemite (my favorite views).  Of course these old methods of armchair travel are quaint and outdated now, with the internet, glossy magazines and travel shows on television.  But I enjoy looking at these black and white scenes from the past, and anticipating seeing the actual building and pigeons very soon.


JoAnn said...

I loved my VIEWMASTER. Such memories. Can you imagine kids today being entertained by one?

One thing that has not changed about that old scene of Venice is the pigeons. One thing that HAS changed it the huge numbers of (begging/thieving) gypsies!

laura said...

Great image! You are a master consignment shop shopper--I've never made such a find!

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