Gondolas in Venice
It is hard to imagine that in the 16th century, in Venice were more than 10.000 gondolas on the way in the city.
Today, there are approximately 400 - 500 gondolieri taking the tourists through the waterways. They partly sing during the trips, partly an additional person playing the accordion is also in the boat in order to entertain some small traveler groups.
A gondola has a length of approximately 10 metres and a width of approximately 1,50 metres and weight barely half a tonne. Such a vehicle with the full equipment costs approximately as much as a middle class car in our country. Those who have a close look to a gondola will notice that it is slightly asymmetrical: at the left side, it is a little wider than at the right side. The reason: the gondoliere stands at the left side and moves the rudder at the right side in the water. By this way, the gondola is evenly located in the water despite of the shifting of weight by the rower.
During the time of prosperity of the gondolas several hundred years ago, when thousands of gondolas paddled through Venice, the gondolas were really colourful and gorgeous. But when the variety of the pompous gondolas were increasingly dominating, the exaggerated decoration was forbidden and only the simple black gloss paint was allowed. The gondolas of today still have this painting. As it is the case of a car, the lacquer coat also consists on several partial coats.
The gondoliere maintains the boat upright with a very special rudder technique. Everybody knows that a canoe goes only round in circles if one paddles only on one side. But the rudder is not the only steering appliance of the gondoliere: he pushes off with his feet the house walls and the passing boats in order to keep his own gondola in course.
The emblem of each gondola is a seven-pronged iron of a weight of approximately 20 kg at the bow that is denomitated ferro. Originally, this item was only supposed to compensate the weight of the oarsman at the stern, but the ferro is much more a significant escutcheon with lots of details: the shape of an S symbolizes the Canal Grande, the 6 prongs turned forward represent the 6 districts of Venice, a seventh prong is turned backwards and points at the island Guidecca. And finaly, there is a fisher's cap on the top of the ferro.
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