Venice of Whatever

On September 4, 2016 · 5 Comments

I kept running into places that compared themselves to Venice as I uncovered canal superlatives. Literally dozens of places described themselves that way. It made things easy for Twelve Mile Circle too. I could select whatever examples I wanted today because I couldn’t possibly cover them all. That seemed like an excellent opportunity to create some push-pins in lower density areas of the 12MC Complete Index Map. Right, India?


Gondolas, Venice
Gondolas, Venice. Photo by Kevin Gibbons on Flickr (cc)

Realizing all these claimants existed, of course only one true Venice prevailed amongst the poseurs, the deservedly famous one in Italy (map). It seemed like an odd location for a city, scattered along a string of islands in a marshy lagoon at the mouth of a couple of rivers. The founders selected this unlikely site intentionally. The marsh offered refuge to Christians fleeing southward away from Germanic tribes as the Roman Empire crumbled. Their city grew over the centuries. Eventually it became an important economic hub and a naval power. Venice only had so much land however, and an overabundance of water, leading to the beautiful canals that visitors treasure today.


Kashmiri Venice


India - Dal lake, Srinagar, Kashmir
India – Dal lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. Photo by sandeepachetan.com travel photography on Flickr (cc)

I decided to completely side-step the ongoing geopolitical situation of the Kashmir conflict. The focus remained on a city with an alleged resemblance to Venice contained within its larger borders. Srinagar (map) came under Indian control and that seemed alright for my purposes. The city claimed to be a "Kashmiri Venice" or even more boldly the "Venice of the East." At least a dozen other places also proclaimed themselves to be the true Venice of the East. I didn’t know how to rank them although I felt secure that Srinagar should be considered at least the Kashmiri Venice. That felt safe.

Srinagar fell within the Jammu and Kashmir state at the very northern tip of India. Jammu and Kashmir itself included an interesting geo-oddity. It had both a summer and a winter capital. Srinagar served as the capital during the warmer months and then it jumped to Jammu for the winter. I couldn’t figure why or how that worked. It seemed strange to move the capital nearly 300 kilometres (180 miles) twice a year. And I’ve complained about moving the hands of a clock twice a year. That little tangent had nothing to do with canals in Srinagar so I supposed I need to get back on track.

The Jhelum River ran through Srinagar on its way to the Indus River. A series of canals, both current and historical, prevented flooding and regulated water levels. They also connected two large bodies of water, Dal Lake and Anchar Lake, as well as several smaller ones. The city became known for its majestic waterside Mughal architecture, its wonderful parks and its iconic houseboats. All of those conditions underlied its claim.


Venice of the Netherlands



Giethoorn in the Overijssel province of the Netherlands also featured a network of interlaced canals and an abundance of water.

It is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty that it hardly seems real – gently gliding along small canals past old but pretty thatched-roof farmhouses… Giethoorn is at the centre of Overijssel’s canal system. Indeed, the little village is so dependent on its waterways, many of the houses cannot be reached by road. When the postman delivers the mail he travels by punt.

Giethoorn made some pretty bold claims too. Some called Giethoorn (map) the "Venice of the Netherlands" and others extended it even farther to "Venice of the North." I think the fine folks in Amsterdam might question either claim although that hardly seemed to stop little Giethoorn from drawing its line in the sand.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale. Were there any trolls under those bridges?


Venice of America


Venice? In America?
Venice? In America?. Photo by Landon on Flickr (cc)

Florida featured an entire city of Venice although nobody called it the "Venice of America," or even the "Venice of Florida." It got its name in the 1880’s and even the city itself admitted that a couple of early settlers simply picked the name. Venice didn’t have any more or any fewer canals than other coastal cities in Florida. A completely different Florida location claimed to be the Venice of America; Fort Lauderdale (map). The city featured "65 miles of interconnected canals" spanned by 52 separate bridges. Cruises and water taxis delighted many tourists who flocked there.


A Special Note

The nation of Venezuela might be the most significant Venetian namesake. Most sources agreed that Amerigo Vespucci, navigator for the Alonso de Ojeda expedition of 1499 bestowed the name. Supposedly he noticed stilt houses built upon Lake Maracaibo that reminded him of the Italian City so he named it Veneziola ("Little Venice"). This became Venezuela when filtered through Spanish. Amerigo fared even better however, with a little corner of the world known as America named in his honor.

On September 4, 2016 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Venice of Whatever”

  1. Joe says:

    This article got me to look into the history of our local Venice (Illinois). Turns out it appears to have been “named because its streets were often flooded by the Mississippi River before construction of levees.”

    http://www.venicememories.org/Beginnings.htm

  2. Fritz Keppler says:

    There’s a very small town in Québec just north of the NY state line called Venise-en-Québec. Having passed through there a number of years ago, I don’t recall seeing many canals or other waterways there, but that’s the name it bears.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venise-en-Qu%C3%A9bec,_Quebec

  3. Jasper says:

    The movie “Fanfare” was filmed in 1958 in Giethoorn by famous Dutch director Bert Haanstra.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8ia00cJ8nE

    The story is about the local marching band being torn apart by petty feuds yet magically coming together at the end. The story is quite daring and funny by Dutch standards of 1958, but slow for current viewers. It does give quite a good view on how society worked back then, with all of its class constraints.

    However, the imagery of Giethoorn is amazing. Watch the second minute (first minute is titles) and I dare you to tell me you are not interested to see what’s going on…

  4. David says:

    There is, of course, Venice, California. Apparently at one time it had actual gondolas and everything. Not sure if that’s still a thing nowadays. Some of the canals got filled in and became streets. Anyway, the beach seems to be more famous than the canals these days. Also it’s not even a city in its own right – it got absorbed into the giant amoeba that is Los Angeles. But I figured it was still worth a mention.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venice,_Los_Angeles

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