Okay, so I just made that up, based on the estimated number of visitors to Venice each year (about four million) times the number of photos that Nora and I took (about six hundred apiece) divided by eighteen hours per day.
When we left for this trip, I'd been working hard right up until the Christmas break, so I hadn't invested a lot of time in thinking about a list of sights to see. In my mind, I just wanted to be in a place with no cars, a place where I could walk from one end of the city to the other. A place where every time I turned a corner, I would be surprised.
But one of the great things about not having an agenda for a trip is that you don't know what you'll notice. And what I noticed was people taking pictures. And not just at the sort of classic photo spots, in front of Basilica San Marco or at the top of the Accademia. No, people were just stopped in their tracks all over the place, marveling at what they were seeing and trying (mostly in vain) to capture the experience solely through what could be caught in the box.
I've been to a lot of traveling spots, but I've never felt the sort of goodwill that we were surrounded with in Venice. Not once did we encounter visitors who had become surly with exhaustion, who were hurrying their way through a crowd. Venice is tight and close enough that had elbows been thrown, we'd have encountered that. But it felt as though everyone recognized that we were in a privileged, miraculous place, and our collective response was a sort of joyous awe.
There are places that make us better people. More patient, more observant, more social, more open to the world. Thank you, Venice, for re-introducing me to the better parts of myself. And thank you, Nora, for being the person who does the same things for me that Venice does. Happy birthday.