Crossroads Tour – Of Ships and Sea Creatures –

My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marks the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To celebrate, I’m reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text as well as larger and additional photos.  My Crossroads Tour series details my travels to Florence (and a few other cities) and Istanbul in May 2011.

The Genova Aquarium

Built for the Genova Expo 1992, the Aquarium houses 63 tanks in its 10,000 meter space, and is said to be the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The first tank features a reconstruction of a 15th century pier in the harbor of Genova, considered the starting point for the voyage of Christopher Columbus and other prominent Genovan navigators.

I am struck by the intense landscaping of the tanks. Unlike the Seattle aquarium whose tanks are bare, these hold your attention even if there aren’t any fish. Some of the coral is from the coastline along the Cinque Terre.

The penguin tank is a scream, as you will see in this short video clip. The tank replicates the environment of the Falkland Islands and is inhabited by both Gentoo penguins from the Antarctic, and Magellanics from the coast of Chile and Argentina. They buzzed the glass constantly and were very interactive with us.

I also watch a diver cleaning the tropical lagoon, where Cuba, a playful sea turtle, keeps coming up to ‘kiss’ the diver’s face mask and rub along the entire length of his body. Cuba is a rescued turtle who was left in a box at the aquarium in 2000, with a note that gave a birth date of August 1996, and that she had come from Cuba. Another rescued sea turtle is also here. Ari was smuggled into Italy by a tourist from the Maldives and later abandoned, and then adopted by the Aquarium.

The Galata Museum of the Sea

I exit the aquarium and traverse the boardwalk, past the farmer’s market and Jamaican vendors selling purses and sunglasses, past the Neptune galleon and on to the Museum of the Sea, which my dad would have really loved. It’s a multistory building housing 10,000 meters of exhibit space separated into 17 galleries, not including the submarine outside. 

The ground floor, housed in what looks like another ancient building with low spreading curved ceilings which shape the room like a Quonset hut, is themed The Age of Oar. There are banks of armor, including Morion helmets, some of which were made in the workshop of Pompeo della Cesa, a renowned Milanese armorer during the reign of Philip II.

There’s a reliquary containing some of the ashes of Christopher Columbus, and a full scale replica of a 17th century galleon. 

The Age of Sail exhibit covers 2 floors and includes a nice collection of globes and navigational instruments, although the room is very dimly lit which made it difficult to get decent photos.  I did manage to snap this shot of a replica 14th century astrolabe to add to my photo collection.

Walkway leading you from the Age of Sail to the Age of Steam

The third floor is unexpectedly educational. The Age of Steam is a series of rooms as a third-class passenger would have experienced them, complete with engine noise and a view of the sea out of the tiny porthole. Towards the end of this floor we were given a ‘passaporto’ and immigration papers, and were taken through the immigration process at Ellis Island. As an American, it was a real eye opener to see how an Italian immigrant experienced the process. The passport is bar coded and activates a video inspection officer which must have been pretty amusing, judging by the reactions of the people in front of me. Yet another reason to master Italian before visiting Italy next time…

The washroom for third-class passengers aboard a steamship destined for America
Officer’s quarters aboard a steamship
“Immigration papers’ , part of an interactive Ellis Island exhibit at the Galata

After signing a release and checking my bags into a locker, I put on the hair net and hardhat I was handed, and board a reproduction of the N. Sauro, Italy’s largest submarine. I missed the pre-show which would have taught me how to use the periscope and hydrophone.

Control Room inside the replica of the N. Sauro submarine

I did not have time to see more than half of this Maritime complex. But I’m happy to be adding “has been on a submarine” to my list of life experiences. 

Dinner tonight is ice cream, which I take back to the Ducale. I take off my shoes to find that one of my blisters has a blister, which I didn’t think that was physically possible. I end the night with a bath, and packing for an early departure tomorrow to La Spezia.

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