The Windows of Arles, France

A collage featuring 9 colorful windows in Arles, France. Some are shuttered; others have flowerpots, or laundry adorning them.

Arles, France circa 1888: If you were to peek through the window at 2 Place Lamartine about this time, it’s likely you would’ve seen Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh at work in his studio. Van Gogh lived in Arles for about one year, spending part of that time in a building that’s since been called the Yellow House.

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The Windows of Heidelberg, Germany

A collage showcases 9 decorative windows in the Altstadt (or Old Town) of Heidelberg, Germany

The German city of Heidelberg is perhaps best known for its romantic castle ruins, its highly esteemed university, and its Old Town, which is studded with mostly baroque architecture.

Having lived in Heidelberg for 10 years, the city means additional things to me though.

It’s where I held some of my first real world jobs, where I came to know myself, and where my husband and I were married. The city also served as the backdrop for introductions to new friends, as well as meet-ups with loved ones from back home who made the journey overseas to see me. It was my launching pad for exploring new lands, my window on the world for an entire decade.

I left Heidelberg in 2011, and for six years, I didn’t return “home.” However earlier this month, Shawn and I made a return visit to this special city on the Neckar River.

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The Doors of Valletta, Malta

Valletta-Malta-Architecture-Doors-Collage

When I had my maiden visit to the Mediterranean nation of Malta in 2006, the island’s capital city, Valletta, was largely a diamond in the rough. Countless old limestone palazzi were forgotten, shyly sporting boarded-up windows. Nestled among these once-noble structures were shuttered storefronts, many of which still wore vintage signs that showed what businesses were housed inside decades before. I tried to imagine who passed through the doorway of a former ironmongers’ shop. I visualized sailors, in port for the day, buying their sweethearts something sparkly at the jeweler’s. I could almost hear the laughter and pleas of children, begging their parents to purchase them a sweet treat from the confectioner’s shop.

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The Windows of Asti, Piemonte, Italy

A collage of 9 different windows (and architectural styles) in the city of Asti, in Italy's Piemonte region.

Perhaps best known for its annual Palio, a 700-year-old bare-back horse race replete with pageantry and tradition, Asti also has a lot to offer architecturally and gastronomically. The Northern Italian city once had more than 70 towers, which symbolized wealth and power. While there are less of them punctuating Asti’s skyline today, the city also features impressive churches and palazzi, beautiful brickwork, and varied architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Baroque to Renaissance.

Which of these finestre are you most drawn to?

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The Door Knockers of Valletta, Malta

A collage of 9 Door Knockers in the city of Valletta Malta

The Mediterranean island nation of Malta may be diminutive, but its limestone buildings’ distinctive door knockers and knobs make a big impression.

Known as il-habbata in Maltese, the knockers largely feature maritime motifs such as dolphins, sea horses, and fish, but I have also spotted a plethora of Maltese crosses, even delicate brass hands, which reminded me of those I saw during past travels to Morocco and Tunisia. I collected this bunch of door adornments in Malta’s capital city of Valletta.

I’ll be featuring a lot more of Malta in the coming months, as Shawn and I moved here two weeks ago! I had a special five-day visit to Malta about one decade ago, but I am looking forward to getting reacquainted with the island and the lovely people I met here last time. For now, we are immersed in bureaucratic tasks like securing visas and official paperwork, and finding an apartment. Please wish us well! :)

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The Windows of Bellinzona, Ticino, Switzerland

Windows Bellinzona Ticino Switzerland

The city of Bellinzona, Switzerland is perhaps best known for its trio of handsome medieval castles, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2000. Yet, this historic city, which sits at the foot of the Alps, has more to offer than these impressive fortifications. Bellinzona also has an elegant Old Town district, a spot which we explored with our dear friend, Claudine, likely already known to you since she is the adoptive mother of our former Ukrainian foster kitten and 2014 travel buddy, Cocoa.

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The Windows of Moldova

Windows of Moldova Architecture

Viewed from afar, Moldova’s villages resemble a cluster of gingerbread houses. The plaster adornments framing the windows and doorways look as though they were made by the steady hand of a pastry maker piping on frosting, and the wooden cut-outs gracing gables reminded me of the lacy paper snowflakes that I used to make as a child. The catch is, my creations never looked so symmetric, nor as intricate as Moldova’s home adornments do! Coupled with utilitarian and decorative water wells, the homes make strolling Moldova’s villages a joy.

Villagers were amused that I appreciated the homes’ folk art decorations so much. Some invited us to enjoy a glass of homemade wine on their lawn, another shared grapes with us, and one school teacher even insisted upon giving me a coffee table book on the topic of Moldovan architecture.

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The Windows of Plzeň, Czech Republic

Plzen Czech Republic Windows

Renowned for its Pilsen beer which was first created there nearly 175 years ago, Plzeň is the Czech Republic’s fourth largest city.

I’ve taken a tour of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in Plzeň, culminating in a taste test of the cool beverage on a sizzling summer day. I’ve even researched a branch of my German-Austrian family in the city’s archives, excited to learn that I could also add Czech to my ever-growing list of ancestries.

From now on, though, I’ll always associate this laid-back Bohemian town as a place through which we passed with our rescued Ukrainian kitten, Cocoa in tow. There were challenges finding a can of tuna for the little guy (tuňák), and even greater struggles opening it. Fortunately, the kind host at our guesthouse was willing to rummage through the kitchen in search of a can opener. Perplexed that no modern one was in sight, he instead used a claw-like contraption to heroically tear the aluminum top open. I feared we’d be calling the hospital to have surgery performed on the young man’s hand. Fortunately, he prevailed unscathed, and little Cocoa left Plzeň with a full belly.

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