The Doors of Valletta, Malta

Valletta has ties to the Knights of Malta and the British. The city is also home to some vibrant and diverse doors.

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 mostly 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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A Valley Ablaze: The König-Ludwig-Feuer in Oberammergau, Germany

Paying homage to Bavaria’s beloved King Ludwig II with bonfires, processions, and revelry.

For more than 125 years, residents in the tiny German town of Oberammergau have celebrated the eve of the birth of the fairy-tale Bavarian King Ludwig II with a dramatic and fiery bonfire display, called the König-Ludwig-Feuer.

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Curvy Exhilaration: Riding the Alpine Coaster in Oberammergau, Germany

Oberammergau’s alpine coaster just might be the town’s most thrilling activity.

Zipping down the foothills of the German Alps in an alpine coaster, I screamed out of fear and fun. And Shawn quickly learned a new German word: Bremsen (brakes)!

Seeking an Alpine adrenaline rush in Oberammergau, a tiny town situated in Upper Bavaria, we’d come to the right place — the Kolbensattel Alpine Coaster, a summer luge course of sorts.

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The Windows of Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb Croatia ArchitectureMy ‘window collecting’ mission in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital city, was as hurried as our day and a half there.

Arriving via Germany, Austria, and Slovenia earlier in the morning, we settled into our apartment, and took to the streets, while dodging raindrops and securing some goodies at one of the local supermarkets. Our whirlwind exploration took us to a café where we enjoyed Latte Macchiatos, then to St. Mark’s Church, probably one of the city’s most well-known landmarks thanks to its brilliant-colored tiled roof bearing the coat of arms of Zagreb.

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A Peek at Germany’s Ettal Monastery

Spying the elaborate dome of the Ettal Monastery for the first time, I was surprised to see such ornate architecture dramatically rising out of the countryside, juxtaposed with the area’s modest Bavarian homes. The monastery, located in the village of Ettal, is not far from the mountain village of Oberammergau, which is well-known for its Passion Play, held every ten years.

Founded in the 1300s, but completely rebuilt in the 1700s following a devastating fire, the complex features Baroque and Rococo architecture. Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian had it constructed so that it could house knights and monks. For many years, the monastery’s monks have brewed their own beer and made their own straw-colored liqueur using mountain herbs, and today it’s still possible to purchase both.

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The Windows of Basque Country, France

Le Pays Basque France

Nestled in French Basque Country, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a fishing port and resort town just minutes away from France’s border with Spain.

We book-ended our two-week stay in Bilbao, Spain with day and weekend trips to Bordeaux and Rioja Alavesa wine country, elegant Biarritz, France, and seaside Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

When Shawn, his parents and I weren’t tempted by what was in Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s ground-level windows – most notably the tempting tarts of golden-brown known locally as Gâteaux Basques – we focused our attention upon the buildings’ upper-level windows, and their delightful flourishes.

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Slap Happy: Dancing the Schuhplattler in Bavaria

One of the joys of exploring Germany’s Bavaria region is witnessing the people’s penchant for preserving tradition. In the village of Oberammergau, where we’ve spent much time visiting my parents, it’s not uncommon to spot an older gentleman wearing a loden green, woolen hat, with feather, during a grocery-shopping trip. On holidays, ladies often don vibrant Dirndls (dresses with poofy sleeves and aprons finished off with a pretty bow). And, during festivals, dancers of all ages take to the stage to show off their dancing skills, looked on by revelers with mugs of beer, a lively brass band, and an occasional yodeler.

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The Windows of Novi Sad, Serbia

Novi Sad Serbia WindowsNovi Sad dramatically welcomes visitors with its formidable fortress and clock tower boasting reversed hour and minute hands. Like so many strategic spots in the region, Novi Sad also has a complicated history. It’s been conquered by the Celts and Romans, Byzantines, Hungarians, Ottomans and Habsburgs. The city’s complex past is reflected in Novi Sad’s eclectic architecture, and well-illustrated by the whimsical windows featured here.

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