Oodles of kindness found in Croatia

05.08.2018 Starigrad cycling (8)
Cycling by the Croatian coast near Starigrad Paklenica

Perhaps all our spring holidays are destined to have an ‘incident’ and if a bicycle accident is as bad as it gets on this trip then we are happy enough [although no incident at all would be better].  We were visiting the lovely town of Samobor, a short distance north-west of Zagreb and in a region famed for its wine and the grapes are grown in small strips of vineyards on the steep slopes.  Samobor’s main square is packed with cafes, many of them serving the local speciality cakes, kremsnita, a light and fluffy version of a vanilla slice.  These are delicious and we tucked in to a slice each while considering how friendly all the Croatian people we had met were.  In every cafe and campsite people had been helpful and welcoming and also pleased when we used our four words of Croatian.  We speculated whether Croatian people were naturally nice or if all these people were just good at their tourism jobs.

 

Our lovely campsite was a two kms easy cycle ride in to Samobor’s town centre along flat roads.  Climbing back on our bikes after our cakes we found the one-way system took us up a hill and as we then descended a steep residential street a breeze caught my much loved Portuguese sunhat I was wearing and I stupidly put a hand up to save the hat.  At that moment time went in to slow motion as it dawned on me that I was losing control of my bike and I was going to hit the tarmac.

Every part of my body hit the road in some way.  My lovely calm husband made sure I was safe and gently untangled me from my bike.  I could hardly move as I cautiously checked the many different parts of my body that hurt and when I did try and sit upright dizziness overcame me so I stayed lying down.  Over the next thirty minutes every Croatian who passed us by, in cars, on foot and other cyclists, stopped to ask if they could help, reverting to English as soon as they realised we weren’t Croatian; their kind-heartedness was both natural and extraordinary.  One man from the street bought a bottle of water, other local residents offered a pillow and everyone asked if they could call an ambulance for us.

I hoped I would be able to get back on my bike but it became apparent this might not be possible in the short-term and so Luka and his brother Noah, whose house I had fallen outside, came up with a plan to help.  They stored my amazingly undamaged bike in their garage, helped me in to their car and drove me the short distance to our campsite.  Hubby followed on his bike and then Luka and Noah took him back so that he could return on my bike; what heroes!  During our car journey I was still in shock and at first could only keep repeating ‘Hvala’ [thank you], ‘You speak Croatian!’ Luka delightedly exclaimed.  I managed to pull myself together enough for conversation and Luka, Noah and I found a shared love of Manchester United, we talked about the many beautiful places we had seen in Croatia and they told me about their studies.  They were both exceptionally generous human beings.

At the campervan I investigated my injuries, cleaned up the cuts and grazes, got out the ice packs and ibuprofen and counted my lucky stars I had no broken bones.  My left wrist was sprained, a rib cracked, my right hand had some wounds and there was blood on my face from grazes.  In truth it is easier to tell you where I don’t have any bruises than describe where they are.  The right side of my face soon swelled up and after a couple of days the bruises emerged from underneath my tan.  I keep forgetting about this visible sign of my injuries and then wonder why people are looking at me strangely, children must be saying to their parents, ‘Why has that woman got a blue face?’  I can’t open a jar of olives just at the moment, reaching up to all those high cupboards in the ‘van is painful and getting comfortable at night is tricky [even with painkillers] but it could have been so much worse.

Falling off my bike is a drastic way to test the goodness of the people of Croatia but we can now confidently say that Croatia is not only beautiful it is also truly friendly.

 

 

Advertisements

Most German campsites are excellent but some are more excellent than others

04.27.2018 Munsingen cycle ride (11).JPG
The Swabian Alb biosphere near Münsingen is perfect for cycling

We rarely plan much when it comes to our trips around Europe, so much depends on what we want to do, how we feel and the weather.  And so we rolled in to Hofgut Hopfenburg campsite near to the pretty town of Münsingen in Baden-Württemberg and south of Ulm expecting little more than a comfortable place to overnight.  We received a friendly welcome and I left reception with a local cycling map and information about the nearby Swabian Alb biosphere, a local nature reserve.  This looked promising so we decided to stay and explore.

The campsite is terraced and so pitches have a view across the town to the gentle green hills beyond.  The facilities are excellent with good hot showers, indoor washing up area [you remember how important I think that is] and were clean and modern.  Wonderful fresh bread was available every day and the campsite runs a small shop selling local products.  As well as touring pitches the site has a collection of wooden Romany caravans, yurts, tipis and some chalets so visitors have a choice of accommodation.  While we were staying a wedding was held in the garden.

If you are using this marvellous campsite as a stop-over there is a nature reserve accessible from the site where you can stretch your legs for an hour or so after a day of driving.  This hillside reserve with meadows, woodland and an arboretum has views over the town and is also a pretty walk in to Münsingen.

For around 100 years [until 2005] the undulating meadows and woodland to the east of Münsingen were used as a military training ground.  Initially by the German army and after 1945 by the French army who, in particular, used the area for tank manoeuvres.  Inaccessible to the public the area in some ways stood still and the wildlife was protected, although always at risk of being blown up.  Today this area is once again accessible and managed to protect the wildlife, although visitors need to stick to the paths because of the risk of un-exploded ordnance.

We began at the Biosphere Centre in the old military barracks which are surprisingly charming buildings.  As well as the information centre there is an art gallery here but as we cycled around most of the buildings appeared to be empty.  The Biosphere Centre has headphones with an English tour and we learnt a lot about the wildlife, geology, culture and the management of the area.

The tarmac paths around the reserve are perfect for cycling and are all way-marked and numbered.  The area is fairly flat with only small hills to conquer and cycling is just the right pace to enjoy this landscape.  On a sunny weekday there were few people around and we were happy cycling on these traffic-free routes lined with trees rich with blossom.  In the fields are large herds of sheep that are managed to maintain the diversity of plants in the grassland and kestrels and buzzards hunted over the fields.

On a hilltop is the abandoned village of Gruorn.  The villagers were forced from their homes to make way for the military training in 1939 and the houses were used for practice.  Today the church and old school house have been restored and both can be visited.  The schoolhouse has a museum about the village and a cafe.  The churchyard is attractive and colourful with flowers and we sat in the sunshine enjoying a beer before continuing back to the excellent campsite.

04.27.2018 Munsingen cycle ride (5).JPG
Part of the old military barracks

Three weeks and as many seasons in Scotland

Strathdearn day (2).JPG
A mistle thrush in the snow

Mr BOTRA and I have visited Scotland at Easter most years since 1981 [apologies if I’ve told you this before but it does tell you something about me].  I love going to Scotland and having been so often I am used to the variable Easter weather and the need to pack for every season.  On previous trips we have had both heavy snow and warm sunshine [shorts and t-shirts needed] and every weather in between.  This year’s holiday was no exception.

We used to go to Scotland for a week but now we are retired [yippee] we can go for longer.  An early stopover was the lovely Sunnyside Campsite in Arisaig; we scrambled over the rocky bay in evening sunshine watching an orange sun go down behind the islands of Rum and Eigg.  Only a few days later we reached the top of Fionn Bheinn [933 metres high] in low cloud and snow and getting no outstanding view for our efforts.  This was particularly annoying because walking up the mountain we had been mostly in sunshine and had needed sunglasses to deal with the glare from the snow.  It took a long time to get out of the cloud on the descent but once we had visibility again we relaxed throwing snowballs down the steep slope.  We moved across to the Black Isle and on a dull cloudy day decided on an easy walk up Cnoc Fyrish a small hill [just 453 metres high] with a folly above Alness.  As we climbed up the paths it started to rain and even on this small hill the rain became snow as we got higher.  At the summit [again no view] we were in a winter wonderland and we played in the deep snow and built a snow robot that waved at us as we left the hilltop.  A few more days later we were in shirt sleeves as we walked over the Corrieyairack Pass.  Next a cold snap rolled in and we were wrapped in every layer we owned and still felt the sharp chilly wind as we looked around the impressive Linlithgow Palace on our way south.

We had perfect weather for a stunning short walk from Blair Atholl in to Glen Tilt.  From the car park we followed attractive paths through woodland, stopping to watch agile red squirrels high above our heads.  We emerged at a view point with a panoramic view along the glen.  It was so peaceful and sunny here we kicked off our shoes and practiced our tai chi forms on the soft grass and in the fresh air before walking back down to the village with its splendid white turreted castle.

This year [as a birthday gift for our son] we booked a wildlife guide for a four-hour wildlife watching trip for us and son and daughter-in-law to give us a better chance of confidently spotting golden eagles.  We spent a morning with John from Highland Nature based at Nethybridge and we experienced dramatically changing weather in the four hours we were out.  John proved to be an excellent guide who took us to Strathdearn along the river Findhorn and revealed all manner of wildlife to us.  As we set off it started to snow heavily and there was little visibility as we watched red squirrels scampering up and down the pine trees.  We stopped to see golden plover and other waders by the river before continuing to the head of the valley.  Stopping in the car to watch some sikka deer on the hillside we were entertained by a large horse in the field next to the road that was desperate for some attention.  We wound down the windows to get a better look at the sikka deer and the large working horse insisted on putting its head through the window, blocking our view!  We also spotted red deer on the hillsides and a group of feral goats sheltering in woodland.  The mistle thrush I managed to catch a photograph of [above] was singing on a fence post as we drove down the single-track road.  At the head of the valley John spotted a mountain hare on the hillside and we watched it through the scope quietly nibbling the surrounding grass that was showing through the snow.  The snow shower eventually moved on and the valley was transformed by blue skies and sunshine in to a magnificent landscape blanketed in snow, bright in the sunlight.  We saw a couple of golden eagles [helped by the younger and alert eyes of our daughter-in-law] making their way over the mountains, as well as a red kite, a goshawk and a peregrine falcon.  On the river we watched a dipper marking its territory with song and the common gulls that nest here wheeled overhead.  It was a fascinating and wonderful morning and I learnt so much from someone that is regularly out watching the local wildlife.

Fionn Beinn with Stephen and Jenny (1).JPG
Sunshine on the way up Fionn Bheinn

A Scottish challenge: crossing the Corrieyairack Pass in snow

P1090181
Heading up the Corrieyairack Pass

Okay, I admit it, I laughed when Anthony sank to his waist in the soft snow near the top of the Corrieyairack Pass, silly me as minutes later it was me that was floundering in the deep snow.  Frustratingly, the snow would take our weight most of the time and then without warning one of us would cross a particularly soft and deep patch and down we would sink.  Walking on this unpredictable surface was hard work and really not what we needed on a long day of 33 kilometres of walking but the sun was shining and I was achieving an ambition so didn’t complain.

We were tackling the Corrieyairack Pass, a remote old route that stretches across the Monadhliath Mountains in Scottish Highlands.  In 1731 General Wade was responsible for constructing military roads across Scotland to enable troops to move quickly around northern Scotland and the Corrieyairack was part of his route from Fort Augustus, on the shore of Loch Ness to Laggan and Ruthven Barracks.  It is now so long ago that I can’t remember when I first noticed this old road on a map but from the moment I did I knew I wanted to walk this route one day.  This was the day.

We had left our campervan at 07.00 on a glorious morning, the mist hanging in the valleys and the promise of sunshine in the air.  Our cheerful taxi driver told us stories about living in this part of Scotland and joined us in gasping at the beauty of the mountains reflected in the loch as he drove us to Garva Bridge where we intended to start our walk.  From here it is 28 kms to Fort Augustus and 500 – 600 metres of climbing.  The tarmac road continues a little beyond Garva Bridge to Melgarve where there is a tidy bothy with a fire and a wooden sleeping platform and a room called General Wade’s office.  Cars are not allowed beyond Melgarve and we got in to the stride of the walk from here enjoying the isolation and peacefulness and the feel of the sun on the back of our necks as we took turns in spotting red deer on the hillsides.  We had packed our rucksacks for survival in wintery weather but it was so warm we could have walked in shorts and sunhats.

Today the Corrieyairack is also crossed by pylons and these giant structures punctuated most of our route.  At each stream I found what remained of the old stone General Wade bridges; a few of them are intact but many are gone.  At Allt a’Mhill Ghaibh we had been expecting to have to paddle over the burn and were pleased to see a new wooden bridge had been constructed.  By the corrie that gives the pass its name the route becomes steeper and General Wade constructed the road in a series of zig-zags.  In early April weather after heavy snow the week before these were under a few feet of snow and so we tackled the hillside directly rather than taking the easier graded zig-zags.

The top of the pass is at 770 metres (2,526 feet) above sea level and this exposed spot caught the wind and the snow was frozen and shone blue with ice crystals.  We needed some of those layers we had been carrying here while we admired the view.  This was breathtaking; snow-clad mountains stretched from left to right to our north and we struggled to take it all in, looking for any familiar shapes among the multitude of mountains.  I posed for a photograph grinning at having achieved the top and tried to take in the beauty and the remoteness of where we were.

We had some difficulty route finding from the top with so much snow underfoot but in the clear conditions we headed left and eventually picked up signs of the familiar old road running parallel with the pylons.  After the excitement of climbing up the pass our slightly longer descent could have felt a bit of an anti-climax but the Corrieyairack had kept some surprises for us.

We were delighted to spot three mountains hares in total; one sat by the old road, its long ears twitching alertly as we froze and watched before it scented us and hurried away.  The hares were still in their white winter coat and soon disappeared in the snow.  Once we were off the snow the route finding was once again easy and here there were wooden posts beside the track to mark it.  With no one around we sang old songs as we descended and the panorama of mountains slowly disappeared.  We stopped to rest by one of Wade’s stone bridges and on the bridge at Allt Lagan a’ Bhaihne we met the only other people we had seen since Garva Bridge, four cyclists on their way over the pass.   I asked them where they were from, ‘Holland, said one, ‘You keep saying that,’ said another sitting opposite and explained, ‘We’re not from Holland we’re from the Netherlands.’  They asked about the snow conditions at the top and told us about their Scottish coast-to-coast route.

On the lower slopes of the Corrieyairack we saw red grouse flying low across the heather and nearer to Fort Augustus strips of heather were being burnt, the acrid smell didn’t encourage us to stop and rest.  The end was in sight as we got our first glimpse of Loch Ness spreading out to the horizon.  It was now the early afternoon and starting to cloud over after the bright blue start to the day as we passed the pink Culachy House.

The last section in to Fort Augustus is a pretty walk by the river and through a peaceful old burial ground.  We arrived in Fort Augustus very tired and in our weary confusion failed to notice the bus stop and therefore watched the 15.12 bus to Inverness drive by.  At Fort Augustus’ main bus shelter we checked for the next bus and found we had over an hour to wait.  As we were dallying a tourist from Taiwan approached us for help and even in our befuddled state we managed to sort out her public transport needs (ask any of my friends, I missed my vocation as a travel agent).  We watched three boats climbing up the series of locks on the Caledonian Canal and decided we had time for a drink before catching the next bus.  On entering the nearest pub the bar man recognised two exhausted walkers and suggested a pint each, how could we refuse.  In Inverness we feasted on chips in the amazing and popular Charlie’s Cafe, a real greasy-spoon of a place with motorbikes on display above the tables and started to revive.

The 18.45 train from Inverness got us to Newtonmore at 19.45 and we walked back to the campsite in the dusk.  Every single muscle in my legs ached but despite the pain I was happy, I had at last walked over the Corrieyairack Pass.

Practicalities:

The Walk Highlands website has a description of the route.

We used Gerry’s Taxis in Aviemore and he was on time and friendly.

We stayed at Invernahavon Campsite near to Newtonmore.  They have some lodges and cute wooden caravans as well as pitches for tents and motorhomes.

We walked a total of 33.5 kms.  Garva Bridge to Fort Augustus is 28 kms (Melgarve at the 6 km point, the top of the pass at 12 km, the hut at Blackburn at 18 km and you reach the road at 24 km).  This took us eight hours to walk, other people could certainly do it in less time.  From Newtonmore Railway Station we had a further 5.5 kms to walk back to the campsite, this took us an hour.

P1090201.JPG
Nearly at Fort Augustus
P1090178.JPG
Reaching the snowline

What if you had loads of money?

Thames article photos (8).JPG
A very expensive house boat on the River Thames

We were at a travel show recently and began to daydream about what we might do if we didn’t have to live on our budget and had a bucket-full of money to spare.  We have a good and happy life spending our £24,000 a year, we travel around Europe in our campervan, socialise, eat as much ice-cream as we need and go to the cinema and concerts pretty much when we want.  Our frugal lifestyle isn’t exactly impoverished and we are content with the life we have because it is the one we chose.  Although I find it hard to put myself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t need to watch the pennies [after 40-years of thrift] I have pushed myself to have fun playing the what-if game?  So … what if a premium bond win or a surprise inheritance suddenly gave us an extra £10,000 to spend, what do I think we would do with it?

  1. Topping up the contingency fund

No surprise here, we might be really boring and just add this to our contingency fund but that isn’t really playing the game is it?

2. Travel

Turns out if we had a chunk of money I would mostly want to use it to do something we certainly couldn’t do without the money and this is travel to see far-away friends.  We have dear friends in the USA and in Australia and spending time with them would be such a wonderful treat.  We have the time now and it is really only the cost of the flights that stops us packing a suitcase and going.  Unfortunately, our current budget doesn’t quite allow for this trip on top of our European trips in our campervan.

The other trip that is hugely expensive but that I have on my wish list is taking the campervan to Iceland on the ferry [over €3,000 for 2018] but what a trip that would be; in my dreams we would spend a month or so touring around Iceland, just imagine …

3. A new home?

I am comfortable living in the less wealthy side of town  where our neighbours are hard-working individuals who don’t go to work in suits but often leave early in the morning in a high-vis jacket; I like living alongside these down-to-earth folk.  £10,000 wouldn’t be enough to make moving home worthwhile but double that might have us considering buying somewhere in the posher [and more expensive] part of town.  We certainly wouldn’t be buying an expensive house boat on the River Thames.

4. A shopping spree?

Even with money to burn we wouldn’t start buying stuff.  Would we buy a new campervan I hear you ask?  Our current Devon Tempest works really well for us, is only three-years old and has done just 26,000 miles; this hardly merits replacement.

5. Giving

In my dreams I have enough money to be able to give a chunk of cash to one or more of my favourite local charities, helping them to be financially stable, and still have enough left over to shower my friends and family with gifts.

These might be harmless musings but it has spurned me on to start calculating the cost of my dream trip to visit our faraway friends.  Having under-spent on our £27,000 budget by £3,000 in 2017 I might hang on to this dream by just a tiny thread.  If we under-spend again in 2018 it might become a real possibility in the future.

 

 

Making the most of a short break in Milan

03.16.18 Milan (6) Walking tour
The beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan

The northern Italian city of Milan is the perfect city for a short break and its popularity has grown in recent years following the 2015 Expo.  A couple of days were certainly not enough to see everything in Milan but we managed to pack in some of the well-known and lesser-known sights creating a weekend that was pure Italian and gave us glimpses in to the spirit of the city.  These are my highlights for your own visit:

Piazza del Duomo – You won’t want to miss getting to the Piazza del Duomo.  From here you will be overwhelmed by the extravagant and ornate front of Milan’s gothic Duomo.  Once you have taken in the grandeur of the cathedral, look to your left to see the equally stunning entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II 19th century shopping mall.  This is the heart of Milan and a must for every visitor and it is always crowded but gazing at the surrounding splendour you forget the hordes.  Strolling through the Galleria to La Scala is free; visiting the Duomo isn’t and except maybe in the depths of winter involves joining queues.  The experience not to be missed is climbing up to the terraces on the roof of the Duomo and going here at sunset has many advantages.  Late in the day the queues are shorter and the crowds less; we were the next to last group in the lift to the roof [the staff tried to put us off, telling us we might not get up before they closed but we stuck with it] and with no further visitors following us we could find some quiet corners among the many statues that adorn the building.  Reaching the front of the Duomo that faces west and the setting sun, I could hear the music and chatter from the surrounding rooftop bars. The disadvantage of going late at night was that we couldn’t get in to the interior until the next day and so had to queue again [for about an hour and a half] and after so much build up the interior of the Duomo is a bit of a let down.

Coffee and cake in a classic italian Cafe – Pasticceria Marchesi has been making cakes and coffee since 1824 and is worth the expense for the excellent coffee and delicious cakes.  There are three shops in Milan and we visited the charming and smaller cafe near to Sforza Castle.  As lunch time approached the cafe became busy with people coming in for lunch and a swift coffee and the system of ordering from one counter and paying at a till appeared chaotic.  We had been walking all morning and enjoyed a relaxing sit down in the calmer back room so felt we had our money’s worth.

Panzerotti Luine – Eating in Milan is rarely cheap so you need to take the opportunity for something affordable when you can.  For a few Euros you can buy delicious Italian streetfood; fried, baked or sweet panzerotto, a stuffed bread snack.  The classic panzerotto is fried with a mozzarella and tomato filling.

With locals walking tour – Over two-and-a-half hours our guide took us to places we would never have found without her local knowledge and gave us an inside flavour of the city and this proved to be an excellent introduction to Milan.

Rinascente food hall and roof top cafe – I could have spent hours in the food hall at Rinascente department store; it is packed with Italian goodies.  It is also worth climbing up the seventh floor of this store for the roof top cafe.  We visited in the early evening and had a selection of Campari cocktails and snacks for the full Milan experience with a view of the ornate roof line of the Duomo and surrounded by noisy chattering Italians.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper – It is an incredible story that this painting on the wall of the Refectory at the Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie survived at all.  In its 500-years it has lived through being an armory, prison and animal shelter, as well as bombing and many restorations.  It is claimed that the last restoration in the 1990s took the painting back to its original and it certainly brilliantly and humanly captures a moment in the story of the last supper.

Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore You could spend all your days visiting churches in Milan and you might walk by this unassuming church and not think twice about popping in but make sure you do.  Inside this former convent are such glorious frescoes on every inch of the walls it is worth seeking out.

Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio – Near to the Navigli district and one of the oldest churches in Milan, this church doesn’t have the abundance of frescoes of the Chiesa di San Maurizio but has some interesting features including an early Christian church underneath the existing building.  In the 15th century Portinari Chapel there are colourful frescoes on the ceiling and an ornate ark with the remains of Peter Rosini, known as Peter Martyr or Peter from Verona, the prior of Como.

Naviglio Grande – You can walk or cycle for many kilometres along this canal that once was used by ships bringing the marble for the Duomo in the centre of Milan.  On a rainy morning we attempted to work off some of the calories we had consumed in the cafes, restaurants and bars of Milan by walking some of the canal.  Near to its end the canal area has been gentrified and is now lined with cafes and there are often market stalls.  After working up an appetite we found the canalside Universo Vegano cafe for some delicious and healthy lunch.

Buskers – I like to find time to stop and listen to or watch some of the many street artists wherever we visit and I will happily hand over some change to say thank you for the entertainment.  The street artists of Milan are regulated and are usually high quality artists.

Braidense National Library – Enter the courtyard of the old Palace of the Collegio Gesuitico di Brera, pass the classrooms full of students at the art college and climb the stairs to the library, opened to the public in 1786 thanks to Maria Theresa who considered that Milan needed “an open library for the common use of anyone who wants to cultivate his mind, and acquire new knowledge.”  The peaceful and atmospheric library has shelves of old books and holds temporary exhibitions about some of its collection.

Brera Botanical Garden – Tucked away behind the Braidense National Library we found this small botanical garden famous for its old Ginkgo biloba trees.  Here were signs of spring with blossom on the trees and flowering bulbs.  In summer this would be a cool place to relax that is away from the bustle of the city.

Parco Sempione – Beyond Sforza Castle is this large park that is popular with both visitors and locals.  Covering 116 acres the park has many grand monuments and winding paths among grass that are perfect for a walk.  On our visit there was a fairground in the park with terrifying rides.

 

 

Doorways & windows around Europe: some ramblings

 

 

Looking through my photographs from recent trips in our campervan one theme stands out.  I have to acknowledge that I can’t help myself; I am always taking photographs of doors and windows.  You might ask how many photographs of doorways and windows one travel writer needs and the answer is clearly an infinite number.  Wherever I am, either at home in Salford and Manchester or in a new village or city, I look for the detail in doorways and check out buildings above the shops to see the windows and the details on the buildings.  This got me thinking, what is it about doors and windows that appeals to me.  I am certainly drawn to an unusual and beautiful doorway and window and I am a real sucker for shutters and stained glass.  But is it just the aesthetics of the doors and windows themselves or is it something more?  Windows and doors are portals to an inner world that is often private.  Am I secretly longing to know what is behind the openings or am I more interested in what might emerge from those doors and windows?

The Romans had a god for many things, including doorways.  Janus, usually shown as a two-faced god, looks to the future and the past and was also the god of beginnings endings and transitions; the Romans understood the lure and significance of the doorway.    Doors, although often beautiful, are closed; they act as the border between the open street and private space.  A closed door has potential but what is hidden beyond may be good and exciting or it may be evil.  The locked door is a familiar metaphor in many tales; we have to get beyond these closed doors to reach something we are seeking.  A locked door is both a temptation into the unknown and a barrier to access; knocking on an unfamiliar door is always daunting.   Doors have the duality of Janus, being closed and open, locked and unlocked, positive and negative and these contradictions are intriguing.

In contrast, windows are transparent, we can see inside and out through the glass.  Windows are also a public stage for beautiful objects; in our 80-year old flat we have wide windowsills and we use these to display favourite objects, a single ornament and an ancient inherited plant in a pot.  By placing these at the public face of the house we are sharing them with the wider world.  Windows are the eyes of the house and the items in the window give a glimpse behind those eyes.

Standing and staring out of a window is a way to travel to other places without moving from home.  Our flat has lots of windows that let the morning and evening sun flood in to the rooms and from these windows I watch the outside world, creating stories in my head.  Whenever we arrive somewhere new the first thing I do [before I check out the interior] is go to the windows and look at the view; I think this is me getting my bearings in a new place, finding out where the sun rises and who I can see and be seen by.  Looking up in a new city I like to imagine myself standing at some of the beautiful windows I see; I wonder how life in this street looks from above and what it would be like to live there.  For me windows only represent the positive; openings to different perspectives and portals for fresh air and sunlight.

The photographs in this post are really just a small selection from my collection of doorways and windows.  The evidence of my addiction is right before your eyes!