To Open and Unlock: A Collection of Photographs of Windows and Doors from Ten Countries (a travel photography book by ME!)

One of the reasons I love to travel is to unlock my curiosity about other people and to open myself to other cultures and religions.” Debby Lee Jagerman

Bhutan Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Ten years of travel. Thirty four countries on five continents visited. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of photographs taken. All while experiencing the people, the cultures, the religions, the scenery, and sometimes even the animals, of the places I visited. And from all this, I have created a travel photography book. A book with ten countries represented, from four continents, based on my favorite subject of my photography- windows and doors.


Bhutan believes in measuring their development and economy not by a GDP, but with Gross National Happiness. The Buddhist religion is strongly embraced by the Bhutanese. It is in this country where I had the honor of trekking several days to the remote village of Laya, as well as the honor of having a brief conversation with the King and Queen of Bhutan the day after they got married. The above photo from Bhutan is the front cover of my book.

Québec City is one of the oldest cities in North America. It was the historical windows and doors set in stone and brick buildings, along with the matching paint colors of the window frames and shutters, coupled with a modern beautiful display of colorful flowers in planters on the window ledges that were the subject of some of my photographs in Québec City.

Quebec City Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Vietnam has 54 distinct ethnic groups, each with its own culture, lifestyle, heritage, language, and style of clothing. The landscape of the country is just as varied. The vibrant and colorful homes of the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, with their windows and doors, seemed to reflect the equally vibrant and colorful people and landscape of Vietnam.

Vietnam Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Quito, Ecuador is one of the gateways to the Galapagos Islands. The restored colonial architecture of the buildings of Old Town Quito, along with the balconies and iron railings of the windows, often overflowing with flowers and plants, captured my attention, and directed my camera lens.

Quito Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

A 500-mile journey, stretching from the Spanish/French border across northern Spain to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, is a pilgrimage that hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims have walked for over 1,000 years. My pictures in this chapter are organized into colors and other subjects such as materials, decorations, symbols, and objects. Yet many pictures could easily be placed into more than one category.

Camino de Santiago Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Bicycling in Skagway, Alaska, an historical boomtown born out of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, is the town that started my tradition of taking pictures of windows and doors in 2002. As I zigzagged through the streets with not much intention or planning, I began to notice the older historical homes, becoming aware of porches, stone fireplaces, and other objects. As I took more pictures, the windows and doors came into focus.

Skagway Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

A five-month solo backpacking trip in Europe brought me to 18 countries, my absolute favorite being Italy. Full of small hill towns, bright yellow sunflower fields, green vineyards, ancient history, fabulous food, gelato. Photos like this one with children’s bikes, made me feel like home. And I found that the windows and doors throughout Italy were as diverse and as flavorful as the gelato.

Italy Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock

Porvoo, Finland, one of the three Baltic Sea Countries that I have represented in the book, is one of the most photographed towns in Finland. It was the cobblestone side streets lined with an assortment of colored windows frames contrasting against the colored siding of the buildings that drew me to photograph here. I felt like I was walking through a rainbow of homes. This photo is the back cover of my book.

Porvoo Windows and Doors To Open and Unlock


Filled with just one picture shy of 250, and one page shy of 100, To Open and Unlock is a book that you won’t be able to look at just once. With so many pictures, you will need more than one sitting to absorb them all. It is a book that will sit on your coffee table (and your family’s coffee table, and your friend’s coffee table, and your family’s friend’s coffee table) for years to come. Each time you browse through it, you will see a picture that you have never noticed before. Or you may see some new detail in a picture that you have seen before, but didn’t notice its subtleties.

Not only are there all these photographs in my book, I explain what attracts me to taking pictures of windows and doors. In addition, I introduce each chapter with reflections of my travels, including short stories containing experiences, impressions, and information of the countries. I’ve also included great quotes about windows and doors, both poignant and funny, from some famous people, throughout the book.

The book is available for you to order on Amazon, with preview on Blurb. You may also order books for your family, your friends, your family’s friends, even your friends’ family. You may also search for the book under my name, Debby Jagerman, or under the title, To Open and Unlock. One may even search using the words “Windows and Doors.” You may also share this blog.

5% of my profits will be donated to Bhutan Foundation.

Thank you!! and Sweet Travels!

At the Norwegian Folk Museum: The Last “Quirky” Museum Blog

In finishing up my series of blogs on “quirky” museums, I happened upon two more collections that caught my attention during my travels, both contained within the open-air Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo.

wine 2 (121 x 200) wine 1 (150 x 200)

The first collection contained an assortment of wine bottles – shelf after shelf of neatly-organized, color-coordinated, nicely-labeled bottles of wine. A history of The Wine Monopoly of 1922 was presented, which was a government-owned company, and the only Norwegian alcoholic beverage retailer allowed to sell drinks with an alcohol content of higher than 4.7%.

wine 3 (156 x 200) wine 4 (150 x 200)

The second collection was in the Norwegian Pharmacy Museum, which displayed shelf after shelf of apothecary-related items, and covered the history of pharmacies in Norway from 1595 to the 20th century.

pharmacy 1 (200 x 157) pharmacy 2 (200 x 146)

I actually also saw a similar museum, the German Pharmacy Museum, located in the Castle of Heidelberg, which had over 20,000 objects celebrating the 2,000 year-old history of the pharmacy and medicinal sciences. All quite, quite fascinating!

pharmacy 3 (200 x 114)


I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed discovering quirky museums during my travels. I mean, after all, where else would I have…

…learned that Baltic Amber, the “Gold of the North,” is petrified resin and sap from deciduous trees, that grew in Northern Europe over 30 to 90 million years ago…

…experienced “the souls of church bells,” where some believe that church bells have souls that are transmitted through their materials…and I believe through their sounds…

…realized that shoes are more than just footwear to protect our feet – they are social indicators, telling of taste, style, prestige, personality, and that “shoes have the power, the vanity, and the magic“…

…researched that coats of arms were used for visual identification, could signify heraldic achievement, or were designed to convey feelings of power and strength…and discovered that the dragon is a symbol for “a valiant defender of treasure“…

…found out about the “facts and history of porcelain in Riga, Latvia,” including that porcelain is made by heating raw materials in a kiln with extremely hot temperatures between 2,192 and 2,552 F…

…been brought back to my childhood while looking at all kinds of games and dolls and stuffed animals and toys, including the art form of paper dolls, as “I remembered playing with those toys“…

…seen three decades-old Latvian fire engines, and thought about fire safety, including the “stop, drop and roll” technique…

…calculated approximately 704 gallons of liquid contained in thousands upon thousands of mini bottles, and had the attitude of “a half-full bottle“…

And where else would I have seen on display over 250 color varieties of amber; a few dozen of the 500 church bells in all of Estonia; 330 pairs of shoes and boots; coats of arms that were 100’s of years old; 6,000 pieces of porcelain; paper dolls dating back to the 1880’s up till the 1970’s; a Latvian fire station build around 1911; and 12,500 mini bottles, but all in quirky museums?

In defining the word “quirky” some synonyms are “original, individual, unusual, eccentric, peculiar, and idiosyncratic.” I really thought that each and every one of these museums was also fascinating, educational, interesting, unique, and truly a lot of fun!

I recommend all these, and any other quirky museums you might encounter in your travels! In fact, if you have any you have visited that you would like to share, feel free to write a comment about them.

Sweet (and Quirky) Travels!

All photos by Debby (except German Pharmacy Museum postcard photo)

Coats of Arms in Latvia and Estonia: A Valiant Defender of Treasure

On the battlefields of medieval times, when Knights in Europe were heavily clothed in metal suits of armour and closed helmets, some sort of quick visual identification was needed during battle. As a matter of survival, the Knights needed to wear marks or symbols on the arms of their armour. Some of these symbols were also embroidered on the arms of the Knight’s surcoats, long and flowing garments that were worn over their armour. Hence, “coats of arms.”

coat of arms 5 (196 x 250)

Historically, some form of coats of arms used for military purposes can be dated back to early man, including Greek and African warriors. These people painted their wooden shields with symbols of their heritage.

But the coats of arms of the medieval times of Europe developed into more than just a military ID badge. They grew to represent many things, and just like the number on your Driver’s License, they became unique to each person, or to a family, or even to an entire region. These emblems, used by several social classes, could signify heraldic achievement, or were designed to convey feelings of power and strength.

coat of arms 1 (250 x 236)

To see the grandeur of these insignias today, after having survived for hundreds of years, is quite extraordinary. I happened upon two unique collections of coats of arms in a couple of churches in Europe. These “quirky” museums were in the St. Peter’s Church of Riga, Latvia and the Tallinn Dome Church of Tallinn, Estonia.

coat of arms 4 (97 x 250)

Both of these collections displayed coats of arms that were actually used as epitaphs, a way to preserve the memory of the deceased. The Latvian collection had wooden epitaph coats of arms from the 18th century, with quite colorful baroque and rococo-style wood carvings. The Estonian collection had some very large coats of arms that were eight and a half feet in length, the oldest dating back to 1586. These were painted with heraldic colors, decorated with lush and luxurious ornamentation, and accented with leaf gold and silver, the combination of which resulted in a mother-of-pearl-like glitter.

coat of arms 6 (250 x 188)

Because the coats of arms were decorated with various pictures, I did a bit of research to find out some of their meanings. For example, birds: an eagle may represent a person of noble nature, or one who is high-spirited; a peacock, beauty, power and knowledge; and a dove, loving constancy and peace. Animals: a lion can symbolize courage; a dragon, a valiant defender of treasure; and a bear, strength, cunning and ferocity in the protection of one’s kindred. Flowers: a rose can characterize hope and joy; a primrose brings good tidings; and a carnation, admiration.

coat of arms 2 (250 x 168)

And then certain objects also have significance. Antlers stand for strength and fortitude; a castle for safety; and musical pipes, festivity and rejoicing. A wavy line denotes the sea or water; an indented line is for fire; and an engrailed line, for the earth or land. Even the colors have meaning: gold, generosity; blue, truth and loyalty; and silver, peace and sincerity.

coat of arms 3 (115 x 250)

If I could design my own coat of arms, I think it should at least contain a yellow sunflower, which to me represents bright sunshine, the outdoors, strength and happiness.

Sweet Travels!

General historical information about coats of arms from wikipedia

and from

Meaning of pictures on coats of arms from Fleur-de-lis Designs

Latvian and Estonian information from the church’s brochures:

coats of arms talrig(292 x 300)

Latvian Fire Fighting Museum: Stop, Drop and Roll

Curious about fire engines and fire hoses and fire alarm devices? Interested in fire fighting services and fire fighting equipment and techniques? Want to learn about some causes of fires, or educate yourself on fire safety? Want to know about the history of fire fighting? And how about all this when you travel to the country of Latvia?

Fire Truck 1 (350 x 331)

Then next time you are in Riga, please visit The Latvian Fire Fighting Museum. Located in a fire station built around 1911, using an Art Nouveau architectural style, this “quirky” museum presents history and objects of fire fighting in Latvia. From 1912 to 1944, a unit of the Riga City Fire Fighters Division used the building where the museum is currently located. And today, the State Fire and Rescue Service of Latvia still occupies part of the building.

Fire Truck 2 (350 x 316)

The museum presents the fascinating history of Latvian fire fighting, from 1864 to 1940, as well as more recent history of Latvia’s State Fire and Rescue Service. The museum demonstrates fire techniques used, including hand pumps and steam pumps and engine pumps. For viewing are some cool-looking fire engines from the “Chevrolet-Sux” 1930’s production line. Fire fighters’ helmets, tools, uniforms, fire alarm devices, hoses, nozzles, awards, medals, photographs, documents, flags and other objects are exhibited, as well as data about some causes of fires and the resulting damage.

Fire Pump (350 x 297)

Unfortunately, when I went to visit this museum, just like my attempt to visit The Mini Bottle Gallery in Oslo, Norway, Riga’s Fire Fighting Museum was closed. (I really must plan some things better when I travel.) But, at least I was able to see the architectural style of the building, three cool-looking decades-old fire engines through the windows, and what looks to be some type of pump (probably the hand-type) displayed on the outside of the museum.

Fire Truck 3 (263 x 350)

Per the State Fire and Rescue Service’s website, I must say that I like this about the museum: “The Latvian Fire Fighting Museum has an important role in the education of the young generation in the area of health and life protection. In the exhibition children can adopt basic knowledge about the fire safety regulations, on behavior in case of a fire, and how to protect themselves and others in extreme situations.”

As a child, I certainly remember learning how to “stop, drop and roll…”

Sweet (and safe) Travels!

Facts, history and quotes complements of the “State Fire and Rescue Services of Latvia” website.

Mini Bottle Gallery in Oslo: A Half-Full Bottle

Continuing on with my series of blogs on “quirky” museums, there is one such museum that was unfortunately closed on the day I went to visit. I wish I had researched their open times better when planning my trip to the Baltic Sea. Alas, I will need to travel there again someday, but at least I was able to get pictures through the windows, and their website contains a wealth of information about them.

The Mini Bottle Gallery in Oslo, Norway has a collection of 53,000 mini bottles. You know, like those little bottles of alcohol that you might purchase on an airplane. The Gallery’s website states that “of the museum’s 53,000 bottles in total, 12,500 are displayed in over 50 unique installations. And 40,500 small bottles are strictly monitored in the bottle vault.”

Mini Bottle 2a (300 x 152)

At approximately 1.7 ounces of liquid per mini bottle (at least that is what you are served on an airplane), that would be a total of 90,100 ounces of something to drink in these bottles in this gallery. That is equivalent to 11,263 cups or 704 gallons! (The accountant in me had to figure this out.) Now that’s a lot of bottles, and a lot of liquid! And, I’m pretty sure that drinking from any of these bottles is not allowed.

It was all these bottles that I really wanted to see the day I tried to go to the museum. But, in peeking through the windows, I at least got a taste of what was displayed inside. (Pun intended.)

From their website in doing my research for this blog, I found out though that the gallery is much more than just a museum. They have the facilities to host a variety of parties and celebrations, business lunches and conferences, and other events. They have two bars and four function rooms, including “The Liqueur Room,” “The Banqueting Hall,” “The Beer Hall,” and “The Mini Bar.”

Mini Bottle 1a (300 x 162)

The gallery can even help you out with finding entertainment for your soiree, such as clowns or comedians, and even DJ’s and live bands and dancing. And it looks like they even assist with the invitations, and serve all kinds of tasty-looking food.

Christian Ringnes Jr., also known as “The Mini Bottle King,” is the founder of this gallery/museum/fun place. When he was 7 years old, Christian’s father gave him a “half-empty” bottle as a gift. (For positivity, I’d rather say a “half-full” bottle.) It was then that Christian began collecting the miniature bottles that would someday become the center of his fine establishment.

Mini Bottle 4a (262 x 300)

Christian’s great-great-grandfather also influenced his interest in bottles, as he was the one who founded the honored Ringnes Brewery in 1877, which is now part of the Danish brewing giant Carlsberg.

The next time I get to Oslo, I will really need to pick a day when this gallery is open to the public, which is the weekends. Or, if I had known, I could have booked a private viewing. Or perhaps, I could someday hold an event there, as it sounds quite fun. (Not sure, though, how many of my friends would travel all the way to Oslo just for a party…)

Mini Bottle 3a (1) (300 x 156)

I have several questions about this place that I would ask during my future visit. Is there only alcohol in all those bottles, or is there some other kind of beverage? Does Oslo have earthquakes, and if so, are all the bottles somehow secured down? And, why are most of the bottles in the Mini Bottle Gallery in a strictly monitored vault?

Sweet Travels!

Please read my other “quirky” museum blogs:
The Toy Museum in Helsinki, Finland
“The Shoe Museum” in Stockholm, Sweden
The Riga Porcelain Museum