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.

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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

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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!

Excerpts from Europe: “The Blue Dragonflies of Krka National Park” in Croatia

After my beautiful, yet rainy, day at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, I felt like I wanted another day with nature. So I ventured to another National Park, Krka. Whereas in Plitvice, I was serenaded by sounds of frogs, at Krka, I was taken with the brilliance of the blue dragonflies.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004:
Today started out at the Croatian house in Sibenik that I was staying in, where the owner made me breakfast. Coffee and pancakes. I can’t remember the Croatian word for the pancake, but she told me she made them out of water, milk, and the yellow of eggs. Maybe she said flour, too. I put marmalade on them, and enjoyed a nice homemade meal.

Krka National Park

After breakfast, I went to the bus station where I caught a bus to Krka National Park. I first stopped, however, at the Franciscan Church in Sibenik. (Once again, another church, as I like to do a lot during my travels.) No one was inside, so it was peaceful. A good way to start the day. The sun was also out, unlike my rainy day in Plitvice, so even a better start for the day.

I hopped on a bus to Skradin, the town right near Krka. The real entrance to Krka, however, was via a short boat ride from Skradin. My main goal for today was to take a second boat to a Franciscan monastery that dates from 1576, which was located on an island in the middle of a lake in Krka.

When I got to the Krka ticket office, I paid for my way into to the park. I was told, though, that I needed to buy the ticket for the boat to the monastery at a different place, where they would assign an allotted departure time, which turned out to be 2pm.

Krka National Park

I had a several hours to enjoy before the boat to the monastery, so I strolled along the main boardwalk around the waterfalls of Krka. There were fewer paths here than at Plitvice, so I actually had time to walk around them twice, including snack breaks. It was quite scenic, all the water and trees.

At 2pm, I boarded the three-and-a-half hour boat tour, which actually made a couple of stops. The first stop was the monastery on Visovac Island. I believe that they said this island is only 100 by 150 meters (328 by 492 feet). Quite small. There were very colorful flower gardens, and a circle of cypress trees, surrounding the monastery. There was also a church, and a museum which contained interesting displays of both religious art and African art.

Krka National Park

The second stop on the boat tour was to a waterfall. The lakes between the waterfalls at Krka were much larger than the lakes at Plitvice. (More comparisons later.) We got an hour at this stop (we had a half hour at the monastery), where I just took off and went for a walk by myself. I found a road following some streams and meandered for a while.

It was here that I saw the blue dragonflies. Intriguing iridescent blue dragonflies. They were very pretty to watch as they fluttered around, and I spent some time just looking at them.

I continued walking up and down the road, enjoying the waterfalls and the streams, and then made my way back to the boat. After the tour, I took the boat from the entrance of Krka to Skradin, and made my way back to Sibenik.

Krka National Park

Between Plitvice and Krka, I would say that Plitvice, even in the rain, was more impressive in some ways, but Krka was more impressive in other ways. Plitvice had a lot more waterfalls with smaller lakes, whereas there were fewer waterfalls in Krka, but the lakes were larger. There were definitely more trails and paths in Plitvice, as I explored there for hours on end. But Krka had the quaint and peaceful monastery on an island.

Between the two national parks, I felt like I really got some good outdoor and nature experiences, and a sense of the beauty of Croatia.

Sweet Travels!

Excerpts from Europe: “Plitvice Lakes” in Croatia

Countless waterfalls that inter-connect 16 colorful lakes, all surrounded by lush forest, and unique flora and fauna. A place like no other on this planet. This is Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Five miles of trails and wooden paths took me and my friend Susan on a day-long journey with nature.

Plitvce Waterfalls

Saturday, June 5, 2004:
We awoke this morning about 8:30, after a good night’s sleep in the zimmer, a private room in someone’s home, in Grabovac, Croatia, a town just outside of Plitvice Lakes National Park. The zimmer was right across the street from where the bus dropped us off last night. We didn’t even have a reservation here, but we got this great room, with a shower down the hall, all for the price of a bed in a hostel. Actually, we got pretty lucky in getting this room at all because all the hotels in the town were already full for this weekend, due to a marathon, of all things. And there are no hostels in this town, my usual night’s place to rest.

Plitvice Waterfalls

We had just enough time to get ready for our 9:00 breakfast, included in the price of our room. Hard boiled eggs, bread, cheese, salami, yogurt. A traditional Croatian, even European meal. What was even better, also included in our price, is that the daughter of the owner of the zimmer would drive us to the entrance of Plitvice Park.

As we were driving, however, we got stopped by “traffic.” This turned out to be the Plitvice Marathon. The one that all the hotels were booked up for. 49 kilometers, 26 miles, through this area. What a beautiful area to run in, with lots of trees surrounding. We had to wait for about 500 runners to go on the main road that we were on and turn up hill to a smaller road. A half an hour probably passed, but that was just fine. I mean, how many times in one’s life, would one witness a Croatian marathon?

Plitvice Waterfalls

We arrived at the entrance to the park, bought our tickets, and got maps of the area in the souvenir shop.

It was raining today. At first, I was a bit disappointed, but as it turned out, it didn’t matter at all. In the Croatian rain, and fog, Susan and I walked around Plitvice for seven hours. It was extremely beautiful. Lakes and waterfalls and more lakes and more waterfalls. Countless waterfalls. Blues, greens, azures, turquoises. Plants and trees and more plants and trees. And some wildflowers. It was great to get back in touch with nature.

The sound of Croatian frogs accompanied us during our day. We saw a few of them, but mostly heard them. This was very cool to listen to as we walked around.

Plitvice Waterfalls

We explored just about every path and wooden walkway that we could, except for one long one around the furthest lake. There were two sets of lakes, the Upper, and the Lower. To get from the Lower Lakes to the Upper Lakes, we took a little boat ride across one of the lakes.

I found out that “slap” is the Croatian word for waterfall, and “jezera” is the Croatian word for lake.

Plitvice Waterfalls

After our walk, we went to the main town of Plitvice, just to say we’ve been there. I bought some postcards in one of the hotels. We then went to a restaurant for dinner by the entrance of the park. But not before I crossed the finish line of the marathon. Yeah, me! (Ya, right…) Actually we just happened to walk by it, so there is a photo of me “crossing” the finish line.

Plitvice Marathon

For dinner I had a salad and potatoes “baked on a bell.” Not sure what that was exactly, but they were good potatoes. As we were eating, festivities occurred. First we were “serenaded” by a group of people singing Croatian songs. My guess is they were joyous marathon runners. Next a band came over to play – an accordion, a cello, a guitar, and a ukulele. Croatian music, with a bit of “Oh Susanna” mixed in.

Croatian Band

Then the group singing joined in with the band, and they all started singing together. A waltz was played, and people danced.

After dinner, Susan and I were picked up by the owner of the zimmer. I took a nice warm shower, and now I am writing a bit in my journal. I think I will try to figure out where to travel to next in Croatia. But really, I might just be too tired to decide tonight.

Sweet Travels!

Excerpts from Europe: “The 20-Minute Late-Train Mishap” in Italy

Train strikes can occur in Italy. One happened when I was there, but fortunately, it didn’t mess up my travel plans too much. I just decided to change my schedule to accommodate the strike.

Another time, however, a mere 20-minute delay in one train caused me to miss my next train, and thus I literally had to spend the night in a tiny office of an Italian train station. Something that most tourists probably don’t get to do, and most likely, aren’t really allowed to do.

Here are my journal entries as I stayed up one night in the tiny train office…

Tuesday July 27, 2004 – 11:00pm:
I’m sitting here in a Trenitalia office in Falconara at 11pm. I missed my train connection because my previous train was 20 minutes late. Only 20 minutes, but that was all it took!

I was originally coming from Padova, had a connecting train in Bologna, and then I was supposed to have another connecting train here in Falconara. From here, I am supposed to be on my way to Fabriano, and my ultimate destination, Genga.

Italian Train
An Italian Train

The mishap began in Bologna, where the train left 15 minutes late. I was expecting that the train would make up time somehow, but alas it lost five more minutes while en route. I read a bit on the train, looked out the window, and saw a couple of gorgeous sunflower fields, still hoping that somehow I would make my connection in Falconara.

But the train did arrive 20 minutes late, and I knew that I had missed my next train. I looked at the train schedules on the wall, and it looked like the next train to Fabriano would not be till 3:46am! Was I reading that right? What would I do? At first, I really did not know what to do. It was after 10pm. This was the first time that something like this happened to me.

I actually stood around for a while thinking, or not thinking, or trying to think. I guess I was a bit shaken up, but not too bad. I felt like it was too dark and too late for me to wander around trying to find a hostel or some place to stay. I suppose I could just stay right where I was in the train station for several hours, but it was a bit cool outside, and I would have preferred to stay warm.

I finally asked a train station attendant about the train schedules to confirm what I saw on the wall. He agreed that my next train to Fabriano would not be till 3:46am.

Italian Train Tickets
Italian Train Tickets

After a bit of pondering again, I noticed that there was a train station office, thinking that would be a nice option to stay in. I actually got up the nerve to ask the attendant if I could please wait in the office. He spoke English well enough that I could explain to him my dilemma and he understood…and so here I am!

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – 12:45am:
It is now12:45am on Wednesday, and I am still in the Falconara train station office waiting for my train, in three more hours and one minute. I feel like I’m in a zone of some sort. I haven’t slept yet, and I don’t feel like sleeping, but I’m not quite sure that I am actually here, writing in my journal to pass the time. Seems very strange. I mean, I know I’m here, but I guess when you don’t sleep much, and feel a bit out of sorts, then it feels surreal.

The gentleman who allowed me to stay in the train station office went home a while ago, so two other kind gentlemen who work in this office are keeping me company. Or am I keeping them company? They are working, as I am writing in my journal, catching up on a few days’ events. These two men even set up a little bed for me to sleep on.

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – 1:40am:
The two gentlemen have been very nice. In between my journal writing, with their little English, and my little Italian, we actually have communicated some. We have shared about each others jobs; they have been interested in my journal writing; I told them I took an Italian language class before I began my Europe travels; we talked a bit about the U.S. and a little about politics; and I told them of some the places I’ve been during my travels thus far in Europe. They asked if I had any children, etc.

important italian train sign
An Important Italian Train Sign

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – 3:26am:
In 20 minutes my train from Falconara will take me to Fabriano. I did finally lie down on the bed that the gentlemen made for me in their office and slept for just over an hour. Better than nothing. The bed was really a cushioned board that they had hidden behind some cabinets, which they put across the seats of two chairs. There was some cushioned thing for a pillow. And they gave me some paper towels to put on top of this pillow for protection. Pretty funny actually. But thoughtful. They must sleep here when it gets late for them. So can you say that you slept in a Trenitalia office? I can.

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – 4:45am:
Ok – It is now 4:45am, I made it to Fabriano, and in 20 minutes the next train will take me to Genga.

Italian Train
Another Italian Train

Wednesday July 28, 2004 – Later That Evening:
I got to Genga at about 5:30 this morning. I took a really nice crisp, brisk walk from the train station to Kelly’s house, with the sun starting to brighten the day, and the birds chirping. It was a good way to start the morning. Well, continue my morning, really.

But being awake didn’t last long. Shortly after I arrived at Kelly’s, I fell asleep. I slept till about 9:30am.

I am grateful for the gentlemen in the Falconara train station. Their hospitality made my 20-minute late-train mishap not so bad at all!

Sweet Travels!

Excerpts from Europe: “Monday in Montepulciano, Italy”

Don’t you just love the sound of that word? Mon..teh…pul…chee…ahh…no… How it rolls off the tongue. It sounds so, well…Italian.

A wonderful Tuscan Medieval and Renaissance Italian hill town, Montepulciano is set on top of a narrow ridge of volcanic rock, much like Civita di Bagnoregio. With steep, car-free, walkable and winding streets made to discover its art and architecture, the town is a major producer of some great Italian food. Pork, cheese, thick pasta, lentils, and honey.

Montepulciano windows

It is also world-famous for the region’s finest wines, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a red wine made from the vineyards surrounding the town. Not to be confused with another popular wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, made from a different grape from a region in east-central Italy.

I even had some tasty gelato here!

Monday, June 21, 2004:
I visited another Tuscan hill town today on a day trip from Siena. I took a 10:50am bus which took one and a half hours of winding through the scenic green and brown Tuscan countryside to get to Montepulciano.

Montepulciano windows

We arrived at the main bus station, and then I took a smaller bus to the top of the town, to the Piazza Grande. The town is basically built on a slanted hill, so most people take the bus to the top, and walk back down. (I’m not sure why I didn’t walk up. I really could have.) After the small bus dropped me off, I spent about five hours in Montepulciano.

The first thing I did was go into a church, as I like to do whenever I visit a new town, the quaint and amazing Cathedral di Santa Maria Assunta.

Montepulciano windows

My main goal of the day was to wander as many streets of Montepulciano as I could. But before doing that, I wanted to see a church that was down hill, out of the main area of Montepulciano. Tempio di San Biagio. The outside of this church was pretty unique, with a blue dome and a bell tower. I haven’t seen many blue domes around Italy. The inside was as beautiful as any other church, but differently shaped than others, kind of square-shaped, with a lot of white walls and ceilings.

Montepulciano windows

I walked back up hill (guess I got to walk up hill after all) to explore the “back streets” of Montepulciano, to get away from the crowds, and to see how the locals live. It was during the middle of the day when people are at home for lunch, so I heard many in their homes talking in Italian, cooking (ahh, the aromas) and eating. (Too bad I couldn’t join them.) It was a very pleasant local experience.

I took photos starting here, and throughout the day, on the “windows and doors of Montepulciano.”

I then ventured through the touristy streets. I got a salami sandwich for lunch, and ate it on the steps of a church. Then ate a gelato on the same steps. After, I went into a wine store next door and had a sample of Montepulciano wine. The Italian cuisine! This town is known for their wine.

Montepulciano windows

After eating, I entered another church, Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, which had a great sculpture outside above the door of Mother and Baby and two Saints. Inside it was white and cream colored, with organ pipes as part of the altar.

I continued to meander the streets. I sampled some more wine, and ate bread with some kind of yummy olive oil and sun-dried tomato thing on it. I still had time to explore till the 5:45 bus, so I went into another church, twice. The second time, I just sat for a while. I waited till the bells chimed at 4pm. Nice sound. This church, Chiesa di Sant’Agnese, had a great marble statue in the main altar illuminated by the sun that was shining on it through a window. A stained glass window was also lit by the sun, making a colorful reflection appear on the floor. And a dark painting was also brightened by the sun. It all felt so very “angelic.”

Montepulciano windows

I wandered through a park, some more streets, and into a shop or two till about 5:20. I returned to the bus station, and took the bus back to Siena, arriving about 7:20pm. I found an internet cafe so I could check my bank balance (it’s all good!), and respond to a few emails.

And to check train schedules to Orvieto for tomorrow. So Italian!

Sweet Travels!

Some information on Montepulciano from Wikipedia.