Europe Gives Me the Shutters

On this trip, I’ve had a wonderful series of heavy wooden shutters on my hotel windows. And I’ve made a point to use them. (Anne and I have an electric louver in our Seattle house…and on this trip I realized why I don’t like it.)

To open and close a classic European shutter, you need to get physical. You reach way out, struggle with the clunky hardware, and pull them one at a time. They lumber slowly around, shutting the outside world away with a prison-door clank. They are painted so many times the louvers no longer work. Hurricane-strength hooks fitted to heavy stone walls batten things down.

With shutters shut, I never know what a new day will bring. I don’t even know the weather. But each morning I enjoy the ritual. I swing the shutters open…and with sunlight filling my room comes promise of another day, carbonated with people and learning.

I guess lots of shutters means I’m staying in the old centers of towns that care about the architectural harmony of their streets.

While the building interiors come with all the modern comforts, the exteriors are loyal to the past — stout, layered with paint, and ornamented in a way too impractical for our efficient world.

From Umbria to Andalusia to the Dordogne to Bosnia, I was opening and closing venerable old shutters. And — even when there were no shutters — each day began with an “open the shutters” ritual. Like a happy yawn and stretch, push open the blinders and embrace a new day.

Comments

10 Replies to “Europe Gives Me the Shutters”

  1. You have wonderful descriptions of towns and cities in your books and blogs, with a mix of modern and historical signifigance, but I wondered if you could comment more on the area’s natural histories, its parks and preserves? Is there any wilderness left in Europe?

  2. Rick, thanks for bringing back terrific memories of Hotel Smeraldo in Campo de Fiori, especially in the morning. One heave of our shutters and we had the quintessential Roman experience – church bells, the bakery and cafe across the street, loud salutations from sanitary workers and market proprietors, the cool morning breeze before the inland heat set in, the sound of fashionable boot heels scuffing the cobblestone, the smell of a dapper businessman’s cigarette. I didn’t really appreciate the shutters before, but now I realize our room would have been more of a typical European closet without our heavy and rusty portal to our own version of La Dolce Vita.

  3. Ah yes… the shutters. Encountered quite a few of these on our trip recently using your Eastern Europe 2007 guidebook, particularly at the sobes. They are nice and very helpful in blocking the morning light when your room faces the East. You should sell covers that fit your books. I swear, sometimes it is a bit embarrassing to spot all the Americans toting around their Rick Steves books. Although it can also be fun – we met several people along our trip that were following similar itineraries. It was nice to share our experiences (we and others were glad we did not take your advice on the night trains – cheap flights rule!). By the way – I don’t know if you stopped by the TI in Split, but the guy at the counter was a little upset about your comments in the guidebook. He was going on and on about how he wasn’t exceptional, but wasn’t terrible or uninterested either – just average like everyone else. Too funny.

  4. This puts me in mind of some shutters I used rather ethusiastically for four nights in Villefranche-Sur mer while staying at Hotel De La Darse. The shutters allowed the cool breeze and relaxing sounds from the small mediterranean harbor. Thanks for taking me back there for a few brief moments.

  5. Speaking of shutters, while in Siena in 2005 with my sister (our husbands had gone ahead to take naps), we got lost in the back alleys trying to find our hotel, when she said, our hotel should not be to hard to find, as it has green shutters. I said, Debbie look up, they all have green shutters. We both laughed! I LOVE THE MEMORIES OF TRAVELING AND EXPLORING NEW PLACES!

  6. Good that there are still some of the old wooden shutters around. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in Europe to the use of modern metal shutters made as part of the windows. When closed they make the houses look closed too – as if their eyes have been blinded. Of course, they may need less maintenance and even work better. Efficiency versus nostalgia…

  7. I had the same “new day” experience in Burgundy. I was the first to awaken my first morning there. I walked downstairs to the kitchen and was looking for some light. I decided to open the shutters. I was stunned – the window opened onto a beautiful field with cows grazing in the meadow. I felt like bursting out into song “The hills are alive with the sound of music…” – wrong country but same idea.

  8. The shutters allowed the cool breeze and relaxing sounds from the small mediterranean harbor.I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in Europe to the use of modern metal shutters made as part of the windows. When closed they make the houses look closed too – as if their eyes have been blinded.

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