European Travel and Photography Ideas

Epiphany House Blessing – a Catholic Tradition

Austria Village Door with Epiphany House Blessing

While visiting Austria and Germany in August of 2014, I noticed curious chalk markings, seen in the photo above, on many buildings in the small villages we passed through.  Given the prominence of churches in these villages, I immediately assumed the writing had a religious significance, but knew little else.  As it turns out the practice is a Catholic tradition called an Epiphany house blessing, with the numbers and letters having a specific meaning centered around the current year. 20 + C + M + B +14 The 20 and 14 represent the year in which the blessing occurred, 2014, while CMB apparently has two different meanings. In one interpretation, they represent the names of the three magi (kings or wise men), in the Biblical Gospel of Matthew that visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. In the second interpretation they are an abbreviation of the Latin wordsChristus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless…
Read more

Best Preserved French Star Forts

Star Fort Illustration

The star fort was a type of military fortification that emerged in western Europe during the late Middle Ages.  It was the military engineers response to a century of improvements in cannon technology during the 13th and 14th centuries that rendered the medieval castle obsolete.  The star fort included lower, thicker sloping walls that limited the effectiveness of artillery. Also, the angular shape of the fort, the ravelins that surrounded it, and the deep trench-works in between made approaching the fortress, and using its walls as a shelter against defensive fire, difficult for attacking armies. Many of the forts found in France today can trace their origins directly or indirectly from the work of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban. During his career as an military engineer (1667-1707) Vauban was responsible for building or upgrading the defensive fortifications of nearly 300 cities and military installations. These upgrades played a crucial role in conflicts such as the Thirty…
Read more

Most Beautiful Fortified Cities of Europe


Ávila, Spain Known in pre-Roman times as Obila (“High Mountain”), this provincial capital in north-central Spain has been the site of numerous fortified settlements throughout history. Occupants have included the Vettones, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, and ultimately the Spanish. The city is most famous for its imposing medieval city wall that is fully intact and includes 88 towers, and 9 gates spread around a parameter of 1 1/2 miles. While visitors can’t make a complete circuit of the wall, much of it is accessible. The interior of the walled city is occupied by numerous palaces, monasteries and mansions dating from primarily the 15th and 16th centuries. Some of the most notable landmarks include the Plaza Mercado Chico, the Cathedral of Avila, and the Royal Palace of St. Tomas Avila, is 1-2 hours from Madrid, depending on whether you are traveling by car or train. Google Maps: Find It Youtube: Walking Tour Avila Tourism: Official Website     Carcassonne,…
Read more