Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad

European city doorways

Synagogue entrance in Vienna

We barely have these in London, but they are all over continental cities: street entrances to late C19th/early C20th apartment buildings of four or more stories.

Entrance in Prague - obligatory graffiti but beautful interior

They have large double doors, often leading to a small courtyard at the back.  Originally for carriages, a Fiat Cinquecento would be your best bet nowadays.

In Andalusia, the Magreb and all the way through the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent, older doorways of this kind almost always lead to a cool, enclosed courtyard with rooms or apartments leading off the airy space on several stories.

Caravanserai, now an inn, Djerba, Tunisia

Ancient caravanserai have a similar layout: trading niches on the ground floor and rooms for the travellers to rest in around the first floor.

Goethe Institut, Berlin. Wooden doors and coffered ceiling

All the windows and doors are on the inside of the courtyard.

They were (and are) common along the silk routes and mentioned by Herodotus.

My son and I stayed in converted caravanserai in Fez and Djerba on our way to the Libyan border.

Everything and everyone is locked up at night by the huge, heavy double doors at the entrance.

I like the hiddenness of these trading places, living quarters and courtyard gardens.  The often shabby street entrances give way to beautiful interiors, filled with life.

It’s probably just memories of The Secret Garden or some deep wombic yearning, but the distinction between inside and outside, private and public, day and night, lends itself to a naturally ordered way of life, which is not central London’s strong suit – much as I love the chaos.


This entry was posted on 30 July 2010 by in Europe and tagged , , , , , , .
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