Michael and Elizabeth traveled through Eastern Europe finding fabulous color in architecture in Warsaw, Vienna, Krakow and Prague.They learned about the origin of the word “graffiti”=S’graffito, which is painted or etched design and/or murals on exteriors.

Their most moving moment came when we were visiting a tiny hamlet outside of Krakow named Zalipie. The women of the village have been painting their cottages, and their outhouses and sheds and interiors in brightly colored flowers and birds every year. The colors and patterns look like the wild embroidery you find in Eastern Europe. Zalipie has been having a “Painted Cottage” contest every summer since the early 30s.

Naturally, as the evangelists of color (and the authors of the “Painted Ladies” books), Elizabeth and Michael wanted to see for themselves. This is a tiny town. No sidewalks. But every farm building, every cottage is more joyous than the next. The interior of the little one-room museum is covered with vivid flowers on the walls, floors, ceilings, and embroidered linens. At the town center, they met the granddaughter of the woman who started it all, painting inexpensive souvenirs for the few visitors, and keeping track of the contests over the years.

On the way out of town they stopped to take a picture of a big peacock in blues and browns strutting at the end of a farmhouse. A little man peeked out the front door and ducked back inside when he saw what they were doing. He came running out, toothless and smiling, in muddy boots and black cap. He had won first place–the first man ever to win a prize–in that summer’s “Painted Cottage” contest. Their photo of him, standing in front of his magnificent peacock, proudly showing the world his diploma, is a prize we will cherish.”

It just goes to show us that being “house proud” is something all Painted Ladies owners share.