Wednesday 13 December 2023

Dashing Through The Snow

I always love planning and constructing the Christmas window display in Small Worlds.   This year, however, I was in England and am even now on my way back to Bavorov, staying with friends in Bonn before I continue the careful drive down through much of Germany.  I am due to arrive home on Saturday and I left the window display in the more than capable hands of Butterfly (who was in fact mainly responsible for the autumnal gnome scene that has just been removed).  

So over to her....


Hello all, Alison a.k.a. butterfly a.k.a. Words and Pictures here!  I'll confess I was quite sad to take down the autumnal gnome display, and had only a fairly vague idea of how to arrange the winter scene I had in mind.  With my love of history, I was full of plans for wayside taverns and stagecoaches, and had to restrain myself from adding a highwayman or two.  There ended up being other problems for the coachman to deal with...

It all emerged from this fairly unpromising pile of stuff gathered from the Small Worlds hoard, with the odd additional snowy purchase.  I couldn't have created the scene without those snow blankets, so that was a great last-minute addition made to the pile by Cestina before she set off for a few weeks in the UK (leaving me on window duty).

We'd made a couple of decisions ahead of time.  The once-upon-a-time bear cavern house (you'll have to go a long way back to find that version) was to become the coaching inn in the foreground, stage left (that's the left if you're standing on stage - ie in the window - looking out at the audience).  [Digression by Cestina: You wouldn't just have to look a long way back - there are sadly no photos of its incarnation as a cavern full of bears. Way back in 2012 I majorly lucked out on Ebay with what became known as the Essex Haul. Long-time followers may remember it. This house was part of it.  Some years later it  appeared in the window as a farmhouse]

The original plan had been to create a dimensional scene with the smaller scale coaching inn (constructed by Colin Rose, from a beautiful kit) that is also in Small Worlds standing on some hills "in the distance", with the stage coach(es) travelling between the two.  

As it turned out, the space in the window wasn't large enough to make that perspective illusion work so I had to reconfigure things as I went along.   (Also, I'd say that one is really a coaching inn within a town, not very suitable for standing alone in the middle of the countryside, particularly not at the top of a mountain.) 

I was delighted to happen on these metal signs still wrapped in their paper bag in my backpack.  They were bought in the enchanting Museum of Shops in Český Krumlov.  If you can't access that link to my Instagram photos of the museum, then here's their own website as an alternative. 

I put up the two Czech beer posters on the walls of the house, and job done - it's now a pub!  It's lucky the walls of the house are so textured - it gave the blu-tac something to cling to.  So far, they haven't fallen off (fingers crossed).

I started pulling one of the snow blankets apart to create drifts and banks of snow around the building (this is going to be fun to clear up)...

... and most of the rest of the blankets form the snowy landscape across the remainder of the window.  

I used some cardboard packaging to build up hills and foothills over on stage right, with net curtain over that to smooth things out, and then the snow blanket over the top of it all.

This was how I had planned to create "the distance" for the small scale coaching inn to go, but they would have had to be very tall hills to make the perspective work - leaving the inn in danger of crashing down and breaking the window!

Instead, we've just got some nice snowy hills with pine trees.  And once the landscaping was in place, I could start to people it...

Quite how this very evidently English wayside inn managed to get a supply of beer (pivo) from Protivín is a little unclear. 

That pony has trekked a lo-ong way with the delivery.  They could really have brought more than one barrel while they were at it!

But it's nice to have a connection to the local industry on display in the window...  it's a mixture of Czech and English, much like we are.

There's another nod to local traditions in the wayside shrine, very much a feature of the landscape here (not so much in the UK).  The delightful little Madonna figure is one that Cestina has had since she was a teenager.

Her stony niche is a pink plastic dollshouse bath given the texture paste treatment.  

The farmyard animals nestled around her are a nod to a Nativity scene, without going all out.

But let's get to that all-important stagecoach.  It's a really beautiful wooden coach and horses - I've no idea where it came from or when... [Digression by Cestina:  It came from a giant car boot sale in Prague some years ago. A very fruitful visit, resulting in not just the stagecoach, but also a full-size Bollerwagen (see below), a display stand, a giant baby changing trolley (ideal for paint storage)and various other miniature goodies.  What I mainly remember is temperatures in the thirties, our friend Ondrej trying to balance all the goodies on the Bollerwagen, and a desperate desire for liquid refreshment. Some beer from Protivin would have done nicely!)]

The poor coachman needed some extra protection against the elements...

... so I wrapped him up in a cosy muffler...

... and gave him some wire reins to control his team with.  There were once very beautiful reins I'm sure, but they've perished.  

There are just a few bits of leather harnessing still in place.  Imagination has to supply the rest (I didn't have time), but I think the horses are doing a cracking job of ploughing through all that snow.

The road clearing is evidently not quite as efficient as here in the Czech Republic.  We had nearly a metre of snow fall over the couple of days I was putting the window display together ready for the Advent Market on 2nd December.  You can see the first of it outside the window.

However, the roads here in the village - even tiny lanes going up through the woods - were ploughed and gritted and navigable within hours.  Look!  (Click on the photos for a larger view.)  And one additional photo of the fairytale cottage in the woods... just because!

Still, the stagecoach seems to be making pretty good progress, all things considered - even if the driver is having a little nip of whisky every now and then to keep out the chill, as well as to fortify himself against the noise coming from behind him.

Regulars will surely recognise his rowdy passengers. 

These little dolls have put in appearances in numerous festive window scenes, not to mention being on year-round carol-singing duty outside the front door of the large Edwardian Walmer dollshouse. 

They're on their way to a family gathering, bringing presents and good cheer along with them...

... as well as what looks suspiciously like a keg of smuggled brandy.

In the foreground, some more children are making their way on foot, with sledges piled high with more presents.

I think maybe the older brother here would like his younger sibling to share the load, but he's got other ideas...

And this girl is struggling to manoeuvre the wooden Bollerwagen - laden with her lazy little brothers - through the snowy landscape.

Others are taking the chance to enjoy the weather, putting those sledges to far better use sliding down the snowy slopes on their way to join their friends.

I think that's where little brother may be planning to go with his toboggan...

Between the trees, you might glimpse a reindeer or two.

In fact, there's one keeping quite a close eye on anybody looking in the window (which nobody has been able to do except at a distance until the heaps of snow thawed yesterday!).

And over at the other side, nestled out of the wind, one of the inhabitants of the tavern's own stables (any coaching inn worth its salt must have horses available for travellers wanting to change their teams) is looking out at the new arrival from the Czech Republic.

I think he probably feels sorry for that poor pony having pulled the trap all that way.  I'm sure he'll share his oats with him tonight out in the stables.

Still, at least now the customers in the pub will be able to enjoy some of the best beer in the world...

... though I hope they won't be serving it to the children who've just turned up at the door of the tavern.  Maybe just some small beer for them, or a little fruit punch (though not the one with the gin and brandy in).

As always, it's tricky to get photos of the finished window because of all the reflections.  Some of these were taken from "backstage" to capture details before heading out front to try to get the view from there.

Or getting artsy with the snowy landscape...

A shot of the whole window doesn't really capture the effect of looking at it in person. (Quite apart from anything else, the central window frame means you can't see the large pine trees in the middle at all.)

There's a lot more life and delight to be had in standing in front of the actual window, peering between the bars, spotting all the different details that I've been showing you in close-up, but at least with these couple of photos you get an idea of the full layout.

And, just sometimes, the reflections themselves give me great pleasure...  See if you can see what's going on here, as the creamy yellow of the wayside inn melds with the creamy yellow of the Czech village buildings in the reflection.  And the pony and trap of yore melts into the parked cars of present day travel.

So that's about your lot for the wintry wayside inn window display.  I hope any journeys you are taking over the festive period will be easier and safer than the one this stagecoach is embarked on.

Or even better, just stay safe and warm at home with candlelight, music and a good book rather than "dashing through the snow".   (Speaking of which, I'm guessing some of you will have had a little earworm ever since reading the post title, so just to bed it in nice and firmly...). I'll hand you back to Cestina for a final farewell.


Huge thanks to Butterfly who has been left tackling all the pre-Christmas tasks which do not normally include shovelling away a metre of snow in order to reach the gate or the bird feeders.  I think she has done a splendid job and I look forward to seeing it "in real life" at the weekend - if no more snow falls in the meantime!

A Happy Christmas to all of you and see you in 2024!


  1. Marvellous! Positively Pickwickian!
    So happy to see the carol singers - God bless them, every one.
    Anonymous Andrea xx

    1. Did you have the coaching of them? Oops see what I did there? I love what she's created...

  2. Fabulously cheery snowy scenes - well done, Butterfly! Merry Christmas to all at Small Worlds. 🎄🎄🎄

  3. Another lovely seasonal window; thanks so much, Butterfly, for doing this while Mum was in England. Loved her interspersed comments, too! Season’s Greetings to you both and all the best in 2024.

  4. What a Lovely Window display! It really sets the mood for winter and makes one really glad for modern heated cars! I love the shot blending the old and new eras! The old coach and four is an amazing item and really well made. The Inn is beautiful too! Happy New Year! :)

    1. Thank you! The coach and four has been waiting a while for its moment; it's always very pleasing to me when something acquired sometime back finally finds its place in Small Worlds....