Cruising the Danube with Mona: The Iron Gate and Serbia

As mentioned in my September 1st post, we spent the first days of our river cruise visiting Romania and Bulgaria, and Day 5 all on deck, cruising the Danube, admiring the scenery, and snapping pictures.

The most spectacular scenery was the dramatic gorge of the IRON GATE, a narrow and formerly very dangerous passage on the Danube. The Iron Gate divides the Carpathian and Balkan mountains, forming part of the boundary between Serbia and Romania. It is about 2 miles (3 km) long and 530 feet (162 meters) wide, with towering rock cliffs that make it one of the most dramatic natural wonders of Europe. 

Our cruise ship approaching the Iron Gate dam,
and going through the Iron Gate dam.

In the 1960’s, a massive lock and dam were built to help control the speed of the river and make navigation safer. The joint development project of Romania and Yugoslavia on the Danube River (including a dam and hydroelectric power plant) was completed in 1972, providing equal amounts of energy to each country and quadrupling the annual tonnage of shipping. The name Iron Gate is commonly applied to the whole 90-mile- (145-kilometre-) long gorge system.

Our cruise ship going through the locks.
The crew member changing the flag as we entered Serbian territory.
Our cruise ship cruising in the open again.

On our way to Serbia we passed the rock sculpture of Decebalus, a colossal carving of the face of Decebalus (r. AD 87–106), the last king of Dacia, who fought against the Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan to preserve the independence of his country, which corresponds to present-day Romania.

It was commissioned by Romanian businessman Iosif Drăgan and it took 10 years for twelve sculptors to complete it. The lead artist sculptor’s name was Florin Cotarcea. According to Drăgan’s website, the businessman purchased the rock in 1992, after which the Italian sculptor Mario Galeotti assessed the location and made an initial model. The first six years involved dynamiting the rock into the basic shape, and the remaining four years were devoted to completing the details.

Under the face of Decebalus there is a Latin inscription which reads “DECEBALUS REX—DRAGAN FECIT” (“King Decebalus—Made by Drăgan”).

The carving was placed opposite an ancient memorial plaque, carved in the rock on the Serbian side of the river facing Romania. The plaque, known as the Tabula Traiana, records the completion of Trajan’s military road along the Danube and thus commemorates the final defeat of Decebalus by Trajan in 105, and the absorption of the Dacian kingdom into the Roman Empire. 

The Tabula Traiana marker laid by the Roman emperor Trajan over 2000 years ago can be seen on the left bank of the Danube.
You will also pass a beautiful Orthodox Church built on what appears to be a pier.

On Day 6 we arrived in Belgrade, capital of Serbia, and previously capital of Yugoslavia, situated at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers.

Overlooking the city of Novi Sad with a spectacular view of the Danube and surroundings is
Marshal Vauban’s unconquerable Petrovaradin Fortress. Dramatic events in the recent past
have shaped both the present and the future of this region, resplendent with natural beauty and
a proud history. Located high on the right bank of the Danube River in the city of Novi Sad, the Petrovaradin Fortress (Petrovaradinska Tvrdjava) has played a significant role in Serbia’s history. Over the centuries, the site of the fortress has been used by the Romans, Byzantines, Celts, Turks, Hungarians and Austrians. Starting in the 17th century, the Austrians spent nearly a century building new fortifications, including new walls, water moats and channels with movable bridges and control gates. A 16-kilometer long system of underground tunnels was completed in 1776.

 Pobednik (in Serbian Cyrillic ‘The Victor’) is a monument in the Upper Town of the Belgrade Fortress, built to commemorate Serbia’s victory over the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires during the Balkan Wars and the First World War. Cast in 1913, erected in 1928, and standing at 14 metres (46 ft) high, it is one of the most famous works of Ivan Meštrović. The park is also one of the most visited tourist attractions in Belgrade and the city’s most recognizable landmark, a good place to watch the sunset over the city.

The Temple of Saint Sava  is the largest Orthodox church in Serbia, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox churches and it ranks among the largest churches in the world. It is the most recognizable building in Belgrade and a landmark, as its dominating dome resembles that of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul that has been converted to a mosque, after which it had been modelled. Every day, its grandiose bell towers with almost 50 bells announce noon. The interior is famous for its exquisite mosaic work. It was under remodeling when we visited.

The city center has a lively pedestrian area and charming outdoor cafes. There were colorful cows statues everywhere.

Tennis champion Novak Đoković is the big hero of Belgrade–and a generous one. We heard of Restaurant Novak 1, Tennis Center Novak, Nova Vita hospital…

We were treated to a special performance of local folkloric dances before the river ship sailed away from Belgrade.

When going on any cruise you shouldn’t forget your books. Here are two newly released novels for your entertainment.

Available on Amazon
He adopted two minority children but lost his wife. Finally things settle for him, until the lovely surgeon he hires turns his life upside down.

Released September 22

Available on Amazon
A biracial lawyer and jack of all trades, he fights discrimination to win the heart of the pretty blonde travel agent.

Release Day October 5

Too Busy To Take a Vacation? Think Again by Taylor Lee

Can you buy a ticket to a better mood? Hop a flight to a healthier heart? The travel industry would say yes—and increasingly, so does science. And so do I. My guy and I just returned from four weeks in Grand Junction, Colorado. If you haven’t been there, add it to your must-visit list. Breathtaking mountain cliffs, red rock canyons, the hub of  Colorado’s wine country, beautiful golf courses nestled in canyons (check out my photo below)… and peaches!  I promise you once you eat a Palisade peach, you’ll never be satisfied with grocery store peaches again.

Vacation

Back to the benefits of vacations. For decades, researchers have been probing the benefits of vacations. Almost across the board, they’ve found evidence that vacations can positively impact everything from blood pressure to energy levels. But you do need to take those days off, a challenge for many Americans. “We’re one of the only advanced economies that does not guarantee paid leave,” says Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, and director of the Better Life Lab at the think tank New America. One in four Americans has no access to paid vacation, and those who do often don’t use it, she says. See her reasons below confirming why and how vacations positively affect our health.

Seven health benefits of taking a vacation

Studies have shown that taking time away from the job can have physical and mental health benefits. People who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals. If you still need a little convincing, here is a list of some of the additional benefits of taking time away from work.

  1. Improved physical health Stress can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure. For both men and women, the New York Times reported, taking a vacation every two years compared to every six will lessen the risk of coronary heart disease or heart attacks.
  2. Improved mental health Neuroscientists have found that chronic exposure to stress can alter your brain structure and bring on anxiety and depression. When you take a vacation, feelings of calm arise and relieve stress, which allows the body and mind to heal in ways that it couldn’t if it were still under pressure.
  3. Greater well-being According to a Gallup study, people who “always make time for regular trips” had a 68.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway’s Well-Being Index, in comparison to a 51.4 Well-Being score for less frequent travelers. One study found that three days after vacation, subjects’ physical complaints, quality of sleep, and mood had improved compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacation.
  4. Increased mental motivation Many who return from vacation are more focused and productive. Studies have found that chronic stress can make it difficult to achieve certain tasks and cause memory problems. Taking time off can be like getting a tune-up for the brain, improving your mental health and cognition.
  5. Improved family relationships Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong. A study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.
  6. Decreased burnout Employees who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts. Another way to manage burnout is through the Oxygen Mask Rule: “Secure your masks before assisting others.” In other words, address your mental, physical and spiritual needs before committing to responsibilities benefitting others outside of your immediate family.
  7. Boosted happiness Research shows planning a vacation can boost your happiness. Some people experience an elevated mood up to eight weeks before the trip. The bottom line is, take a vacation if you can. When you take time away from the stresses of work and daily life, it can improve our physical and mental health, motivation, relationships, job performance and perspective. A vacation can help you feel refreshed and more prepared to handle whatever comes when you return.

As you plan your next vacation, be sure and add these great books to your “must take-along”.

EXPOSED

Exposed

FREE September 26-27

  • A renegade police officer infiltrates a dangerous cartel intending to take down its leader.•Little does she know that the handsome Drug Lord is a special operative hotshot heading up a mission two years in the making.

    •Learning who the outrageous woman is, the undercover commander does the only thing he can to protect the mission, and her. He claims her for his own.

And add to your must-read list our Author’s Billboard sensation:
Unforgettable Loyalty: Craving and Devotion

Unforgettable Loyalty

Is there anything more important in a relationship than loyalty from the one you love…

My book in the set is:

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Knockin On Heaven's Door

She’s a go-it-alone detective. He’s a psychiatrist and FBI profiler. A serial killer brings them together. In more ways than one.

Deacon Walsh has more degrees than any one man should. A former Special Ops physician, psychiatrist, and now FBI profiler, the stunning black agent has spent a year tracking the serial killer of four Colorado girls. When the trail goes cold, a brutal murder of an Albuquerque girl with all the marks of his victims convinces Deacon his killer is responsible.

Unfortunately, in addition to being brilliant, Deacon is also charming. And to Tyra’s dismay, as accomplished a lover as he is an agent.

How to keep a guy interested?

Years ago I collected articles I found interesting, amusing, or useful for my writing. Here is one of them. I don’t know who the author is, and I don’t agree with everything he/she wrote. Many points are outdated, and many are still true.

Want to know how to keep a guy interested in you no matter what? Here are some sexy ways to make yourself dreamy and desirable in your man’s eyes.

Many girls may assume that guys are fickle and have a low interest span. But in reality, guys are no different from girls when it comes to staying happy in a relationship. Guys, just like girls, love novelty. And they always want to be with a girl who’s desirable, and one that’s envied by other girls and desired by other guys. Do you want to be that girl?

To keep a guy interested in you, you just need to remember a few ways to keep his interest aroused and his desire in you peaked.

Use these tips on how to keep a guy interested in you, and you’d see how easy it can be to make him want you all the time.

#1 Be spontaneous. Shock him, awe him, make plans for the evening or plan an entire elaborate date by yourself. Surprise him and never be too predictable.

#2 Don’t change yourself. Stay true to the real person that you are. Don’t change yourself constantly assuming he doesn’t like your personality. Be creative, but stick to your comfort zone.

#3 Take initiatives in bed. Your guy may like taking control in bed, but when you dominate him and show off your confidence, he can’t help but be awed by your confidence and sexiness in bed.

#4 Smell great all the time. Always smell great around him but don’t overpower subtle fragrances with sickly sweet perfumes though. Always smell good, and pay special attention to your personal hygiene and body odor.

#5 Awe his friends. Men are competitive. As long as he thinks he has the best girl in his social circle, he’ll always cling to you and want to be with you. Awe his friends and make them think you’re a great girl, and you’ve done a great job.

#6 Learn to seduce him. Seduction doesn’t stop in bed. Be sexy around him and be creative wherever you go.

#7 Show interest in his hobbies. A guy would absolutely love a girl who shows interest in his special hobbies, be it playing on his Xbox or climbing a mountain. Men want to spend their lives with a woman who truly understands them and connects to them.

#8  Be his shoulder to lean on. Give him your strength and support when he’s low on morale. Reassure him and help him confide his problems to you. Be his confidant and his warm pillow when he’s in the dumps and he’ll treat you like a goddess.

#9 Be his arm candy. Look good in his arms when both of you are together.

#10 Be financially secure. Be in control of your finances and have a well settled job. Guys love a girl with a steady head on her shoulders. At the same time, they stay a mile away from careless spendthrifts!

#11 Have intelligent conversations. A guy may want an arm candy when he’s on the streets, but he also wants a lover who can communicate with him and have intelligent conversations at the end of the day.

#12 Help him deal with life. Men may behave like the saviors of the world. But inside, they’re still little boys who need a cuddle and a hug now and then. Help your man deal with the issues life throws at him.

#13 Public display of affection. Your man may shy away from a bit of PDA, but he still loves it when you cling to his arms like a damsel in distress. It makes him feel more powerful and sexy!

#14 Stroke his ego. If you want to keep your guy interested and happy, learn to stroke his ego. Compliment his achievements and give him a pat on his back when he’s proud of something. Make him feel like a man and he’ll stay your man.

#15 Be interesting. Be interesting and creative with your life. See the happy side in everything, even in the most mundane of days. When you’re an optimist, your infectious happiness will definitely rub on to him.

#16 Don’t make him feel insecure. Flirt with others and talk to men, but never at the cost of his insecurity. When he’s around, hug him close and he’ll swell with affection for you.

#17 Don’t be easily available. Spend time with him, but don’t be ready for him at his beck and call. Be there for him, but make him miss you when you aren’t around.

#18 Don’t be clingy and needy. Guys like a damsel who needs their help. But that stops once the infatuation period is over. Show him that you’re self-reliant and he’ll always look for ways to help you and please you.

#19 Be sexually innovative. Know your moves in bed and everywhere else. Have sex in different places, role play with him, wear an apron and nothing else while cooking something special, tie his hands to the bedpost… You get the drift, don’t you?

#20 Be a good cook. No matter what people say, the adage, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach still holds good.

#21 Don’t ever be a pushover. Don’t be the submissive wife. You don’t need to sit at his feet to earn his respect and love. Instead, be opinionated and throw him around when he throws his weight around you.

#22 Whip him when he can’t behave. Treat him like a spoilt child when he doesn’t behave. Ignore his childish behavior. Be unpredictable and rude when he misbehaves, and he’ll fear you and respect you at the same time.

#23 Make him proud of you. Guys may be shallow at first sight, but they still want a girl they can respect and admire.

#24 Respect yourself. You’re not a doormat. Let him know that you have the strength to move on if he does something stupid or treats you badly. Be an achiever and a girl he can look up to in awe. Always make it look like you’re the biggest prize he’s won.

#30 Make him dependent on you. As long as he thinks he can’t live without you or if he feels helpless without you, he’ll always stay interested in you.

Pick the traits you can use and you’ll see how easy it can be to keep a guy interested in you. But never let him use you or treat you like a pushover. And don’t think twice about punishing him or putting him in his place when he doesn’t treat you right. Earn his respect and love. And let him earn yours. Treat him with love and affection, but only if he deserves it. After all, as long as he fears losing a catch like yourself, he’ll never put a toe out of line, would he?

Here are threw new releases, a book and two new boxes with novels where the heroines know how to keep a man interested!!!

Available at Amazon

HEALING PLANS, Love Plans Series, book 8, On preorder Publication Date: September 22, 2022 He thought he couldn’t have children and adopted two minority children, but he lost his wife. Finally things settle for him, until the lovely surgeon he hires turns his life upside down and love accomplishes miracles.

Unforgettable Loyalty: Available on Amazon
Is there anything more important in a relationship than loyalty from the one you love…
knowing that person will always be there for you? And then they aren’t. What happens then?
Sweet & Sassy: Small Town Romances Available on Amazon
Trusted friends and family will be at their sides as they learn difficult and surprising news. A few might search for the truth or attempt to contain a secret they have carried for years.

Ten Reasons to get More Sleep #RachelleAyala @Mimisgang1 #mgtab #BookReview

We’re having a global brain climate crisis!

Last month, I had my entire worldview about sleep overturned. I went from a sleep denier to a sleep advocate once I realized the detriment I was doing to my health by burning the candle on both ends. I also read Matthew Walker’s entire book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. My emotions went from skepticism to alarm to curiosity to concern as Dr. Walker laid out the reasons for every adult to get at least seven hours of sleep [babies and children obviously need more]. I highly recommend the book because it is footnoted with a lot of research and backed up by real-life experience. He talks not just about the quantity of sleep but also the quality of sleep and the importance of each of the stages of sleep.

Here are at least ten reasons why you should get more sleep. [Note: page numbers are approximate and come from a PDF file which might not correspond to the printed book, but you should be able to flip forward or backward to find the referred material.]

  1. Drowsy driving is dangerous. When you don’t get enough sleep, you drift off for a few seconds into unconsciousness. A few seconds at sixty miles per hour is lethal. While drunk drivers are slow to respond, drowsy drivers don’t respond at all because they are asleep. All it takes is a few seconds of oblivion. A study showed that later start times for high school students reduced accidents by 70%. To put it in perspective, anti-lock braking technology which was hailed as revolutionary reduced accidents 20-25%. (pg. 226) It is estimated that every 30 seconds, someone gets in an accident that is caused by drowsy driving. Even worse, truck drivers are 200-500% more likely to get into an accident. (pg. 106)
  2. Lack of sleep devastates your immune system. Even a single night of sleep deprivation (four hours versus eight) swept away 70% of natural circulating T-cells. These are the cells that fight infection and cancer. (pg. 136). In fact, studies show that if you didn’t get several nights of good sleep before a flu shot, your subsequent immunity is roughly 50% of your well-slept counterparts. You can imagine what a lifetime of sleep deprivation can do to your immunity and ability to ward off cancer.
  3. Lack of deep NREM sleep and dementia/Alzheimers go hand in hand. The brain uses deep NREM sleep to clean out the amyloid plaques (or debris) between the neurons. The less deep sleep, the more amyloid, the more amyloid, the less deep sleep. How can we prevent this downward spiral? Start getting more sleep whatever your age. Those of us who are already past midlife will have a disadvantage but we can still try to clean up as much as we can by sleeping more. (pg. 120)
  4. Unhealthy sleep, unhealthy heart. Here the data is clear. Study after study shows how even a single night of short sleep raises blood pressure, calcifies the coronary arteries, and elicits the fight-and-flight emergency response system and speeds up the heart. Deep NREM sleep soothes and calms the fight-and-flight branch of the nervous system. (pg. 126)
  5. Sleep and lose weight. When we find ourselves needing to lose a little weight, we immediately turn to dieting and exercising. While these two activities are proven to work, they will get a significant boost if we also increase our sleep. No matter how strong your willpower is, you can’t beat these two hobbit-like hormones, leptin and ghrelin. One (ghrelin) makes you crave food and turns you ravenous, and the other (leptin) signals that you’re full and there’s no need to eat. Sleeplessness unleashes the ghrelin (cookie) monster while a full night’s sleep allows leptin to do its job. Research shows that giving people five or six hours of sleep a night caused them to increase their caloric intake by 300 every day or 70,000 a year (10-15 pounds). (pg. 129)
  6. Sleep enhances learning and memory retention. One experiment showed that sleeping before learning improved learning. Not only that, sleep the subsequent nights increased long term memory. Sadly, even one night of disrupted sleep on the third night after learning decreased retention. For example, a college student sleeps well all week, but goes out drinking on Friday night. That one night of disturbed REM sleep washed away their progress. It’s unknown how many consecutive nights of adequate sleep will make these newly formed memories safe. Dr. Walker says his class groans when finding this out. (pg. 199)
  7. Sleep and emotional stability. Dreaming reduces stress. Studies have shown that the stress chemical noradrenaline is entirely shut off ONLY while you’re dreaming (REM sleep). (pg. 153) Deprive someone of REM sleep, and their minds will attempt to make up for it by dreaming or hallucinating while awake. This research is so unethical that no attempts are made to recreate the studies from the 1960s when young people were deprived of REM sleep. Their hallucinations could not be distinguished from psychosis. (pg. 224)
  8. Sleep Deprivation and Bad Decisions. Another alarming fact is that medical doctors and residents are chronically deprived of sleep with the thinking it would “toughen them up.” Many of us are unaware, but the doctor who came up with this tough training regimen was a cocaine addict and made many mistakes himself, including leaving young residents in the middle of surgery alone while he had the shakes. This legacy has killed countless patients, and yet, the medical profession prides itself on it’s sleeplessness. Perhaps they should be ashamed if we equate sleeplessness with being naked. It would actually be safer for patients if they were naked rather than bereft of sleep. The stats are chilling. (pg. 230)
  9. Sleeplessness makes you Unpopular. Research was done where observers are asked to rate the attractiveness of random people. Each person had a picture taken when he or she was well rested, and another picture taken when he or she was sleep deprived. Even though the individuals were the same, the raters who didn’t know the purpose of the study rated the pictures of the sleep-deprived state as less attractive. Perhaps that’s why we call it a beauty rest or beauty sleep. (pg. 134) Furthermore, sleep-deprived individuals are less able to pick up on social cues. They tend to attribute negative thoughts to others by defaulting to a fear bias. (pg. 158) Imagine what happens when a nation or world of sleep-deprived individuals ascribe negative motivations and exhibit fear-based responses toward each other.
  10. Great sleep make great creativity (and sex). Ending on a positive note, sleep has always been the source of creation, whether of the arts or procreating new human beings. Dreaming and a good night’s sleep gave us the periodic table, neurotransmitters jumping across synapses, Paul McCartney’s Let it Be and Yesterday, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (pg. 163) Sleep also keeps testosterone levels healthy (pg. 132). Take that, you alpha males bragging about how little sleep you get. Under-slept men have smaller testicles and lower sperm count, the testosterone level of a man ten to fifteen years older, and a dulled libido. Under-slept women have irregular menstrual cycles and are more likely to suffer miscarriages. (pg. 133). Therefore if you want to birth and raise healthy babies, make it a habit to prioritize sleep, and give your children great sleep habits, too. It’ll increase their learning, social attractivness, emotional stability, and overall health.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD

I hope you read the book for yourself. Dr. Walker covers tips for a better night’s sleep. These do NOT include sleeping pills, alcohol, and caffeine. Unfortunately, all of these chemicals disrupt normal sleep patterns. Sleeping pills are habit forming. Alcohol sedates the cortex but creates nonrestful sleep, and of course caffeine with its long half life make getting to sleep difficult. You also cannot “bank” up or “makeup” for sleep by bingeing on it over the weekend. What’s lost is lost. You can only go forward and give yourself at least eight hours of sleep opportunity a night.

Within a month I’ve increased my average sleep time from 5 hours a night to 7 hours a night. I wear a Fitbit Charge 2 to track my sleep so I don’t have to record it every night. I also go to bed earlier and have had to shift my writing time, because I used to write late into the wee hours of the night. My latest book, Not My Boss, was written before I added 2 hours a night of sleep. It’s available in a new Workplace Romance Boxed Set, Madly in Love with a Coworker. My self-driving car romance, Nick’s Christmas Ride, is written with 7-8 hours of sleep a night and will be in the new Author’s Billboard Christmas set coming in late October. I’m still proud of my late nights with Not My Boss: Can office pranks, HR violations, and a doggy fashion show get Dixie the divorce she thinks she wants?

Madly In Love With A Coworker, 99c or Kindle Unlimited