Travel to Vienna with Mona

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Vienna, the capital of Austria, is known as the City of Music due to its musical legacy. Many famous classical musicians such as Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Johann Strauss (father and son), Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler called it home. Vienna is also said to be the City of Dreams because it was home to the world’s first psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud.

I visited Vienna in the nineties and was impressed by the elegance of people in the streets. The picture of an older couple relaxing in a public park is forever etched in my memory. Dressed in suit and fur coat, they were sitting on a bench, their haughty dignity contrasting with the simplicity of the children playing and running around.

When I returned in 2011 and 2014, I was struck by the diversity of the population and costumes. Vienna had become more cosmopolitan and less European. But the monuments and landmarks haven’t changed and attract interest even more than in the past. Vienna has so much to offer to the tourist.

The Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna is where the two houses of the Austrian Parliament conduct their sessions. The foundation stone was laid in 1874; the building was completed in 1883. 
The Austrian Parliament Building: Theophil Hansen, the architect responsible for its Greek Revival style, designed the building in a comprehensive way, aiming to have each element in harmony with all the others. 
St. Stephen Cathedral is the most important religious building in Vienna and has borne witness to many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history. With its multi-colored tile roof, it has become one of the city’s most
recognizable symbols. 
The Maria Theresien Platz is located directly at the Ringstrasse, embedded in an imperial scenery between the Museum of Natural History and the one for Art History. Directly across the Ringstrasse you can find the Hofburg Palace.
The monument of Empress Maria-Theresa
One of the Museums at the Maria Theresien Platz.
My husband and I in front of the Maria-Theresa monument
Heldenplatz is a public space in front of the Hofburg Palace. The President of Austria resides in the adjoining Hofburg wing, while the Federal Chancellery is on the adjacent Ballhausplatz. Many important actions and events took place here, most notably Adolf Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany on 15 March 1938. 
The Spanish Riding School is the only institution in the world that has existed for 450 years and continues to cultivate classical horsemanship in the Renaissance tradition– It can also be found on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.

The Spanish Riding School is dedicated to the training of Lipizzaner horses. The performances taking place in the Hofburg are also a tourist attraction.
St. Peter Church
St. Stephen Platz (plaza) with the Plague Memorial Monument
Art History Museum at Maria-Theresia Platz
Mozart
Goethe

There are so many palaces in Vienna. Some are now museums, some are still used as official sites for the government. We never had time to visit the Vienna Opera House, but we attended a fabulous Strauss concert with a performance of waltz presented by professional dancers.

The Music Palace and garden during the day
Strauss Concert and performance of waltz.

A visit to Vienna is not complete without a visit to Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Hasburg emperors.

Schönbrunn Palace: Front view
Schönbrunn Palace: Back view

 

Baroque Sculpture that intrigued me in the fabulous gardens of Schönbrunn Palace. It represents the abduction of Helen of Troy by Paris.

Vienna is one of the most romantic capitals of the world.

Four books in each box– Eight romance novels, romantic comedy or romantic suspense set at Christmas time.

If there is one thing Senator Howard Dutton hates, it’s scandal, and all that it entails, juicy gossip, paparazzi, tabloid magazines, and the likes that could negatively affect his career. A family man with political ambitions, he’s happily married to a beautiful woman and he adores his four sons, David, Joshua, Ethan, and Brian, and his only daughter, Julia. Fiercely protecting his stellar reputation, he taught his children at an early age to work hard and avoid disreputable people. While in college, the children made him proud, until things turned rotten … just before a re-election campaign.

His sweet Julia, the apple of his eye and a gorgeous fashion designer, breaks her engagement a week before her wedding—the wedding of the century with seven hundred guests, all loyal supporters of Senator Dutton.

Joshua, a successful lawyer and his father’s right hand, now feeds the tabloids by flaunting a new beauty every week. David, a dedicated doctor, has marital problems and is going through a messy divorce. Senator Dutton would rather not talk about Ethan, the black sheep of the family who dropped out of college after a noisy argument with his dad. And what could he say about the relatives who add their share of problems. Thank God, young Brian discreetly restricts his amorous pursuits to his medical school and hospital.

Senator Dutton is ready to issue a warning. They should reform, at least during his campaign season, or else…

The Senator’s Family Series #1

The Senator’s Family Series #2

Travel with Mona to Hungary

We visited Hungary twice, the first time while on a cruise along the Danube River and the second time as part of a land tour through Eastern Europe. I enjoyed both visits and can’t wait to return.

The capital, Budapest also called the ‘Queen of the Danube’ is bisected by the Danube. A 19th-century Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest. Buda was the kernel of settlement in the Middle Ages, and the cobbled streets and Gothic houses of the castle town have preserved their old layout. Until the late 18th century, Pest remained a tiny enclave, but then its population exploded, leaving Buda far behind. In the latter half of the 20th century, growth has been more evenly distributed between the two parts. There are so many landmarks to visit.

As we cruised toward Budapest, we encountered a steep limestone escarpment overlooking the Danube. It provided a panoramic view of the whole city. At the top stood the Citadella—built by the Austrian army in the mid-19th century in order to keep watch over the town. Today it serves as a hotel and restaurant and doubles as the stage for a splendid fireworks display on St. Stephen’s Day (August 20). 

Sights include the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the Buda Castle hilltop complex, and the stately Hungarian Parliament Building.

Heroes’ Square: We walked through the statue complex of Hősök tere. Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) stands out for its iconic, towering pillar and Millenium Monument complex that dates back to 1896. The complex honors Hungary’s 7 founding figures, together with a few other important national leaders. The square serves as a convenient central point for exploring the city.

Tombs of the Heroes

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the grand icon of Hungary’s democratic government. The majestic, neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building dates back to 1904 and looms over the Pest side of the Danube River. It’s the largest building in the country. Viewed from aboard river cruises or the western bank of the Danube, the structure’s reflection on the calm river surface adds to the breathtaking panorama. Its turrets and arches make up most of its façade and with Renaissance and Baroque interiors. Group tours are available at the visitor center.

The picture I took on a cloudy, rainy day from the river cruise ship.
Picture from the web

The Royal Palace in Buda: It now houses the National Széchényi Library, Budapest History Museum, and the Hungarian National Gallery. 

We had a tour of the palace

St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica named after the first King of Hungary, King Stephen I. With its impressive architecture and decorations, it is a popular tourist destination and place of worship and also holds regular concerts. We visited the interior during the day and admired the illuminated façade during our night tour of the city.

The Fisherman’s Bastion, world-famous for its turrets and for spires is one of the most well-known attractions of the Buda Castle area and provides perhaps the most beautiful panorama of the city from the Buda side over the river Danube.

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest.

The Freedom Statue by night.
A view of the Danube, bridge, and Parliament by night.

There are so many statues in Budapest. I enjoyed two that were not famous!

Although we traveled twice to Hungary, we couldn’t see everything in Budapest. If I ever return, I would like to swim in Széchenyi Thermal Baths, the largest mineral bath in Europe, shop in the Great Market Hall, and listen to a Liszt symphony.

Love You Doc Series – New Release

Dr. Robert Olson was a well-known cardiac surgeon and heart transplant specialist who lived in Florida. His wife Janice was a nurse. Robert and Janice deeply cared for their close-knit family and encouraged their children to follow in their footsteps. At home, all they talked about was hospital, patients, surgery, recovery, etcetera…

Sure enough, their four kids studied medicine. The oldest brother, Nathan, became an orthopedic surgeon and worked in Boston. His brother Aidan finished a residency in neurosurgery and accepted a position in Cincinnati. Their sister, Sophia, was an ER doc, and the youngest sibling, Liam, was still in med school when their dad died.

In the four novels of this box, these successful doctors faced their share of problems before finding their HEA.

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

Cruise with Mona on the Blue Danube: Romania and Bulgaria

Our itinerary from Bucharest to Vienna, sailing along the Danube River for thirteen days.

We flew from New York to Bucharest, capital of Romania for a two-week cruise along the Danube River on Avalon Waterways River Cruises, but first we spent two days in Bucharest. On our first evening, we walked through the wide avenues of the city center and discovered the new place on our own.

The massive statue, cast in bronze, represents Carol I of Romania, the first King of Romania and founder of the Romanian Dynasty. During his reign, Romania conquered its independence from the Ottoman Empire, in 1877, in the course the Russo-Turkish War, known in Romania as the War of Independence.
Posing in the downtown area for a first picture in Bucharest.
Created in bronze in honor of the former Romanian politician, Iuliu Maniu, who served three terms as prime minister of Romania. The statue is located in Revolution Square in central Bucharest.
Kretzulescu Church is an Orthodox Church built
between 1720 – 1722. It is located on Calea Victoriei, at one of the corners of Revolution Square,
next to the former Royal Palace.
We were lucky to attend a wedding while visiting the old church. I was impressed by the elegance of the guests.
The Romanian Athenaeum is a concert hall in the center of Bucharest and a landmark of the Romanian capital city.

On Day 2, our first morning in Bucharest, Avalon Cruises took us on a tour of the city and a visit of the impressive Parliament Building. The former Royal Palace now houses the National Art Museum.

Parliament Building is the world second-largest
government building after the Pentagon.
The Royal Palace Square was the scene of riots in 1989 which led to the collapse of the communist dictatorship. I took this picture from the balcony of the Parliament Building.
Inside the Parliament Building,
the grand marble staircase
Inside the Parliament Building, one of the formal rooms

 

In the afternoon a short moto coach ride took us to Oltenita where our cruise vessel was docked. Before dinner the crew welcomed us with a reception and then we sailed to Silistra, a port city in Bulgaria. By the way, the blue Danube is far from blue, more like dark greenish black. We were told you see it blue only when you’re young and in love.

On Day 3, after breakfast, we travelled by bus to Varna, a naval base and sea resort on the Black Sea.

Varna is one of Bulgaria’s most popular destinations. While just over 335,000 people call the city home, during the summertime, its pristine Black Sea beaches fill up with over 1 million people, drawn to the sunny weather and fun nightlife.

It was a gorgeous day. Many sunbathers were topless. By the way, the Black Sea was blue, not black, rough with whitecaps and strong currents.

A most enjoyable lunch on the Pirate ship.

We had lunch on a pirate ship in the Black Sea.

The Dormition of the Mother of God Cathedral in Varna: we didn’t visit.
Lunch with the pirates!

On Day 4, we continued our bus trip to Veliko-Tarnovo. Often referred as the “City of the Tsars“, Veliko Tarnovo is located on the Yantra River and is famously known as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, attracting many tourists with its unique architecture.

The Patriarchal Cathedral on top of the Tsarevets Hill
Standing at a café on top of a hill.

The old part of the town is situated on three hills, rising amidst the meanders of the Yantra. The city was a natural fortress with ancient stone houses clinging to the steep stones. Tsarevets Hill is home of the Royal Fortress, palaces of the Bulgarian emperors and the Patriarchate, the Patriarchal Cathedral, and also a number of administrative and residential edifices surrounded by thick walls.

Entering the gate to the fortress
The Royal Fortress
A view of the city from the top of the hill.
A view of the fortress from the top of the hill.

We spent Day 5 on the ship sailing through the Iron Gates–A story for another day.

(The Danube cruise blog will be continued on October 1st)

May I offer you my newly released book FAMILY PLANS, (Love Plans Series, book 7) just released on August 25. It’s on sale at 99 cents for a few days.

The plane crash devastated two families and revealed painful secrets. Can a brighter future arise from those ashes at Christmas time?

Family Plans on Amazon

 

Left inconsolable by his wife’s death in a plane crash, Tim Kent dedicates himself to his daughter, Brianna. He allows her to get closer to her best friend Debbie whose father died in the same plane crash. When Tim meets Erin Perkins, Debbie’s mother, he’s impressed by the beautiful, young woman struggling to raise six children on her own while working at an exhausting job. He does his best to help her. Attraction develops between them. While Brianna practically lives with her friend Debbie and shares Erin’s motherly attention, Tim acts as a surrogate father for the six fatherless children. But the sorrowful plane crash that brought them together threatens to separate them when shocking secrets are revealed.