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.

 

How Authors Use Historical Events by @_NancyRadke

Many of my books have some historical events included, or referred to. This is because history repeats itself, if unlearned by following generations. My historical Trahern series is placed just after the end of the Civil War and mentions events during those times. The Sisters, Brothers, and modern Trahern stories often have some contemporary issues mentioned.

Historical Events

The Traherns Western Pioneer series (13 book series)

My early books were written in the 1980’s, just as computers were becoming available to the general public.  Appaloosa Blues was my first book and it was written longhand and on a typewriter, then switched to an early personal computer which was opened with DOS. My seventh book, Turnagain Love, was the first one published, in 1994.

Revisions and the author

When I got ready to put my books up on Amazon, I went through and did revisions, trying to bring them up to date, since by then it was 2000 and both computers and cellphones were in general use. One of my readers commented that a few of my books didn’t seem to emphasize modern communication (such as cell phones), and I agreed, since I still am not attached to my phone. It gets left in whatever room I left last, so when it rings, I have to run through the house doing a phone search to find it.

My books often allude to what is going on in the world at the time when the book takes place. Height of Danger was written right after the destruction of Venezuela. The events there turned the country from an oil-rich country to one filled with abject poverty, caused by the new government. When a government takes total control, the people flee if they can. Many still die trying to get to freedom.

Height of Danger

History will repeat itself. Each generation knows only 20 years of history. If earlier events have been destroyed or are not learned and remembered, world governments are destined to repeat their mistakes.

Travel with Mona to Ancient Egypt

After a non-stop flight of about ten hours, we had a glimpse of the pyramids from the plane and landed at Cairo International airport. My husband had spent a month organizing our April trip with an Egyptian travel agent from the comfort of our home. He even booked a car with an English-speaking driver for the time spent in Cairo.

Our driver received us at the airport and drove us to Le Meridien, a five-star hotel, at about a mile from the airport. We were spending only one night, and flying early next day to Luxor. We had a delicious dinner of shish-kabob, avoided salad and fruits and sipped a cold Stella beer. We’ve been advised to stay away from any food that wasn’t grilled or fried, and drink sparkling water, to make sure the bottles weren’t filled with tap water.

After a night of rest we badly deserved, our driver took us back to the airport before dawn, and we flew to Luxor in Upper Egypt where the temperature could reach 110o at mid-day in summer. A new driver sent by the cruise-line met us at the Luxor Airport, loaded our luggage, and drove us to the first historic site.

In the time of the Pharaohs, Luxor was called Thebes, the most important capital of the civilized world. The Colossi of Memnon are two monumental statues representing Amenhotep III (1386-1353 BCE) of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. They are located west of the modern city of Luxor and face east looking toward the Nile River.

The figures rise 60 ft (18 meters) high and weigh 720 tons each; both carved from single blocks of sandstone.
The statues depict the seated king on a throne ornamented with imagery of his mother, his wife, the god Hapy, and other symbolic engravings.

Temple of Hatshepsut was a funerary shrine to Queen Hatshepsut, a place for people to appreciate her power. The temple is cut into the stone of the cliff-side to make it seem as though it is a part of nature. Queen Hatshepsut was the the most powerful, female pharaoh.

You must walk up a long ramp to enter into the temple (reminiscent of the horizon).
We can see the symmetry of the columns (Egyptians didn’t know how else to hold up a roof!)
Though we can tell that she is female, she has many male physical features: her breasts are de-emphasized, she has the classic beard of the pharaohs, and wears the royal male headdress. Her masculine depiction is consistent with the upkeep of continuity and stability for Egyptian rulers (there is no word for “queen” in Pharaonic language–she truly saw herself as a king). 

By the time we finished visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut it was so hot we couldn’t wait to hide in a shady place. Our driver took us straight to the Nile River and our cruise ship.

During a pharaonic festival, the procession of gods would begin at Karnak and end at the temple of Luxor. Each god or goddess was carried in a separate barge towed by smaller boats along the Nile River. Large crowds consisting of soldiers, dancers, musicians and high ranking officials accompanied the barge by walking along the banks of the river. The people were allowed to ask favors of the statues of the kings or gods that were on the barges.

Cruising the Nile River
Aboard our comfortable ship
Along the Nile River
I bought table clothes and robes (galabeyas) embroidered with pharaonic designs. The merchants would throw them up to the ship and we threw the money in plastic bags. They were so cheap.

We spent two days in Luxor walking or rather rushing from one temple to another until I begged our guide to slow down. We could have easily spent four days for a more relaxed tour of the monuments.

Inside a ruined temple
One of several obelisks

The Luxor temple was not built in adoration to a god or to a god figure of the kings and pharaohs; instead, Luxor Temple was built in dedication to the rejuvenation of kingship.

One of the entrance with pharaohs statues.
An entrance with an obelisk

Its construction began by Pharaoh Amenhotep III and was completed by Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

A statue of Ramses II with
his beautiful wife Nerfertari standing by his feet
The Alley of the Sphinxes, the path of pharaohs, once connected Karnak to Luxor. It was a 2.7 km long road, with 250 lamb-headed and 807 human-headed sphinxes on both sides of the alley. In total, there are more than 1000 statues whose age exceeds 3000 years. The avenue was built during the reign of the 18th dynasty of pharaohs (about XVI century BC) and was used for the solemn processions of the rulers. It had been covered with sand for thousands of years. Its restoration began in the middle of the XX century.

On Day two, we visited the Great Temple of Amon at Karnak, This great national monument of Egypt has no equal. Built around 2055 BC, it is not a single temple, but temple within temple, shrine within shrine, pylons, chapels, and other buildings where almost all the pharaohs, particularly of the New Kingdom, wished to record their names and deeds for posterity.

As the new pharaohs changed entrance pylons, erected colonnades and constructed temples, they often reused valuable blocks from earlier periods. In the core of the Third Pylon built by Amenhotep III, for example, there were blocks of no less than ten temples and shrines from earlier periods. Though most of the structures were built in honor of Amon-Ra, his consort Mut and son Khonsu, there were numerous shrines within the complex dedicated to what might be called “guest deities’, like Ptah of Memphis and Osiris of Abydos.

In addition to the temples of Luxor and Karnak, Luxor boasts the famous Valley of the King that harbored more seventy tombs, including the tomb of Tutankhamen—famous King Tut. It is assumed that many more tombs are still hidden under the desert in this area. We visited four of the tombs going down the steps under the rock to admire the incredibly well preserved sculptured and painted walls. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures.

Tomb of Tutankhamen: White color: gypsum, calcium carbonate. Black color: carbon suit and coal. Red color: red ochre and red iron oxide. Blue color: from a mixture of copper, calcium and sand. Green color: malachite

To visit the Temple of Edfu, where the god Horus is honored, the cruise provided a horse carriage for our transportation. It was a lovely ride.

At night, we stop in a town called Kom Ombo and climbed a hill right out of the ship to visit a double temple dedicated to two different deities: the local crocodile-headed god Sobek (or Set) , and the first “god of the Kingdom”, the falcon-headed god Horus.

Set (with the crocodile head) and his wife
Horus (with the falcon head)

The next day we stepped from the ship into small boats that took us to the island of Philae, and the lovely temple of Isis, goddess of fertility. Built during the reign of Ptolemy II (Egypt’s Greco-Roman Period), the Temple of Isis at Philae is dedicated to Isis, Osiris, and Horus. The temple walls contain scenes from Egyptian mythology of Isis bringing Osiris back to life, giving birth to Horus, and mummifying Osiris after his death.

On Day 5, we disembarked at 4:00 am. A new driver led us to his car and waited with a convoy of 100 cars, with several police cars driving ahead, beside and behind us for tourist protection. After a two-hour drive, we arrive to Abu Simbel, site of two temples built by the Egyptian king Ramses II.

In the 1960’s CE, the Egyptian government planned to build the Aswan High Dam on the Nile which would have submerged both temples (and the Temple of Philae). Between 1964 and 1968 CE, a massive undertaking was carried out in which both temples were dismantled and moved 213 feet up onto the plateau of a cliff. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the temples where the statues and paintings beat everything we have seen before.

If you have a chance to take a cruise on the Nile River, you’ll never regret it. The sceneries are fabulous, the monuments unbelievable, and the shopping so inexpensive.

My book THE GODS OF DARK LOVE is the story of Isis and Osiris. It’s part of the box: Tangled Paranormal Nights which is free.

The Gods of Dark Love: The jealous god of storms Seth killed his brother Osiris and chopped his body. The goddess Isis, who loves Osiris, brings him back to life, and searches for one last missing part. But Osiris’s past threatens to separate them more than Seth’s mayhem and curses.

NEW RELEASE on August 2nd

KISSING PLANS, (Love Plans Series, book 6) available at Amazon

From best friend to lovers. But she’s engaged. What better way to get rid of the undesired fiancé? Finding him a girlfriend.

The Statue of Liberty

From the moment of its dedication, the Statue of Liberty has been an enigmatic monument.

The colossal statue was a gift from France and the brainchild of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to symbolize America’s message of liberty to the world.

The sculptor behind the Statue of Liberty, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was born in 1834 in France, in the Alsace region on the border of Germany. When Auguste was nine, his mother Charlotte moved with her children to Paris and allowed them to study under some of France’s most accomplished artists, braving the city’s civil unrest for her sons’ education.

After completing his first commissioned work at age twenty, a large bronze statue of Napoleonic General Jean Rapp, Bartholdi traveled with a group of French cultural ambassadors to photograph works of antiquity in Egypt.

They encountered desert landscapes where ancient cities lay in ruins but colossal statues remained, inspiring Bartholdi to write “These granite beings, in their imperturbable majesty, seem to be still listening to the most remote antiquity. Their kindly and impassible glance seems to ignore the present and to be fixed upon an unlimited future.”

As an emerging artist, Bartholdi actively searched for commissions as well as inspiration, and he secured a meeting with Khedive Isma’il Pasha of Egypt, the ruler overseeing and funding the French construction of the Suez Canal. Bartholdi presented a figurine for a colossal lighthouse depicting an Egyptian fellaha, a female serf, entitled Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia. This design was ultimately rejected by the khedive.

In 1865, a French political intellectual and anti-slavery activist named Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that a statue representing liberty be built for the United States. This monument would honor the United States’ centennial of independence and the friendship with France.

The Statue of Liberty was built in France between 1875 and 1884. Bartholdi required the assistance of an engineer to address structural issues associated with designing such a colossal copper sculpture. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, just prior to creating his famed Eiffel Tower, was engaged to design the massive iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework that allows the Statue’s copper skin to move independently yet stand upright.

Construction of the Statue was completed in France in July 1884. The massive sculpture stood tall above the rooftops of Paris. For its trans-Atlantic voyage aboard the frigate Isère, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. The ship arrived in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885.

Back in America that same year architect Richard Morris Hunt was selected to design the Statue’s granite pedestal, and construction got underway. The pedestal was completed in April 1886. The statue was reassembled on Liberty Island in 1886, although the torch has been redesigned or restored several times since its installation. Finally, on October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland oversaw the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of spectators.

The sculptor behind the Statue of Liberty, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi found his inspiration in the Land of the Pharaohs. You can take an armchair trip to Egypt, visit the Pyramids of Giza, and cruise along the Nile to Upper Egypt and the famous temples by reading SECRET KISSES.

Katy Mahoney, Hoda Seif, and Sarah Kohn. Three girls from different backgrounds and religions pledged to maintain their friendship forever.

On Graduation Day, Katy meets Hoda’s oldest brother Tarek, a dark and handsome medical graduate who can’t take his eyes off her. The graduation celebration ends with Hoda and Omar breaking off their engagement, Hoda exchanging a secret kiss wit Liam, Kathy’s cousin, and Omar befriending Sarah and renting a room in her house.

Three best friends, three secret and forbidden romances.

For five years, the three friends meet and exchange confidences and advice. Sarah is concerned about Omar’s narrow-mindedness and decides he has to change. Katy knows she’ll have a battle royal on her hands with her pious Catholic mother. And Hoda is in a worse shape. Her family’s religion forbids her to marry an infidel.

Will they choose the men they love and break with families and traditions? Difficult choice.

ON PREORDER

Kissing Plans: From best friend to lovers. But she’s engaged. What better way to get rid of the unpleasant fiancé? Finding him a girlfriend.
Family Plans: A plane crash destroyed their lives. Can it bring them together despite the painful secrets it uncovered?
Healing Plans: 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.