Tag Archives: Travel

5 Remarkable Places You Will Want to Visit After Reading Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for via @PatFurstenberg #travel #castle #monument #history #culture

Whenever I read a book depicting real locations, actual places I can find on a map, a novel in which genuine artwork is described, and tangible, concrete buildings I know I can also visit are part of its setting, I tend to be more immersed in its story-line. The storytelling becomes more credible and, if by chance or choice, I visit those place I find myself immersed in that particular book again and, often, I pick it up and read it again.

On researching location for my latest novel, “Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for” I discovered a few sensational places; some new to me, secrets buried by history and war, others I have heard of but had not known how inspirational and amazing they were. I know, now, that I’d like to visit them all, one day when traveling to Afghanistan for tourism will be a safe endeavor once again.

1. Buddhas of Bamyan

The two Buddhas of Bamyan - the taller and the smaller one, as they once stood since their construction around 500AD and before the Taliban attack in March 2001
The two Buddhas of Bamyan – the taller and the smaller one, as they once stood since their construction around 500AD and before the Taliban attack in March 2001 – Source Wikipedia

“The Taliban did not succeed in wiping out the two Buddhas, but they became unrecognizable as the figures they once were. A cultural, religious, historical and entomological symbol and landmark.
It was a bleak day in human history when something that watched over the valley for 1 500 years was destroyed in a matter of weeks.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

The Buddhan of Bamyan were two colossal statues carved during the 6th century into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley, once along the Silk Road, in the central highlands of Afghanistan, 230 km NW of Kabul, its capital city.

The bodies of the Buddhas were carved in the mountain cliff, while delicate details have been modeled out of mud and straw and coated with stucco for resistance. The faces, hands, and folds of the Buddhas’ robes were painted for an enhanced effect. The big Buddha, 53 m tall, was painted carmine red while the smaller Buddha, 35 m tall, was painted in multiple colors. They represented the Buddhas Vairocana and Sakyamuni.

“Taliban forces operating in Afghanistan had destroyed these colossal statues in March 2001. They started by damaging the Buddha with anti-aircraft firearms and cannons. Yet the damage inflicted was not enough for the Taliban. They returned with anti-tank mines that they placed at the statues bases. When sections of rock broke off, the statues suffered further damage.

And still, they did not stop here.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)
Destruction of Buddhas March 21 2001. Source Wikipedia
Destruction of Buddhas March 21 2001. Source Wikipedia

“The Taliban dropped men down the face of the cliff. They had placed explosives into the various grooves found in the Buddhas. The plan was clear, to completely destroy the facial features of the two statues. Maybe a bad understanding of the Quran: Islam condemns idolatry. When one of the blasts could not destroy the facial features of one statue, a rocket was used in its place. It left a hideous gap in whatever was left of the Buddha’s head.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)
Taller Buddha of Bamiyan before and after destruction. Source, Wikipedia
Taller Buddha of Bamiyan before and after destruction. Source, Wikipedia

But there is hope.

7 June 2015: Xinyu Zhang and Hong Liang , a Chinese adventurist couple, created a 3D image of the Buddhas and donated projector used for the installation, worth at $120 000. The 3D projection was able to fill once more the void cavities where the two majestic Buddhas once stood.

2. Qala-e Bost Fortress

“Qala-e-Boost or Bost Fort is the remnant of Alexander the Great’s Fortress in Afghanistan. What still stands today from this millennial old fortress is an impressive ruin. Helmand’s crown jewel is located on the east bank of the Helmand River, near Lashkar Gah, a city in southwestern Afghanistan and the capital of Helmand Province.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

Lashkargah, or Lashkar Gah, means “army barracks” in Persian language.

Qala-e-Bost, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Source Wikipedia
Qala-e-Bost, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Source Wikipedia

“The stones of Qala-e-Boost have seen wars as well as the joys of celebrations. They have known wealth and ruin. Early hymns of the Zoroastrian religion, one of the oldest religions in the world, were once performed here. One of them was the Nowruz, the famous ceremony dedicated to the Sun and marking the Iranian New Year and the Spring Equinox. Along the years Bost fortress has been used as a guard post for the traditional caravan trade from Iran to India. The Mongols, then the Persians have been here too, then the Arabs, even the Russians. Leaders and warriors came here as attested by the terracotta figurines, the inscribed seals, and the many coins discovered here, and then they left. Still, Bost remained.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)
The famous arch at Qala-i-Bust or Bost, in Helmand. Source Wikipedia
The famous arch at Qala-i-Bust or Bost, in Helmand. Source Wikipedia

” At noontime, the sun spat yellow venom over the desert surrounding the ruins of the Qala-e-Bost fortress, over this war-cursed land where a misconceived culture and an overpowering international necessity to meddle fatalistically merged, long-stalling the Afghan peace process.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

What is amazing about Qala-e-Bost Fortress is not what is visible above the ground, but what is hidden underneath, the entire Bost castle, 5 levels, being in the shape of a well hidden underground.

Qala-e-Bost Fortress as seen in“Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for"
Qala-e-Bost Fortress as seen in“Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for”

“As an eerie glow spread over the flat expanse of sand, from his high point Marcos caught a glimpse of what Qala-e-Bost’s crumbling walls would have been in its time of glory. No longer a ghostly silhouette, a mere reminder of an existence long forgotten, but a castle again.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

I researched so much about this underground castle that stood the test of time. It would be incredible to walk its corridors, to see the light bouncing from the walls of its shaft, to hear the echoes of history as it was buried in its secret rooms.

3. An Afghan garden

Gardening says a lot about the nurturing abilities of a person. When an entire population has a gift for gardening it means that they have peace in their hearts and know the value of life.

An Afghan garden
An Afghan garden

I was amazed to discover how much gardening means to the Afghan people and how connected they are to their roots, to the soil of Afghanistan, nurturing or arid. How inventive the Afghans proved to be, making the best out of each situation, when it comes to gardens.

I tried to depict their nurturing nature in the pages of “Silent Heroes“.

“Afghans are gardeners at heart, did you know? Before they are mujahideen or insurgents or Taliban-bloody-criminals, they love to garden.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

4. A Military Base in Afghanistan

Military camp at Bagram, Afghanistan. Source Wikipedia
Military camp at Bagram, Afghanistan. Source Wikipedia

During the two years plus it took me to research and write “Silent Heroes” I researched in depth the living conditions of the US Marines deployed in Afghanistan and of all the military fighting there.

2012 army photo competition.Amateur Portrait category runner-up Cpl Dawson and his dog Lightning rest up in TCP West.Picture Captain Richard Willing MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images
Army Photographic Competition 2012. In this handout image supplied by the Ministry of Defence Crown Copyright, photo entitled ‘LIGHTNING AND HIS HANDLER’, depicting Cpl Dawson and his dog Lightning rest up in TCP West. (Army Amateur Portrait category runner up; Photo by Captain Richard Willing/MoD/Mandatory Credit Crown Copyright via Getty Images)

What is outstanding is the level of organization and, at the same time, the little comfort these amazing soldiers put up with every day in order to do their duty towards their own countries and to keep peace for us all.

And anything reminding them of home is treasured. Like the small American flag in the image below.

A U.S. Marine looks out from his post in September at Bost airfield in Helmand province. Andrew Renneisen-Getty Images
A U.S. Marine looks out from his post in September at Bost airfield in Helmand province. Andrew Renneisen-Getty Images

“Between the building and the sheet of the tent was a corridor-wide enough for a human to pass through, two would have to negotiate. From a drain pipe facing the main door hung a small size American flag, the one civilians wave on the 4th of July, its sole purpose of connecting them with home.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

5. A field of poppies

In Afghanistan, poppies – opium poppies – mean death and poverty. I, “Silent Heroes” I tried to explain the vicious cycle that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan means. It was fascinating to learn how it started, why, and what its consequences meant for the Afghan population as well as internationally.

A soldier walking past a poppy field in Afghanistan
A soldier walking past a poppy field in Afghanistan

“The hamlet’s reputation of frightfulness came from the complete lack of vegetation. As if the poppy field that once flourished nearby sucked away any drop of water that might have concentrated in the adjacent earth, like some type of incongruous alien.”

( Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)

International affairs and their local implications are never as simple as they appear at the beginning.

“So ‘The Golden Triangle’ (Burma, Thailand, Laos) was soon replaced by ‘The Golden Crescent’ (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran).”

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for)
World Map Opium Heroin. Golden Triangle. Golden Crescent. Source Wikipedia
World Map Opium Heroin. Golden Triangle. Golden Crescent. Source Wikipedia

Still, there is something magical about a field of poppies. I think that poppies seeds, with their ability to remain dormant throughout the years, are a fantastic representation of what hope and resilience is all about. Never give up.

Maybe because poppy has a long association with Remembrance Day. Why? Scarlet poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed, arid earth throughout the world. Poppies grew naturally after the Napoleonic wars of the 19th Century and again on battlefields of WW1.

An old, happy short-haired pointer dog in a poppy field at sunset
An old, happy short-haired pointer dog in a poppy field at sunset

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields”

I hope you enjoyed reading about the five locations that inspired and amazed me while writing “Silent Heroes“.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – New Contemporary Fiction by Patricia Furstenberg

Do you have a favorite place you read about in a book?

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You Can’t Go It Alone by Jessie Cahalin @BooksInHandbag, Author Chat and Book Review by @PatFurstenberg

It gives me great pleasure to share with you the chat I had with lovely Jessie Cahalin best known as the original, highly creative and ever so supportive of all authors @BooksInHandbag. Jessie just released her debut novel You Can’t Go It Alone,  a book focusing on life through IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), love and the importance of music and friendship.

Here are my thoughts on You Can’t Go It Alone by Jessie Cahalin

You Can't Go It Alone by Jessie Cahalin
You Can’t Go It Alone by Jessie Cahalin

Sophie and Jack are the main characters of this novel and the story opens as they just moved in Vine Cottage in the village of Delfryn. We soon discover that life for this young couple is not a “picture postcard” as Sophie dreams of, as they undergo a treatment of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). The emotional roller-coaster they both go through and the pressure it puts on their relationship are presented with feeling and in-depth knowledge.

Jack’s parents, Jeanie and Max and their camper nicknamed Molly, bring humor and, surprisingly, a lot of action into the story. They, too, have their own struggles. I enjoyed the positive shift in relationship between Sophie and her mother-in-law Jeanie.

Next door, in Dove Cottage, lives Ruby with her daughter Daisy and partner Dan. Ruby has to deal with her own personal struggles. We discover that, sometimes, by opening up to others, unexpected help comes when we most need it. Nearby is Rose Cottage where widower Jim Evans lives alone with his dog, Lassie. There are a few secrets here that burden his last days, but also unexpected, happy news.

The main setting for this novel is, however, The Olive Tree Café run by Italian descendants Rosa, her jealous husband Matteo and their talented daughter Olivia. Why is Matteo so suspicious of his wife and daughter? Is it only his Italian blood to blame? And what keeps Rosa’s spirits up?

As one character says: “Maybe all the secrets hide in each branch and they fall away with the leaves.”

My favorite character was Rosa. I liked her creativity, all the effort she put in her small yet chic cafe while making time for everyone, her dedication towards her husband (even since the times they were just engaged) and how she knew how to support her young daughter Olivia. I liked how she kept her heart young.

You Can’t Go It Alone is a novel that appeals to all the senses.

The nature comes alive through Cahalin’s picturesque descriptions: you feel the April breeze through your hair, the rain washing over your face only to be dried up by warm sunshine.

Crickhowell, South Wales inspired Delfryn
Crickhowell, South Wales inspired Delfryn

“As they neared Delfryn, the light vanished from between the lush green trees, and the grey sky absorbed the colour.”

You hear the sounds, thunder and laughter, billowing voices and a little girl’s giggles, soulful chitchat and women singing, happy clinking of cups and saucers mingled with guitar music, tires screeching, laughter and sobs. An innocent girl laughs as she skips along the pathway to her “Magic Garden” and you hear the pebbles under her shoes.

It is a book filled with fragrances too; rosemary and lavender, freshly grinded coffee and cocoa dust, the earthly scent of olive oil and sweet tomatoes on bruschetta; the scent of wet ground and leaves and the sterile, impersonal smells of hospital.

It is a book of memories and secrets, of what it could have been, of what it really happened but most of all of what the future holds for all the characters: hope. The importance of communication and of speaking the truth is intertwined with each character’s journey.

Just as in the opening line of You Can’t Go It Alone,

“As Sophie looked up at the sky, its vast blueness held endless possibilities.”

this novel is alive and filled with love, for each other and for life, and a zest for life. It is the perfect pick-me-up read, with warm, engaging characters, a gorgeous setting and unexpected situations, both sad and humorous.

Find You Can’t Go It Alone on Amazon:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia

Jessie Cahalin Outside Bloggers' Cafe
Jessie Cahalin Outside Blogger Cafe

For such an amazing novel setting I headed over to Jessie’s Blogger Cafe to discus her thoughts and dreams for this book.

Patricia:  Jessie, we have been communicating for a year now and working together on my book launches.  You seem happy and positive about life and we have developed such a special, supportive relationship.  Can you capture your life in two sentences?

 @BooksInHandbag
@BooksInHandbag

Jessie: I’m the proud author of You Can’t Go It Alone and creator of Books in my Handbag Blog.  Life is great, and my only regret is not connecting with the bookish world earlier.

Patricia:  How would you describe You Can’t Go It Alone and the central themes?

Jessie:  You Can’t Go It Alone explores the impact secrets can have on relationships and pursuit of happiness. The themes of the novel are: love, infertility, bereavement, loneliness and literacy.

The reader is invited to the fictional Welsh village of Delfyn where you can gain a little taste of Italy while listening to the music.

Patricia:  Identify one of the key emotional journeys in the novel.

Jessie:  Through Sophie and Jack, I show how a couple struggles to deal with IVF while getting on with life. Surrounding the characters with other people meant I could integrate emotions, comments and situations faced by couples like Jack and Sophie.   Moreover, I decided it was important to give the husband a voice and this is conveyed via a blog.

Patricia:  You introduce women from different decades, explore differences in their opportunities, and move in and out of their lives.  Can you explain this?

Rosa, the leading lady of the Olive Tree Café, must face issues in her marriage. Sophie, a teacher, helps others to communicate but struggles to communicate with her husband, Jack, about their IVF journey.  Married in the seventies, Pearl struggles to pursue her dream.

Patricia: In your book you approach the medical and emotional struggles of a couple going through IVF proving that a lot of research went into it. Can you share how you went about researching for your book?

Jessie: The IVF journey is from personal experience. When writing the book, I did research fertility websites and records of our treatment.  Over the years, I have also spoken with many women about the experience and have realised I was not alone. And, I am always happy to support others who are going through the treatment. In You Can’t Go It Alone,  I wanted to covey the experience through characters placed in real situations; hopefully it will connect with the readers.

Patricia: Gosh, Jessie, I had no idea you went through IVF. Having just read Sophie’s story I do admire you so, your determination and strength… *hugs*

Which character was the closest to your heart?

Sophie’s struggle is close to my heart.  I can connect with the frustration and anger she experiences.  Sophie has worked through the anger at her situation and is learning how to count her blessings.  I had to nudge her to think of her husband’s perspective as she had become a little self-involved, but she is a kind person who can’t stop helping others. Although Pearl has an absent presence, I also feel connected to her through Jim and may tell her story, in more detail, in the future.

Patricia:  I would love to read a follow-up to You Can’t Go It Alone! Who would you like to read your book?

I hope the story will resonate with everyone and should appeal to anyone who likes a good story and real, flawed characters. Despite the heavier themes, it is a feel- good book and conveys my commitment to the simple things in life.

I hope the book would support to anyone who is going through IVF or is about to embark on the process.  The novel has light-hearted moments and presents hope.  As C. S. Lewis said, ‘We read to know we are not alone.’

Patricia:  What do you do when you are not writing?

Jessie: When I am not writing, I adore walking, cooking and procrastinating.  Walking helps me to sort out tangles in my narratives or blog posts.  We live in an area where there are some impressive mountain treks and costal walks, and we also have beautiful castles on the doorstep.

Jessie Cahalin’s Biography:

Jessie is a word warrior, bookish and intrepid virtual explorer.  She loves to entertain with stories, and is never seen without: her camera, phone, notebook and handbag.  Having overcome her fear of self-publishing, Jessie is now living the dream of introducing the characters who have been hassling her for decades. Her debut novel, ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’, is a heart-warming tale about the challenges women still face in society.  The novel has light-hearted moments and presents hope.

Jessie hails from Yorkshire, North England, but she loves to travel the world and collect cultural gems, like a magpie. She searches for happy endings, where possible, and needs great coffee, food and music to give me inspiration.

Connecting with authors via her Books in her Handbag Blog is a blast. She showcases authors’ books in the popular Handbag Gallery and has fun meeting authors in the virtual world.  Fellow authors have deemed her ‘creative and quirky’ and she wears these words like a blogging badge of honour. The challenge is to get out there and meet the authors face to face.  She has already set up a few interviews for June and have travel adventures planned.

Her debut novel showcased on the virtual red carpet and was supported by the wonderful bookish community. One day, she would dearly love to roll out the red carpet and host a huge book launch for indie authors.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B06XQ5RVD5/
You Can’t Go It Alone by Jessie Cahalin

About You Can’t Go It Alone

Love, music and secrets are woven together in this poignant, heart-warming narrative.

Set in a Welsh village, the story explores the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women. As the characters confront their secrets and fears, they discover truths about themselves and their relationships.

The reader is invited to laugh and cry, with the characters, and find joy in the simple things in life. Listen to the music and enjoy the food, as you peek inside the world of the inhabitants of Delfryn.

Let Sophie show you that no one can go it alone. Who knows, you may find some friends with big hearts…

‘Jessie creates soulful connections between her characters and the reader.  These relationships crescendo and blend until the reader is into the full depths of human nature.  It’s not every day one finds a book they can’t put down.  This is reserved for the undeniably human writer.’

Jennifer. C. Lopez

Connect with Jessie Cahalin through her website, Facebook: Jessie @BooksInHandbag and Facebook, Jessie Cahalin Author, on Twitter @BooksInHandbag  or drop her a line jessiecahalin@aol.co.uk

Remember: You Can't Go It Alone
Remember: You Can’t Go It Alone, by Jessie Cahalin @booksinhandbag

 

 

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