Random assorted photos of the Romanian and Bulgarian Royal Families

Since I’ve had no time to put together posts on any of the topics I’d planned since my near-entire focus became finishing my alternative history in time for its release and then prepping four of my five books for print editions, here’s another quick, easy-to-put-together post.

After the Ryurikovich and Romanov Dynasties, I think the Romanians are my favourite royals. Not only is Queen Marie one of my favouritest queens, but she had a Russian connection. Her mother was Tsar Aleksandr II’s daughter Mariya. Queen Marie’s youngest daughter Ileana is also one of my favourite princesses. She wasn’t the type who did little more with her life than sit around in royal residences looking pretty.

I love the Bulgarian Royal Family because Tsar Boris III is one of my heroes. He repeatedly risked his life and throne to save his kingdom’s 50,000-strong Jewish community from the Nazis. I absolutely feel there’s merit in the theory he was given a slow-working poison at his final stormy meeting with Hitler, instead of having a heart attack.

Tsar Boris, Tsaritsa Ioanna (née Princess Giovanna of Italy), and their two kids Mariya Luiza and Simeon. The lattermost is the only living person who’s had the title Tsar. Simeon has never renounced his claim to the Bulgarian throne either.

Proud papa Boris with his little boy Simeon.

Big sister Mariya Luiza with baby brother Simeon.

Mariya Luiza and Simeon. I love how little boys all wore short pants in this era.

Four youngest children of Queen Marie. Ileana, on the far left, was very possibly fathered by Prince Barbu Ştirbey instead of King Ferdinand, and Mircea, the baby, was almost certainly fathered by Ştirbey.

Sadly, little Prince Mircea died just two months shy of his fourth birthday, in 1916. One of the many strong clues suggesting his true paternity is the fact that Prince Ştirbey came to his sickbed and stayed through his death.

Cute little Mircea almost always smiled in his photos. Such a tragedy he was taken out of the world so young.

Queen Marie with her middle children Mignon and Nicky.

Queen Marie with her two older daughters, Elisabeta (Lizzy) and Maria (Mignon).

Love the animal print!

Tsar Boris and his siblings, Yevdokiya, Kiril, and Nadezhda.

Mariya Luiza with a doll.

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Miscellaneous Imperial Family photos

Because I’ve been singularly working on finishing my alternative history in time for its 17 July release, I didn’t have any time left to put together a proper post. Instead, here are some of my photos of Russia’s Imperial Family.

1922 engagement photo of Prince Nikita Aleksandrovich (grandson of Aleksandr III) and childhood friend Countess Mariya Vorontsova-Dashkova. Their oldest son, Prince Nikita Nikitich, appears in my alternative history, as one of the five princes held as ransom by the Eichmann–Kommando in Budapest.

Tsar Ivan V, Peter the Great’s very handsome halfbrother and initial co-Tsar. Though Ivan was very severely disabled, he had a wife and five healthy daughters, and Peter was always so compassionate towards him. He never excluded him from co-ruling, even knowing it was mostly symbolic.

Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich, second surviving son of the rival Vladimirovichi branch of the family. Though he was quite the womanizer and overspender, he was also known as an excellent host, very friendly and cheerful, with gourmet foods and wines by his tables. He and his little brother Andrey were let out of Bolshevik captivity when their captor recognized Boris as the one who’d bought some of his artwork when he was a struggling artist in France.

Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna (née Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine), known as Ella, Empress Aleksandra’s older sister, widow of Grand Duke Sergey Aleksandrovich, in 1887. She later became a nun, and was murdered by the Bolsheviks. In comparison to her sister, she was popular from the moment she arrived in Russia.

Prince Igor Konstantinovich, who marries Grand Duchess Mariya in my alternative history. They have eleven children, ten of whom survive. Had they both lived, he would’ve been a great husband for her, since she wanted so much to marry a nice Russian soldier and have a large family. Knowing she was a hemophilia carrier, and such a sweet person, I gave them eight girls and only three boys. Their second hemophiliac son survives into adulthood and plays a very important role in capturing Hitler alive near the end of the war. Their surprise youngest child, Oleg, is the healthy son they’ve long dreamt of.

Found this among a few blurry pictures while going through my downloads to free up space on my computer, prior to reinstalling and updating my OS. I really hope that photo isn’t what it looks like!

Prince Oleg Konstantinovich, Igor’s favorite brother, said to be the most intelligent of the Konstantinovichi siblings. His death in the war in 1914 devastated their father.

The Zayande River

Copyright Ms96

The Zayande River (Zayanderud) is the largest river in central Iran’s Iranian Plateau. Its genesis is in the Zard-Kuh subrange of the Zagros Mountains, near the southwestern corner of Iran. It ends in the Gavkhouni swamp, east of Isfahan.

The river flows for 249 miles (400 kilometers).

Copyright ظهیری

People have lived along the Zayande for over 50,000 years. The Qaleh Bozi cave complex was home to our Neanderthal cousins, as evidenced by their bones, stone tools, and animal bones. They had a marvellous view of both the river and the plain from their caves.

They were attracted to the area by the permanent river, good sunlight, and a variety of landscapes offering many different types of game and edible plants.

Copyright Alireza Javaheri

Next on the scene was the Zayande River Civilisation, which flourished in the 6th millennium BCE. They lived concurrently to other great ancient civilisations, such as Sumeria and the Indus Valley Civilisation.

Further archaeological expeditions are planned to uncover more details about both this civilisation and the Neanderthals. They’ll focus on two historic hills, in the Gavkhouni swamp and midway alongside the Zayande.

Copyright Alireza Javaheri

Many historic bridges from the Safavid era (1501–1736) cross the river. Isfahan alone has four—Siosepol, Marnan, Joui, and Khaju. There’s also a much-older bridge, Shahrestan, whose foundations date back to the third century BCE. Its top was renovated in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Shahrestan

Khaju, Copyright Saeed Majidi

Siosepol, Copyright آرش

The Zayande used to flow through many parks, but much of the river has sadly dried up in recent years. Isfahan was an oasis settlement for centuries, and got its wealth and fertile lands from the Zayande, whose name means “life-giver.”

The water wasn’t used for much outside of agriculture till the 1960s, but a higher cost of living, increased population, and the creation of large steel plants and other modern industries changed everything.

Chadegan Dam, Copyright Meghdad thrust

Chadegan Dam (formerly Shah Abbas Dam), built from 1967–71, has helped to stabilise water flow, create electricity, and prevent seasonal flooding. During Nowruz, the Persian New Year (20, 21, or 22 March), water discharge is upped so as to let the Zayande flow through Isfahan for the holiday.

Today, 80% of the Zayande is used for agriculture, 10% for human consumption, 7% for industry, and 3% for miscellany.

Sadly, the river’s lower reaches are dried-up. Humans caused this drought by poor planning and populist politics which led to overuse and misuse.

Copyright Adam Jones; Source

In Isfahan, where the Zayande still flows, there are many nearby cafés, teahouses, restaurants, parks, and paddle boat rentals.

The Zayande is on Iran’s Natural Heritage List, a project of their Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organisation.

Copyright Amin.salehi.16

My characters Inna Zhirinovskaya and Mrs. Brezhneva escape to Isfahan with 40 children and 10 other employees of their orphanage in 1937, during the Great Terror. Inna also takes her little niece Velira, and is soon joined by her younger brother Vitya.

Also in Isfahan is Arkasha Orlov, a former prince whom they met during a brief stop in Aden. Arkasha is smitten with Inna almost from the start, and makes no secret of his romantic interest in her.

On Inna’s 31st birthday in October, they go for a walk along the Siosepol at night, and Inna lets Arkasha kiss her. Arkasha has awakened something inside her, and made her rethink her conviction that she’s meant to be a spinster.

Copyright Babak Farrokhi; Source

I’m still planning to visit Iran to do firsthand research for the final draft of Journey Through a Dark Forest. Americans can apply for Iranian visas through the Pakistan Embassy. It’s a beautiful country, with wonderful people, in spite of how the media portrays it.

The protests which began in December 2017 prove how deeply many Iranians want change. They’re tired of living under a repressive theocracy, and want to return to being a modern, democratic country.

Many protestors have been killed, arrested, or tortured, but that hasn’t stopped them from taking a stand. Change never happened because people sat down and just accepted the status quo. Freedom is never free.

Yorkville

Copyright Leifern

Yorkville is a neighborhood within Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Its boundaries are E. 96th St. (north), E. 79th St. (south), Third Ave. (west), and the East River (east). Part of Carnegie Hill used to be within Yorkville.

In August 1776, about half of Gen. Washington’s troops were stationed in Manhattan, many of them in Yorkville. They were strategically positioned along the East River to protect the other half of their brothers-in-arms if they retreated from Brooklyn, and to counter any attacks from either land or sea.

Gracie Mansion

Copyright Limulus

After a terrible defeat by the Battle of Long Island on 27 August, Gen. Washington’s Continental Army retreated from Yorkville. During the retreat, the British piped the song “Fly Away,” about a fox fleeing from hounds.

Instead of giving in to this musical taunt to fight, the Continental troops retreated in a very orderly fashion. This prepared them for their success next month in the Battle of Harlem Heights.

St. Monica Catholic Church, Copyright Limulus

Carl Schurz Park

Slowly but steadily, Yorkville evolved from farmland and gardens to a modern, industrialized, commercial area. One of America’s first railroads, the New York and Harlem Railroad, went through the neighborhood. The Boston Post Road, a mail delivery route, also went through Yorkville.

The current street grid was lay out from 1839–44. By 1850, a large portion of the population were German and Irish.

After the Civil War, slums were replaced by mansions.

The Marx Brothers’ old tenement, 179 E. 93rd St. (now in Carnegie Hill), Copyright Ephemeral New York; Source

Yorkville was a working-class and bourgeois neighborhood for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to the big German and Irish sections, there were also many Slovaks, Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, and Lebanese.

Yorkville was one of the most common destinations for German immigrants by 1880. After the General Slocum ship caught fire in the East River, off Yorkville’s shores, on 15 June 1904, many Germans moved to Yorkville from the Lower East Side’s Kleindeutschland (Little Germany). Most of the passengers had been German, and people already in New York wanted to be closer to their affected relatives.

There were many ethnic bakeries, shops, groceries, churches, cultural associations, bakeries, butcher shops, restaurants, and imported gift shops.

Sidewalk clock, 1501 3rd Ave. between E. 84th and 85th Sts., Copyright Beyond My Ken

Disgracefully, Yorkville was home to the openly pro-Nazi German American Bund. There were frequent protests and demonstrations against the Bund, including street fights.

Thankfully, its founder, Fritz Julius Kuhn, got busted for tax evasion and embezzling $14,000 from the Bund, and spent 43 months behind bars.

While he was in jail, his U.S. citizenship was cancelled. After his release, he was re-arrested as an enemy alien, and sent to an interment camp in Texas. Kuhn was interred on Ellis Island after the war, and deported to Germany on 15 September 1945. He died in 1951 in München.

146–156 E. 89th St. between Lexington and Third Aves., Copyright Beyond My Ken

On a happier note, Yorkville was a haven for people fleeing from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe, and from behind the Iron Curtain.

Today, Yorkville is one of Manhattan’s richest neighborhoods.

Landmarks include Lycée Français de New York, Carl Schurz Park, Gracie Mansion (the mayor’s official home), the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, the Municipal Asphalt Plant, the Rhinelander Children’s Center, Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Monica Church, Holy Trinity Church, St. Joseph’s Church, and Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Copyright Ephemeral New York; Source

Besides the Marx Brothers, other famous residents of Yorkville include Lou Gehrig (born in the neighborhood) and James Cagney (grew up on E. 96th St.).

My characters Vera and Natalya Lebedeva move to a cellar apartment in Yorkville in spring 1929, after their father finally lets them live on their own. After Natalya’s marriage to Rostislav Smirnov, she stays in the neighborhood.

Vera finds a job teaching second grade in Yorkville after she graduates Hunter, and moves back to the Lower East Side after marrying Rostislav’s brother Vsevolod. She and Vsevolod later return to Yorkville and move into a brownstone a short distance from Natalya and Rostislav.

Novomira Kutuzova-Tvardovskaya, the daughter of old family friends, lives with Vera and Vsevolod while she attends Barnard.

Xanten, Germany

(This post is edited and greatly expanded from my 2014 A to Z post. It’s not a crime to plagiarise yourself!)

Reconstructed Roman gates, Copyright Andy1982

Xanten, Germany’s only town whose name starts with an X, is in North Rhine-Westphalia, and borders the Rhine on the north. It was settled by isolated tribes around 2000 BCE.

The Romans arrived around 15 BCE, creating a home base camp (Castra Vetera) for military campaigns against Germania. Eight to ten thousand legionnaires lived there until the Revolt of the Batavi in 69–70 CE.

Harbour Temple of the Xanten Archaeological Park, partly reconstructed, Copyright Magnus Manske

A new base camp, Castra Vetera II, sprang up, and a settlement created nearby, home to 10,000–15,000 legionnaires and civilians, gained colonia rights in 110 CE. The old settlement was completely destroyed to create the new one.

This colonia was the next-most important commercial post in the province of Germania Inferior (with Köln [Cologne] being #1). Sadly, it was almost destroyed by Germanic tribes in 275. In 310, a new town with better fortifications was created.

The Romans gave the area up in the early 5th century, after endless attacks by Germanic tribes.

Stadium ruins, Copyright Magnus Manske

In the 5th century, the Franks settled in Xanten, but since they didn’t build with stone like the Romans, only their graves remain as evidence.

In the second half of the 8th century, a church was built on the grounds of a Roman cemetery from the colonia days, and named Sanctos (super Rhenum). It was alternately called ad Sanctum. The etymology came from the believed grave of 4th century martyr Viktor of Xanten, and thus the town’s modern name was born.

After a convent was established, the city began to take on its German character.

St. Viktor Cathedral courtyard, Copyright Xantener

Cathedral façade, Copyright Joe North; Source

Northwest façade detail, Copyright Matthias Nonnenmacher

Xanten was besieged by Norsemen in the 9th century, but in 939, King Otto I defeated Saxons, Franconians, and Lotharingians at the nearby Battle of Birten. That year’s Battle of Andernach decisively brought the area into Otto’s kingdom.

Xanten received town rights on 15 July 1228, and in 1263, the foundation stone for its landmark St. Viktor Cathedral was laid. It was finally finished in 1544.

By the end of the 14th century, Xanten was protected by a town wall.

Siegfried Windmill, Copyright Magnus Manske

Due to crop failure and war, the population shrunk from 5,000 to 2,500 from the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 18th. When the Rhine’s riverbed shifted away from Xanten, their robust economy as a trade town also suffered.

Things got worse when the river flooded several times. Then St. Viktor Convent was forcibly secularized by Napoléon in 1802, and the convent library and the libraries of several closed monasteries were merged.

The town walls and one of the gates were torn down in the 1820s, but further destruction of the town’s past was halted in 1843 by a town councilor. Further rescue came from archaeologists fascinated by the Roman ruins.

Copyright Ben Bender

Xanten had a Jewish community since the Middle Ages, when some of the residents were murdered by Crusaders. In 1891-2, the community was endangered again due to a blood libel against shochet (kosher butcher) Adolf Bischoff. The population was down to 30 by 1905. Following Kristallnacht (9 November 1938), what remained of the community fled.

85% of Xanten was destroyed during WWII.

Mörmter Cloister, Copyright Frank Vincentz

Xanten’s Archaeological Park is one of the largest open-air archaeological museums in the world, and Xanten Cathedral is said to be the largest cathedral between Köln and the sea. Other attractions include Xantener Sommerfestspiele (an esteemed classical music festival held for two weeks each summer); Xantener Montmartre (an art showcase drawing artists from worldwide); and an annual sandcastle contest.

Legend has it that Siegfried of Die Niebelungenleid was born in Xanten.

Klever Tor (Gate), Copyright Rainer Lippert

My character Yuriy Yeltsin-Tsvetkov is in Xanten with the Canadian Army at the end of WWII, and sees the heavily bomb-damaged cathedral as he walks through the newly-liberated town. In a nearby requisitioned house, he treats wounded soldiers.

In Xanten, Yuriy finds souvenirs to bring home to his family and penpal Inga, whom he’s secretly in love with. The gifts for Inga are a black fur jacket and malachite bracelet.