Alpine Gold

Alpine Gold

Buried deep within the famous mountain ranges of the Austrian Alps lies a precious commodity. White gold. This mineral rich mountain salt has been the main income source for eons, generating a flourishing mining history dating back 7,000 years.

At the center of it all sits the fairytale lake community Hallstatt. A Unesco World Heritage site, its flower draped 16th-century Alpine houses stacked on top of each other along the steep cliffs dominating the shore of Lake Hallstatt, Hallstätter See, pull visitors from near and far. After some high-profile Chinese folks fell in love with this medieval mining town, creating of a replica on Chinese soil, photo-snapping Chinese tourists have been crowding the quaint shops in search for this ‘white gold,’ the Hallstatt Salz.

Salzwelten,, the oldest salt mine in the world, is the town’s big tourist draw towering high above the town. Exploring these ancient caves, tourists ride a funicular railway to the mine entrance. After slipping on heavy suites and sliding down into this vast world deep below the ground, they travel backward to the days when settlers of the Iron Age Hallstatt culture, the Celts and the Romans inhabited the region.

The sleepy community of Obertraun, just a short drive around the sparkling deep-blue lake, offers another once-in-a-lifetime thrill. Obertraun BeachObertraun Lake ViewThe 5Fingers Viewing Platform on top of the Krippenstein. Stepping off the cable car after a gripping ascent literally takes your breath away. The sweeping lake below and sprawling Alpine vistas sure make for an unforgettable, dizzying sight.Lake Panorama

If you prefer to stay closer to the ground, an extensive grid of hiking trails, tranquil beaches, and scenic cruises along stretches of romantic lakeshore beckon. Hallstatt



Imperial Splendor

Imperial Splendor

Vienna owes much of her imperial glory and splendor to the grand Habsburg Dynasty, which ruled a vast stretch of central Europe for six centuries from its capital city Vienna.  Hofbug Facade Germans by origin, the Habsburg family gained power when Pope Gregory X needed support for a new crusade. To secure a counterweight to the King of Sicily, he persuaded the German princes to elect Count Rudolph of Habsburg as the new emperor in 1273.

Growing up in Austria, I’ve heard much about the vast Habsburg monarchy, ruling much of Europe for over six centuries until 1918. Also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it included present-day Austria and Hungary, extended from the Kingdom of Bohemia across present day Czech Republic and Slovakia, down south to Slovenia and Croatia. Parts of present-day Poland, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, and Italy were acquired through marriages.

Fast forward to 2017. It’s another gorgeous summer day and I’m back in my homeland under the Viennese sky. The Habsburg reign has long ended but its rich heritage is etched into the monumental palaces, princely mansions, and baroque buildings dominating the famous Ring Strasse. I’m staying at the Austria Trend Hotel, Just a couple of miles from the Opera House, the Imperial Hofburg Palace, and a few steps from the subway station,, this chic four-star residence is the ideal place to stay. With speedy trains running every three minutes in both directions, getting around in Vienna is quick and fun.


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Hopping off the subway at Schönbrunn palace is like stepping back into a slice of Austria’s grand past. A time that gave rise to the greats of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Strauss. A time when inventions and discoveries changed the course of a nation while pompous ladies in bead dripping gowns waltzed through mirrored, gold paneled halls.

Schonbrunn Big Facade

Daydreaming, I’m left speechless like those picture snapping tourists swarming about, oohing and ahing, soaking in the brilliance of this former summer residence. The elaborate landscaped palace grounds of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a scene to behold and so is the airy Gloriette pavilion towering over pooling marble fountains. Ambling past eye-catching floral designs, I try to envision the times when Empress Maria Theresia ruled over the land.

Schonbrunn Gloriette 3Ambling past eye-catching floral designs, I try to envision the times when Empress Maria Theresia ruled over the land.     Maria Theresia BEST (1)

The one and only female ruler in the House of Habsburg, she ascended to the throne in 1740 at the young age of 23 after the death of her father, Emperor Charles, VI. During her 40-year reign, this fierce ruler, strategist, mother, reformer paved the way for compulsory education, promoted commerce and agriculture, restructured the military, and supported human rights. Her love marriage to Emperor Francis I produced a staggering 16 offspring. To this day, Empress Maria Theresia remains one of the most influential and revered women in Austrian history. This year’s Jubilee Exhibition commemorates her 300-year birth anniversary on May 13, 1717.

Another royal is equally revered throughout Austria. Empress Elisabeth, lovingly referred to as Empress Sissi. Hofburg SissiNot so much for her accomplishments but rather for her flawless beauty that captivated everyone she encountered including Emperor Franz Josef I. At the tender age of 16, this free-spirited Bavarian Princess stole His Majesty’s heart, thrusting her into a very strict court life at the Hofburg Imperial Palace right in the heart of Vienna. To escape her rigid daily life, Sissi became obsessed with her beauty and constant maintenance regimen, spending hours in her chamber for grooming and dressing.

Imperial Residence 2Today, touring Sissi’s private quarters in this six-century-old Habsburg residence one can learn all about her not-so-happy life that ended on quite a tragic note.

Over the centuries, the Hofburg has been a treasure trove of Austrian culture and heritage, housing the Treasuries of the Imperial Palace. . The crown jewels of the monarchy, the gem-studded tiaras and crowns, elaborate necklaces, and regal gowns, displayed in polished glass cases offer a rare glimpse into the enormous wealth of a once select few.Hofburg Tall

It is also here, under its shiny, gold trimmed cupola, where the Austrian President conducts his business affairs, while in another wing the unmatched equestrian artistry of the famous Lipizzaner stallions of the Spanish Riding School is showcased in velvet draped marble halls. Vienna Lippizaner Hofburg

As another visit to Vienna nears its end, I enjoy another fabulous view of the cosmopolitan cityscape, beholding its grandeur and timeless beauty, wishing to be back soon. I sure hope you’ll join me on this experience for all your senses. Vienna waits for you…

The Sound of Vienna by Jose Feliciano,   The Rise and Fall of Austria and the Habsburg Empire,

Schonbrunn Front




The Green Heart of Europe

The Green Heart of Europe

Vienna… an experience for all your senses. According to the World Economic Forum, Austria’s imperial capital sprawling along the famous Blue Danube River has been named the “City with the highest quality of life.” And strolling through the manicured city parks, down pompous avenues, and past baroque facades, this quality of life pulsating in the green heart of Europe puts a little spring in my step. At the festive Ringstrasse,, I breathe in its grand flair. Vienna Heldenplatz 4The Kunsthistorische Museum, Art History museum to my left, boasts the world’s largest collection of Bruegel paintings. A perfect replica, the Naturhistorische Museum (Natural History) to my right houses some 30 million objects, offering a journey through time from the very ancient to the present., These two palatial structures, built to house the vast collection of the Habsburg Dynasty, opened its doors more than a century ago. Vienna Musem 4Resting at the Staatsoper fountain,, one of the world’s leading opera houses, I daydream about Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, about the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra,, and the Viennese Boys’ Choir, Vienna Opera 2At the Hotel Sacher next door I lose myself in the heavenly desserts that made Vienna so famous. www.sacher.comVienna Hotel Sacher 2Heading down Kärntnerstrasse, the very special Viennese charm awaits you.ärntner_Straße, imperial facades, cozy coffee houses, world-class shops and restaurants draw me into a constant 180 sweep until the sight of medieval St. Stephen’s Cathedral stops me in my track. Vienna St. StephenThe very heart of the city is pulsating with an infectious vibrancy. Everywhere I look, ladies step in and out of designer stores, tourists snap pictures, while others indulge in the many outdoor cafes along the Graben, Vienna GrabenIn the many souvenir shops, Mozart’s timeless smile gleams from countless chocolate boxes while Klimt’s golden kiss, featured on T-shirts and memorabilia, fetches equal attention. Under a huge white umbrella at the regal Cafe Demel, savoring my own Viennese Eiskaffee, Eiskaffee 4my mind swirls, drenched in the city’s imperial nostalgia and delightful contemporary vibe. On a packed, rumbling subway back to the hotel, I remember the clacking of horse hoofs, the oohing and ahing tourists riding around in the Fiakers, those shiny horse drawn carriages that date back to Vienna’s imperial days. HofburgIt’s almost midnight and I’m buzzing all over. Enchanted, I can’t wait for tomorrow. Vienna’s grand past and heritage awaits me.


Horse Haven


Aubrey & Bo

It all started with Aubrey and Bo. Two gorgeous trail horses. When Aubrey showed up as Christmas gift outside Tami Marler’s ranch home, and she in turn surprised her husband with Bo, the couple didn’t have the slightest inkling about the bumpy ride ahead.

After moving into a cozy country home on the outskirts of Coweta, a 40-minute car ride southeast of Tulsa, Tami made her longtime dream a reality. And then, while scrolling through Facebook one January day, Tami’s eyes landed on the “Save a Slaughter Bound Horse,” page. Jake, a stunning lookalike of Aubrey popped up, set to be slaughtered that Jakeday. Tami couldn’t bare the thought. Her heart melted. Horrified, she searched the Internet for more info as time was running out. Taking a chance to save the stallion, Tami dished out a total of 1,200 dollars unaware that this would lead to her newfound purpose. From that day forward, keeping a close watch on the “Save a Slaughter Bound Horse” page,, Tami made it her mission to rescue a horse bound for slaughter. So far, she has taken seven horses from slaughter to salvation.

To make a bigger impact in saving these horses off the kill lot, Tami founded “Swingin’ D Horse Rescue,” First and foremost, this non-profit saves horses from slaughter with the goal of finding them loving homes for the remainder of their days.

Visiting the ranch one sunny afternoon, watching Tami feed, brush, and pet all her horses, I realized how much time and resources it takes to care for these equine beauties.  Tami Grooming Large

Besides food and boarding, veterinary check ups, dental and hoof care are continuous necessities that require ongoing funding.

It’s been a most unusual ride for this former beauty queen. The first time I saw her, I was newly married to her father, Bob Marler, and we admired her wowing the crowd with her bluesy rendition of “Since I fell for You.” After winning the Miss Oklahoma title in  Tami Miss OK

1989, a successful career in television broadcasting followed until Jake showed up on her computer screen, launching this feisty Red Head on a path she’d never imagined.


Valle de Bravo


There couldn’t be a more picturesque setting for a wedding than this utterly charming lakeside community skirting the scenic shores of Lake Avándaro. Version 2 This quaint colonial town in the pine-covered mountains of central Mexico was my destination last weekend to celebrate my friend’s son’s nuptials.

After overnighting in Mexico City, we headed out of its busy madness; people, houses, cars, all morphing into each other. Zooming into the rolling hills on fancy highways, we cruised through the mega development of Mexico City’s rising district of Santa Fe,,_Mexico_City (quite the contrast to Santa Fe, New Mexico,

Speechless, I didn’t expect to find this display of modernization and wealth here in one of the most populated megacities on the planet. Mexico CityThe gleaming skyscrapers, sprawling shopping malls, and residential towers lay universes away from the glum houses and street vendors we passed in the taxi from the airport to our hotel, the elegant Camino Real Pedregral.

As we drove west, speeding through modern tunnels and high-tech tollgates, I couldn’t believe the effective infrastructure and the ease at which we got from A to B. Two hours later, we found ourselves sipping cappuccino overlooking the lush greens of the Avándaro Golf Hotel & Spa Resort, the misty layered hills stretching across a blue horizon evoking memories of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Today, Valle, as it’s commonly known among locals, is home to roughly 60,000 people. Prior to hosting the world-famous auto race Circuito Avandaro and the huge Latin rock music festival Festival de rock y Ruedas in early 2000, this small mountain community was just a typical small Mexican town. Over the years the clean mountain air, balmy weather, and breathtaking scenery have drawn water sport enthusiasts, nature lovers, and history buffs alike. And Mexico City’s elite.

Taking a drive down to the lakeshore, the posh mansions behind bougainvillea-draped walls and modern villas clinging to the rocky lakeside cliffs gave way to historic dwellings along narrow cobblestone streets.

At the Embarcadero,, the point of interest where all the action was, taxis and street hagglers vowed for customers, while I somehow tried to wrap my mind around the huge gap between the haves and have-nots.

Later that day, watching the sunset over a dreamy landscape, I wished I could stay a bit longer. There’s so much more to explore around here, most notably the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve., › Culture › World Heritage Centre › The List
Each November, millions of migratory butterflies from Canada and the United States arrive here for escaping the cold. That’s when I need to come back too.


Venice of the North

Venice of the North

Saint Petersburg. Russia’s second largest city and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990, this splendid showcase of Russian glory, founded in 1703, was the brainchild of Tsar Peter the Great. A mega tourist draw and the prime destination on our Baltic Sea Cruise, we dropped anchor in this gem of a city. Formerly knows as Petrograd and Leningrad, Saint Petersburg ruled over the Grand Russian Empire for more than two hundred years until the Russian Revolution of 1917.  The arctic gust welcoming me in Mid June was a quite an unpleasant welcome but all bundled up, my hubby and I ventured out on our first tour, a canal cruise around the Neva River’s historic embankments. 


Despite the sunbeams blazing between the whitest cotton clouds, chills crept all over me as our barge bobbed alongside other crowded vessels through an expansive network of canals and bridges. Past majestic mansions, golden spires, and onion cupolas gleaming against the deepest blue, I was caught in a constant 180-degree sweep. As I tried to absorb it all, this splendid history, architectural marvels, Peter the Great’s living legacy, our Russian tour guide Barbara pointed out the city’s resemblance to Italy’s famed Venice, hence St. Petersburg’s nickname, “Venice of the North.” In her dizzying spiel, she rattled off about Peter’s ambitions to build a new capital city, calling upon Europe’s best architects, engineers, artists, and craftsmen. The western style boulevards, enchanting parks and fountains, and sprawling palaces we admired on our tour showcased his majestic vision and power. Throughout history, St. Petersburg moved between periods of upheavals and cultural achievements.


The Golden Age of Russian Culture rose from the ashes of the first Russian revolution in 1825, the Decembrist Revolt, after Tsar Alexander I died suddenly. The second cultural wave, the Silver Age, inspired revolutionary ideas in the world of music, dance, and visual arts until Russia entered World War I in 1914. That year marked the beginning of decades of upheavals, wars, and revolutions, taking Russia headlong into the iron fist of Stalin and the era of Soviet Communism. But in 1989, the tsunami wave of freedom sweeping across the Iron Curtain brought about a new dawn. The Soviet Regime fell, new nations emerged, Leningrad became St. Petersburg, and during a period of revival ensuing to this day, the city has transformed to of the most stunning destinations on the planet. Watch out for my next blog about St. Petersburg’s most famed sites.

Christiane Von Linz

Christiane Von Linz

Dear Travelsonataincmajor Followers,

I am thrilled to announce the launch of my new website, Featuring a brand new look, this website offers tons of information and is easy to browse around. From now on I will post my travel stories here, so stay tuned for news by signing up on the bottom of the site.

Thank you and enjoy my new adventures at Googlewood Castle…guglwald_hotel


Google What?


A long, long time ago, long before the idea of a world wide web and the Google search engine was conceived, a sleepy hamlet along the Iron Curtain, as the Austrian and Czechoslovakian border was called back then, bore the cute, funny name Guglwald, Googlewood. img_9622

I was quite lucky to get to know Guglwald in the days when a yellow Postbus, the identical one Julie Andrews rode in The Sound of Music to the Van Trapp Mansion, was our only way to reach this promised patch of earth. When the bus stopped in Guglwald, the little knoll by the woods, nestled at the end of a dusty road 50 kilometers north of Linz, we had indeed reached the end of the “Free World.”

Since my Dad worked in a somewhat high government position, we had the privilege to spend summers in one of the reserved flats in the Zollhaus.

The Zollhaus stood three-stories tall, and its gabled roofs evoked quite the storybook setting. Just steps from the border, it was primarily constructed for housing border patrol employees and their families. Imagine, living in a community of merely fifty souls. Most people had radios and TV back then but except for the one time daily arrival of the Postbus, this farming community was little known to the outside world. Life was very, very lonely along the border. Indeed. And quiet too. A rough existence for the family running the Inn cum Pub cum convenience store hugging the Gugl, the famed hill, along the vast Boehmerwald region,, in Northern Upper Austria. http://www.oberoesterreich.atguglwald_bikeride

Besides farming and living off the land, families invented ways of making do. A sweet faced lady, Frau Schauflinger, with a big Saint Bernard living on the other side of the glen was famous for her butter and buttermilk. Whenever my Dad and I stopped by to stock up our supplies, I would sit at her table, the big orangey-white monster of a dog snuggled against my calf. Perking my ears to her tales, shots being fired at night, fleeing people seeking shelter, a feeling of fear and curiosity seized me.

A short hike down the road, a small weaving shop cranked out dishtowels and throw rugs, and over another grassy knoll, a family tended to bees, producing some of the sweetest honey I’ve ever tasted since those innocent Muehlviertel, Mill County, days.


Even though life took me away from those Guglwald summers, I held on to my memories; skipping across the pristine landscape, listening to the singing brook as it bubbled over rocks and meadows, scouting the mossy grounds for edible mushrooms, falling asleep under the shimmering Milky Way.

But then in the fall of 1989 history was made. The Berlin Wall came down and so did the rusty barbed wire fences and watch towers that had become the symbol of Communist Rule since the end of World War II. guglwald-mahnmal

Borders opened, and from then on, life in Guglwald was never the same. But that’s another story.guglwald_border


The Manhattan Project


Heading north out of Santa Fe, curving around a rugged canyon,

the unusual town of Los Alamos beckons after a scenic 33-mile drive.

Tucked away in the Jemez Mountains of Northern New Mexico, this sprawling community once housed Pueblo Indians and the Los Alamos Ranch School until the early 1940’s.

Today, the world renowned Los Alamos Science Laboratory,, dominates every aspect of life around this progressive science hub that changed the course of world history in 1945. Cruising down modern boulevards, it’s hard to picture the immense transformation that took place here after government officials scouted the area for a top-secret mission, The Manhattan Project,, in the summer of 1942. This remote mesa offered everything for a central laboratory: west of the Mississippi, far away from both coastlines, a suitable climate, isolated for safety, and sparsely populated. So, once the ranch school and surrounding land was purchased in November 1942, things snowballed. The school closed in January 1943, bulldozers arrived, serenity was shattered, and in the blink of an eye, an entire town rose from the dirt. Scientists from every corner of the globe descended on Los Alamos with one common goal: to develop the first atomic bomb that would put an end to the German war machine’s conquest during World War II. Spearheaded by General Leslie R. Groves, physicist Dr. Robert Oppenheimer directed the scientific developmentsimg_1710-1and designing of the two atomic bombs that came to be known as Little Boy and Fat Man.

The story about the Manhattan Project is an astonishing one. The many exhibits at the Bradbury Science Museum, depict a vivid narrative of the challenging times between 1942 and 1946. img_1698-1Watching the historic movie offers another fascinating glimpse into the lives of the thousand men and women who tirelessly worked in this town unlike any other. img_1701-1There were no poor, no jails, no unemployment, no sidewalks. The area was kept in total secrecy. Access in and out of Los Alamos was limited. Tight security checks were the norm whenever leaving or returning to the secret city. All newcomers had to report to an office on 109 East Palace Avenue,, in Santa Fe for processing. Secrecy required everybody to share the same mailing address, Post Office Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and that address also appeared on all birth certificates issued during those years. By the time testing of the atomic bombs was completed in April 1945, the war in Europe was over. So the bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which brought about the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II in 1945.

Sky on Fire

Sky on Fire

Have you ever dropped everything to step out into the stunning aftermath of a thunderstorm? When the scenery prompted you to take a twirl in the moisture-tinged air?The last time I did, the clouds and blue banner of sky had transformed into a ferocious twirl of ominous shades, spewing across the horizon like a dragon. As you may know, Santa Fe is quite the place for the most spectacular mountain vistas, deep blue skies, and bold orange red sunsets. But that late afternoon as I stretched my arms skyward, the monstrous cloud train colliding with the setting sun left the sky on fire.