December Health: Body and Mind Balance Training

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Stay calm and in a balanced state of mind (and body) during Christmas time. Take it easy. Enjoy all of the days leading up to Christmas. And give your body healthy ‘Christmas’ treats every day:

Fitness Christmas Calender Tip # 2

Stand on one leg now. Stand for 30-60 sec. (max. 120 sec.) on each leg.

Work on your balance, while you are waiting for the bus or standing in line at the food mart (lift one foot discreetly) or while you are watching Christmas shows/films on tv.

Christmas decoration

Avoid mental and boidily ‘instability’.
Stabilize.

You want more? An extra challenge, while balancing on one leg?

1. Look up and down, as if nodding “yes, yes”.
2. Look to the right and left, as if shaking your head “no, no”.

Easier version: Hold onto something initially. More difficult: Move the free leg.

Stability training is essential trining for keeping the body in balance and restoring balance in challenging situations. Get ‘stable’ for health and performance.

December Health: Fitness Christmas Calender and the Happiest Exercise

Dear blog reader,

NOW it is officially Christmas time (not october or november …) ♥ The First of December, first day of the Christmas month ♥ A time for happy hearts ♥ Enjoy these days and get into a joyous Christmas mood ♥ Joy is a ‘present’, not (just) the eadibles or the presents ♥

Fitness Christmas Calender Tip # 1

Smile :-)

  1. Smile right now – a big smile: Be grateful for every (Christmas) day.
  2. Smile and the World smiles with you.
  3. It is true: Perform the exercise ‘smile’ and you will automatically be happier.

Christmas Calender Candle Merry December photo Marina Aagaard Henrik Elstrup

Have a truly happy Christmas month ♥

Wellness adventure: Venice, Italy, a sight to see … a.s.a.p.

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Recently I went to Venice for the fourth time (#1 business, #2 romance, #3 holiday, #4 business and pleasure). Even though I have visited more than 400 cities, Venice – without a doubt – is the most amazing and fairytale-like city I have ever seen. I can recommend visiting this special city as soon as possible.

Venedig kanal i Rialto broens skygge foto Marina Aagaard

Why the urgency to visit Venice, a city 1 metre above sea level (!) on 118 tiny islands separated by canals and joined by many, many bridges?
Well; with these conditions it should come as no surprise, that parts of the city are flooded occasionally, so the houses wither, along with their rotting foundations (wooden poles), and slowly sink into the sea.

Venedig forfald foto Marina Aagaard fitness blog

In 1987 Venice was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Venedig San Marco detaljer foto Marina Aagaard

If you go there and you are well off, there are plenty of Palace hotels to stay in, a.o. the Aman hotel, where George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin spent their wedding weekend (I am told …).

Venedig hotel og gondol morgen      Venedig lampe farvet

If you are on a budget, however, there are also plenty of cheap hotels in Mestre, on the mainland next to Venice, and on the road from Venice to the airport.
For campers there are super facilities, e.g. the mega place Union Lido close by Lido di Jesolo or the Jesolo International Club Camping, Europe’s no. 1 camping site for the third year in a row. From Lido di Jesolo you can go by boat to Venice city centre.

Venedig Pierre Cardin butik  Venedig maskeshop aftenVenedig kostume butik    Venedig butik Dali ure

Even if Venice is a rather small city with just 270.843 (2010) inhabitants, you can easily spend weeks (or months) sightseeing … there is a multitude of beautiful buildings, Palazzos with art, small museums and shops with Murano glass, masks, clothes and everything for your home.

Alternatively, if you are fresh out of (lots of) free time, you can go there for an extended weekend stay, which is also highly recommended.

Venedig glas hjerte   Venedig glas skildpaddeVenice Murano chandeliers photo Marina Aagaard  Venedig maskebutik Venedig masker dyr Venedig masker  Venedig maskeshop aften

You don’t have to shop in Venice, window shopping, is almost as good. There is so much to see and so many places to go, often for free.

Venedig Palazzo loft guld  Venedig Palazzo loft Venedig Palazzo rum med engel Venedig Palazzo rum og loft      Venedig Palazzo trappe og loft

To see list:

  1. Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square)
  2. Basilica San Marco (stunning interior with golden mosaics).
  3. Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) – and the Bridge of Sighs.
  4. Campanile San Marco, 91 m bell tower.
  5. Canal Grande, 3 km, ‘main street’, take the Water bus.
  6. Rialto bridge over Canal Grande, seen a.o. from the Water bus.
  7. Ca’ d’Oro (Palazzo Santa Sofia) off Canal Grande.
  8. Ca’ Rezzonico museum of 18th Century Venice.
  9. Murano, a group of five islands with glass workshops and museum.
  10. Lido di Venezia, a tourist area with shopping, casino and cinema.

Alternatively just wander around the streets of Venice. But remember a map (not a must-have but a nice-to-have), because it is like a labyrinth of tiny alleyways.

Venedig menneskemængde og San Marco kirken foto Marina Aagaard

As with other fantastic cities, Venice is naturally flooded with tourists from all over the World (12 million every year) and especially so in the summertime. So a great tip is to see Venice in the spring or in the fall, in the “off-season” (sort of).

Venedig Markusplads foto Marina Aagaard

No matter what time of year, my favourite time is in the morning, where most other tourists have not gotten up yet. Then you can relax at a café and watch the city wake up or go for a stroll and see a lot of details, which are impossible to spot otherwise (e.g. the bug bitten pillar or the love locks below) … or maybe you can be the first in line to see the Basilica di San Marco, where you normally queue for hours.

Venedig cafe morgen   Venedig kirke morgen foto Marina AagaardVenedig søjle med myrer foto Marina AagaardVenedig Marcus plads tårn    Venedig trappe og portal foto Marina Aagaard

All sightseeing is by foot, because there are no cars in Venice city centre. Apart from walking you get around by water busses, water taxis or gondolas.

Venedig gondoler Venice gondols photo Marina AagaardVenedig kanal morgen     Venedig kanal og bro Venedig kanal og både Venedig kanal pæleRelaxing in Venice photo Marina Aagaard Relaxing life and wine in Venice photo Marina Aagaard

Lots of canals mean lots of bridges; below you see four bridges side by side.

Venedig fire broer side om side foto Marina Aagaard

It is not just in Pisa, that the towers are leaning. Venice is full of leaning buildings and Towers.

Venedig klokketårn skævt foto Marina Aagaard   Venedig tårne skæveVenedig Sukkenes bro foto Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Super sigh(t): The Bridge of Sighs (above) is a closed bridge of White limestone. It passes the Canal Rio di Palazzo, off the Canal Grande, from the old prison of Venice to the courtrooms of the Doge’s Palace.
The bridge was built in 1602 and is designed by Antoni Contino, a nephew of Antonio da Ponte, who constructed the Rialto bridge (below).

Venedig Rialto bro og Marina foto Henrik ElstrupEverywhere in Venice you see old architecture and old and modern art and street art.

Venedig gadekunstnerVenedig spejler sig i skur Venedig street art

A special air of adventure and romance from the early morning light to late in the night …

Venedig par foto  Venedig promenade trappe par Venedig bro og hængelåse   Venice love lock photo Marina Aagaard fitness wellness worldVenedig by night 1 Venedig by night 2

References

Wikipedia Venice

Wikipedia Venedig 

Lonely Planet Venice

Time Out in Venice

Fitness wellness trip: Hamburg, Germany.

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

A holiday speeds up mental and physical recovery, så recently after a hectic september ‘fitness season’ start in the beginning of october I went on a weekend mini-Holiday in Hamburg once again.
No workouts for two days, but plenty of walking exercise and sight-seeing.

An interesting city and recommended for a Holiday break.

Hamburg, the second city of Germany with 1,8 mio. inhabitants, is one of the most  popular tourist destinations of Northern Europa – and actually more exciting, than it may sound. Hamburg has phenomenal shopping opportunities (for those addicted), many green (free) spaces, and a large, interesting and diverse harbour area under development.
Hamburg has the second-largest port in Europe and apart from that so many canals and bridges, that the Germans call the city for Venice of the North (a term used about a couple of cities in northern Europe, that contain many canals, comparing them to Venice, Italy).

There are plenty of reasons for going to Hamburg (especially if you live in Denmark, which is next to Germany and Hamburg is only a one hour drive from the border): To see art, city development, canals, lakes and boats or cars. It is not everywhere, where you in an everyday parking lot, apart from loads of Porsches, Mercedeses and Audis, see an incredibly beautiful McLaren sports car at 1 mio. US dollars plus.

Hamburg McLaren 414X2719 Hamburg McLaren B 414X2719

Hamburg Byggeri Havn nyt operahus
Construction site: Hamburgs new Elbphilharmonie, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (or Elphi), concert hall by the Water front. And harbour images:

Hamburg Bygning skrå Hamburg hummer stretch     Hamburg Skrue 414X2737      Hamburg hotel mural

 Hamburg Havn bro 414X2801Hamburg broHamburg biler ved havnHamburg havneområde 414X2865    Hamburg Ober hafen bro 414X2770Hamburg Havn Ober hafen Kan tine Marina Aagaard fitness blogOber hafen Kan tine – a popular ‘skewed’ cafe almost under the bridge.

 Hamburg havn MA leger 414X2980 Hamburg havn sandkasser og spil 414X2977Hamburg havn blomsterkasser 414X2978
In the newer part of the harbour: Modern playground and decor;
tiles with sound and bouncing poles – fun for children (and adults).
Hamburg Havnefront Bygninger Twist 414X3001 Hamburg Havneområde 414X2774Hamburg Indre havn kran 414X2858Hamburg mast Hamburg indre havn og skibe 414X2891Hamburg romantik på kaj    Hamburg Orkester Bygning med lyd Elbphilharmonie Pavillion in the middle of Hamburg HafenCity. The small Building contains a 1:10 model of the Grand Hall in the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
On the building there are 20 ‘horns’. When you get close, you can put your ear to them and listen to samples of music. Brilliant idea.Hamburg hornHamburg havn aftensol rejse Marina Aagaard fitness blogHamburg aften bygninger
Hamburg Thai drink Hamburg Thai mad

Evening sun, city lights and Thai dinner in the Port of Hamburg area.
Wonderful. I look forward to going back to Hamburg igen.

Are you serious? Haven’t got a bucket list yet? You should!

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Life and mood can be ‘lighted’ by a “bucket list” with inspiration and motivation. I have one myself and recommend it: A list little or large, modest or ambitious, free or costly (start saving); some sort of agenda to remind you to live life here and now, this is your chance!

Bucket list refers to the English (American) expression “kick the bucket”, which means to “pass away”. It is normally a list of things you would like to see or do, before you leave this World. The phenomena was depicted in the American comedy drama The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson (2007).

Bucket lists are a hit: The internet is full of them and many bucket listers do the most amazing things. But smaller things count, too, the main thing is, that you start to reflect upon your life and everyday:
Are you doing, what you want to? Or is there something you miss, something that you would really like to do, but have not done yet? You almost always only regret, what you have not gotten around to doing …

Personally I call my list for my “Life To Do List”.
That list contains little and large activities and travels out of the ordinary (for me). Others have lists centered around trying to be a better person and doing good deeds – maybe an idea, though I have those on my daily to do list!

Does bucket lists work? Yes, they do!

No matter how they look or what you call them, in my experience they work exceptionally well – and research proves, that goal-setting and writing your goals down will vastly increase your chances of your dreams coming true.
By writing a list, you make your wishes conscious and concrete, so your brain directs your thoughts and actions in the right direction: You get things done.

If you haven’t got one already, why not make a bucket list today?

A couple of weeks ago a big ‘bucket list’ wish of mine came true (through planning and saving and a bargain offer): Camel riding in Sahara, Tunisia.

Tunesia Sahara Marina Aagaard fitness wellness world

Camels crossing iStock_000014142085Large

A bit of that tour is captured in this:

Bucket list trip: Sun, Sand, Sahara and Star Wars, Tunesia

Have great fun with your bucket list and life!

If you have one – please share it in ‘comments’.

Fitness How To: Circuit training – for express fitness at home, at the gym or on travel

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Circuit training is one of the most popular training methods; a series of exercises (almost) without rest-pauses, continuous activity as in a ‘circuit’.
The exercise series is repeated one or more times and the result is an intense workout, which strengthens, tones and burns fat.
However, there are more to circuit training, than meets the eye body.

Today my new American e-book ‘Circuit Training Programs and Posters’ was published and when searching the internet for some circuit information, I found that the Wikipedia page on ‘circuit training’ was a bit lacking. So here is some additional, interesting information on an old, but still trendy way of working out.

What is circuit training?
Circuit training is a series of exercises, at exercise stations, aimed at improving cardiovascular fitness, strength and strength-endurance. The exercise series is repeated one or more times.
The circuit stations is often set up in a circular or rectangular formation.

Circuit traing diagram Circuit training programs and posters Marina Aagaard

The present-day modern form of Circuit training was developed around 1953 by R.E. Morgan and G.T. Anderson, of University of Leeds, England. Their model is based on 9-12 exercise at moderate intensity, 40-60 % of 1RM, in a given timeframe. After eah exercise you procede to the next exercise, station, with no or minimal rest-pause.

This and other circuit training studies has documented the advantages: The main advantage is timeefficient training of muscle-endurance, strength and stamina as well as increased energy consumption; great for fatburning, weight loss and weight maintenance.

The information on the Wikipedia Circuit training page, however, that “Studies at Baylor University and The Cooper Institute show that circuit training is the most time efficient way to enhance cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance” is imprecise.
There are more effective means of improving cardiovascular fitness. Because; circuit training is not the same as interval training, which focuses on a single capacity, often cardiom at high intensity followed by active rest-pauses.

Circuit training workouts can focus on 1) cardio, 2) strength or strength-endurance or 3) combined cardio and strength training.
The latter is most common option for fitness.

Circuit traing indoor Circuit training programs and posters Marina Aagaard

What equipment is needed?
Circuit training does not require any equipment and bodyweight circuit training yields sufficient strength gains. You can, however, to great advantage use different pieces of equipment, e.g. weights and suspension equipment.

Circuit training can also be performed in traditional fitness machines, even specialized circuit machines such as Pace, Technogym Easyline or Switching special machines.
E.g. the Loop fitness concept is based on circuit training.

Circuit traing Technogym Easyline Circuit training programs and posters Marina Aagaard

How do you train circuit training?
Circuit training is performed just as traditional strength and cardio training; you execute som specific exercise with proper – normal – technique.

The special characteristics of circuit training are:

1) training within a set time-frame, often but not always at high tempo, or:
2) training with a set number of repetitions
2) only 1 set of each exerciselse/station and then on to the next
3) no or short, < 10-15 sec., rest-pause between the exercises

There are numerous ways of designing circuit training programs for all-round fitness; your goal (and fitness status) determines exercise selection and sequence.

Circuit training is often classified as HIT, high-intensity training, and this is the case in e.g. CrossFit. However, just how intense the circuit is depends a lot on exercise selection, circuit format and your own exertion!

A typical program consists of 6-12 exercises with a balanced mix of upper and lower body exercise and cardio (full body) exercises.
Especially full body exercises with bodyweight or weights bring fast results.

Cardio exercises – full body or total body exercises (examples)

  • Jumping jacks
  • Scissor jumps, legs back/forth
  • Jogging, with high knees, or shuttle runs
  • Tuck jump, jump up, knees to chest
  • Burpees, jump down into a push-up and up Again

Strength exercises, lower body (examples)

  • Step-up (strength and cardio)
  • Squat (many variations, e.g. box squat)
  • Squat jump
  • Lunge / side lunge
  • Lunge jumps

Styrkeøvelser overkrop (eksempler)

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups / chin-ups
  • Throws, e.g. with medicine ball
  • Bench press / chest press
  • Lat pull / rowing

Strength, core (examples)

  • Back extension
  • Ab curl / sit-up, crunches
  • Hanging leg-raises
  • Planks, side planks (isometric exercies are not optimal)
  • Torso rotation, e.g. cables, wood chops etc.

Coordination and agility (eksempler)

  • Rope jumping (motor skill and cardio)
  • Hurdles and ladder runs and dot drills
  • Touch down (side chassé and floor touch)
  • Boxing drills (e.g. with partner/punching bag)
  • Reaction exercise, onto stomach, jump forward, onto, back, jump up

Note: Risk of injury is high with agility, take precautions.

Super simple circuit program (example)

6 exercises/stations of 20 sec. work (2 min.). No pause (just change).
3 rounds of 2 min.: Approx. 6 min. ex. warm-up and cool-down.

1. Squat jump
2. Push ups
3. Lunge jump
4. Back extension with back fly
5. Push-press; squat with shoulderpress with weights
6. Roll-down, ‘eccentric’ ab curl

How often and how long should you train circuit training?
Typical circuit training frequency is 2-3 times per week.
Total circuit duration is normally 15-30 minutes per workou ex. warm-up (group exercise circuit classes are normally longer, 55 min. total, and intensity may be lower).

Circuit training models (range) (examples):

4-20 stations, exercises, per round.
½-2 minutes per exercise (station), often 8-16 rep. with good technique.
No or short rest-pause < 10-15 seconds.
20-40 minutes total for the circuit rounds.
1-4 rounds depending on number of exercises and training intensity.

Where can you train circuit training?
Many fitness clubs offer group circuit training classes. Alternatively you can train on your own or with a partner in the gym.
You can also train at home, at the job, on a hotel – and train either indoors or outdoors.
As long as you have a little space, 2-3 sq.m., for exercising.

Circuit traing outdoor Circuit training programs and posters Marina Aagaard

Who can train circuit training?
Most exercisers could to advantage do some form of circuit training.
At high intensities, though, a healthy and fit physique and motivation is required.
You can do circuit træning as individual workouts or work in pairs or groups depending on the available equipment. Bodyweight? No, problem.

Special precautions should be taken by those, who are overweight, untrained, injured or ill, or elderly.
People with high blood pressure or any kind of cardiovascular disease should in general avoid isometric exercises such as planks a.o.

Circuit training advantages

+ Circuit training ensures variety in any training program
+ Circuit training is diverse and balanced and improves fitness and
+ Circuit training improves strength and cardiovascular fitness, 2-in-1-exercise
+ Circuit training is time efficient; can lead to increased compliance/adherence
+ Circuit training can increase fatburning compared to traditional fitness workouts

Circuit training disadvantages

÷ Circuit training is mostly for general fitness, not sports specific
÷ Circuit training is not for maximal strength og cardio fitness gains
÷ Circuit training gives no time for learning or perfecting technique
÷ Fast tempo during exercises or station changes may cause injuries

Training effect

♥ ♥  ♥ ♥     Cardiovascular; moderate effect; dep. on exercises + technique
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥     Coordination; limited effect; dep. on exercises (e.g. agility)
♥ ♥ ♥  ♥     Strength; moderate-large effect; demands specific exercises
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥     Flexibility; limited, dep. on exercises (normally not large ROM)

Read more (all about circuit training and 100 posters):

Circuit Training Programs and Posters (2014). Aagaard, Marina Aagaard.

Book Circuit training programs and posters Marina Aagaard

Bucket list trip: Sun, Sand, Star Wars and Sahara, Tunisia

Af Marina Aagaard, MFT

Tunisia offers sun, sand and sea, wellness, in large amounts, but also very diverse cultural experiences. From great architecture from many ages and many rulers to traces of monumental human mindlessness and from awesome landscapes to depressing human-scapes.

Last week I went on a late summer vacation in Tunisia, al-Dschumhūriyya at-Tūnisiyya, the northernmost country in Africa and one of the smallest: 165.000 sqm. Population is around 11 million people. The capital is Tunis with a population of approx. 700.000. Official language is arabic, but french is also spoken and many signs are in french, as Tunisia was a french ‘protectorate, from 1881-1956. The Tunisian currency is dinar.
Islam is the official religion in Tunisia and 98 % of the population are muslims, however, the country has throughout the ages been relatively tolerant of e.g. Christians.

Actually I am no fan of sunbathing; my patience is not for lying still to get a tan. However, nature and travelling is just my thing; it works fine as a recovery activity.
So, when recently a travel newsletter appeared in my mailbox – and my summer holiday had evaporated – I acted (too) fast, before thinking twice, and hit the ‘book and pay’, before reading the details.

On closer inspection this too-good-to-be-true-offer appeared to be a stay at a holiday resort (not a hotel as the name indicated), where noise 24-7 was to expected! And according to testimonials on the internet: A place less popular …

No matter. It was raining cats and dogs, when me and my hubby left Denmark, so at least variety awaited ahead. Late Sunday evening (photo shows the evening sky seen from the plane) we arrived at the resort Hotel Samira Club, Hammamet, Tunisia.

Tunesien tur aften i fly Foto Henrik Elstrup 500px Marina Aagaard fitness blog

From the reception we were guide all the way to the back of the colour-coded resort to a large, plain, apartment with bath. The room was cool, dark and quiet. So far, so good.

Tunesien Samira Club orange  Tunesien Samira Club gul blåTunesien Samira Club gulTunesien Samira Club grøn total

Next morning a dangerous enemy awaited … the buffet. Yes; it was an all-inclusive stay; something I would rather be without for several reasons, but the offer was shockingly cheap, so it had to be tested:

Large buffet morning, noon and evening with lots of veggies and variety – plus snack bar for those still hungry – as well as free drinks all day long; bottled water, tea and coffee and local beer and wine – and ditto local liquor …

Tunesien buffet mad salat Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Buffet warning: Even if the buffet had lots of delicious greens and meat, it was obvious that many guests ‘fell’ into the fries-bread-pasta-pizza-pancake-and-dessert trap and possibly had done so before: In spite of many young and slender people, the average BMI was probably 35-40, the healthy norm being around 18,5-24,9.

Admittedly I was a frequent servings enthusiast for the first couple of days. In spite of a certain knowledge about nutrition, my fondness of food and appetite ruled; portions were larger than usual and dessert was (too) plentiful.
This is no good, unless you plan on dancing all night or having a very active holiday …

Tunesien Hammamet Samira Club vandaerobic

At Hotel Samira Club every morning there was some stretching, reveille, and aqua aerobics, and in the afternoon step aerobics, zumba etc. of holiday intensity.
The fairly spacious fitness centre unfortunately only had some sorry 70’s fitness machines (a couple had had the tags mixed up, so the leg machines offered back training), so traditional fitness was less of an option.

Tunesien Samira Club fitness center oppe

Can’t you train without fitness equipment? Yes, easily. I swam a little and went for some walks and runs in the sand at the beach and did some box jump, step ups and push-ups. However, this was very limited due to the heat. 30-35 degr. Celsius during workouts is a bit too much for me.

Tunesien Samira Club pool Marina Aagaard fitness blog

The main attraction of the resort was its direct access to the beach, which is wonderful with the finest sand without pebbles or rocks and beautiful clear, blue water.
Only thing: In places you see ‘traces’ of camels …

At  popular holiday resorts you have to expect a lot of people and activity on the beach during high season … unless you get up early, which is recommended:

Tunesien solhilsen morgen Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesien morgenløb strand Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesien Marina i vand 414X2345

Apart from the obvious swimming pool and sea activities, the resort offered archery, pentanque, beach volley, football, tennis, golf, riding and camel riding and the very popular beach holiday staple parasailing.

Tunesien parasailing Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesien Ridning på stranden Marina Aagaard fitness blog

The purpose of the trip, however, was not to relax at the beach, but to see some more of Tunisia. So after two days of sea, sun and sand it was time for a trip to the nearby Hammamet and the old Medina (city with shops, workshops and stalls).

Tunesien Hammamet MedinaTunesien Hammamet Medina butik

Hammamet and the Medina is a fairly quick visit, if you are not bitten by the shopping bug and manage to stay clear of carpet and souvenir sellers, which can be difficult.

Later the same week it was time for another short visit to the new part of Hammamet, Yasmine Hammamet, which mostly boasts large hotels, a new medina, souvenir shops and a small port with big boats. Note: No swimming allowed (see photo below).

Tunesien Yasmine Hammamet new MedinaTunesien Yasmine Hammamet port

Tunisian sign Danger sign bathing prohibited

Wednesday and thursday were dedicated to a two-day trip to Sahara, and as it turned out many few other Tunisian sights. A long, 1300 km, bus drive; much too much sitting, but a trip, which was worth every penny and highly commendable.

The trip started and ended in Hammamet in the Northern green, fertile part of Tunisia by the east coast; Tunisia is known for its dates (date palm below) and is also the Worlds fourth largest producer of olive oil.

Tunesien friske dadler daddelpalme Marina Aagaard fitness blog

The trip followed the beaten track, you could see tourist busses from many countries follow the same route; a caravan of sight-seers to the main attractions.

My husband and I went on a small Tunisian tourist bus. You can also drive on your own following a tourist map, which costs only 1 Dinar, less than 1 one dollar.
You should know though, that 1) Tunisians drive recklessly and enjoy ‘chicken’, 2) many road signs are only in arabic and some are very cryptic (see photo below), 3) there are frequent police controls and stops, where it can be difficult to talk your way out of it, even if you speak french … and arabic; even our Tunesian driver had to debate for some time before being allowed to drive on.

Tunesien skilt IMG_6615-300x200  What does this mean?
(seen driving through Degouche)

El Djem
First sight-seeing stop was the gladiator arena in El Jem. An impressive structure with an unpleasant history. In El Djem, as opposed to e.g. Colosseum in Rome, the arena is preserved, so the ‘dungeons’ below remain. Small enclosures, where animals and men were kept in the week before the horrid fights in the arena above.

Tunesien El Djem backTunesien El Djem insideTunesien El Djem basement

Route A1
From here we drove Down the A1, the main route from North to South towards Libya. Along this road cheap petroleum from Libya is sold. Everywhere you see barrels and bottles with illegal petroleum at bargain prices, so cheap (and popular), that this trading is hard to stop.

Tunesien oliesalg på vejen Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Alongside the road you also see tempting fruit stalls, but the driver warned; the fruits at the roadside, a garbage and petroleum infested environment, could have serious side effects.

Tunesien Frugtsalg langs vejen 2  Tunesien Frugtsalg langs vejen

All along the roadside, all 1300 km of it, towns and countryside bear proof of a very unfortunate Tunisian habit; you dump all trash wherever you feel like it.

You see garbage everywhere; on streets, pavements, gardens, porches, restaurants etc. And one thing is, that many small Towns look like rubbish dumps. The diverse Tunisian nature is covered by garbage of all kinds.

Tunesien skrald miljøsvineri Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Just as bad: Everywhere, even in Sahara desert, you see bright blue plastic bags: In june 2014 the Waste disposal workers decided to strike and to put pressure on the government they decided to spread blue plastic bags all over Tunisia.
Cheers to better working conditions for waste disposal workers. However, as plastic bags can take anything from 200-1000 years to decompose, this action was a disaster for Tunisians and Tunisian flora and fauna (and tourist industry).

Matmata
The trip went past the mountainous ‘moon landscape’ around Matmata, an area with 700 artificial caves of which a few still are inhabited by Berber residents. We visited a Berber family in their large cave and were offered sweet tea. A dinar or two was expected; a small price for a visit to a very different villa.

Tunesien berber hus Tunesien berber mormor Tunesien berber stue

After that the trip went to an even larger and more refined cave, a Berber hotel with many small cave rooms and a popular ‘restaurant’ (see below).

Tunesien berber hotelTunesien berber hotel restaurant

Douz
Then the trip went to our hotel for the night. After we had seen our quarters there was time for an afternoon swim in the pool or the large mineral bath at the four-star Hotel Sahara Douz in Douz by Sahara.

Tunesien Sahara Douz hotel hallTunesien Sahara Douz termal pool

After a brief interlude we went to the hotel to the camel rental place, where camels were rented and we had an hours ride into Sahara and back.
This ride was way too short. Some participants got a bit queasy from the gently swaying of the camels, but personally I found it to be a wonderful and almost meditative experience. I do like the beautiful camels (Photo below: View from the camel).

Tusien Sahara udsigt fra kamelen Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Tunesien Sahara kameltur Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesian Sahara rider Henrik Elstrup
Horses were also seen.

Chott El Jérid
Next morning up at 03:15 am and then breakfast – the hotel is ready for guests on a photo safari – and 04:15 on our way on a two-hour drive to sunrise by Sahara’s biggest salt lake, Chott El Jérid; in september the sun rises at 6:08:54. Before and after:

Tunesien Saltsø solopgangTunesien Saltsø sol oppe

Tunesian Saltsø hotelHumour at the salt lake.

Tunesian Saltsø attraktion
More humour at the salt lake.

Tunesien toiletter Marina Aagaard fitness blogWhatever you do, do not use the roadside toilets – in spite of the ‘deluxe’ appraisals!

Tunesien souvenir Salt og ørkenroser Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Prime souvenir of Tunisia: Desert roses (crystals); rose-like formations of crystal clusters. These are formed in arid sandy conditions like the evaporation of a shallow salt basin and they come in many sizes from petite to massive; they are quite heavy, so pick a small one …

Degueche
Then another two-hour drive to the city of Degache (Degueche) and from there a jeep safari into the desert. After a planned wild, off-road drive … though not upsetting to countryside residents with 4WD’s at home … there was a stop by a small hill with a panorama view.

Tunesien jeep safariTunesien Sahara lille bjerg Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Star Wars set
Then onwards to the Star Wars set. An interesting sight, when you have seen the film: There, not on distant galaxy far away, but right in the middle of the desert, are the original backdrops (apart from parts, which were destroyed by a storm) from the science fiction cult film Star Wars by George Lucas (1977).
Star Wars was the first film in the series, but the fourth episode in the saga and were later re-named Episode Four: A New Hope.

The place is a temporary monument of film history; unfortunately it is expected, that the backdrops will wither away within the next 10 years.

Tunesien Star Wars set forfald Tunesien Star Wars set sideTunesien Star Wars set Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesien Star Wars set graffitiDessert graffiti on prop.

Gafsa
After this jeep safari the trip went on to Gafsa for a light lunch on the five-star hotel Jugurtha Palace Hotel. Impressive decorations even if the passage of time (and a period with fewer guests) could be seen in places.

Tunesien Gafsa Hotel Jughurta Palace ceiling Marina Aagaard fitness blog Tunesien Gafsa Hotel Jughurta Palace hall Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Kairouan
Then onwards to the last attraction of this trip; after another two-hour drive we reach, the holiest city of the North of Africa; Kairouan. This turns out to be a very strange and short visit indeed. As it is impossible for tourists, men as well as women, to enter the main attraction of this city, the mosque, the alternative is a fifteen minute photo session on the carpet seller rooftop!

Tunesien tæppehandleres kuppel udeTunesien tæppehandleres kuppel Marina Aagaard fitness blog Carpet shop dome seen from the outside and inside; beautiful.

Tunesien moske total

That was it; the last two hours driving back to Hammamet past half-built houses (houses are expensive in Tunisia, so you build in stages), horrible traffic situations and hundreds of thousands of cactus plants and even more tempting cactus fruits.

Tunesien kaktusfrugter Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Back at the hotel. No more bus tours this week. For recovery: Early morning walks by the sea.

Tunesien Ridning på stranden Wellness Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Tunisia has something for every taste; Partying (clubs) and sunbathing (sun), unique panoramas, cultural experiences, sand en masse, camel riding and almond and pine tea …

Tunesien te pinjer

In peaceful times visiting Tunisia is highly recommended.

I am glad, we did. Have you been?