Middle-East travel: Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi

By Marina Aagaard, MFT.

A visit to the UAE is incomplete without a visit to Abu Dhabi. The 68th most expensive city in the world. That’s not so bad.

It is Tuesday. We borrow our friend’s car. We drive from Dubai southwards to Abu Dhabi. It is not difficult to find the way … (the six-lane highway goes directly from city to city).

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Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the largest of the United Arab Emirates, UAE, 1.5 million inhabitants, and also the capital of the UAE. Abu Dhabi is both government center and a cultural center, though more subdued than Dubai.

The city lies on the coast of the Persian Gulf and has an impressive skyline: Abu Dhabi offers a variety of skyscrapers and more are coming. Many are unusual architectural masterpieces with glass facades that reflect the surroundings.

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Besides the city itself, the capital’s top attractions are: Grand Mosque (the Great Mosque), Emirates Palace and Ferrari World, the amusement center with a dreaded roller coaster … and if you have time and money Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit.

Yas Island

We cruise into the Viceroy Yas Hotel driveway in an open GranCabrio and therefore are able to hear engine sounds at full volume. That’s cool; someone are driving on the track, even though it’s Tuesday at noon.
Regrettably it is not a Formula 1 race, but a bunch of lucky people with sufficient money in their pockets allowing them to race around the track in Formula 3 cars.

We park the car and take a stroll to see what the facility can offer. Is it ok? I think so.

The architects Rani Hashid and Lisa Anne Couture of Asymptote Architects describes it this way: Yas Hotel, a 500-room, 85,000-square-foot complex, one of the main architectural features of the ambitious 36-billion-dollar Yas Marina area and associated Formula 1 racetrack Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Asymptote envisioned an architectural landmark that integrates several dominant inspirations ranging from the aesthetics and forms associated with speed, movement and design and patterns of ancient Islamic art and craft traditions.

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Design details are ultra cool. Steel strips in the flooring simulates racetrack markings. Even the restrooms are special with distinct lighting effects.

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Time for a light lunch at Amici Restaurant. The menu boasted a special dish with pasta with cauliflower and truffle … and then tiramisu in glass. Yes, please.

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The cameras were out to get it all in. Until a guard appeared and explained: Mobile pics are ok, but photos (with pro-looking equipment/for pro use) must be cleared by the PR department. This rule applies in many places, so be prepared, if you wish to take photos.

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Smiles and thumbs up: Car and hotel both get a ‘yes’ from me; lots of X-factor. From the hotel we drove to the Great Mosque, the Grand Mosque.

Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, the main mosque in the UAE. “Grand” is no exaggeration.Accommodate over 41,000 worshipers. Finished in 2007. Construction spending 4 billion DKK, 545 million USD.  Length: 420 m (1,380 ft). Width: 290 m (950 ft). Height largest dome, 85 m (279 ft); 82 domes in seven different sizes and four minarets with a height of 107 m (351 ft).

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Entrance and mosque manners

First you pass through security. Men and women enter through separate entrances in a container-like building; compared to the mosque the entrance is ‘minimalistic’.

Female entrance piktogram shows traditional clothing (chador) With hair covered but face free. Western clothing is welcome, but you must follow local guidelines:

Women must cover the hair, ears and shoulders, arms and legs. Shorts, skirts or tight clothing like leggings are not allowed.

Men may have bare arms, but no bare shoulders or bare legs; shorts are not allowed.

The clothes must not be too tight, transparent or display offensive words or images (common of many western T-shirts). If you do not wearing proper clothing, one can in the mosque borrow a local cover-all.

Mosque manners:

  • There must be silence.
  • Smoking is prohibited.
  • Mobile phones must be muted.
  • Food and drinks are prohibited.
  • You should not lie on the floor (or sleep).
  • Do not caress or embrace each other.

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After you have gone through security, you walk through the gardens and into the cloisters. Here you take off your shoes and you walk around in stockings or bare feet.

All over the mosque there are guards to ensure that there are no infringements of the rules: Some young tourists took a picture without their hair covered and that led to a reprimand and order of deletion of the image from the camera.

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The guards also keep a close eye on that you do not get too close to or past the barriers: Fully understandable that the landmark is supervised; there can be up to 30,000 visitors a day, 4-5 million tourists and worshipers per year (2012).

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque design “unite the world” with materials from many countries including India, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, China, England, New Zealand, Macedonia and the United Arab Emirates (wikipedia).

The Mosque have walls, floors and columns covered with white marble and ceramic. It creates an almost dreamlike, pure and soothing expression.

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More than 3,000 workers and 38 construction companies participated in the construction of the mosque. Some building materials were chosen for design reasons, others for their ‘staying power’; marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals, and ceramics (Wikipedia).

On the walls, floors and pillars: Man-made vines; a magical sight.

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The mosque is full of unique items: Among others the carpet of the large prayer hall: The world’s largest carpet (wikipedia). Made by The Iran Carpet Company, designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi and made by 1200-1300 craftsmen. The carpet measures 5,627 sqm. (60,570 sq ft), there are 2.268.000.000 knots and it weighs 35 tonnes. It is predominantly of wool from New Zealand and Iran. It took two years to make the carpet (wikipedia).

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There are seven chandeliers from Faustig in Munich. They consist of millions of Swarovski crystals. The largest of the chandeliers is the world’s third largest and has a diameter of 10 m (33 ft) and a height of 15 m (49 ft).

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The 96 columns in the prayer hall are covered with marble with decorations of mother of pearl. The columns are exceptionally elegant, beautiful without seeming overly decorated.

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The columns around the main square have stylized flowers made of semi-precious stones and mother of pearl. The tops are stylized palm leaves covered with gold leaf.
The columns are reflecting in two large pools.

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The mosque has to be one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. Huge, but elegant and airy. If you have the chance, visit.t should be seen.

Emirates Palace Hotel

Impressive. On the outside as well as the inside. The Emirates Palace is a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi in marble, gold and other precious materials. There are 114 domes, the highest 80 meters high. There are 394 rooms and suites. On the grounds there is a 1.3 km private beach and 85 acres of gardens and lawns.

The hotel looks magnificent both during the day and in the evening. Am I just too easy to impress? No, the number of tourists from around the world, swarming the street taking photo after photo, suggests that I’m not the only one, who think the hotel is worth seeing.

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Not everything that glitters is gold, but in the Emirates Palace Hotel it (almost) is …

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Even the restroom fittings are elegant and gold-clad.

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In front of the main entrance there is a staircase and waterfall and at base there are several fountains. A most popular selfie location, so you have to be patient.

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The hotel houses the rich, the famous and the well-dressed and there is no access in casual beach clothing. Arms, legs and feet must be suitably covered.
If your clothing is acceptable, however, you are welcome to visit the exclusive hotel, even if you have not booked a suite for the night.

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You can dine in one of the restaurants or enjoy an afternoon tea in the cafe. This day we visited the brasserie, where there was a buffet (a health challenge; for many including yours truly; it’s hard not to overindulge. A la carte is preferable. We took a chance, though, and had a memorable visual and gustatory experience at a reasonable price.

The buffet was the most exclusive, I’ve experienced to date. E.g. an impressive fish buffet with not only ‘standard’ fish, but also fish dishes, oysters, prawns and whole crab claws.

Plus a sushi buffet, a buffet with local dishes, small dishes, fine cheeses with tasty ‘extras’, a wide variety of breads and biscuits, a huge dessert buffet with many exciting desserts and lots of fresh fruit. In addition a chocolate fondue and Arabic delicacies and several kinds of dates.

Local Arabic specialties.

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International specialties. The small plate in the middle contains a salad with quail eggs.

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Semi-healthy dessert. Fresh fruit and several kinds of mousse, panna cotta, cheesecake, cake and a delicious crème brûlée; a favorite.

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A delicious tuna dish.

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In addition to a wide range of hot dishes, there were 3-4 cooks making special dishes on request. A paradise for food lovers.

That was nice.

After this tasty end to the day, we headed back north and were soon back in Dubai.

After a sightseeing-packed day we sleep heavily.

Travelling time: Back in Dubai, Dubai

By Marina Aagaard, MFT. Photos: Henrik Elstrup and Marina Aagaard.

From Denmark to Dubai. Again.

A client asked me “why go there”?

Dubai has become a popular international holiday destination; not strange: When you step out of the airport, you are almost blown away by the desert heat and vibrancy of the city, which never sleeps.

For my part I like visiting friends and taking photographs of amazing architecture.

After half a day’s journey from Denmark to Dubai, we, Henrik and I, fly into DBX, Dubai City Dubai International Airport.

10 years ago a coach student told me, that she had been to Dubai, and I thought that it sounded exotic and interesting, but also expensive and difficult to travel to. Fortunately, although going to and staying in Dubai can be quite expensive, you can still find cheap(er) fares, hotels and restaurants. It is not utopia to go there.

dubai_dbx_img_6208Waiting for a train. In the terminal. Ready to board the train bound for the arrival hall.

Sunday is gone. Monday is here: Time for a bit of city sightseeing again.

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Dubai

The city lies on the south-east coast of the Persian Gulf and is the capital of the emirate of the same name; Dubai. One of the seven emirates that constitute the United Arab Emirates, United Arab Emirates, UAE.

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The city refers to itself as ‘the city ot the many records’, for example, home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. A unique landmark – star of Mission Impossible 4 movie – with its 828 meters (2,717 ft) and 163 floors can be seen from many miles away.

Dubai urban area covers 4,114 sqm. and has almost 3 million inhabitants 2,714,719 (29.01.2017). The population consists of 17% local, Emirati, and 83% from other countries. A lot of expats, foreigners who live and work in the city, live here temporarily.

Every year Dubai is visited by 15 million tourists from around the world. The temperatures range from 23-30 degr. C in winter, from December to January, up to 55 degr. C in summer, from June to July. The winter months are the best time for a visit.

dubai_libanesisk_mm_img_2863Last visit: January month. 23 degrees on the restaurant’s terrace. Having a Lebanese breakfast while overlooking the Persian Gulf, Palm Island and the Promenade.

The city has no long history. Dubai was first mentioned in 1095 and the earliest settlements dates back to 1799. Dubai was founded June 9, 1833 by Sheikh Maktoum bin Butti Al Maktoum when he with his tribe members settled at Dubai Creek; estuary; Here you will find the old town. Dubai became independent (after having been under the protection of England, UK, since 1892) and part of the UAE on December 2, 1971.
This day is celebrated every year with the ‘National Day’, a major festive event.

Shops and trade

Dubai, also known as the ‘Middle East’s shopping capital’, already in the 1900’s was an important port and trading center. Today the city has more than 70 shopping malls, among others, the well-known, older, Mall of the Emirates with an indoor ski slope and the Dubai Mall, the largest mall, that houses a giant aquarium, an indoor ice rink and shops with all of the world’s most exclusive brands .

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The country is no major oil nation. Oil was discovered in 1966, but resources and production was low. The country has boomed as a commercial and tourist center. After a a ‘downtime’ after the financial crisis, Dubai is on the way up again and preparing for World Expo 2020. A guess: It will be spectacular.

dubai2104  dubai1333  dubai1419Crazy about cars? Then you will love Dubai. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys and more.

See the city by RTA

The city is no usual city, where you can stroll through it from one end to the other. The city covers a very large area and has three city centers; Dubai Creek and the old town, downtown with Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, and Dubai Marina, with the marina and numerous hotels, restaurants and shops.

dubai8dubai277A metro Station between mega-buildings. The metro is nice and easy to use.

You go from one end to the other via the six-lane highway or the metro, which only has two lines north-south and east-west, between the skyscrapers . There are also trams in some areas plus buses and 3,000 taxis. It takes at least half an hour to get from one end of the city to the other, longer during rush hour.

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In some places you can take a longer walk: For example on The Walk in the JBR area.

Top 7 Attractions Dubai

# 1
Dubai Marina
is one of the most popular places in the city with a free attraction: A 7 km long promenade encircling the water with impressive skyscrapers, restaurants, shops and the Mall. Here you will see the ‘medium sized’ yachts and it is lively around the clock.

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# 2
Burj Khalifa, downtown: A very, very beautiful and brilliantly designed building, which houses the Armani Hotel.
This landmark is a must-see attraction. One should book in advance to sure to get in and up at the desired time. Also, one should set aside plenty of time, because of the way up to the tower escalator, there are posters about the building and construction process.

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At the panorama platform, you have formidable – or scary – views of Dubai. And there are slides showing how Dubai has developed at high speed during recent decades.

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In the tower you look down on other skyscrapers – they seem small in comparison.

# 3
Right next to the towering building there is another ‘free’ attraction: the world’s largest shopping center, Dubai Mall , which these days are expanding! One should set a whole day aside for a visit.

Even if you are not shopping, you can go window shopping at Tiffany’s, Boucheron, Louboutin, Prada and many, many more shops with fabulous exhibits that entertain and inspire.

If you get tired of (window) shopping, you can dine in one of the many restaurants and cafes. There is something for every taste and (almost) every budget.

dubai967dubai1040Almost every wish is catered for. Bathtub in green marble mounted with gold feet, anyone?

# 4
It’s smart to reserve a table at one of the restaurants by the water – yes, there is an artificial lake between Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall – as here every evening between 17:45 and 22:00 there is a spectacular fountain show, the Fountains , accompanied by music and a light show on the tower: This attracts massive crowds.

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# 5
Another recommended attraction is the ‘sail’, the architectural masterpiece Burj Al Arab , the world’s only seven star hotel. Though some critics argue that the hotel have assigned the stars themselves, the hotel is worth every star (I have inspected the premises!).
Normal price for even the smallest suite is very, very high, but sometimes, for those willing to lash out, there are special deals to be found.

Another alternative is to have dinner or afternoon tea in the hotel. You do not go in straight from the street; you book in advance and enter by car or taxi; past the gatekeeper and then over the bridge to the hotel. Prices are high, but the experience is worth investing in.

dubai345 From a distance the ‘sail’ looks ‘small’; an optical illusion. It is 321 m high; 60 floors. dubai1650The ‘sail’ at closer range, seen from the beach in the evening sun. img_4150The ‘sail’ inside. Most of it is ‘air’, a sign of extra, extra economic surplus, and pure gold.img_4119

# 6
Another attraction is the giant hotel Atlantis with an impressive water park and fine restaurants. Located at the edge of The Palm, on one of the many artificial islands and peninsulas in the area.

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The Sea Theme cannot be overlooked; seashells, shells, sea anemones, fish and water.

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However, there are many more impressive hotels, where you – surrounded by giant chandeliers, rich decorations and thick carpeting – can feel like king or queen for a day.
The prices for dining in hotel restaurants are moderate to high, but not unreasonable compared to e.g. European prices and the surroundings and service is worth every penny.

There is no serving of alcohol in the city’s restaurants or cafes. But. There are no limit to what you can enjoy of the world’s finest wines and other alcoholic beverages in the hotels, which of course is for the tourists, but at sultan and sheikh prices.

For a low budget trip you can choose the brasserie rather than the restaurant, and enjoy a mocktail instead of a cocktail or wine. It is still festive and tastes wonderful.
Speaking of party; at hotel bars and lounges you can party all night long.  

# 7
In the old town (and in Dubai Mall) in Deira on the Dubai Creek, there is a  Gold Souk , a market, which sells tons of gold and jewelery in all price ranges. It is worth seeing whether you are buying or not.dubai555dubai467dubai474 dubai482

Dubai is certainly worth a visit.


Respect the rules of the country

Dubai is a Muslim country and the Koran and the laws are strictly enforced. This means among other things that:

  • Five times a day prayer (is called).
  • Friday (and Saturday) is a public holiday (s) and weekend. Much is closed Fridays.
  • Public displays of affection is prohibited. Even holding hands in public is frowned upon and even if it is not illegal for a married couple, they can still be arrested if a local is upset by it.
  • It is forbidden to take photographs, if there are other people in the picture. They must be asked for permission. Moreover, one cannot photograph everything everywhere. One should stick to tourist attractions. If in doubt? Ask!
  • Alcohol is prohibited (except in hotels). So you can not  buy alcohol in town, or (as in Europe) walk around in the streets holding bottles of alcohol.
  • There is zero tolerance towards alcohol and driving. The limit is 0 % and violations carry penalties of imprisonment and / or a minimum fine of 25,000 AED.
  • It is – like everywhere else – forbidden to drive too fast: The speed limit is 20-40-60 km / h on the streets and 100-120 (a short stretch 140) km / h on the highway. Dubai is a dangerous country to drive in: People with very different driving experiences get around in everything from old cars to the world’s fastest street cars. Drive safely.

To travel or not to travel? Boeing 777 Budget Trip!

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Friday night. Yes or no? A small trip. No time, not in budget. Surf the internet anyway. Find a same-weekend round-trip flight at a very reasonable price.

Under 2 K DKK (under 280 EUR) for an out-of-Europe trip. And with a reputable airline at that. So hubby contacts friend at the destination; can we stay in your apartment? “Yes”. So without hesitation we proceed and book the flight. Perfect time: You may get lucky and get a favorable price when booking well in advance or at the last minute …

Saturday; hectic day doing laundry and continuous packing in between other tasks.

Sunday morning

Departure by car to Aalborg Airport (AAL photo), which has free parking. Perfect.

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Sunday noon

Take-off. From AAL. 1:25 t flight.

Pleasant and short trip; we only had time for a a cup of coffee and a sandwich and reading Holland Herald before moving out again.

dubai_klm_aal_aas_img_4563Tiles, cows, clogs and windmills. It is not hard to guess the name of the airline.

We are to stop over in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, AAS. A so-called ‘tight connection’; as in really short transit time: 50 minutes from landing to departure. It sounds like plenty, but in reality it means 20 minutes from landing to boarding. Add to this, that Schiphol is a major airport and you have to go through passport control on your way onwards.

But of course we will make it. We sit quietly and our plane bound for NL takes off.

After a short while a message in the PA system: Captain: We will be delayed by about 10 minutes. Oh no, it may mean that we do not catch our connecting flight.

Sunday midday

Stopover in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, AAS.

As the plane rolls down the runway for the gate, our bags are packed and we’re like springs, ready to ‘squeeze’ past the other passengers on the way out to the terminal.

Clear of the gangway we cover the distance between arrival gate B and departure gate F in jogging tempo despite fully loaded backpacks with pc’s and photo equipment. Fortunately, there is no-one in front of us at the passport control, so we sprint onwards.

We spot the gate and increase the cadence … and – along with two other Danes – board the waiting aircraft as the very last. Gate staff closes the gate immediately after we have jogged past.

In the cabin: One of the world’s largest aircrafts, the Boeing 777-300ER. 73.86 m long with a wingspan of 64.80 m, a max total takeoff weight of 351,543 ton and like the older jumbo jet with room for 408 passengers (in economy 3 + 4 + 3 seats across).

For a reasonable sum we were able to upgrade to business class, but even though the huge lounge chairs look very appealing, we declined this time around. It is after all ‘just’ a flight of 6.5 hours and the economy seats are spacious enough.

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One can tell, that it is a new aircraft. Stylish, spacious and entertainment system of high quality. You can choose between several of the latest movies, a large selection of older movies or play games or quiz show.

After having read for while and seen a movie (duller than the preview is suggested) I go for once in ‘gaming mode’, Jeopardy and Sudoku simultaneously with a favorite: Watching the in-flight viewed from the cockpit angle. Time flies (ha ha!).

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The catering on this tour is also fine: Ongoing drinks. Rather tasty (airline) dinner – you can choose a special dish or a choice between chicken or vegetarian pasta. We chose the latter. Oops! Finished everything again before I remembered the foodie photo.

Then more drinks (water and juice … or soda and alcohol) and finally a light late night snack and then the trip was over.

Sunday evening

A perfect landing. Smooth taxiing to gate. From there to the arrival hall. But then: Approximately 45 minutes of waiting in line at passport control, where the inspector is remarking, that it’s a long time since we last visited the city.
Fortunately we are let in without further charges.

Quickly we find a taxi, which via the six-lane highway, in 40 minutes takes us to the other end of town, where we are received in the street by our friend.

Sometime after midnight we enjoy a light refreshment and the night sky for a few minutes and then go to sleep.

Visit Aarhus, Denmark: ARoS Art Museum

By Marina Aagaard, MFT
For health and wellness: Be touched. By art.
Health and well-being is enhanced by experiences, and actually ‘Culture on Prescription’ is now an accepted Nordic health promotion method.

Therefore, you may be able to upgrade your health through museum visits!
The other day I visited Aarhus Kunstmuseum ARoS.

While art moves your brain (thought), it is an added bonus if the body is being moved, too. You get to walk quite a few steps in the museum. And for a stair runner it is nice to see the suggestion above: Thank you for considering taking the stairs (save the elevator …).

Highlights from the permanent exhibitions and parts of the Cultural Capitol 2017 theme exhibition: The Garden: The Past.

   

A hideous, appalling work. A couple victim to all forms of violence and accidents. Repulsive … until you read the fine print (the tattoo on his arm):  True Love Forever. Love conquers everything. I have my doubts about the piece, but not the message: Love is all.

Any car lover must be horror struck. A Lamborghini, which museum visitors at the invitation of the artist Dolk were invited to deface ad libitum (until recently). Arrrghhhh.
Poor, poor car. A horrible sight. Even a tiny scratch would have been very bad!

The above were difficult shots: This Lambo was surrounded by visitors almost non-stop. A highly popular attraction (ARoS has also previously had fast (F1) cars on the program).

In the Garden exhibition: A headless female figure on a swing has lost her shoe, flew through the air. The moment is captured (shoe fixated with nearly invisible string).
Yinka Shonibare: The Swing (After Fragonard) (2001).

Michael Kvium, famous Danish artist, among other things known for grotesque paintings of people in skin and blood colors. Here a completely different genre: An elegant and brilliantly conceived figure: Think Bigger (2003). A very motivating suggestion.

A selfie in front of a large mirror surface. Many guests took photos (of themselves) here.

Fluorescent (paint) is popular. An installation about nature as “something we lost”:
Mark Dion: The Phantom Museum (Wonder Workshop)  (2015).

Part of the exhibition is not visual, but auditory. You step into a completely dark room, the first step into the Jacob Kirkegaard exhibition everything & nothing.

Kirkegaard is internationally recognized for fascinating footage of the world’s sounds. Using advanced equipment records he records sounds under water, resonance of abandoned spaces and tones within the ear. The exhibition includes five ‘catchy’ parts. 

Art does not need to shock every time. Art may also like to please the eyes: Pool.

Two large pieces:
Eroded Valley (2016), Damián Ortega. Brick. Not pretty, but very well conceived and thought-provoking. A Crossing Place (1983), Richard Long. Stone. ‘Sleek’ and symbolic.

An installation with sounds and images of empty spaces in Chernobyl. Saddening.

In the basement, The 9 Rooms, with various installations. Two I particularly liked:

A very large, life-like installation with turntables, neon lights and empty bottles. The work evokes memories of earlier times with lots of disco (Thursday, Friday, Saturday):  Too Late by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset: A nightclub morning after a festive evening.

A glass tank filled with water and a glass fiber head on which facial expressions are projected. What an idea. Slightly frightening, Unk  (2004) by Tony Oursler.

Olafur Eliasson, Icelandic super artist, is fortunately well represented at ARoS. The museum ‘roof installation’ My Rainbow Panorama (see below) is an architectural and artistic masterpiece and always worth a visit.

In The 9 Spaces Eliasson is represented by Environment (2007): a white room with mirrored floor ceiling and walls that multiplies guests and cameras, “an infinite space.”

     

In The Garden exhibition Eliasson is represented with a drizzle rain: The light playing in the water and you get placed himself at the right place, you can vaguely see a rainbow. Beautiful. The installation is called Beauty (1993), of course.

ARoS – 20,700 square meters distributed over 10 floors – is one of Northern Europe’s art museums. The museum was designed by the Aarhus-based architectural firm schmidt hammer lassen architects (1997).

The building is shaped as a cube with a ground plane of 52 x 52 meters and a height of 43 meters. A curved section through the cube serves as the museum street. In the middle of the building a spiral staircase, and elevators, leads up and down to and from the galleries.

But what is this? The museum’s usual light, airy interior, is occupied by a giant 50 meter long piece of art, Valkyrie Ran, the Portuguese Joana Vasconcelus. Colorful, fantasy-like and festive, absolutely; currentlyly part of a special exhibition with the artist.

But. Reportedly this work of art is to be included in the museum’s permanent collection? Hopefully not at the current location: The building’s elegant, minimalist architecture disappears behind plush and sequins!

At the top. Again. Aarhus City views in all colors of the rainbow. My Rainbow Panorama.

Downstairs again. A visual deception. This large, 3.15 m high knot seems massive and heavy, but a closer examination – a couple of beating knuckles – reveals a hollow sound and the figure is neither of steel or granite, but of fiberglass. Disappointing …

The sculpture “Granny’s knot,” “Granny Knot” , however, is far from light-weight: It weighs 200 kg and was made by Shinkichi Tajiri, a co-founder of the Cobra movement, in 1968. Regardless of material: A pleasing sight; it is timeless art.

Recommended.

*****

Hamburg, Germany: Miniatur Wunderland – train spotting

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Model trains? What have they to do with fitness and wellness? Quite a lot. Even if you know nothing about model trains, you will be in high spirits at the Miniatur Wunderland: Germany’s most popular attraction ahead of Neuschwanstein castle!

I have been in Hamburg countless times, but until this year I had never heard about MiWuLa. On a recent trip to Hamburg, though, my husband and I went to Kehrwieder 2, Block D, in the port area.

Times and prices

It was a late afternoon out of season, but the place was busy: Visitors came and went. At the reception we were upon arrival immediately asked if we had booked. “No”. So we had to go in and reserve a slot for our visit; 1½ hour later, in the meantime we went for a walk.

Although it is the world’s largest model train layout, it is situated in a quite limited area, 6,800 sqm. over two floors, so there is no free access, you have to reserve an entry time. Visitors enter in slots every half hour. Tip: Book in advance via the website.

MiWuLa is open 365 days a year (check times). From pm. 9:30 or 8:00 pm to 18:00 or 21:00. Entry fee is 14 Euro. Cheap for such a special attraction.
You can see the sight in about 1½ hour, if you walk briskly through it. But I would recommend, that you devote 2-4 hours so you have time to see all the details and ‘push all the buttons’.

A model world for kids and adults

When I was little, I was sometimes with my parents or grandmother at Aarhus Central Station and saw the model railway in the waiting room, and I’ve always liked to go by train. On the other hand, I have never played with model trains and know no enthusiasts.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to visit an attraction with the title “world’s largest” of something, but had no particular expectations (of course, then you won’t be disappointed).

You enter by going through the souvenir shop, ‘packed’ and popular. From here you walk into some old, rather ordinary white-painted warehouse-like facilities with harsh neon lights in the ceiling. But then the bleakness stops.

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Whether you are interested in model trains or not, you have to be impressed by the enormous work that lies behind the design and building of the beautiful model-landscapes, mountains, forests, cities, roads and especially lots of railroad tracks, locomotives, trains, train stations and thousands of cars and trucks and even more miniature citizens, criminals, law enforcers etcetera.

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Push the buttons

Everywhere trains run.Trains continuously start or stop or run. And as a unique attraction – you should take time to try it:

In almost all areas there is a button. When the button is pushed, a certain activity starts: e.g. the elevator to a ski lift starts, a prison escape breaks out or the doors of the music hall Elphi open, so that one can see into the concert hall. Brilliantly conceived and built.

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The most active button pushers are probably the model train enthusiasts from all around the world. The sight is one of the best things of the place: Model train builders of all ages are mesmerized by the scenes and spend a long, long time in every area.

(Almost) every train and situation are photographed, filmed and discussed with an infectious enthusiasm. Your spirits are lifted by the special atmosphere.

The temperature all day and year is around 21 degrees. The day lasts 15 minutes in MiWuLA. Suddenly, the lights are dimmed and it’s night. A stunning detail. The landscapes glitters with the light from signal and traffic lights, houses, cars, trains and planes!

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The airport. With aircrafts landing and taking off (with a little help). Impressive!

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And what is that? A control room! Like a ‘real life’ traffic center. Four men are busy watching the screens and ensuring, that the trains run on time. Ordnung muss sein.

Miniatur Wunderland Facts

  • Opened in August 2001. The brothers Gerrit and Frederik Braun got the idea in 2000 in Zurich.
  • Guinness Book of Records 2016. Two sides. The world’s largest model railway.
  • 15.4 km funicular railway: half is visible, the rest in tunnels or railway stations.
  • 1,040 trains (locomotives)
  • 10,000+ waggons (waggons / freight)
  • Longest train: 14.51 meters
  • 1380 signal lights
  • 130,000 trees
  • 260.000 inhabitants
  • 385,000 lights / lamps
  • 9,250 cars (of which 280 are running)
  • Model Area: 1,490 sqm.
  • Highest peak: Matterhorn, 6 m
  • Largest sea: Nord Ostsee: 30,000 liters
  • Largest Area: Scandinavia: 300 sqm.
  • Most expensive area: Italy > 4 million. euro
  • 50 computers in the control area!
  • > 40 model makers and technicians keep MiWuLa going
  • 760,000 construction hours
  • 16 million Euro building costs
  • 15,273,549 visitors since opening (until end 2016):
  • Visitors come from all over the world. In 2016, 23.2% came from abroad. In first place comes Denmark with almost 45,662 visitors alone in 2016, closely followed by Switzerland, Austria, England, the US and China.

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Year and territories

2001 Kuffingen (airport), Austria and Mid-Germany
2002 Hamburg
2003 America (metropolitan and West)
2005 Scandinavia
2007 Switzerland
2008 Special Exhibition; the divided city
2011 Airport
2012 Special Exhibition; Our civilization’s history
2013 and HafenCity Elbphilharmonie
2016 Italy

Venice opens in spring 2018 and you can already see parts of it and Monaco.

Read / see more:

Miniatur Wunderland

Streetview Miniatur Wunderland

#miniaturwunderland

Largest Model Train of the World

Balancing for fitness and fun: Balance exercises for home and travel

By Marina Aagaard, MFT. Photo: Henrik Elstrup. Location: Aros. My Rainbow Panorama
Better balance in everyday life and sport? Do balance training anytime, anywhere. Indoors and outdoors. At every possibility e.g. when waiting for a train or a plane: It is ‘free’ training for the brain and muscles, strength, stability and mobility. 

Here I am balancing at Aros Museum, Aarhus, a popular city to visit says Lonely Planet.

Benefits

Many muscles a.o. stabilizing muscles of the legs and core.

Starting position

  • Stand firmly on stand leg foot.
  • Straight back, upright position, straight leg with relaxed knee.
  • Neck in neutral position. Gaze at a fixed point.
  • The free leg is in a specific position depending on the variation (see below).
  • The arms in a specific position depending on variation and preference (see below).

Performance

  • Stand on one leg.
  • Keep your arms on your chest (for a one-leg balance test) or sides (for a stork-balance test) or overhead (typical for the yoga tree exercise).
    Other arm positions are also possible and recommended as variations.
  • Keep the free leg bent. Often you support the free leg foot at opposite knee – e.g. for a balance test).
    Knee is in front, to the side of or behind the body.
    Or hold the free leg straight and lifted (for athletes) to the front, the side or the back.
  • Keep the balance from a few seconds up to 2 minutes. Then increase difficulty.
  • Eyes open. Or close one eye at a time. Or close both eyes.

Single-leg balance

On one foot firmly on the floor. Free foot by stand leg knee. Arms crossed at the chest.

Stork Balance

On the ball of the foot, heel lifted well above the floor. Free foot by stand leg knee. Hands at the sides.

Yoga Tree

On one foot firmly on the floor. Free legs rotated outward with the foot placed high on inner thigh (adductors). Hands – palms together – over head.

Flamingo

On one foot firmly on the floor. Free leg is bent 90 degrees, the thigh is next to or behind stand leg. Arm position is optional.

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T-balance (sagittal scale)

On one foot firmly on the floor. Body forward in a horizontal position. Free leg and torso aligned. Arms back or out. Can also be done with body turned sideways, frontal position (frontal scale).

Training Volume

You can do bodyweight balances every day if you desire.

Enjoy your workout.


Balance test for health (stroke risk)

 

A Club Hop City Walk in Amsterdam: From Nord to West to Zuid to Ost

Af Marina Aagaard, MFT

Can you see Amsterdam by foot? Yes, you can. The evidence is clear.
Must you see Amsterdam by foot? No, you can take a tram, bus, taxi or bike.
Should you see Amsterdam by foot? Yes, sights are super and walking is healthy.

It is morning. Air is cooler than yesterday and it is cloudy. Nice walking weather.

The Club Hop route map as seen on the KLM Amsterdam Sneaker page: 10.6 km in approx. 2 h 13 min. Around 20.000 steps done just in time (including photo stops).
Club hopping? Yes, best done at night, I know … maybe next time.

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Today is ‘cheat day’: I could walk to the starting point, but to save time – as this is only a short trip – I take a taxi to Westergasfabriek. A former gas plant, now arty area, cafes and a tivoli in green surroundings.

Later in the day it is probable crowded. Now there are only a couple of snack bar guests and mothers strolling with prams.

    

From Westgazwerk I walk south-west along the main road. Residential and commercial areas on one side and on the other side a green area with runners and dog walkers.

I walk towards the city centre. It is a walk without any particular sights or attractions; flats in red bricks and small super markets and shops …

However, the walk gives a peak into the everyday in Amsterdam and that is nice and very far from ‘touristic’. Also you see things, you would not see if you were only in the center – and get some extra exercise.


Traffic sign: Alcohol prohibited and above that sigh: Smoking cannabis prohibited!
Is Holland maybe the only country in the world with a traffic sign like that?

If you take a closer look, you see many interesting things: Superman lives in Amsterdam.

Gradually there are more and more canals and tiny bridges to be seen. I am back in the Amsterdam city centre.

Arty details are everywhere. A stone cat moving up a brick house wall in Leidsegracht.

Are the bikes in Amsterdam like those in other countries? Yes and no. They have two wheels, but many, many colours … and there are an abundance of different bikes from 80’s mini-bikes over state-of-the-art road racers and mountain bikes to city bikes.

Creative builders: I walked out the same way I walked in. I walked out the same way I walked in. Stairs are art. Poetry is art. Stair-poetry is two-in-one street art.

How many canals and bridges can you shoot before you get bored. An almost endless amount. Water draws viewers (and photographers).

Predictable photo opportunity, Rembrandt Plein, where I had no success in getting af ‘solo’ photo of the great painter … when the Chinese tourist finally stopped filming after 10 minutes an Italian guy rushed in front of the monument.

I pass Club AIR Amsterdam. Holland is the country, that put truly electronic dance music on top of the charts with super clubs and parties and DJ’s such as Tiësto, Armin van Burren, Hardwell and Martin Garrix. Great music (mixes) also for fitness workouts.

Now heading eastwards to the docklands. Behind the naval museum, there is an area with residential and company buildings and old warehouses.

An organic building; Architectuurcentrum Amsterdam. A great ‘figure’.

Het Scheepvaartmuseum and a ship from yesteryear marks the ‘entrance’ to the dockland area with Kattenburg, Wittenburg and Czaar Peterbuurt.

In one of the old buildings you find Amsterdam Roest, the walk destination. It is a bar with live music and a relaxed atmosphere. The bar do not open until 12 o’clock, so a visit inside has to keep for another time (Google maps/earth: Dockland area).

On the way back to the city centre and hotel. More photogenic old buildings.

Amsterdam also has an Art Hotel near the central station. I put my footprint on the door mat: I’m not lost, I’m exploring! (Jana Stanfield).

Yet another ‘smokery’, rokerij, a coffeeshop … next to a cannabis shop …

The Dutch are progressive and fit. Apart from biking all over the place, I see many – adults – on scooters, skateboards and this balance-challenging motorized ‘wheel’.

Back in the hotel with the tile-clad reception desks. A cool detail among many. Initially the idea was to build a new hotel, but instead 25 old buildings were bought and restored.

After a lunch break. Back on the beat. A walk in the small streets in the city centre. Among others the Nine Streets, De 9 straatjes, an area with many shops with art and clothes.

          

Walking along the Damrak to the Central Station. It is crowded, full of locals and tourists.

The three crosses seen everywhere in Amsterdam, on stalls, benches, dustbins and T-shirts, are part of the city crest, however, their exact origin is unknown.

I could have walked past it, but saw a photographer lingering. I looked in and discovered a passage, Beurs Passage, with maritime mosaics from floor to ceiling.

The last looks on the streets, alleys and souvenirs of Amsterdams; an exciting city with everything from old-school til new-school.

    

A massive queue obstructs the pedestrian traffic. What is it? Something exciting?
To some probably; It is fries! Voted nr. 1 Holland Fries …

Amsterdam has to be the place in the World, outside of Italy, with the most Vespa’s. They are everywhere.

At the Central Station. Buying a train ticket. A friendly greating from the light panel.

The last glimpse of Amsterdam; Schiphol Airport. It is almost time for take-off.

Mission succesful. On the way back in the Cityhopper I note, that approx. 60.000 steps later, I have seen quite a bit of Amsterdam, knowing well that there is much more to see.

Iamsterdam.


Trip by kind invitation of KLM.