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

Time travelling for body and mind: Riga, Latvia.

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

On a very recent four-day trip to Riga, the capital and largest city of Latvia (696,600 inhabitants), a birthday present from my husband, I kept fit mainly by walking the streets for hours and hours; when you are interested in architecture and design, there is a lot to see in Riga, the European Capital of Culture, 2014:
Interesting buildings, museums and structures (photo: Vansu Bridge) of many time periods including incredible art noveau buildings and wooden houses.
Save some cab money; a (brisk) walk is great for the heart and weight maintenance. 

Riga Vansu bridge photo Marina Aagaard

Riga roof with large cat sculpture photo: Marina Aagaard and Henrik Elstrup

The art nouveau area is the largest in Europa, maybe the World, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is definately worth seeing: It is like being in another time.

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup
Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik ElstrupRiga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup and Marina AagaardRiga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik ElstrupRiga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup

The wooden houses found in several areas of the city, some seemingly disintegrating and others recently restored, are also unique and recognized by UNESCO.

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga tram and wood houses photo: Marina Aagaard and Henrik Elstrup

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

Hairdressing and beauty salon in Riga …

Riga skønhedssalon

And some more modern houses with roofs a little less ordinary ………………….

Riga tag kænguruRiga wood houses modern house photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga is not only for art and architecture lovers. It is also for party people (and some say for people looking for a date) with lots of clubs, bars and restaurants.

I can vouch for the restaurants: Everywhere I had a meal, the food was good, and especially so at the Biblioteka No1 (French/European) and Monterosso (Italian).

Riga Biblioteka Mushroom salad photo Marina Aagaard           Riga Biblioteka Beetroot ravioli photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Monterosso spinach ravioli photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Monterosso Haute Cuisine Lasagne photo Marina Aagaard 

Good food and a comfy bed aka wellness.
What more do you need?

The comfy bed was at a modern and reasonably priced hotel some 5 km away from the city centre; Name came as no surprise: Elefant hotel!

Riga Elefant elefant side

Eat. Work. Eat. Work out. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
And some travelling seeing sights, that’s neat …

Bon appetite!

The B-Side of Bergen and 50 Shades of Grey

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Nice. Back in Bergen for a weekend; a work weekend that is, if you can call group exercise instructor instruction work?
Sailing into Bergen harbour, excitement is building; interesting views of mixed old and new buildings and ships complete with a mountainous  backdrop.

Norway Bergen port. Photo: Marina Aagaard

Bergen and Ulriken at a distance Photo: Marina Aagaard

Bergen, the city of the seven mountains, is the second-largest city in Norway, an international aquaculture, subsea tech, shipping and petroleum industry centre and the street-art capital of the country. The city has a population of approx. 270,100; a population, that looks outgoing, easygoing, arty and fit.

Bergen old city houses Photo: Marina Aagaard

Bergen is flooded, not only by rain – it rains during 235 out of 365 days the year, e.g. around New Year 2007 Bergen received 85 consecutive days of rain (!) – but also by tourists from all over the world.

This is only natural: It really is an exciting city, not only Bryggen, the Hanseatic Warf, a UNESCO World Heritage site, but the rest of the city, too, is well worth a visit; the port (Norway’s busiest), the old parts of the city and the mountains, too.

Bergen Bryggen view Photo: Henrik Elstrup

Norway Norge Bergen Bryggen Foto: Henrik Elstrup

A fraction of the photogenic Bryggen, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bergen B side

Bergen photos usually means Bryggen photos. For balance here is the ‘B-side’,
the other side: Your harbour view, when you stand on the Bryggen side.

Norge Bergen architecture Photo: Marina Aagaard

Bergen boasts buildings of more modern achitecture, too.

Bergen fish market

Healthy fast food dinner at one of the numerous stalls at the popular Fish Market.

From the city centre you can go to the top of Fløyen (425 m) with a funicular and a little farther away you can take the aerial tramway to Ulriken (643 m). On the top there are several hiking routes, from easy to challenging.
The view, the mountains, sea and city, is impressive when the weather is bright, so say a prayer. Rain is one thing, but fog frequently spoils the fun.

Norge Ulriken tåge sti

A fierce and foggy Ulriken path; hard to find and not made to please tourists;
pay attention or get lost.

Norway Bergen Ulriken Photo: Henrik Elstrup

Summer in Bergen. 50 shades of grey (at least)
You a tourist? Bring a dictionary.
For starters: Fare means Danger!

Hungry? That’s just too bad. If you want to dine at the Ulriken restaurant, sky:skraperen, you have to book a day in advance. In spite of their poster at street level saying you can have something to eat, even if you have not booked, they won’t even serve coffee, beverages or snacks, when you get to the top/restaurant … how about that?

Stay ‘low’ for dinner. If you have money (lots of money) to spare, you can dine in one of the many nice restaurants.
I can say only one bad thing about Bergen, but it is bad; (Norwegian) prices are horrendous, and this is coming from a native of a country, where the prices are horrendous, too: Bergen price: A salat NOK 160-170 (USD 30).

Maybe the solution:

Norge McDonalds

McDonald’s restaurant design Scandinavian style (anno 1710).

Norge Bergen fortovskunst

Pavement art about the power of thought, more powerful than medicine:
If you think you are well, you will be.

To your health.

Baltic Cruise Highlight: Art and Architecture Mega Bling

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Baltic Cruise Day 6: Excursion Day Saint Petersburg

In the DAILY cruise ship program it says “St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ or ‘Paris of the East’, but its beauty is really a brand all on its own (…) with a vibrant cultural life that is second to none.
So: Gone in 60 seconds (to buy tour ticket)!

Faberge Egg St Petersburg Russia

07:00 Arrival St. Petersburg
18:30 All on board
19:00 Departure St. Petersburg.

Option 1: Buy cruise ship ½-1 day tour excursion: Price range EUR 39.90 – 155.90.
Option 2: Step off the ship (if you are very well prepared).

The cruise ship tour prices are quite hefty, however, they include a ‘landing card’ allowing you to enter Russia for the day and tickets to the museums (and lunch in some cases). So picking a tour could be a wise choice.

Important: In order to enter St. Petersburg on your own, you must have 1) a passport, valid for at least another 6 months, 2) a visa (apply for this well in advance), 3) a good sense of time and direction – and head back very early (many cruisers have had difficulties in regard to timely transport back to the ship), 4) a good guide-book and map or some knowledge of the russian language and 5) conservative clothing if you wish to visit sites of religious importance. 

Visiting Russia for the first time, I chose the excursion and got lucky: It truly was ‘the best of St. Petersburg’; an awesome day in the company of the guide Marina (my namesake), an extra-extra-knowledgeable and entertaining guide.

Mathryoshka Dolls Russian Dolls

Saint Petersburg (in russian Санкт-Петербу́рг or everyday name Питер, “Piter”), is a city and federal subject of Russia. It is situated by the Neva river in the north-west of Russia. Population is approx. 5 mio. inhabitants.

The city oozes of history, even if it is a young city compared to European standards; founded on 27th of May 1703 and named Saint Petersburg after its founder Peter the Great. It was renamed a couple of times, before going back to the original name; Petrograd (Петроград, 1914–1924) and Leningrad (Ленинград, 1924–1991). One famous inhabitant is the former Russian president and present prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Highlights of the day were the Summer Palace (in Pushkin), the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum and Saint Isaac’s Cathedral (Saint Petersburg). Snapshots below.
Even though I have visited many interesting sights, I do not think I have ever seen anything as colorful, gilded and otherwise lavishly decorated as these places …

Gate Catherine's Palace the Summer Palace Pushkin RussiaIMG_9753 IMG_9675

IMG_9671IMG_9694 Saint Isaac's Cathedral Saint Petersburg Russia IMG_9827 IMG_9803 Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum three million works of art St PetersburgIMG_9941

IMG_9977 edit

In summary, even if the tour missed one of the only 75 sunny days per year (44 days according to guide), the day was mind-boggling; history highs and lows, from architectural bling to bulletholes in churches … and no matter where you looked, up, down, right, left, everything that glittered was gold (almost).
Exception: The Amber Room, Summer Palace, a room made of amber in every colour. The room was looted during WW II and then restored at an estimated cost of approx. 140 million USD. The room may not be photographed, so you have to see it to believe it.

Daily program, if one chose not to accept the St. Petersburg mission, offered stretching, aerobics, yoga (sample classes are free, but regular yoga classes cost 10 EUR), Tiburon dance, country dance, lots of games and demonstrations. Those arriving back late could still make to participate in merengue and ‘spanish dance’ as well as bingo, karaoke and, of course, Russian Disco night.

‘Totally sightseeing’ day meant very little time for on board activities today, that’s okay.

A World of Wonders.

Cruise Visit Home Country: Baltic Cruise Stop Copenhagen

By Marina Aagaard

Baltic Cruise Day 2: Excursion Day Copenhagen (København)

First cruise stop is Copenhagen, Denmark. I could choose to stay on board – as a Dane, though from another part of the country, I have visited the capital on numerous occasions for business and pleasure – or go to shore.
I chose the latter; to spend the day as a tourist in my own country.
Have you visited the capital of your country? It is highly recommended.

Baltic cruise kbhvn indsejling havn total plet

In the cruise ship DAILY program Copenhagen is presented as ‘the premier capital of Northern Europe and the centre of the most dynamic region in Europe, the Øresund Region [certainly a lot of novel and very interesting architecture there] and one of Europe’s oldest capitals with a royal touch with the Danish monarchy the oldest in the world’. (Below: Opera House donated to Denmark by Mærsk-McKinney Møller, container ship tycoon, price approx. 1 bio. DKK).

Baltic Cruise Kbh Operahus side

Copenhagen, dating back to the year 800, is the capital of Denmark with a population of approx. 1,200,000 (total population of Denmark is approx. 6 mio.).
Recently rated # 1 on Monocles list of ‘Most liveable cities in the world’ and a very interesting place to visit for everyone interested in art and architecture.

Baltic Cruise Kbh Havn hus med krone

Major Danish companies are A.P. Møller-Mærsk (container ships), Carlsberg (beer) and Novo Nordisk (insulin). Newcomer ‘company’ is Noma, voted Worlds Best Restaurant for three consecutive years 2010-2012 (this photo below shows their premises, brick building in centre, in Copenhagen). 

Baltic Cruise Kbh Havn Noma

Arrival: 8:00
All on board 17:30. Departure 18:00.

First things first:
A visit to the brand new Metro of Copenhagen, travelling to the end of one line: Kastrup, home of CPH, Copenhagen Airport.

Baltic Cruise Kbh Kastrup kunst Wormholes Jonas Pihl

Airport art: Wormholes by Jonas Pihl.

Secondly: Visit the brand new aquarium, also in Kastrup, the very exciting Den Blå Planet, The Blue Planet, to admire the building and the fish.

All while I am saving up for going to see the fish in their natural habitats, I love visiting aquariums and can’t help taking photos of the fish, lots of photos …

Baltic Cruise Kbh Blå planet total

Baltic cruise kbhvn b p indgang

Baltic cruise kbhvn b p dragefiskBaltic cruise kbhvn b p fisk farver 3xBaltic cruise kbhvn b p fisk farver

After this some sightseeing in central Copenhagen. A canal cruise is a great way to see many of the most interesting areas of historical Copenhagen (below Nyhavn, meaning new port, in the city centre, on bottom photo a couple of ‘lazy’ Danes).

Baltic Cruise Kbh Nyhavn

Baltic Cruise Kbh Nyhavn luftmadras

Summary: A nice surprise, after a slow start, the august weather was at its very best, bright sunshine, approximately 30 º F Celsius, 86 º F and not a cloud or rainstorm in sight. And a day full of wonderful views of Wonderful Copenhagen.
Then it is time to get back on board for dinner.

If one wishes to dine at the restaurant and follow the program today the Suggested dress tonight is: Informal, which is less formal than gala, but more formal than casual.

Program of the day apart from various sports, games and entertainment activities (including karaoke events): Stretching, Rock’n’roll, Rumba, Jive and Twist Dance Lessons and Flower Glory Disco Night at the Disco.

Dance on!

A trip to the Port of Aarhus: Tall Ships Races 2013

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

A trip to The Tall Ships Races 2013 in my hometown Aarhus, July 4-7th.
Aarhus, second-largest city of Denmark, has a strong maritime heritage and a very busy port (position 56° 10′ N – 10° 13′ E).
As the principal port of Denmark Aarhus has hosted many sail sport events and is a Tall Ships Races host city since 2007; an immensely popular and free event with huge numbers of visitors of all ages enjoying food, drinks, music and sailing on the ships.

Tall ships races small and tall sailing ships

From 30 to 300 footers. From old-school to new-school.
And art at sea: International maritime signal flags.

If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of ports, the beauty of sailing ships, the power and ever-changing scenery of the sea and like to watch the habitats and skills of sailors, then you should go see a harbour near you – and watch tall ships if possible …

Tall ship from Sweden in Port of Aarhus

Götheborg of Sweden. Crew is dressed up in original clothes of ships era.
And cannons were fired several times. A multi-sensory event!

What a wonderful (long) weekend in Aarhus. People came from near and far to watch the spectacular event: 104 beautiful sailing ships with around 4000 crew members from different 30 countries. Canal boats cruised continuously with wide-eyed and open-mouthed spectators.

You do not have to be a sailing nerd to find, that this is a fantastic experience.

Sailing ships leaving port of Aarhus

Russian, German, and Danish sailing ship are setting sails and leaving port …
together with another 101 ships. The live version was awesome.

Tall ship from Mexico in Port of Aarhus

Watch masts closely! Crew at Cuauhtemoc, Mexico, put on a superb show; climbing speedily in syncronicity and posing elegantly ‘all over’ the masts leaving port.

Port of Aarhus Tall Ships Races 2013

The Tall Races since 1956 (from Torbay, England, to Lisboa, Portugal).
At first every other year, then every year with different host cities.
In 2013: Aarhus, Danmark, July 4-7th, Helsinki, Soumi-Finland, July 17-20th , Riga, Latvia, July 25-28th and Szczecin, Poland, August 3-6th.

Just goes to show: You do not have to travel around the globe to experience amazing things. Sometimes the World comes to your place …
What is happening in your neighbourhood?

Fitness and Wellness: Return to Sculpture by the Sea

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

It is brilliant. A fusion of nature, art, architecture and fitness and wellness.
I have been. I have been again. And I am going again.
To 
see, hear, touch, feel and taste Sculpture by the Sea.
Aarhus University has already offered running seminars to this open air exhibition. I have done my own walks. Now I will go for a run in the sand and on the stairs into the forest to experience more. Go artychitecturitness.

Fitness

sea bro

Bathing Jetty. Extra lively. Good for balance training.
Vandmodul A1 og B2 Fase 1.  Artist: Jesper Dalgaard.

sea neonStairs. Great for walking running variation. With unexpected sightseeing.
Bubbles. Artists: Markus Hanakam, Roswitha Schuller.

Wellness

sea sandkort ma snus

What is wellness? Sensations for all of your senses: A massive grain of sand soap.
Brilliant: Artist put grain of sand in microscope. Enlarged, modeled in clay, cast in soap. During exhibition, wear and tear will reshape and dissolve the grain continuously, as if it were a grain of sand. Grain of soap. Artist: Espen Grandt-Moeller.

sea te husIf wellness is a coup of tea, this is wellness. From the bed of herbs on the ground, you can make yourself a cup of tea. Water, kettle and cups are ready. Sit down and enjoy.

Become part of the work and the landscape.
Tea with a view # 2. Artist: Anja Franke.

My body jogs.
My mind wanders.
Mindbody fitness wellness moves.