Outdoor Training by Graffiti: Port of Aarhus Walk

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Outdoor training is always interesting. It provides a chance of sight-seeing.
No matter if you are at home or abroad, there is always something to see.
If you take a closer look.

I am a BIG fan of ports (and the sea), graffiti (not ugly tagging) and exercise.
This day it is a nice 3-in-1 surprise (but no no, no choko Kinder eggs before Easter) as the graffiti was unexpected, but very, very cool. Respect, Grisk, Peter Birk.

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Around the corner, in the outskirts of the Port of Aarhus, earlier (during winter):

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As I said: I don’t like tagging, especially not, when it is defacing beautiful buildings.
This, however, is street art, I believe, and in an otherwise bleak, remote place:
“A piece of heaven fell from the sky. Luckily the sparrows put it back before anyone noticed”.

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Gloomy looking, but good (interesting views).

Top-10 Reasons to Visit Aarhus: Second Best in Europe

By Marina Aagaard, MFE. Photo: Henrik Elstrup

Aarhus, second city of Denmark, and also a so-called second city sight-wise; when everybody has seen Copenhagen, where to next? And now second on the Lonely Planet Best in Europe list, too. That’s okay.

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The town where I was born and raised, Aarhus, on the peninsula Jutland in Denmark, was recently named among the best places in Europe by Lonely Planet travel guide.
In second place, just before Venice, the most beautiful city, can you believe it?

Lonely Planet: Best in Europe 2016

  1. Peloponnes, Greece
  2. Aarhus, Denmark
  3. Venice, Italy
  4. Dordogne, France
  5. Lviv, Ukraine
  6. Warwickshire, Enland
  7. Extremadura, Spain
  8. Tenerife east coast, Canary Islands
  9. Texel, Holland
  10. Northern Dalmatia, Croatia

Visit Aarhus, it is worth a visit, for an extended weekend trip, or even a week, which would give you time to visit one of the Danish National Parks in Jutland: Vadehavet, Thy or Nationalpark Mols Bjerge, the latter close by (my new neighborhood as it is).

If you decide to stay in the city you can spend a day in and around Aros, the main art museum of Aarhus, which had an amazing roof top added later (60 mio. DKK, 10,7 mio. USD): Your rainbow panorama by Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson (top photo).

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Aarhus is a fairly small city – 264,716 inhabitants in the inner urban area and 330,639, municipal population (2016) – has been named ‘City of the Smile’ and ‘World’s Smallest Big City’, especially the latter being reasonable descriptive: Aarhus offer smaller scale sight-seeing opportunities and facilities similar to those of bigger cities.
There is a concert hall, Musikhuset, for opera and classical music, and there is a small, cozy theatre (plays in Danish, though) as well as exciting modern dance scenes.

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Aarhus has a festival week, Festugen, first week of September every year. There is an abundance of music, dance and plays in many genres. A lot of the events are free. There are also many beer stalls and tents, some with live music, during festival time making the event and city a bit loud and messy in some places. (photo: Sculpture by the Sea 2015).

The city has affordable – not supercheap nor overly expensive – offers for shoppers from visiting cruise ships and elsewhere. Exclusive top brands like Prada, Gucci and Hermes may not have shops in Aarhus, but you can get Danish design fashion, jewellery and art.

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Top-10 Reasons to Visit Aarhus

  • Worldclass architecture, old and new, some street art
  • Great museums: Aros, MOMU (photo), Den Gamle By (open air museum) a.o.
  • Michelin food, quite a few star restaurants (see list below)
  • Nice quarters, e.g. Latin Quarter with designer fashion and organic food
  • Port, akward infrastructure, but nice anyway and with two little marinas
  • Great music and dance, not only local stars; also international guests
  • Pedestrian streets with coffee shops, bars and small restaurants
  • Shopping, Danish design fashion, furniture, art
  • Fairly friendly people; Danes may look ‘busy’, but do ask, give us a poke
  • Great surroundings, bay area, forrest and fields

Come and see us : – )

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Top-10 Aarhus Restaurants

Restaurant Frederikshoej
Michelin starred restaurant Restaurant Frederikshoej is in the top-league of Danish gastronomy, thanks in no small measure to the prize-winning celebrity chef Wassim Hallal. Restaurant Frederikshøj became a star in Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2015 and again in Michelin Nordic Guide 2016.

Restaurant SUBSTANS
Michelin starred restaurant 2016. Restaurant SUBSTANS had a star in Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2015 and again in Michelin Nordic Guide 2016

Restaurant Gastromé
Michelin starred restaurant In Restaurant Gastromé you can experience gourmet country-inspired cuisine at Michelin-standard. Once again the restaurant recived a star in Michelin Nordic Guide 2016. The two chefs’ philosophy translate into their wine, food and quality.

Guide Michelin Bib Gourmand. Guide Michelin also awards the Michelin Bib Gourmand, and two restaurants in Aarhus have received this award which is designated to restaurants which serve exceptionally good food at moderate prices.

Restaurant Pondus
Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurant Pondus was awarded a Bib Gourmand in Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2016, given for high quality food at affordable prices. At restaurant Pondus the focus is on modern and simple Danish cuisine combined with ecology and Danish commodities. With a feeling of french bistro.

Restaurant Haervaerk
Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurant Hærværk was awarded a Bib Gourmand in Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2016, given for high quality food at affordable prices.
The commodities dictate the menu. Unpredictability, free hands and solid craft is what characterize this restaurant.

Ratings in Guide Michelin. In addition to Michelin stars and Bib Gourmand awards, several restaurants in Aarhus are rated in Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2015, which only recommends the very best of restaurants in Scandinavia.

Nordisk Spisehus
Delicious Scandinavian cuisine and wonderful wines at the critically acclaimed Nordisk Spisehus eating place – in the heart of Aarhus. A true Scandinavian gastronomic experience at its very best, when its team of top chefs, including members of the National Culinary Team of Denmark, compose luxurious Scandinavian menus which are always prepared from fresh seasonal produce.

Kähler Spisesalon
Prizewinning open sandwiches in a unique setting At Kähler Spisesalon you will immediately sense the passion and love for Kähler’s world-famous ceramics. The unique ceramic design of Kähler converges elegantly with the classic and modern Danish dishes on the menu.

Ferdinand
Hotel & Restaurant Ferdinand is placed on Åboulevarden in the centre of the city. Ferdinand was named the best Danish brasserie of 2009 by Den Danske Spiseguide (The Danish Restaurant Guide). Gourmet dinners, high quality combined with simplicity and elegance. Includes dishes in all price classes. In addition you can also choose from a large assortment of wines.

Castenskiold
Enjoy an exclusive dinner at Castenskiold – Food & Nightclub. Their main concept is the new initiative which should invite everyone to culinary curiosity. They have made more room at the tables so the shared food experience gets elevated without having soaring prices.

Froeken Koch
Classic cuisine with care & consideration Overlooking the Marina in Aarhus and in a simple black and white setting that is warmly illuminated by copper lamps, you will find “Frøken Koch”. A popular restaurant by the local Koch Brothers’ where they serve classic Danish cuisine. They will serve you a full plate of simple, honest and no-frills food that is expertly prepared and served with the unique care and consideration that is characteristic to the Koch Brothers and their varied restaurants.

There are actually many more restaurants with very nice food, indian, persian, vietnamese, japanese, thai, greek and more, as well as these:

Restaurant ET
French restaurant in Aarhus, mentioned in the 2015 Michelin Guide.

Restaurant MASH
American steak restaurant in Aarhus, reviewed in the Michelin Nordic Guide 2016

Brasserie Belli
French restaurant in Aarhus. Reviewed in Michelin Nordic Guide 2016.

Møf
Danish restaurant in Aarhus, mentioned in the 2016 Michelin Guide.

F-Høj Deli
Café and deli in Aarhus, mentioned in the 2016 Michelin Guide.

And a personal favourite for a wonderful Sunday Brunch with a lovely view:

Varna
Goumet restaurant just outside the city centre. Run by master chef Palle Enevoldsen (earlier together with Michelin chef Wassim Hallal). Very nice restaurant by the bay.

Bon Appetit!

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Dream Travels and Travel Dreams: Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in the World

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Travels, Best in Class, is the headline of a section in the local newspaper, today. It contains lists of best things related to travelling. It takes a travel fan, me, less than 250 milliseconds to open this section.

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The first list is about the most beautiful places in the World. American travel magazine
Condé Nast Traveler has named the 50 most beautiful. This newspaper lists Top 10.

The number one spot is Cappadocia in Turkey. It may not ring a bell, but think balloons floating over strange lava mountains, then the place probably comes to mind.

Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in the World (Condé Nast Traveler)

  1. Cappadocia, Turkey
  2. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
  3. Mù Chang Chái, Vietnam
  4. Algarve-coast, Portugal
  5. Iceland
  6. Palawan, philippines
  7. Vence, Italy
  8. Ashikaga, Japan
  9. Brecon Beacons, Wales
  10. Dessert, Namibia

A quick search reveals that these are truly wonderful places often seen in magazines and on television. Personally I have only visited two of the places: Iceland – twice as a fitness workshop presenter – and Venice – four times with work, family and husband.
Iceland and Venice really are beautiful and dream travel destinations.

This summer the family holiday of this year goes to number four on the list, Algarve, Portugal, so I am looking very much forward to that. The other destinations are a little out of the way in every respect, so they have to be travel dreams for now.

Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in the World (my view so far) 

  1. Norway, West-coast and more
  2. Greenland, Thule
  3. Tanzania, Kilimanjaro National Park
  4. USA, Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon
  5. Italy, a.o. Dolomiti Mountains, Venice and Rome
  6. Iceland
  7. Montenegro, a.o. Kotor
  8. Mallorca, a.o. Cuevas Arta
  9. Cyprus, coastline
  10. Croatia, a.o. Plitvice Lakes

Most beautiful city: Venice. A unique place with 117 tiny islands separated by numerous canals with condolas and 431 small bridges. Picturesque, narrow alleys and lively squares with pigeons and people; marked by time and with an unreal fairytale-like atmosphere, especially early in the morning. A must-visit part of the world.

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Happy weekend and holiday.

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 …).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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?