Hamburg, Germany? Well worth a visit or two or three or …

By Marina Aagaard, MFT. Photo: Henrik Elstrup

Was?! Haven’t you been to Hamburg, yet???

Recently my husband and I asked a couple of friends if they had been to Hamburg, and they answered “no”. This was surprising as we reckoned all Danes had visited Hamburg, the second city of Germany with 5,1 million inhabitants (metropolitan area).
This metropolis is only about 3-4 hours away from most cities of Denmark. 

We are great fans of Hamburg (Henrik has worked there), so our friends got a massive dose of PR: One of the World’s most visited concert cities, a must-visit for music-/musicalfans, modern art enthusiasts, foodies and fitness freaks.
When we met the next time, our friends had already been there and agreed:
Hamburg is great! 

Hamburg tripping

Short trip or extended stay? Week 7 and 8 and november are great times for visiting Hamburg, because 1) there are no German holidays at these times, and 2) at most other times of the year the hotels in Hamburg are (almost) full!
Talk about a popular city.

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Hamburg Trip Insidertips

Elphi

Must-see: The new concert hall Elbphilharmonie, opened on 11.1.2017. Price cirka 789 mio. EUR). A former warehouse, now mounted with a gigantic wavy glass top, luxury hotel and Europe’s longest escalator. Spectacular both from the outside and the inside.

Unfortunately most events are sold out, so you should not reckon with going to a concert in the near future.
Fortunately you can visit for free; everybody can visit the The Plaza, the public viewing platform, from where you have a super 360 degree view of the city and the harbour.

Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg

Worlds largest model railway with fantastic miniature displays of famous cities and landscapes (Miniatur Wunderland photo: Rome by night).
Exciting for kids and adults alike.
Miniatur Wunderland is situated in an ‘attraction’ of its own: historic Speicherstadt, which along with the Kontorhausviertel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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HafenCity

The area, located on the Elbe river island Grasbrook, the former Port of Hamburg, holds a mix of residential and office buildings, hotels, shops, restaurants and coffee shops. The buildings represent old and new architecture interspersed with water and green spots.
A walk is free and full of interesting sights and experiences.

Hamburg Skrue 414X2737

St. Pauli

St. Pauli has a long tradition as a recreation and amusement centre and is known for its famous red-light district, the Reeperbahn (the sinful mile).
In the area there are also lots of bars and music clubs amoung others the Star-Club, where Beatles’ career took of (learn more on a Beatles tour).

Photo shows a cool attraction: The Elbphilharmonie Pavillon with 20 horns, not with Beatles hits, but diverse orchestral music.

Hamburg horn

Canal tours

Canal tour? Yes, Hamburg is full of rivers, streams and canals, which are crossed by around 2.500 bridges, more than all of the bridges in Venice, Amsterdam and London together! This creates an amazing city environment, also seen from the water on barge tours by day or lights cruises by night.

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I am looking forward to going to Hamburg. Again. Soon.

Read more:

www.hamburg.de

Wikipedia/Hamburg

Stay Healthy on the Road: 3 Snack Tips for Long Distance Driving

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Going for a long drive by car? For business or pleasure, job or holiday? Then take care. Not only can driving, sitting for hours on end, (and the traffic) be harmful to your health. If you enjoy snacking in the car, this could lead to unwanted effects.

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Apart from gaining weight, if you drive often, too much sugar too fast results in low blood sugar shortly after and this can lead to:

  • Fatique
  • Lack of concentration
  • Mood swings

The first two very dangerous, when driving; should this happen, stop immediately and have a rest, a 5-10 minute power nap . The last could lead to anti-social quarreling, if you are on a drive together with others, family or friends, in the car …

For many people driving equals snacking as a nice passtime on the road. But it is all about habits and actually you do not need snacks for your drive.

Top snack tips for extended driving

  1. Put something nice without calories into your head instead:
    Listen to music or an audiobook. Play a word or numbers game. Talk/stories.
  2. Instead of chewing drink a water-based non-sugary drink: Water with added taste. Herbal teas with fruit flavour, liquorice- og chocolate tea a.o. It tastes delicious and satisfies your craving for sugar. Drink it hot or cold.
  3. Do you need to chew (have nutrients)? Make your own tasty whole-grain sanwiches filled with something you like (protein, e.g. eggs, meat, almonds or peanuts); should taste nice, satisfy you, and keep you full for a long(er) time.

Special tip for drivers

A special and important long-drive tip. A tip which may prevent you from eating too much or getting too tired. A tip which may help prevent blood cluts (which is a risk factor, especially for adults and the elderly, when you sit for too long).

Have a rest area rest every or every other hour. Get out and move about a bit..
Hop, jog, twist, shake your body. Or if you have time, do a short (7 minute?) workout.

Have a nice drive.

Holiday fitness: Get Fit, Keep Fit or Boost Your Fitness

By Marina Aagaard, MFE
Holiday fitness? A hot topic right now. So here are five fab methods for fitness and exercise on your holiday; for the super exerciser, the recreational exerciser or the (almost) physically inactive …

Tunesien vandaerobic w

Get fit on holiday

Not fit or healthy at all? Then this is for you:
You have to start somewhere / sometime and your holiday is as good as time as ever.
If you are used to doing nothing exercise-wise, then start with just a little bit every day:

1. Move a bit more; than you do during every day living, walk and stand more, take the stairs, not the elevator.

2. Add extra activity; use every excuse to move a bit further than normally (e.g. go to the ice cream store at the far end of the beach).

3. Go for walks: Take a lovely morning or evening walk and get some extra free sight-seeing at a time, when it is nice and quiet.

4. Try out exercise or sports activities: Use your holiday to try some brand new activities, not only for exercise, but for new experiences; e.g. aqua aerobics, hiking, badminton, zumbafitness, (water)bikes, canoeing, etc.

5. Eat healthier snacks. Holiday is holiday, but leave out or replace the most severe calorie-loaded temptations by other alternatives, so it is possible to keep your present weight on your holiday. Also it pays off to “neutralize” the side-effects of steaks, drinks and ice cream with exercise …

Tunesien Marina i vand w414X2345

Keep fit on your holiday

Are you used to being fairly healthy and doing some exercise, e.g. 3-4 times a week? Lucky you; you have many options for keeping your fitness level, while on holiday.

1. Maintain fitness with a single bout of high-intensity training: Have an all-out holiday – also from exercise – but with one workout in the middle of your holiday week, a workout with high intensity (heavy/fast) or maybe moderate intensity and long duration.

2. Train short and sweet (hard), time-efficient, with circuit training: Do 2-3 workouts on your holiday, with intense circuit training.

3. Train as usual, but with variation: Train as you are used to, 3-4 times, but with novel exercise variations in your usual program.

4. Train more, but in different ways: Be extra active all through your holiday, but with complete different activities; horseback (or camel) riding, water polo, beach volley, kayaking, hula hooping, rope jumping or lap swimming.

5. Eat strategically. Holiday is holiday, but should you choose to accept … a fattening snack, then combine with an intense workout on the same day (before or after) and be a little more healthy the next day.

Tunesien Ridning på stranden w

Boost you fitness on your holiday

You are used to working out, either very often og very intensely, and you want to improve your fitness? When away on holiday, locally or abroad, there are sometimes special opportunities, which you can take advantage of.

1. Increase difficulty (and/or intensity). If you are used to running, then run the same distances, but under more difficult conditions, in the sand on the beach or in rugged terrain (watch out for obstacles)

2. Increase intensity (or duration). If you are used to cycling, then cycle the same distance under more difficult conditions; harder terrain, e.g. in hills or mountains or go for extra long rides in new surroundings.

3. Train with other equipment, in different ways. If you are used to resistance training, then work out as hard as you can facilities allowing at your holiday hotel/resort; gyms with other equipment than you are used to, or old, worn facilities with only basic equipment, benches, bars and dumbbells etc. or outdoors with racks, bodyweight, logs or stones (e.g. try throwing exercises).

4. Give your body diverse challenges. Replace 1-2 regular workouts with parkour or obstacle course racing (on proper courses or at playgrounds): Overcome obstacles, do balancing and lift, push and pull yourself up and forward in different ways.

5. Give your body and your mind some variation. Push yourself with different activities involving other muscles than usual; open water swimming, sailing, SUP, inline skating, climbing, rappelling, table tennis, formal dance, soccer.

Tusien Sahara udsigt fra kamelen w

Bonus tip
Exercise should be followed by quality sleep and adequate recovery; speed up recovery by having a massage, hammam, thermal bath, jacuzzi, sauna or other wellness activities.
Try it on your holiday; your body will love it (check out: Global Wellness Travel Guide).

Happy holiday!

Fitness wellness trip: Hamburg, Germany.

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

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

An interesting city and recommended for a Holiday break.

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

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

Hamburg McLaren 414X2719 Hamburg McLaren B 414X2719

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Fitness and wellness travel: Budva, Montenegro

Af Marina Aagaard, MFT

Summertime is holiday time. Holiday travel dreams are plentiful, however, in order for them to come to life, the travels dream should be affordable; research is needed.
Earlier this year I attended a holiday and travel show and got a tip.
Montenegro is becoming a ‘new’ European destination for summer holidays and this year the travel agencies have bargain introduction offers.

Montenegro Budva klippe Foto Henrik Elstrup

So recently my husband and I found an interesting offer; one week in Montenegro including plane trip (at a cost corresponding to roughly the price of one night in an average Danish hotel), so off we went to a new destination.

According to the author of a Montenegro tour guide, author and speaker Tom Noergaard:

”I have travelled all over Europa, and there is no doubt in my mind, that Montenegro is one of the most beautiful countries. Here you have mountains, which are comparable to the Alps in France, Switzerland and Austria, and at the same time you are at a destination, where you can count on sun, warmth and good weather during all of the summer season. Apart form 300 km coastline, there are many interesting sights in the back country as well as some really beautiful cities like Kotor on UNESCOs World Heritage Site list”.

M Biogradska

Montenegro, Crna Gora, Црна Гора, “Black Mountain”
Montenegro is situated south of Croatia, west of Bosnia i Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo, and north of Albania. To the west is the Adriatic Sea.
The capital is Podgorica, which is situated in the middle of the country (below Milenijum bridge).

Montenegro Podgorica Milenijum bridge Henrik Elstrup

Montenegro has a population of approx. 620.000 and the language is Montenegrin. Luckily most people you meet speak English. Every once in a while though you need a phrasebook, a map and some sign language …

Holiday time
Montenegro looks a bit like Croatia, which is a favourite Danish holiday destination:
Big beaches and beautiful national parks with mountains, forests and lakes.

Montenegro Tara canyon view Marina Aagaard fitness blogMontenegro Tara canyon Marina Aagaard fitness blog

And it is great for those loving activity-packed holidays with sailing, rafting, diving, cycling, running, hiking etc. (photo: Tara river, 144 km long; running through Tara River Gorge, 82 km, the deepest river canyon in Europa, 1300 m, number two in the world after Colorado Canyon, USA.

For those interested in history, culture and architecture, there are many interesting old cities and monasteries, e.g. in Cetinje, the former capital. The sign on the square shows number of kilometers to the great museums around the world.

M Cetinje museumsskiltMontenegro Cetinje Monestary photo Henrik Elstrup     Montenegro Cetinje foto Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Pre season advantages: Weather not too hot, 20-25 degr. C; nice. Not too many other tourists. The travel is very cheap.

Pre season disadvantages: The beaches are a bit dirty at places (‘summer cleaning’ is ongoing). Some restaurants and bars are still closed. Weather is somewhat unstable.

Budva
Our trip in May went to Budva.
Budva is situated at the Montenegrin Riviera. It is a cozy small town with a marina and a beautiful old town, stari grad. At the same time Budva Riviera is a festival-centre with more than 10 festivals and concerts during summer.

M strand by
A nice town for either a family holiday or partying. Also a nice base for trips around Montenegro.

You should check the Budva calendar. We accidentally landed in Budva in the middle of The Great Carnival of Budva with participants from 12 lande countries.
That spelt three days with lots of colours, dancing and entertainment. One big free party.

Montenegro Budva Carnival og bymur Foto Henrik Elstrup

However, like all popular tourist destinations, the town adapts to ‘popular demand’, so the hotels and restaurants are fairly international and touristic.
You pay in euro in Montenegro and prices are fairly cheap, however, surprisingly, as Budva and neighbouring cities, including Tivat, are becoming increasingly popular with the rich and famous, there are many hotels, shops and restaurants with very high prices.

Visit Montenegro Top 5 Must Visit places

  • Durmitor; national park); nice, even in rainy weather.
  • Tivat; small town, big marina for multi-million dollar yachts.
  • Perast by Boka Bay, the entire bay area is a ‘must visit’.
  • Skadar Lake; large, beautiful popular lake (area).
  • Sveti Stefan (hotel-island); residence of many superstars. Earlier you could visit the island, now it is closed to the public and controlled by guards …; you have to watch from a distance, unless you book a room at five star plus prices.

Aagaards Top 5 Must Visit places

Kotor
An absolute must-see and you need a day for this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A small town with a very big and beautiful medieval town boasting some of the worlds narrowest alleys. Kotor comes with an interesting challenge:
On the mountain behind the town, there is a fortress and the ancient walls. From an alley in the back part of town you can take a walk to the top (cost 3-4 euro), or rather a stair walk of approx. 1350 steps (and they are oversized). Not for the weakly, but a to-do trip for everyone else, for the exercise and a fantastic view of Kotor and Boka Bay.

M Kotor bymur   M Kotor streetM Kotor stairsM Kotor udsigt fra bjerg

Budva and the Riviera
A 3-4 hour walk of mixed views; past due, worn-out, ugly and new, beautiful, stylish.
We took a walk along the beaches from Budva to Sveti Stefan. A free ride and one of the highlights of our tour. Exercise the easy way combined with some very diverse nature and culture experiences. You cannot walk by the beach all the way, though, as some are private hotel beaches; you need to go up to the street a couple of times.

Montenegro klipper i vandM Zoffs fish bar

Lovcen National Park
A low-budget busride to Lovcen National Park, from the heat by the water to the mountains with snow in may. Cool in every sense of the word. On the top of Jezerski, 1749 a.s.l., there is a mausoleum for Petar II Petrovic Njegos. First walk the 461 steps, then walk via the path (with no railings) to the mausoleum.

It is worth the 5 Euro to enter. It is an impressive structure with lots of cool marble.

M Lovcen mausoleumMontenegro Lovcen Mausoleum foto Henrik Elstrup   Montenegro Lovcen Mausoleum foto Henrik Elstrup   Montenegro Lovcen Mausoleum

You can (and should) eat in the small restaurant right by the stairs. The restaurant is nice, the view is awesome and the food is very good … but bring your own toilet paper (scarce in many small Montenegrin restaurants).

Tivat
Tivat is a small town without major attractions … apart from the harbour, which is well worth a visit. Formerly a naval harbour, now a luxury marina for mega-yachts …
and you can buy your own yacht there, e.g. 30-40 mio. USD.

Montenegro Tivat yacht  Marina Aagaard fitness blogM Tivat mega yachts

If you don’t want a boat, but just want to part with your money, you can visit a casino, which there are quite a few of. Local guides claim that part of Casino Royale was filmed in Montenegro, while internet sources state, that it was in the Czech Republic.

Durmitor National Park
Montenegros first and biggest national park from 1952, 39.000 acres, with Durmitor mountain, 2522 m, a 898 m deep cave and many lakes; the biggest is the Black Lake, Crno Jezero, which really is tow lakes, Little Lake and Big Lake, connected by a small stream. The Black Lake is a popular vacation spot (here on a rainy day).

M Black lake Crno Jedarska

Much more Montenegro
A week is not enough, there are so many places to visit; like Herceg Novi up north, Bar down south (with thousand year old olive trees), Podgorica and rather a long way from there; the monestary built into a mountain, Manastir Ostrog, from 1650, which is visited every year by many believers from different faiths.

M Ostrog monestary

Holiday fitness
A holiday is a wellness experience in itself and on this little holiday it was topped by a few days with two days with spa and fitness. Our budget hotel Lucic was very nice, next to the city centre and a super room, but without any amenities apart from a small breakfast buffet with pancakes and omelet, but no vegetables or fruit at all (so buy your own).

But for wellness, within walking distance (5-10 minutes) you could visit the spa at the luxury hotel Avala, which has a super nice pool and an o.k. sauna and steam bath.
And a fully equipped fitness centre with free weights, machines and even Kinesis (advanced pulley system).

M Avala wellness ude og inde poolM Avala wellness infinity pool aftenM Avala fitness kinesisM Avala fitness jog

This is probably not the last time I will visit Montenegro. There is still a lot to see. And it is very easy and cheap to get around in their small mini-busses.
You can also rent a car, if you are fearless that is; the Montenegrins drive quite fast and without a care, so along all the roads, you will see the word ‘Autoslep’ (towing) and contact numbers on rocks, buildings and signs.

M Autoslep sten

More about Montenegro

Visit Montenegro
Montenegro Wikipedia
Branislav Strugar: Montenegro
All about Montenegro

More photos by husband; Montenegro, Henrik Elstrup 500 px

Travel Dream. Dream Travel? In Your Dreams?

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

If you can dream it, you can do it, says my husband, and no point in aiming too low either, he adds! As it is, he has overcome many seemingly impossible tasks just by believing it could be done, so he should know, what he is talking about.
So be it: To me travels great and small embody fitness and wellness and if they can be plentified just by dreaming, then here it goes.

Having travelled to 50 countries and states for business and pleasure, but many, many times to the same countries, as “too much of a good thing can be good” (Mae West), I have to move on and see some more (new) world and wellness.

So, on my new upgraded travel bucket list there are now places, which I have not seriously considered before, as they are kind of far away in more ways than one.

If I could just pick and choose? What would you pick? Think about it for a moment, it is quite hard: Where to, if you could go, wherever you wanted?

There are so many exciting places, it is almost impossible to choose. But in my fitness and business practice, I have found, that the moment you verbalize your visions and write them down, they are a whole lot closer to being realized … so with a friendly push from my hubby; here I go, practising what I preach, only now in the leisure time department!

From a handful, Top 5, of destinations-I-would-really-really-like-visit, a town on the other side of the globe, a town voted one of the ‘Best Places to Travel in 2014’ by Travel + Leisure, comes to mind:

Cape Town (Kaapstad in Afrikaans) 

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St. James Beach. Damien du Toit.

Where to stay? 

If money was not an issue, I would probably stay at:

Cape Grace Hotel, because it has a fitness centre, free wi-fi, is excellently located at the waterfront and looks very cozy … or maybe the Blackheath Lodge, a minute friendly looking place … or somewhere else? There is a plethora of hotels in Cape Town.

Where to eat?

I will check Gogobot; take a look at the recommendations given by foodie tribe travellers. I might try e.g.:
Codfather Seafood & Sushi, because I like both.
Sevruga, because the restaurant looks interesting and seafood sounds good.
Reuben’s and Belthazar Restaurant & Wine Bar have had top reviews, too, so if there is ‘time’, I will try to dine and wine there (South Africa has some really nice wines). Apparently the Cape Grace hotel has a good restaurant, Signal, with tasting menus (that is a like from me), so that could be an experience.

If meal money then runs out, I don’t mind surviving on yoghurt and fruit from a foodmart …
when necessary, I don’t mind a mix of luxury and budget travelling.

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Morning light over Simon’s Bay.
André van Rooyen.

What to do?

Insider suggestions are welcome, please. In the meantime, without knowing much about Cape Town, I have a notion, this is to be seen?

  • Cape Point: Watch the oceans meet, a natural wonder of the world (thanks to D’Marls Coffman, Gogobot Pro, for reminding me, a sea-lover, of the obvious).
  • Table Mountain ‘hike’ in TableMountainNational Park (try the Table Mountain Cableway).
  • Robben Island, formerly prison of Nelson Mandela, now a World Heritage Site …
    if I can get a ferry ticket (they are apparently sold out days in advance).
  • Cape of Good Hope, former Dutch East India company stronghold, for history.
  • Bo-Kaap house-design-watching, a natural for an art-and-design-buff.

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Fog. Damien du Toit.

And of course: Watch whales (prime time July to November), humpbacks, orcas, southern rights and Bryde’s whales, from the shore or a boat; I learned, that South Africa is the fifth fastest growing whale-watching destination in the world. The Whale Route starts along the south of Cape Town (and extends over 1200 miles to Durban).

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This I would like to see: Sea Point storm. Mallix.

This is it. I have now made a dream plan.

Only question: Does this dream travel strategy work … and if yes, when will it come true?

 

 

Photo credits:

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/coda/377949/”>coda</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/andreinafrica/3445364196/”>andre.vanrooyen</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/coda/3047819218/”>coda</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mallix/2816685909/”>mallix</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;