Cool Car Cruise: Drive from Dubai to Oman

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Oman. A country on the Arabian Peninsula. Deserts and beaches. It smells a bit of adventure. A visit is called for. So is a drive in the desert.

From the holiday base in neighboring Dubai, it is possible take a trip to Oman.
On the map it looks like a quick trip. But when you look closely, there are several hours of driving to the border and from there to Oman’s capital Muscat. You should set aside approximately a 7 hour drive depending on the route you choose.

The Sultanate of Oman is an Arab, Muslim country on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered to the north western to the United Arab Emirates, western Saudi Arabia, the southwest to Yemen and shares maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan.

It has 4,441,448 inhabitants (2016). Additionally, the country is visited by a growing number of tourists, who stay at the capital Muscat (second best city in the world to visit according to Lonely Planet 2012) or the northern part of the country to practice outdoor sports. Jeep Safari, read Nissan- or Toyota-safari in the desert and picnic in an oasis, Wadi, are also popular.

Another side to the desert

Early morning, it is still quite cool. We, our friend, Henrik and I, drive by car from the city of Dubai out into the desert and head south-east. Far from a spectacular desert landscape as in the tourist brochures; here it is gray-brown, dirty sand with bushes and shrubs and a forrest of power pylons and power lines. Not exactly idyllic.

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For once, not 1000 photo stops. The first part of the trip is visually unsightly, albeit an experience full of impressions from a completely different nature than the European.

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From here we head into the mountains, which from a distance in the mist looks magical, serrated and dark. More closely they look more like piles of gravel, more interesting than beautiful. But mountains are mountains and always exciting when you come from a country without any mountains at all (Denmark).

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By the border

We reach a small border crossing. It is open and local cars drive straight through it. Not us. We are stopped and asked to choose a different route. No explanation (perhaps inability to present visas). 180 degree turn, return, new route. O.k., so we got to see some more of the country.

After a half hour drive we get to a very large border, Khatmat Malahah, with five checkpoints. Passports are checked and we are motioned forward.
At checkpoint number three there is no-one at the control booth, so we drive past it. So far so good. But at post number four, we are asked to turn back; we must go back and find a passport office.

The passport office is in a small oblong container-like yellowish building a little away from the road. On the door is posted a cardboard sign with Passport written on it and a sign showing that photography is prohibited.

From the brilliant sunlight outside, we enter a semi-dark room, only illuminated by natural light from a single window and the light from a row of bare neon tubes.
The brown walls have no decorations apart some some worn bulletins in Arabic.

The narrow, oblong room is divided by a desk with glass with small holes for the exchange of documents – and credit cards. Behind the counter glass, there are three men dressed in uniforms and traditional white dress. Apart form us five others, all men, probably local truckers, are waiting for clearance.

So far on the whole trip, in all cars, in control posts and in the passport office, I have only seen men. I am glad, that I am in the company of two of those …

There is busy traffic back and forth behind the glass pane, while the documents are being processed thoroughly and quickly without any kind of conversation with us tourists.
In 10 minutes we are ready to go. However, first we must pass the last two checkpoints, before we are in Oman.

Neat and tidy

From the border we drive towards Muscat. A flat, yellow-brown landscape dotted with low-rise buildings in white and yellow colors. Here and there are patches of green. In the distant background glimpses of the mountain tops in the Hajjar mountain range.

Oman’s highest point is 3,028 meters, the mountain Jebel Shams 240 km outside Muscat; a popular area, which we did not have time to visit this time.

Fairly quickly the landscape changes. The two lane highway becomes a three lane highway with a lush median strip with green grass and flowers of all colors.
The road is perfectly straight and as clean as if it has been vacuumed.

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The long straight highway is interrupted at intervals by very large roundabouts with monuments and sculptures.

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A small rest is in order. Humans and Maserati’s get hungry. We stop for fuel; gasoline and nuts, water and ice cream with pistachio and pecans …

A trip to the restroom anyone? We are looking for the toilet, but it is hiding.
The gas station attendant is helpful. On gas station grounds there is a tiny mosque and behind it there are facilities for Ladies and Gentlemen.

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Cool Coral

We drive on and finally we see water and city. The satellite navigation guides us in the right direction and – after a few detours – we find the hotel.
Actually the navigation gets us to the hotel on the first attempt, but we overlook it and drive around for a bit. How could it happen? The hotel is hiding behind a mall facade; you have to put your head far back to spot the sign on the very top of the building.

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Photo: Coral Muscat Hotel & Apartments

Our friend booked the hotel, Coral Muscat, according to the criteria: New, clean, wifi and fitness centre. The last two are also personal hotel criteria, especially wifi as bodyweight training can take place anywhere.

On the minus side. The hotel is just off a highway junction and a couple of kilometers away from the city center, so you do not just step out the hotel door and onto the corniche, promenade. The coveted pool was in maintenance, meaning that the pool was empty for three (or more) days.

On the plus side: The hotel is super nice and modern. The staff is friendly and helpful and speaks English, French and Arabic. The rooms are tiptop, the restaurant is nice and the roof terrace on two floors are very nice with elegant booths for private companies.

We live in a great apartment suite with a living room, kitchen and toilet and two huge bedrooms with bathrooms.

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The fitness center is light, modern and well equipped. There is not a lot of equipment or machines, but there is more than enough for a complete workout for most travellers:

Floor space, free weights,balls, step benches albeit small, treadmills and other cardio machines, Kinesis, advanced and super versatile cable system for countless exercises, and a Technogym multi-gym machine.

Normally I am not crazy about multi machines, but this is a an o.k. version with a pulley system, which allows you to train chest, back and shoulders (arms) in an efficient way, with one or both arms. You can also work your legs; quads and hamstrings.

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Here we work out both days.

Man also has to eat.

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Since we are a little outside of the city center, away from the restaurant area – and the two nearest options are Burger King and KFC – we go into the hotel restaurant; it is small, light, open and minimalistic.
There is an a la carte menu and a three-course dinner menu, which we choose:

Shrimp cocktail, chicken and panacotta. As for the entree, we expect the usual:
A glass with small shrimp mixed with sauce. As a pleasant surprise – after a longer wait – in comes dishes with five, crunchy, fresh, delicious prawns with sauce on the side. Possibly the best shrimp cocktail ever.

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The main course today is fried chicken with french fries. While breaded chicken and fries are far from healthy, this is fresh and tasty, with the fries served in a paper cone on a separate rack and with a tray of tiny Heinz ketchup bottles on the side. Rather neat.

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The roof terrace bar … I accidentally said to the men. To their great disappointment as they discovered, that you (obviously) cannot buy alcoholic beverages, but only mocktails – cocktails without alcohol – and coffee and tea and snacks.
I was, however, very pleased with my non-alcoholic mojito. I like mocktails.

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After a long day on the road from Dubai to Muscat, here we are; well installed and ready for a much needed night’s sleep in our big, lovely, duvet-covered beds.

Goodnight. – Goodnight.

Travelling time: Back in Dubai, Dubai

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

From Denmark to Dubai. Again.

A client asked me “why go there”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dubai

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shops and trade

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

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

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

See the city by RTA

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

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

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

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

Top 7 Attractions Dubai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dubai is certainly worth a visit.


Respect the rules of the country

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

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

Visit Aarhus, Denmark: ARoS Art Museum

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

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

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

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

   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended.

*****

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

Af Marina Aagaard, MFT

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

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

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

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

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

    

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          

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

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

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

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

    

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

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

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

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

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

Iamsterdam.


Trip by kind invitation of KLM.

City Walk in 36.000 Steps: Amsterdam Sneaker Sightseeing

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

As seen on film! The scene in the reception might as well have been choreographed. It is going to be a good day!

06:30. I am heading full speed for the breakfast restaurant with map and papers in hand. But. What. I have forgotten my pen. I walk towards the reception desk. There are three men behind the tile-clad desk. One behind and one at each side. All three are well-dressed in dark suits.

They are in the middle of a conversation, but stop talking as I approach.

I ask the ‘middle man’ behind the desk “Do you have a pen, I may borrow”.
In a split second three arms shoot towards me, each with a pen in hand.
This event is perfectly synchronized and without any hesitation. Fantastic.

Sometimes small things or movements make the biggest difference.

The breakfast holds another surprise. Apart from a nice and colourful buffet with juice, fruit, muesli, nuts, bread, cold cuts, cheese, marmalade and more, you can order hot dishes. I can’t help it: I order a pancake (I think).

Then! I get a plate with four pancakes and fresh banana plus chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Surprising, naughty but nice, however, more than a morning pancake.

After breakfast my sneakers in Dutch colour are ready for walking.

At the KLM Amsterdam Sneaker page I have found the map Recreational Walk.

So my first move is to walk from the hotel to Vondelpark, the starting point.
I hit ‘Start’ on my Polar heart rate monitor (I am half Finnish).

Plant! You aren’t going anywhere!

Vondelpark. It is hard to tell from this photo, but the park is full of people and dogs.

Leaving the park and walking north-east I spot these amazing bronze reptiles.

The flower market is a surprise. Not only flowers, but bulbs in all sizes and shapes.
“We ship all over Europe”.

Across from the Central Station you find the Tourist Information in a separate building with a cafe, ticket counter and a toilet (loo) … decorated with a.o. Dutch houses.

The walk includes a ferry ride, but it is no problem: The ferries leave only minutes apart, a ferry ride only lasts 3 minutes and it is free. From the Central Station you go to the northern part of the city. More to see looking up and down and all around.

The walk goes through a residential area and ends at Nieuwendammerdijk. An idyllic area, where people relax in the sunshine outside a café.

I join in and take a short rest after this walk of 13.9 km, expected at 2 h 50 minutes: But it lasts longer due to more than a few photo-stops.

Then I head back. I walk for about one kilometer, but then jump on a bus back to the Central Station. I am (there) again …

From there I sail again and am ready for the Mighty Museums walk of 4.1 km, expected 50 minutes, from the EYE Film Museum to the Stedelijk Museum – or the other way around.

The EYE Film Museum is in an impressive, odd-shaped building, worth seeing (visiting).
In the building next to it, Lookout Amsterdam, at the top of the building you find two swings; you can have a swing with a view.

Walking back through the city full of art and street art. The only way is up!

Art is everywhere. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

In the museum part of town you will find the famous and formidable Rijks Museum.

One should dedicate a full day for visiting and seeing the works of the many famous Dutch painters. Not only Rembrandt and Van Gogh. There are many more; my favorite is Emanuel de Witte (1617–1692), his (architecture) paintings are outstanding.

The legendary Iamsterdam sculpture is almost non-stop full of tourists photographing each other or taking selfies.

There were no room for me at the Iamsterdam letters, so I settle for a ‘selfie’ at the mirror-sculpture by the Stedelijk Museum.

After the museum route I am ready for the Design Stroll, which starts close by the Stedelijk museum. This is a walk of 5 km, expected 1.2 h.

Starting point is the super-shopping street Peter Cornelisz (PC) Hooftstraat: Prada, Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Max Mara a.o. Excellent for shoppers or window shoppers.

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Moving on I see more interesting items for those interested in jewellery, watches and art. You will find goods in all sizes and price ranges.

The most elegant pedestrian sign I have ever seen – in glittering blue and silver-white glass mosaics.

Amsterdam of course has a Tulip Museum and many, many tulips.

A balcony with a giant butterfly. Party is imminent. Below are more unusual facade decorations.

This walk ends – after plenty of designer-boutique-window-shopping – in Harlemmerstraat. It is late in the afternoon and time to head back.

Clogs in all sizes, colours and materials are expected.

Almost back at the hotel. A gallery window speaks: And at the end of the day your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling. A suitable quote.

With a full mind – and an empty stomach – I opt for the easy solution. As I am on my own, today I will skip solo dining at a town restaurant; I go to the hotel Restaurant Jansz.
And enjoy a delightful dinner at the candlelit table by the window.

My choice: Tuna tartar with wasabi (some like it hot), Morano spiced salmon with couscous and for dessert strawberry creme brûlée. Delicious. The wine, too:
White wine Touraine (sauvignon blanc), from Loire in France, and red wine, Baron De Ley (tempranillo), Rioja Reserva, Spain.

Cheers!


Trip by kind invitation of KLM.

Aalborg to Amsterdam travel: A Holland sneak(er) peak

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Third time lucky! Twice I have been in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport lately. But only in transit. Now it is. Travel destination: Amsterdam.

The occasion? KLM has a march campaign ‘Amsterdam sneaker’. What is this about? Well, the airline is based in Amsterdam, Holland, and boasts, that the Dutch capital is so ‘compact’, that it can easily be experienced by foot.

To stress that they mean it, KLM has even produced a walking shoe, a sneaker, designed to get around in the city …

During march KLM have an Amsterdam Sneaker auction with sneakers including trips – and the full amount from this  auction is donated to UNICEF.

A good cause. I am happy to hop into a pair of sneakers, thank you, KLM, to investigate!

Wednesday afternoon. Aalborg Airport in northern Denmark. First a cup of coffee.

Shopping? I have a hard time resisting the Champagne family. But have to. Not because of the price of course, DKK 17.999 (more than 2000 EUR) for the ‘head of the family’ containing 15 litres, but because of lack of space in my carry-on luggage …

It is almost time. The Cityhopper arrives – gets ready – and we leave on time.

The online magazine Holland Herald matches my shoes. Or is it the other way around?
A coincidence? I think not!

Food is nice. On board food, too. When it is tasty, that is (not always the case). This serving was unusually delicious – and not just because I was pretty hungry.

I won’t get tired of a view like this; beautiful clouds seen from above.

A short flight of only 1:05 h. And so we land on time in AMS, Amsterdam Schiphol.
With a medium-sized aircraft you are not always stepping out right at the gate door.
But it is o.k. Here you get a ride in a solar powered bus!

Taxi or train? Taxi approx. 30 min., 42 EUR. Train approx. 10 min. 5 EUR. That settles it. I buy a ticket and find my way to the platform.

After a short train ride you arrive at the busy Amsterdam Central Station.

Immediately when you get out into the streets you realize that Amsterdam is a bike city. There are bikes everywhere. And hundreds of bikes are parked around the station.
There is even a bike parking house.

It is now evening and I find a map on my iPhone to guide me on my walk to the hotel.
I get a bit of night sightseeing as I find my way through a ‘red light district’ with many small cafés and ‘coffee’ shops …

In just 10 minutes I reach the hotel, Pulitzer, situated down a small alley alongside one of the numerous canals. Beautiful.

After a quick snack and a cup of herbal tea it is bedtime for bonzo.

Goodnight.

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).