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.

*****

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 wellness travel: Stavanger, Norway

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

A small holiday is also a holiday. And a holiday facilitates recovery and performance; this means fitness. If there is no time for a real holiday, you can create your own look-alike (e.g. transform a work trip or an extended weekend). In this case a mini-cruise to Norway.
Last weekend I took the super ferry MS Bergensfjord to a training event in Norway, and was able to energize – have a mini-holiday – for two days in Stavanger before the workshops in Sandnes.Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in the World (and one of the richest, too, because of the oil), unfortunately also one of the most expensive …

There are approx. 5 mio. Norwegians and in Greater Stavanger, the third city of Norway, there are about 130.000 inhabitants.Stavanger was founded in 1125, when the Stavangers cathedral was inaugurated. The city is a mix of buildings from many timeperiods and in the city centre, there are a lot of wooden houses from around 1800 and 1900.

Stavanger rosa hus Stavanger street and buildings foto Marina Aagaard Stavanger buildings foto Marina Aagaard Stavanger building foto Marina Aagaard Stavanger city Marina Aagaard fitness blogApart from old houses Stavanger, which is centre of the Norwegian oil industry has a lot of modern company buildings and exciting new housing as well as exciting art and progressive street art.
Norsk Oljemuseum Stavanger Norge Foto Henrik ElstrupStavanger Petrol Museum front foto Marina Aagaard Norsk Oljemuseum, The Norwegian Petroleum Museum (photos above), is an interesting structure and recommended, if you are interested in machinery, oil riggs, museums (I am).Stavanger Geoparken Norge foto Marina Aagaard

By the Olje Museum there is the Geopark (above); a different, experimental city park testing new forms of recycling of ideas and materials from the petroleum industry.

Stavanger bus skur

Stavanger bus shed ad. Is it just me or is this ad a little more cool than the usual bus shed toothpaste and shampoo ads?

Stavanger buildings:

414X0322414X0374414X0419

Stavanger Louis Poulsen lampVandalism or street art?
Danish Louis Poulsen Pullert street lamps by the museum
(and in the driveway at home).

Hotel: Scandic Stavanger City. Nice hotel with fine design details and a gym (but did bodyweight training in the room) … super nice food.
Stavanger Scandic hotel  IMG_4177Stavanger Scandic hotel stoleStavanger Scandic aftensmadStavanger Scandic hotel morgenbuffet totalStavanger Scandic hotel morgenbuffet større

Ordnung muss sein. Norwegian style.

Stavanger street art mural and more:
Stavanger mural and chairs foto Marina Aagaard

Old-school graffiti (calligraphy).
Stavanger calligraphy art

Animal life in Stavanger; whale, beavers and giraffe!

Stavanger murmaleri

Stavanger beavers

Stavanger giraffe

iPhone emergency room! Every city should have one …

Stavanger iphone klinikken

Dark art: Sverd i fjell (Swords in Rock) by Hafrsfjord fjord. Memorial outside Stavanger with free gigantic swords in the rock in memory of the battle of Hafrsfjord in 872. (Fritz Røed, 1983).

Sverd i fjell Stavanger Norge Foto Henrik Elstrup

Art on four wheels: An Electric car looking good: Tesla. There are a lot of those in Norway. Note license plate EL (seen on all the electric cars).Tesla el-bil i Norge EL nummerplade foto Marina Aagaard

Street art (PR) in a different way: Car on wall. Seen before,
but the wheel tracks are new.

Bil på mur ved Stavanger Norge foto Henrik Elstrup

Stavanger most popular attraction; Preikestolen. A rock overhang 600 m above Lysefjorden; requires a walk of 3-6 hours (return) (it is worth it).

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All this in just a couple of days. A small holiday IS also a holiday.

Think about it.

Lisbon Travel and Transportation: Cars That Make Me Smile

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Cars That Make Me Smile … for one reason or another …
petite, funny, surprising, colourful, ancient, oldschool cool or just cool (or even subzero cool as in Top Gear’s rating of cars and supercars).

What does cars and smiles have to do with fitness? Well, smiling is healthy and good health (wellness) is the foundation of fitness and performance.

So this was part of my wellness experience in Lisboa (Lisbon) last week:

Lisboa Car Banana van Lisboa Car Gocar tourist mobile Lisboa Car Green Mini Citroen Lisboa Car Grey Citroen Lisboa Car Lancia Fulvia 3 red Lisboa Car VW MobileShop

Lisboa Car Mercedes

Apart from the sad fact; they polute …
aren’t they “cute”?

Spring break: Lisboa, Portugal

Marina Aagaard, MFE

Well, well, well. A very busy start-of-year teaching schedule leaves no time for long trips or vacations. Uhhh uhhh, uhhh, what to do?
If I want to see something new? With time and money too few …

Seek out a destination not too far away. Find cheap travel offer. Find friend(s) to visit.
Take a city trip to Lisboa (Lisbon), Portugal? There is much to see in a relatively short time frame and though it was not on the Top 10 of my to-see list, it fits the requirements nicely and so I get a sort of travel surprise …

Lisboa Vasco da Gama Bridge totalPonte Vasco da Gama (1998), designed by Armando Rito. Lisboa, Portugal.
The longest bridge in Europe, 17.2 km (10.7 mi).

What is Portugal famous for? Apart from Port wine among other things tiled houses … and being pretty certain, that Christoffer Columbus (~1451-1506) was really Portuguese – born Salvador Fernandes, later renamed (by the order of the king) Cristofom Colon – and not Italian (Genova) …

Lisboa building with tiles blue           Lisboa building with tiles

Portugal is also famous for a charming and interesting capital, a city with a special blend of ancient history, old houses, novel street art and state-of-the-art architecture.
Why had I not thought of visiting Lisboa before?

Lissabon Airport Interior
Lisboa Portela Airport Interior

Lisboa Gare do Oriente train station interiorGare do Oriente Station interior. Amazingly beautiful.
Architect: Santiago Calatrava

Lisboa Gare do Oriente Station Santiago CalatravaGare do Oriente Station exterior. One of the largest train stations in the world.
And one of the most photographed due to the unique architecture.
Architect: Santiago Calatrava

Lissabon Metro EntranceLissabon Metro LysLisboa Metro views, huge and elegant spaces.

Lisboa Tram
Above ground: Take a tram.

Lisboa is the oldest city in Western Europe, one of the oldest cities in the world and the westernmost capital in Europe, situated on the Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the river Tagus. There are approximately 3 mio. people living in the Metropolitan Area representing more than a quarter of the population in Portugal.

The Belém Tower Lisboa PortugalLisboa has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Belém Tower (photo above of model and tower behind) and Jerónimos Monastery in late gothic Manueline style, finished in the 1520’s by architect João de Castilho. (three photos below).

Lisboa Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and fountain front Lisboa Mosteiro dos Jeronimos door      Lisboa Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

In 1994 Lisboa was the European Capital of Culture and in 1998 it hosted the Expo ’98 (1998 Lisbon World Exposition). Expo area with a.o. Oceanário de Lisboa, the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, below:

Lisboa modern architecture Lisboard boardwalk

Lisboa Oceanario de Lisboa

According to an expatriate friend in Lisboa, Portugal is a country with many business opportunities, because the country is developing in many areas, the prices are reasonable (cheaper than in many other European countries) and the Portuguese people are apparently much friendlier and forthcoming than many other Europeans …

And the highlights of Lisboa are absolute free as in gratis: Wonderful views of beautiful and interesting oldschool and newschool architecture and street art side by side.

Lissabon Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown Charles Correa AssociatesChampalimaud Centre for the Unknown.
Not another museum of modern art, but a research and diagnostic center with top scientists and medical science helping people with cancer, brain damage and blindness. Architects: Charles Correa Associates:
“Architecture as Sculpture. Architecture as Beauty. Beauty as therapy.”

Lisboa Praça do Comércio and arch leading to Augusta street
Lisboa Praça do Comércio and arch leading to Augusta street.
The 1755 Lisboa earthquake, tsunami and fires destroyed many buildings.
The city centre was rebuild in the Pombaline style, a secular, utilitarian architecture with rational, regular structures mixed with rococo details.

And everywhere, murals and graffiti … plus ugly tagging.

Lissabon Graffiti

Lisboa mural graffiti I Lisboa mural graffiti II Lisboa mural graffiti III Lisboa mural graffiti IV Lisboa mural graffiti V Lisboa murals graffiti and tags

Lisboa wall art

This Lisboa trip had my eyes working overtime …
A must-see city for art and architecture lovers.