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?

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;

Time travelling for body and mind: Riga, Latvia.

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

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

Riga Vansu bridge photo Marina Aagaard

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

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

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Marina Aagaard

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

Riga Art Noveau buildings and decor photo Henrik Elstrup

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

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

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

Riga wood houses UNESCO photo Henrik Elstrup

Hairdressing and beauty salon in Riga …

Riga skønhedssalon

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

Riga tag kænguruRiga wood houses modern house photo Henrik Elstrup

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

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

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

Riga Monterosso spinach ravioli photo Marina Aagaard

Riga Monterosso Haute Cuisine Lasagne photo Marina Aagaard 

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

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

Riga Elefant elefant side

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

Bon appetite!

Express Fitness # 2: Circuit Training For Travel or Home

Marina Aagaard, MFE

Get fit and healthy in no time; work out smarter, not harder. Whether you are staying at home or travelling, you can get a super workout with bodyweight, beams, bars or furniture or fitness equipment. The most timeefficient way of getting an all-round resistance and cardio workout is:

  • Circuit training (complex or simple, but always fast and fun).

IMG_5656Circuit training (back exercise) at Elefant hotel, Riga, Latvia.

Circuit training can be either 1) pure cardio, 2) pure resistance or 3) a mix. The latter is the preferred method in fitness; after each cardio exercise, there is a resistance exercise.

Station/exercise time: Norm: 30 seconds or 1 minute (or 10-16 repetitions).
Total number of exercises: Typically 8-12 (range e.g. 4-20).
Total number of rounds: 1-5. After one round; repeat circuit 1-4 times. 

In circuit training, as opposed to interval training, you do not pause: Keep moving; this provides additional cardiovascular work. When you finish one exercise, you hurry to the next station/exercise. Perform 1-4 rounds. Do not plan to have 10-15 seconds for changing stations, change as fast as possible.

7 minute HICT bodyweight circuit 

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds and high intensity with good form (HICT article with exercise photos):

1. Jumping Jack
2. Wall sit (wall squat)
3. Push-up
4. Abdominal crunch
5. Step-up, e.g. onto chair
6. Squat
7. Triceps dips on chair
8. Plank
9. High kneelifts,
10. Lunge
11. Push-up with torso rotation
12. Side plank

5 minute basic strength machine circuit (ex warm-up)

Perform 10-12 repetitions of each exercise and immediately proceed to the next station/exercise. Perform 1-3 rounds. (fitness circuit clip)

  • Leg press or squat
  • Chest press or bench press
  • Rowing, horizontal
  • Shoulder press
  • Lat pulldown, vertical
  • Back extension
  • Ab curl

Have a go. It is nice for variation and intensity, isn’t it?

The B-Side of Bergen and 50 Shades of Grey

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

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

Norway Bergen port. Photo: Marina Aagaard

Bergen and Ulriken at a distance Photo: Marina Aagaard

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

Bergen old city houses Photo: Marina Aagaard

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

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

Bergen Bryggen view Photo: Henrik Elstrup

Norway Norge Bergen Bryggen Foto: Henrik Elstrup

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

Bergen B side

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

Norge Bergen architecture Photo: Marina Aagaard

Bergen boasts buildings of more modern achitecture, too.

Bergen fish market

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

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

Norge Ulriken tåge sti

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

Norway Bergen Ulriken Photo: Henrik Elstrup

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

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

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

Maybe the solution:

Norge McDonalds

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

Norge Bergen fortovskunst

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

To your health.

Going to Work by Ferry: A Nordic Cruise

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Hi-ho hi-ho it’s off to work I go: Thanks to an invitation from colleagues in Bergen, Hordaland county, last weekend I was sailing from Hirtshals, Denmark, to Bergen via Stavanger, Norway, to present group exercise workshops. A 16-hour ferry trip, from mid-evening to midday next day … with a nice surprise.

In Denmark going on a ferry trip is no big deal; Denmark consists of Jutland, a peninsula ‘on top’ of Germany, and 1,419 islands above 100 square metres; 443 named islands, 73 of which are inhabited (Zealand and Funen are the largest). So most Danes have spent (a lot of) time on ferries – also on trips to our neighbours Norway and Sweden.

Scandinavian ferries are okay, fine, functional and ‘mature’. This time, however, the ferry was a bit different. The ferry carrying me to Norway was MS Stavangerfjord (fanfare):

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MS Stavangerfjord (photo: Esben Gees for Fjordline) is the world’s first and largest cruise-ferry powered fully by environmentally-friendly Liquified Natural Gas, “a giant leap towards cleaner shipping” – and a giant leap towards travelling with a clean(er) conscience!

MS Stavangerfjord powered by LNG funnels

At 170 m, 557 foot, in length, 25.000 tonnes, with room for 1500 passengers and 600 cars, MS Stavangerfjord is not your everyday ferry, it is big, brand new and with a touch of true cruise luxury.
Travelling to work suddenly became a Nordic mini-cruise.

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Brass, wood and lush carpets; the ‘smell’ of ships and cruising.

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A sneak peek into the gourmet restaurant … on the way to the buffet restaurant.

Norge MS SF buffet restaurant

Buffet restaurant and …

Lobster cracker and lobster fork

… buffet cutlery a little less ordinary:
Lobster cracker and lobster fork!

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Lounge is ready to party, but the night – and guests – is still young.

Norge MS S F sejlads i gråvejr

The truth about Nordic cruises; often grey and foggy (cool!) …

Norge MS SF dæk og regn

… and rainy too (not a problem, when you like rain, though).

Being at sea is a bliss. This is wellness, come rain or come shine.

P.s.: It is quite possible, though, to get (very) seasick on a Nordic cruise,
as the going often gets tough in the North Sea, but this time the waves were friendly. 

Time Out Aarhus: World’s Largest Ship Visit

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Some would say sad, some would say super: Taking a day trip just to go to ones own hometown to see a ship.

Maybe it is the way it has to be, when you live by/in the second-largest city of one of the smaller countries of the world; Aarhus (population ~320,000), Denmark.
You have to make every little (odd) thing into an event or destination.
Fitness-wise it is a smart move, though, to move about at every chance!

Yesterday, the world’s biggest container ship, Maersk McKinney Moller, 400 metres long, 55,000 tonnes and a cost of 185 mio. USD, visited the port of Aarhus for the first time.

All day there were a ‘beach bar’ (event restaurant), boat tours around the massive ship and container displays at the city centre next to the port.

2013 Mærsk Containere

A ‘dusky’ yesteryear-smartphone photo of the theatre and cathedral square ‘contained’.

In the evening hundreds (thousands?) of people gathered all over the port and surrounding areas to watch the giant sail on … with drinks, snacks, ice creams and cameras at hand. This is how we party, have a good Time Out in Aarhus (read; events and sights are everywhere)!

2013 Mærsk McKinney Møller sejler ud 26 08 2013

Exit: A ship sailing out. Enter: Dreams of travelling to far corners of the world.

Are we, inhabitants of the tiny country of Denmark, home of Moeller-Maersk the World’s Largest Container Ship Company, just in desperate need of sights to see?
Or do you also enjoy watching/going to/being at ports, ships and the sea?

maersk-mckinney-ship-aug-2013MV Maersk McKinney Moller (International Business Times, August 16)