Author Archives: Klaava

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Travel guidebooks for destinations in Europe

2017-03-15

Europe is the most popular travel destination for vacation-goers worldwide. First, royalty and then, tourists have been visiting Europe’s majestic cities, medieval villages, castles, fortresses, mountains and beaches for centuries. The infrastructure and services for travelers are in place.

Castillo de Santa Barbara, Alicante, Spain

Castillo de Santa Barbara, Alicante, Spain


Trends in travel change with time, and some destinations that earlier used to welcome visitors, may today wish tourists would go home. That’s an exception. In general, traveling in Europe is safe and people are friendly.

Even though English is the most widely understood language in Continental Europe, there is plenty of variation in regions. In eastern countries, German, Russian and French maybe more common foreign languages than English. In south Europe, English German and French are spoken in tourist regions, but outside them, travelers have to know enough local language to manage daily life.

Rick Steves has published many guidebooks for European destinations, but there are other, contemporary and visual travel guides published as ebooks worth reading. Travel Guidebooks Europe visual travel guidebooks cover north Europe and south Europe, and parts of Asia as well.

Getting to know the local culture is not as easy as many tourists believe. You get to know some German ways and you believe that it is all the same all over Europe. Not quite. Every nation in Europe has its own culture, etiquette and accepted behavior. If you intend to stay a bit longer in a destination, it is a good idea to prepare beforehand and read a cultural guide to the country.

Cultural guides are also featured in the book series of visual travel guides for Europe.

Klaava Travel Guide ebooks are available for download here.

Considering moving to, or working remotely from another country? These are the healthiest countries in the world

2017-03-11

Usually expats live and work in a country where they have been sent to for a few years, whereas digital nomads may move to a new country after a month. Nonetheless, the status of health services and the quality of the environment in the destination country are major factors when considering where to move. InterNations conducted a large survey where they asked people who have lived abroad their opinion about the health situation in countries they have lived in. Here are the results.

The ranking of the top 13 healthiest countries in the world includes 7 European countries and 6 countries from other parts of the world. Austria was ranked the number one country, followed by Taiwan and Finland.

InterNations is the world’s largest network of people who are living and working overseas. InterNations asked the members of the network to rank their health and well-being in the countries where they are living or have lived. This particular question was part of a wider survey on the quality of living abroad.

They asked 14,300 people living overseas to rate 43 aspects of life in their new country. Respondents represent 174 nationalities who are living in 191 countries or territories,

These are the 13 healthiest countries in the world according to the InterNation survey.

1. Austria.
Is it the Alps, Mozart, ski slopes, Vienna or something else that makes Austria do so well in quality of life surveys like this? All of that and good healthcare.
Austria Alps, photo by Francisco Antunes

2. Taiwan.
Taiwan and Japan were the only Asian countries ranked high in well-being in the survey. Stray dogs and beggars roam the streets of the capital Taipei, but in general expats were very happy with health services.
Taipei by Ludovic Lubeigt

3. Finland.
Finland is a country where everything works, and that concerns healthcare as well. While expats thank the reasonable cost of medical care in the country, the nation is in a process of totally renewing its healthcare system (because of high costs).

Fish market at Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

Fish market at Market Square in Helsinki, Finland.

4. Japan.
Japan is quickly aging, and it is the reason why the country leads the world in the development of personal assistant robots. The other parts of the health system work fine as well.

5. Israel
Perhaps it is surprising to see Israel ranked so high on wellbeing, but if you forget the serious issues with personal safety and security, it has other positive things on its side.

6. Denmark
Denmark and its capital Copenhagen have been voted as the best places to live many times and it shows in this survey as well. Health services in the former Viking country are regarded excellent.

7. Germany.
On autobahns people may sometimes challenge death by driving as fast as their Porsches and BMWs go, but maybe they rely on country’s reliable health services.

8. France.
Tax rates in France are among the highest in Europe (if not in the world), but the locals say that they are so proud of their excellent welfare system that they don’t mind paying their taxes.

9. Costa Rica.
Expats are happy with Costa Rica in general and health services available in the country.

10. Spain
When an expat is sent to Spain to work in an air-conditioned office from 9:30am until 7pm, people who don’t know any better, wish him or her sunny vacation days on the beach. Nothing could be further from the truth. In any case, high quality health services are readily available both in public and private institutions. Spain’s climate probably adds points to the well-being ranking.

11. New Zealand
Not only one of the world’s most exciting vacation destinations, New Zealand has a high living standard and welcoming people.

12. Canada
Canada is the only North American country that made it to the top 13. The country’s large cities have consistently been ranked high in the best cities to live in surveys as well.

13. Sweden.
The mother of welfare states continues to welcome immigrants and refugees while maintaining its health services in top condition.

Via Independent.

Planning a trip to the northernmost region of Europe, Lapland? This is what you need to know

2017-02-23

The northernmost region of Continental Europe, Lapland, is a vast wilderness area where the great outdoors invite people to hike, ski, fish, ride a mountainbike or simply just admire the scenery. Located north of the Arctic Circle, Lapland is also the home of Sami people and their reindeer.

Since Lapland is quite far away from large centers of civilization and distances in the region can be long, it is important to plan ahead and prepare for a trip to the region. The best way to explore the region is to drive, and it shows during the summer when the roads of Lapland see the number of motorhomes, cars and motorbikes considerably increase.
Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image
Some road travelers have a mission to reach Europe’s northernmost place Nordkapp (North Cape), whereas others explore fells, fjords, hiking paths, Sami culture and small towns of Lapland. There is something for everyone, except for those who require big-city sights.

Now, you can plan your Nordic journey with a Klaava Travel Guide titled Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia. The book features the sights, destinations, activities, events, wildlife, and everything needed for a successful trip to the north. Special sections for road travelers highlight the best routes and tips for driving in varying conditions.

Information on the book’s availability and prices can be viewed at this page.

Below a few sample pages from the book.

hiking destinations in Lapland (Klaava Travel Guide)
Scenic drives in Lapland (north Finland, Norway, Sweden)
City of Tromsö, Norway in travel guidebook Lapland
Abisko national park in Sweden, Lapland (Klaava Travel Guide)

The modern libraries of Thionville, France and Seinäjoki, Finland have something in common

2017-02-15

Public libraries all over the world have a new problem to solve: how to provide the best possible services to citizens when the core service of a library – printed book – is transforming to digital format. Ebooks can be checked out from a library at home sofa, at beach chair or at hospital bed. We firmly believe libraries as public spaces are needed in the future as well, but how they will look like and what they might actually do is another thing.

One of the first real life experiments with next generation library is being conducted in Texas, USA. Bexar County has opened an all digital library called Bibliotech. There are no physical books for people to loan, but computers, tablets and ereaders where library card holders can loan and read ebooks (or hang out on the Internet). Library staff is always there to help with books and with technology.
Thionville library in France
The town of Thionville in northern France didn’t go all digital when it opened a new library in 2016. It is a beautiful modern building with plenty of space for activities, like sipping coffee, having a picnic on the roof, or playing instruments in soundproof rooms. The architects explained to Fast Company that the objective was to build spaces for the community. Printed books are available in the library, as well as ebooks and other forms of digital media.

Thionville doesn’t even call its new building a library, but Mediatheque.

Before we continue to Seinäjoki, Finland, take a look at a video introduction to the Mediatheque of Thionville, France. Mediatheque was opened in 2016. It was designed by the Strasbourg-based firm Dominique Coulon and Associates.

Let’s jump from Central Europe to Northern Europe in order to find out what kind of libraries are being built in Scandinavia. One of the most liked and celebrated new libraries in Finland was built in Seinäjoki, in the central region of the country. The Apila (Shamrock) Library, designed by Helsinki-based architects JKMM, opened in 2012.

The primary service in Seinäjoki library is still printed books, but community spaces, activities and digital media have their own nooks, rooms and corners as well. The shadow of Finland’s master architect Alvar Aalto was a factor in the design process because buildings designed by Aalto are located around the new library.

Now, take a look at the following photo gallery of the Seinäjoki Apila Library and compare the pictures with the video images of the Thionville library. There are a number of details and large design solutions that resemble one another in these two libraries, even though the architects are different. Perhaps it is a sign that libraries are finding one common way to serve citizens in the digital future.

Seinäjoki Apila library, Finland
modern library of Seinäjoki in Scandinavia
modern library  architecture in Seinäjoki, Finland, North Europe
community spaces in Seinäjoki library, Finland
reading nook in Seinajoki library, Finland, Scandinavia, Europe

What is the Finnish way of doing things? American author reveals it all in the 6th edition of his book about Finland

2017-02-10

Author, journalist Russell Snyder moved to Finland from California in 1982. He has spent over 30 years exploring and enjoying the Nordic country. He has traveled far and wide searching for experiences, but has uncovered many cultural treasures right in Helsinki where he has mostly lived. “Finland is both a great place to visit and to live. The longer you stay here, the more you become hooked on the Finnish way of doing things.”
cover image of book: The Lighter Side of Finland 6th Ed
Here is what the author had to say about the new edition of his book about Finland.

You have just launched the 6th edition of The Lighter Side of Finland. When was the first one published?

The first edition was published 22 years ago. It reflected Finland as it was back then. However, Finland is constantly changing and redefining itself, so the book has been updated and revised to reflect those changes.

Why have you picked this year to publish this new edition?

Finland is celebration its 100-year anniversary of becoming an independent nation, so I wanted to celebrate the occasion with this book.

You use a lot of humor in your writing.

I believe humor is the best way to encourage people to keep reading. And if people are entertained and get a few laughs, they may even remember something.

What have been your favorite experiences in Finland?

Sledding on a hill with my kids. Walking around in a forest in Lapland during the autumn to experience the fantastic colors. Fishing on the Ruunaa River and smoking the freshly caught trout on a campfire. Dancing on a Saturday night in a small village and meeting new friends. Trying out the magnificent smoke saunas the Sauna Society. And many more.

You have also written Analysis of the Finnish Tango and I, Helsinki. Any plans to write another book?

I hope to write a book about Estonia soon.

sauna etiquette in Finland
The book covers the basics of sauna etiquette as well as many other unique Finnish customs.

Koob is creating new types of audiobooks that even children may want to listen to

2017-01-30

During the last couple of years, the biggest growth numbers in the book trade has been recorded by digital books – especially, audiobooks. The market for audiobooks has been very small, but because audiobooks can be listened to on smartphones and tablets, they are becoming more popular.

Usually, a professional narrator reads a book from the beginning to the end, and that’s it. Now, a company called Koob has decided to make audiobooks more exciting – so exciting that even children like to listen to them.
listening to Koob audiobooks
Koob’s concept is based on the application of stereo sound. In addition to the narration, Koob’s books feature sounds that create an atmosphere and establish a feeling of presence of the characters for the listener.

The audiobooks created with the new method are called Virtual Reality Audiobooks. The company describes the method’s objective as follows: “the listener’s brain is tricked into thinking it’s experiencing sounds first-hand and become part of the story as they engage in active imagination”.

Koob is planning to publish 40 audiobooks that feature its technology during 2017.

No words can describe the real thing (and Koob is a heavy user of hype- and buzzwords), but you can listen to samples of Virtual Reality Audiobooks on Koob’s web site.

If you are traveling in Europe with your dogs, here is a tour for them

2017-01-26

It is probably impossible to estimate how many dogs travel with their families in Europe. Of course, dogs do travel in other continents as well, but rather reasonable travel distances, good road network, varying landscapes and predominantly friendly attitude towards furry companions in Europe encourage many road travelers to take their pets along for a journey. In London, an insurance company even organized special tours for dogs on a double-decker bus.
Dog tour by More Than
The special tours for dogs (More th>n Doggyessenti>ls) circled London between January 16 and 19, 2017. Now it is too late to try and book a seat for the tour, but if you are planning to travel to London, nothing stops you from following the same route and seeing the same sights as the dogs who had an opportunity to join one of the tour groups.

The 90-minute tour allowed passengers to get a glimpse of seven sights:

1. Victoria Tower Garden: Site of the annual Parliament dog show.
2. Houses of Parliament: voice your opinion on laws that affect canines.
3. Buckingham Palace: say hi to the Queen’s Corgis (if you are lucky).
4. Hyde Park: your opportunity to show off in the park and impress everyone who is anything in London.
5. Kensington Palace and Gardens.
6. The Kennel Club: dog paintings.
7. 10 Downing Street: find out who is running the country: the Prime Minister or four-legged friends.

Take a look at the video where dogs enjoy their tour in London:

What I would really like to know is how many hours or even days the filming of the video required? When you let a bunch of dogs in a small space like a bus, they start smelling, chasing, playing and fighting with one another. None of the dogs will sit down quietly for a microsecond and just stare out of the window. Still, the video is good fun.

Travel photography application shows where to take that perfect tourist postcard picture

2017-01-11

Accidental travel photographers tend to take photos at the same places where everyone else is taking pictures. If you want your travel pictures to look better than 99% of all photos taken in that same spot, you may want a little help from an expert. The travel photography expert is called Snapfindr, an app that runs on your smartphone or tablet.
snapfindr app screen shot
Snapfindr is a free application that shows you the exact locations of major sights in the most popular travel destinations where to take that perfect postcard image. At the moment, the application covers the top sights of Barcelona, London, New York, Paris, Prague, and Sydney.

Let’s say you are exploring Paris. You find the famous Notre Dame cathedral, and want to take a memorable photograph of the place. Snapfindr shows you exactly where to stand and which direction to point your camera. If you have a camera where you can adjust the settings, the application gives you tips on them as well. Notre Dame is only one of the locations in Paris the app covers. You can navigate from destination to destination using an online map or embedded sample images.

All right, that is what Snapfindr can do. Then, there is only a question of how and for what you use it for. Maybe you don’t want to take the same images as everyone else is taking during sightseeing tours. Perhaps there are even better ways to use Snapfindr?

One of the best use cases for this application is learning travel photography. The persons who have taken the images included in the app and written the notes for camera settings and related remarks are very skilled photographers. Anyone who wants to learn the first steps in classic travel photography can get many valuable lessons in Snapfindr:

– How to position yourself and your camera.
– How to frame the subject.
– Timing: what is the time of the day when you get the most spectacular images.
– Camera settings for that perfect picture.

Snapfindr even features sample images taken on the spot for you to compare your snapshot with the teacher’s mastershot.

For more travel photography, take a look at our writers’ galleries.

Snapfindr screen shots:
screen capture of snapfindr application

screen capture of snapfindr application

screen capture of snapfindr application

If you have always wanted to stay a night at a library, now it is possible in Wales

2017-01-06

There is an atmosphere of utmost safety and eternal truth in old libraries. They are like small and simple worlds inside the big and complex world we live in. On top of that, old libraries often are beautiful. So, who wouldn’t like to stay a night in a library where comfortable beds are waiting for tired book lovers. Gladstone’s Library in Wales invites guests to stay a night among books, but in bed.
Gladstone's Library, books
Gladstone’s Library is both a real library and a real hotel all in the same building.
Gladstone's Library building
There are 26 rooms for guests to choose from. Guestrooms include Wi-Fi, free coffee, vintage radios, and views to the Welsh countryside, but for book lovers the real treat is access to the library. 250,000 printed items are available until 10 pm (doors are closed to the public at 5 pm).
Gladstone LIbrary, hotel room
Room prices start at £63 a night, and they include free breakfast in the cafe Food For Thought. Guestrooms don’t have TVs – perhaps you want to spend every precious minute with books.

The nearest town to the library is Chester. In order to get there, you can drive or take a train that stops in Chester.

The library has been named after the former Prime Minister of UK William Gladstone. He was a book lover who collected more than 30,000 of them during his lifetime. He lived in Hawarden Castle in Wales when he retired. The library was built after he died in 1898.
Gladstone Library, social room

reading char at Gladstone Library
Images by Gladstone’s Library.

This is why book publishers want details about potential authors’ blog and social media footprint

2016-12-17

If you already have had an opportunity to talk to a book publisher or an agent about your terrific book concept, you may have been asked about your blog and social media presence. For you, they don’t necessarily have anything to do with your aspirations as a writer. Maybe you don’t even have a blog and your social media is mostly about watching cat videos on Facebook. Here is the thing: when a publisher is estimating the size of the market for your book concept, the audience you are able to reach yourself can be a significant factor.
man thinking what to write on aptop
Let’s take an example. You have been living and working in Berlin, the capital of Germany, for a year. You have learned so much about the culture, country and people that you are planning to write a cultural guide to other foreigners who intend to move to Germany. If you have a travel blog where you discuss about the country, the city, the language and the way Germans behave, you probably have an audience. Your blog or other social media contribution is also a quick way for publishers and agents to browse how and what topics you write about. If, on the other hand, you have only updated your Facebook page that your family and friends read during the year, it really doesn’t count as an audience.

Without going into details of blogging, tweeting, instagramming or whatever will be the next big thing in social media, the key thing is: how many people you can reach on your own?

Many experts in the publishing business call this the Author Platform. For an extensive explanation on the Author Platform (also known as the Writer’s or Marketing Platform) and how to build one for yourself, read this article at Writer’s Digest.

The Platform concept is particularly useful for nonfiction writers. Publishers and naturally readers expect that the writer knows what he or she is talking about. The writer must be an authority of the topic of the book. This doesn’t mean that he or she should be a world-renowned expert, but should have the credibility so that the audience can trust the information in the book. Experienced, professional writers can write just about anything, but they have plenty of techniques and contacts for verifying the information they write.

If we use the cultural guide to Germany as an example, living and working for a year in Berlin gives enough experiences to write a book, but probably means that the guidebook won’t dive very deep into the local culture. If the aspiring author writes the manuscript in Berlin, it may take another year, and the authority only grows.

So, these two key things are the reasons why publishers and agents are interested in writers’ footprint (both in the real world and on the Internet):

1. Audience
2. Authority

When we discuss about writing and book publishing, we easily neglect an important factor that impacts both the publishing decision and the whole book project. Especially nonfiction books are not only about text, but also about photos, schemas, tables, drawings, and today also (thanks to ebooks) about animations and videos. If you can shoot decent photos or videos, draw pictures or put together smart data tables, it is a big advantage for you.
photographer taking a photo in flower field
If you have a plan for a nonfiction book, and are looking for an ebook publisher, read this as well.

Are travel coloring books the ultimate relaxation option on the road?

2016-12-01

There are times during every traveler’s journey when it would be smart to switch off brains from constant planning ahead, working, or worrying about what can go wrong. Some (printed) book publisher believe they have a cure for traveler’s anxiety: the travel coloring book. Coloring books for adults were recently popular, but now, it is possible to find a coloring book for your special interest, such as travel.
travel coloring books, cover images
The theory is that since the world inside a travel coloring book is already organized and static, the tourist can manage the world drawn on the pages of the book by coloring it the way he or she wants. It is supposed to take your thoughts away from anything that may burden your mind and from everything around you.

Maybe that is exactly why many travelers have their music collection on a smartphone or on an iPod with them and they listen to their favorite artists when they want some distance to the world around. Some travelers, surprisingly, read books, whereas others watch movies, or sip gin and tonics.

There are many ways to relax on the road apart from coloring books. Yet, it is an interesting trend. Whoever was the mastermind that thought of producing coloring books for adults must be congratulated. Creating a new trend is once-in-a-lifetime event.

If you want to color Paris or San Francisco on your flight across the Atlantic or the American continent, it is possible (Amazon). Or perhaps you would like recolor 30 World Heritage Sites in your favorite colors? Kobo bookstore markets ebooks that contain drawings that you can print out and then recolor.

The New York Times discovered that some upmarket hotels give guests coloring books and crayons as they check in. There was a time when it was cool to have the morning’s newspaper delivered behind your hotel room door in the morning, and a time when Wi-Fi was new. Now, it is books.

What about ebooks? Are there any coloring ebooks that you could use on your Kindle ereader or on the iPad tablet? Not really. While it is possible to produce an ebook application or Apple iAuthor book that lets you change colors of objects on the screen, these types of interactive multimedia ebooks are very expensive to create. Travel guidebooks that feature reliable and useful information on your destination can be viewed here.

If the coloring book trend continues after 2016, we may see a few ebook coloring books in the market. Otherwise, it is the old, proven paper, ink and crayon technology that dominates the coloring book business.