Tag Archives: Europe

Spring is the best time to enjoy snowy activities in the wild north of Scandinavia, Lapland

2017-04-06

The dark winter in the northern hemisphere has been left behind, and the sun shines brightly on snowy slopes of fells in Lapland, in the northernmost region of Europe. Even though the nights are cold, the days tend to be warm (if it is sunny – and it often is) making spring the ideal season to enjoy outdoors activities in the snow.

Aavasaksa, Lapland, Finland.

Aavasaksa, Lapland, Finland.


Skiing is perhaps the most popular way to experience the magic of the north. If you mention skiing to the local Finns, Norwegians, Swedes or Sami in Lapland, they may assume you are referring to cross-country skiing. It is a good idea to specify what kind of skiing you mean: downhill or cross-country. Cross-country skiing tracks can be found practically in every village, town and tourist center. Downhill skiing slopes with lifts are available in large resorts, such as Ylläs, Ruka, Levi (in Finland) and Riksgränsen, Björkliden (in Sweden).

Snowmobile safaris have become very popular recently. You can ride a snowmobile yourself (highly recommended – it is a lot of fun) or take a backseat on someone else’s snowmobile. Resorts rent snowmobiles and organize guided tours to the wilderness. Most places have designated tracks for snowmobiles, which means you have to stay on those tracks. The tracks also help you from getting lost in the vast region where people and towns are few (and mobile phone signal disappears after a minute or two).

Husky dog sledge tour in Lapland

Photo: Visit Rovaniemi/Tourism & Marketing Ltd.


There are, however, plenty of reindeer roaming in the wilderness. The animals must dig deep into the snow to reach plants to eat. The owners of the reindeer usually bring supplemental food to the animals on their snowmobiles.

Snowmobile rides are fun, but the engines make some noise. Dogs can take you to a completely silent ride in the snow. Huskies are more than happy to pull a sledge, and once they settle to their travel speed, it is amazing how silently they go. You can sit back, admire the scenery and appreciate the work dogs are doing.

When the sun sets, a magical show starts in Lapland. Spring is also a wonderful time to see the Northern Lights, because the nights are dark, but it is not cold as in winter.
The Northern Lights in Rovaniemi (Photo Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd).Photo: Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.
The high season for spring travel in Lapland is March and April. Easter tends to be the busiest time at resorts and airports.

What you should know about traveling in Lapland

In the spring, be careful with the sun that also reflects from the snow: wear sunglasses and if you are exposed to the sun more than an hour or so, apply sunblock to your face.

I have written a guidebook (Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia) that helps in all aspects of planning and exploring this exotic wilderness region both in summer and in winter.

Here are some bookstores where the Lapland travel guidebook is available:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Apple iBooks
Barnes & Noble Nook Books
Google Play Books

Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image

Priceless experiences for a travel show host in Lapland

2017-03-21

The BBC Travel Show host Ade Adepitan visited Finnish Lapland in winter in order to discover how the indigenous Sami people live and how tourism actually helps them to keep their old culture alive. The host spent his time in Inari region which is the central place for Sami in Finland.
BBC Travel Show, Finland Special in Inari, Lapland
The Travel Show episode 163 (Finland Special) shows how reindeer get their food in winter, how people fish when the large Lake Inari is on ice and how it is possible to move around in wilderness even in winter.

The whole show is good fun, but especially the segment where the host Adepitan rides a snowmobile for the first time is priceless. Just look at his face and reaction when he turns the gas throttle. BBC doesn’t allow watching the Travel Show outside the UK, but here is a link for those whose computer or smart device has a British Internet address.

The Lapland episode of the BBC Travel Show only shows the Inari landscape in winter. Here are a couple of photos from my Lapland travel guidebook that show the sceneries in summer. Thousands of road travelers, fishermen, hikers, cyclists, all types of outdoor lovers like to travel around the region in summer. Skiers are the biggest group of travelers in winter.

Inari Lake, Lapland, Finland

Inarijärvi, FInland.

Lake Inari, Finnish Lapland: fishing at night.

Next time when the Travel Show visits Inari, I would like to recommend them the Siida Sami Museum. It is the best place in Lapland to get comprehensive information on Sami people, their history, culture, way of life, and current means of living.
Inari Siida Museum. Lapland, Finland, Europe

Tips for traveling in Lapland

A journey to Lapland can be an experience of a lifetime, but independent travelers should plan their trip because the distances can be long and services are only available in towns and in some villages. The guidebook (Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia) helps in all aspects of planning and exploring this exotic wilderness region.

Here are some bookstores where the Lapland travel guidebook is available:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Apple iBooks
Barnes & Noble Nook Books
Google Play Books

Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image

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.

The best destinations for landscape photography in Lapland, in the northernmost region of Europe

2017-03-07

Lapland is a vast wilderness region in the northern Europe. It is a land of Sami people and reindeer, fells, fjords, rivers, marshlands, and many types of wildlife. In other words, a fabulous destination for outdoor lovers, road travelers who appreciate majestic landscapes and for nature photographers. I recently wrote a guidebook to Lapland, and since I have extensively toured the region I can tell that it provides almost endless opportunities for delightful nature photography.
Rovaniemi, Arctic Circle. From travel guidebook LaplandThe Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi.

Before I share you my recommendations for the best places to visit and to take those perfect pictures of fells, fjords, villages, reindeer and people of Lapland, let me give you my estimation what is the most photographed place in Lapland. It probably is the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi, Finland. Rovaniemi is a major traffic hub in Lapland where tourists arrive across the world. The Arctic Circle is only a few miles from the airport and from the city, and it has developed into a major attraction.

Top 5 places in Lapland for exciting landscape photography

Abisko, Sweden

Abisko, Sweden. Lapland, north Europe
The scenery in Abisko is magnificent both in summer and winter. In summer (July and August) it is warm and you can shoot through the night because there is some sunlight even at midnight. In winter, it is cold and dark, but the Northern Lights, snowy landscape and perhaps spending a day on a ski track makes it all worth it.

Kilpisjärvi, Finland

Kilpisjarvi, Finland. Saana fell in Lapland, Scandinavia.
Saana fell is the landmark and the most photographed item in Kilpisjärvi, but there is much more. Kilpisjärvi is located in the fell region, but you don’t have to go far towards west when the landscape changes quite dramatically. After entering Norway, gently sloping fells turn into mountains, gorges and fjords of Norway. Great variety for photographers in a relatively small area.

Lofoten, Norway

Lofoten, Norway. A fishing village port on shore of a fjord
Lofoten is a large archipelago on the northwest coast of Norway. When you arrive on Lofoten, you can forget about rushing from one place to the next. The landscape is all about mountains and fjords across the islands. Small villages and tiny fishing towns here and there on the shores remind travelers that people live here, too. The sea provides additional photography opportunities: whale, seal, and bird watching tours give a new perspective to the scenery and wildlife.

Tromsö, Norway

Tromsö, Norway, view from mountain above town
Tromsö gives photographers opportunities not only to capture images of spectacular sceneries, but also city life. It is a vibrant city, full of young energy that university students bring to the streets, many restaurants, bars and cafés. Since mountains and fjords surround Tromsö, hiking to the heights or taking a sea tour provide many new angles for photographers as well.

Ylläs, Finland

Reindeer at Aakenus fell in Yllas-Pallas national park Finland, Lapland, north Europe.
Ylläs is a year-round destination for vacation-goers who seek outdoor activities, but especially Finns love to hike in this fell region in autumn. Fabulous fell sceneries around the year, reindeer, wild berries, and the colors of autumn. In addition to the environment, Ylläs and the region around it is a home for a few resorts that make traveling and staying in there easy and convenient.

How, where and when to travel in Lapland?

A trip to Lapland requires some planning because the distances can be long and towns are few. The guidebook (Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia) I wrote helps in all aspects of planning and actually traveling in this exotic region.

Here are a few bookstores where the Lapland guidebook is available:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Apple iBooks
Barnes & Noble Nook Books
Google Play Books

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)

Take a 360-degree train ride to the mountains and fjords of Norway at home

2017-02-20

Traveling in western and northern regions of Norway is a dream come true for everyone who admires dramatic sceneries. The downside is that it takes more time than most sightseeing trips because of those majestic landscapes. Yet, it is possible to choose road travel, sea cruises or even train journey (in some parts of the country). The Flåm railroad in western Norway is probably the most popular section for train travelers. Now, you can watch how a train ride along the famous Flåm railroad looks like.

Flåm, the end station of the railtrack, is a village at the bottom of a fjord. The track starts from Myrdal, a station on the mountains that is connected to Oslo and Bergen via railroad. The 20 kilometer journey from Myrdal to Flåm is considered the steepest railtrack for passenger trains (with the most spectacular sceneries along the way) in the world.

The Flåm railroad company has recorded a 44 minute film of the whole journey in 360 degree video format. You can view the video below, and change the viewing angle as you wish.

A good question is why capture a train ride in a 360-degree video? The camera that has recorded the journey was attached at the front of the train. It doesn’t make sense to rotate the image and watch back because all you can see is the train’s front window. Look down, and you see the railroad track. Probably a better result could have been achieved with an ordinary weatherproof camera. Perhaps the experience on a virtual reality device is better than on a computer. Nonethless, the journey itself is impressive, and definitely one that we will have add to our bucket list.

We can recommend another magnificent train ride that starts from Norway and ends in Sweden. Originally, the railroad track between Narvik, Norway and Kiruna, Sweden was constructed for transporting mining produce, but nowadays it is a popular way to access some of the best sceneries, hiking trails and skiing tracks in Swedish and Norwegian Lapland.

A major road that connects not only two Nordic countries, but places like Abisko and other national parks to the rest of the world follows the railroad track. Here is a video captured during road trips between Narvik and Kiruna.

Scenic road and railroad from Narvik, Norway to Kiruna, Sweden from Klaava on Vimeo.

More spectacular Arctic landscapes and useful information on
traveling in Lapland is available in this travel guidebook.

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.

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.

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.

Even without daylight, mysterious lights glow in Lapland in winter

2016-12-23

The daylight period is short or even non-existent in Lapland during the weeks before and after the solstice, but it doesn’t mean that it is completely dark in winter in the Europe’s northernmost corner. Snow covers the ground in the whole region, efficiently reflecting every beam of light the stars, the moon and other sources emit. Other sources? Yes, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) can transform the whole sky into an exciting lightshow in Lapland. Let’s take a look at a photo gallery that shows this phenomenon.

Northern Lights. Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd
The Northern Lights in Rovaniemi (Photo Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd).The Northern Lights in Rovaniemi (Photo Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd)

The Northern Lights in Kakslauttanen  (Photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort).The Northern Lights in Kakslauttanen (Photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort).
NorthernLights, through a glass ceiling. Photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic ResortThe most comfortable position to view the Northern Lights in Kakslauttanen (Photo: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort).

Read more about the Northern Lights in this article that also features tips for photographers. A travel guidebook to Lapland is available here.

The most likely places to see the Northern Lights are north of the Arctic Circle. In fact, the light shows are frequent in the north, it is just the weather conditions (clouds) or summer (too much sunlight even in night) that may prevent viewing the lights. It is possible to see the Northern Lights south of the Arctic Circle as well, but the chances are much lower than in the north.

So, where do you travel in order to be inside the Arctic Circle? In Europe, the destination is Lapland. Here is a map where you can see the Arctic Circle. You can also spot the photo locations on the map: Rovaniemi in Finland right on the Arctic Circle, and Kakslauttanen about 250 km / 155 miles north of Rovaniemi (via road).

Map: Lapland, Arctic Circle, Sami region

Sweden’s book city: Gothenburg

2016-12-19

Stockholm is the capital and the most populous city of Sweden, but Gothenburg on the country’s West Coast features the largest annual book show of Scandinavia. Maybe it is simply because Denmark, Germany and Norway are not far away from Gothenburg, or maybe the city has traditions in book business.
bookcrossing, slottsskogen, gothenburg, sweden, europeIn the large park of Slottsskogen near the city center you can find books on trees. It was a rainy day when the photo was taken, so someone must have saved the books from getting wet. The message on the plastic box encourages you to change your book to a new one.
bricks-and-mortar, book shop in Gothenburg
bookstore in gothenburg, sweden
Akademibokhandeln bookstore in gothenburg, sweden west coastBookstores in the city center.

book show, gothenburg, sweden.The annual Book Fair in September in Gothenburg attracts visitors and exhibitors primarily from Scandinavia, Baltic countries and Germany.

If you are planning to travel to Sweden or Gothenburg, it is worth knowing that the West Coast region next to Gothenburg is the second most popular vacation destination for Swedes. This travel guidebook covers the essential places, sights and activities in the city and the region.