Tag Archives: Europe

Travel photo gallery 2016: Lapland, France, Belgium

2017-01-24

In 2016, my long project of photographing and writing a travel guidebook about Lapland was completed and the book will be published in early 2017. Since it was a long project, photos from Lapland has been included in earlier galleries as well.

Lapland covers the northern regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland, which makes it a large area to travel (geographically also Russian’s northwest region is Lapland, but it is not featured in the book). It has been called as the Europe’s last large wilderness and that is exactly what it is. Outdoors lovers’ and road travelers’ perfect destination.

View sceneries from north, south and central Europe:
Reindeer at Aakenus fell in Yllas-Pallas national park Finland, Lapland, north Europe.

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.

The Icehotel in Swedish Lapland to stay frozen and open for guests around the year

2016-12-12

During winter, there is an abundance of raw material available in Lapland if you want to build a hotel using blocks of ice, or a castle from blocks of snow. In fact, an icehotel has been operating in Swedish Lapland in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi near Kiruna for many years, and a huge snowcastle is built every winter in the city of Kemi in Finland. Both are commercial establishments that accommodate guests in hotel rooms and serve visitors in restaurants inside the arctic buildings. Now, the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi has announced a plan to keep the building in ice around the year, and open for guests.

Icehotel, Jukkasjarvi, Kiruna, Sweden, Lapland

Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi in Swedish Lapland.

Even though Lapland is not a tropical paradise during the summer, temperatures rise to +25 C / 77 F in July and August. Not to mention that the sun doesn’t set at all in Lapland during late May, June and July. It won’t be an easy task to keep a large building made of ice intact and safe during the months when temperatures are above freezing point.

Architectural Digest reports that the Icehotel management is going to use solar power to keep the frozen structures in -5 C / 23 F through the summer months. The solar power will be used to keep the walls and structures inside the hotel cool, because the outmost walls will be constructed from concrete. Pretty smart: since the sun is up all the time during the Nordic summer, why not suck its energy and keep things cool with it.

ice blocks for icehotel

Big blocks of ice for the construction of Icehotel.

Klaava Media’s travel author (who is writing a book about Lapland) visited the Icehotel in spring 2016, and only ice was used for the building at that time. She had an opportunity to follow how the icehotel is built. Here is how it is done.

The Icehotel is located on the shores of lake (some people argue it is a river, but it definitely looks like a lake) Jukkasjärvi. When the lake freezes in autumn, the construction of the hotel can begin. Special tools are used to saw huge blocks of ice from the lake. A forklift with custom-made fork lifts the block from the lake. Forklifts transport the standard-size ice blocks to the construction site, or to the warehouse.

View a video that shows how ice blocks are being lifted from the lake and transported to the warehouse.

Once the concrete exterior and the solar power system is ready, the Icehotel intends to keep nine deluxe suites (complete with private saunas and baths), 11 art suites, an ice bar, and an ice art gallery open during the summer (year-around). Hotel founder Yngve Bergqvist believes they will actually be more energy efficient than earlier: “We will produce around 75 kW between April and September, leaving an energy surplus that we can utilize to run existing buildings such as a restaurant, offices, and warm guest rooms.”

Summer of 2017 is the first summer when the Icehotel will be open even and ice after the snow has melted from the ground and from the lake around the site.

How to avoid crowds at Lello (aka Harry Potter) bookstore in Porto, Portugal

2016-11-05

As a travel destination, Portugal has a lot going on at the moment. Sintra, Cascais, Lisbon, Algarve and Porto are world class destinations that attract an increasing number of visitors. One of the lucky Portuguese destinations that gets more visitors than it perhaps ever wished for is a beautiful bookstore in the city of Porto in North Portugal. The author of Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, drew inspiration from it and perhaps also used the bookstore setting as a platform for the Harry Potter world.
Lello bookstore, Porto, Portugal. Photo: Michal HuniewiczPhoto by Michal Huniewicz.

So, it seems that every tourist who arrives in Porto wants to visit the Lello shop in the city center.
Porto, Portugal, Lello bookstore
The result is that the shop is crowded. Once people discovered the store and the word spread, it has been a travel destination. The bookstore eventually became so crowded that the owners had to think of something to allow people to actually shop books and to look around, too.

They invented a scheme that works like this: outside the bookstore is a kiosk (the red kiosk in the photos) where you have to buy an entrance ticket (yes, you pay to enter a bookshop). The kiosk controls the flow of people to the store. Once you buy something, the ticket price is deducted from the total. Fair, and simple system that allows some breathing room for bookstore visitors.

lello bookstore, porto.

Visitors to the Lello bookstore have to get a ticket from the red kiosk first.

As you can see in the photos, the Harry Potter fans’ and curious visitors’ queue can be quite long to the ticket kiosk – before you even get to the bookstore. The photos were taken in September. We can only imagine how long the queue was in August and July.

How to avoid spending a long time in the queue? Arrive early in the morning. Early is a relative term, but if you hit the scene before 11 o’clock, you should be fine.

An important tip for Porto explorers: Beware of the traffic in Porto and everywhere else in Portugal. The way locals drive is very fast, dangerous and unpredictable, and it is against their religion to indicate which way they are going.

Here is where you can find the Lello bookstore:
porto, lello bookstore, map

Plenty of bookstores per capita in Asia, and plenty of libraries in Europe

2016-08-05

World Cities Culture Forum collects culture related data from large cities across the world. The organization publishes the data annually as statistics that describe what kind of cultural services the cities have and how citizens use them. One of the published statistics compares the number of bookstores and public libraries against the city population.
FInnish National Library
The World Cities Culture Forum organization comprises 32 cities that collect and share data on the role of the cities in the future, services the cities provide, and how the cities are administered. The Forum only collects and publishes information on cities that are members of the organization. The participating cities are listed here.

As we can see in the table below, Asian cities tend to have more bookstores per capita than cities in other continents.

City Bookstores per
100 000 inhabitants
Year
1 Hong Kong 21 2014
2 Taipei 17.6 2014
3 Madrid 16 2014
4 Shanghai 16 2014
5 Toronto 13.9 2015
6 New York 10 2015
7 Sydney 9.4 2015
8 Paris 9 2015
9 Seoul 9 2015
10 Austin 8.2 2015
11 Melbourne 8 2015
12 Shenzhen 6.6 2014
13 Amsterdam 6 2014
14 Moscow 5 2014
15 London 4 2015
16 Stockholm 3.2 2014
17 Singapore 3 2014
18 Istanbul 1 2015

 

The number of libraries per capita is bigger in Europe than in other continents.

City Libraries per
100 000 inhabitants
Year
1 Edinburgh 60.5 2015
2 Warsaw 11.4 2014
3 Brussels 10 2015
4 Paris 9.2 2014
5 Seoul 6 2014
6 Shenzhen 5.9 2014
7 Vienna 5.9 2014
8 Hong Kong 4.2 2015
9 London 4.2 2014
10 Moscow 4.2 2014
11 Toronto 3.9 2015
12 Melbourne 3.4 2015
13 Amsterdam 3.3 2014
14 Sydney 3.3 2015
15 New York 2.7 2015
16 Taipei 1.8 2014
17 Rome 0.8 2014
18 Singapore 0.5 2014
19 Istanbul 0.4 2014
20 Dubai 0.3 2015

Research: Literacy culture is critical to the success of individuals and nations

2016-03-13

For more than 40 years, John W. Miller at Central Connecticut State University has analyzed the reasons and consequences for literacy and illiteracy from the society’s point of view. When he decided to analyze all the countries of the world, the result was a ranking for the World’s Most Literate Nations. Nordic countries top the list.
Apple iPad, ebook, eyeglasses, books,
Top 10 literate countries in the world are:

1. Finland
2. Norway
3. Iceland
4. Denmark
5. Sweden
6. Switzerland
7. United States
8. Germany
9. Latvia
10. Netherlands

The research didn’t measure the usual yardstick – percentage how many citizens in each country are literate, but literate behaviors and supporting resources in each country. The criteria for the analysis were:

– Number of libraries and their book selection.
– Number of newspapers, their circulation and online availability.
– Education system resources.
– Education system results, especially concerning literacy.
– Number of computers at homes (not tablets or smartphones, but only computers).

Miller intended to analyze data on 200 countries, but was able to collect reliable data from 61 countries. He concludes the importance of literary culture: “The factors we examine present a complex and nuanced portrait of a nation’s cultural vitality. And what the rankings strongly suggest and world literacy demonstrates is that these kinds of literate behaviors are critical to the success of individuals and nations in the knowledge-based economies that define our global future.”

It is quite remarkable how European countries, especially Northern European nations, hold top positions in the ranking for the most literate nations.

The report World’s Most Literate Nations by Connecticut State University is available here.

Via Takepart.

Ebooks are slowly gaining market share in Europe as print books decline

2016-02-14

Ebooks made a quick breakthrough in countries where English is the dominant language after Amazon introduced the Kindle ereading system. From the beginning, Amazon’s ebook selection was huge, and prices were reasonable. In Europe (apart from the UK), the situation is different: ebooks haven’t gained the same status as printed books. Slowly, but surely the situation is changing in Europe as well, because ebook sales is continuously growing and print books are declining.

EU organization European Parliamentary Research Service has drafted a report that looks at the book market in Europe and possible reasons, such as country-specific taxation policies, for the slow development of ebook markets.

eu: ebooks vs print, 2008-2014
Data source: European Commission, Analysis of the media and content industries: The publishing industry. EPRS report “E-Books: Evolving markets and new challenges”.

The statistic sums up only five EU book markets, but (again, apart from the Great Britain) the trend is clear: ebooks are slowly finding readers, whereas printed books are losing readers. In 2014, the market share of ebooks was about 10%.

What is missing in Europe is the quick quantum leap that took ebooks to a new level in the US around 2010 and 2012. Then, ebooks gained 20-30% share of the book market. Recently, ebooks have taken a step back when the big publishers started controlling ebook pricing.

Why the quantum leap hasn’t happened in Europe? There are many small countries and a variety of languages. Many regional publishers have not made their back catalogue available as ebooks at all. It means that the ebook selection in a small language area may only be a couple of thousand titles. Ebook prices can be almost at the same level with print book prices. Poor selection, poor pricing strategy, and little marketing for ebooks.

The attitudes are changing in Europe. EU is examining ways to tax ebook and print books according to the same principles. Ebook selection is growing and big European publishers are reporting big growth numbers for digital products. One of the largest publishers, Bonnier, recently told that its ebook sales increased 69% in 2015 compared to the year before. The total share of ebooks from the sales in 2015 was 10%.

Just a reminder that books are a huge global business compared to other media businesses. With an estimated value of US$151 billion, books have outdistanced music (US$50 billion), video games (US$63 billion), magazines (US$107 billion) and even film and entertainment (US$133 billion).

Travel photography gallery 2015: Helsinki and North Europe

2016-01-21

I have stayed in Finland for quite some time now, and many places, including the capital Helsinki have become familiar for me. Finland has its own unique culture (as explained by Russell Snyder and Irene de Benedictis in their own books), but I think I have learned the zen of the Nordic life: during winter, work and try to stay healthy, but in summer let all hell break loose and enjoy life.

In 2015, I continued photographing and taking notes on Helsinki for the travel guidebook that will be published later this year. Now, when I look at my photos I realize how green city Helsinki is in the summer (in winter it is either white or black, depending on the snow situation).

In the 2015 travel photo gallery we also have images from Erin who has a project in Lapland. Take a look at the gallery:

Hietalahti flea market in Helsinki, Finland.

Hietalahti flea market in Helsinki, Finland.

Spring Is a Wonderful Season to Travel for Outdoors Lovers

2015-03-15

In the northern hemisphere, spring is in the air. Not only in the air, especially in the regions where the snow is melting, rivers and rapids are filled with powerfully flowing water. Here is a scene from Scandinavia. View the video:

Planning to travel in Scandinavia? A travel guide to Sweden shows you the best places and activities in southern region of the country.