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Happy New Year! 2019 is in full swing and I want to thank you for all the support and love I have received from you throughout my adventures around the world during the past years.

Dark and cold winter is here and this is the perfect time to dream of upcoming travels and adventures, look for new ideas and plan your next dream trip. Therefore, I am happy to give away a ticket package (incl. 2 tickets) to Matka Nordic Travel Fair 2019, which will be organised in Helsinki, Finland 18–20 January 2019. It is an inspiring annual event where like-minded travel enthusiasts  meet and look for inspiration for future travels.

TO PARTICIPATE & WIN

Follow these simple steps:

  • Answer one little question: What is your dream trip? Share a short description of your dream trip in the comments section below.
  • Enter your email address when posting your comment. Tickets will be sent to the lucky winner by email. Your email address is not public information and will only be used to deliver giveaway tickets.
  • Participation ends 13 January 2019 at 23:59 EET.
  • Winner will be announced 15 January 2019 and will be contacted by email.
  • Value of one ticket is 16 €.
  • Ticket entitles to one admission. Ticket cannot be exchanged for cash.
  • Tickets are provided by Messukeskus / Matka Nordic Travel Fair 2019.
  • See full Matka Nordic Travel Fair 2019 programme here.

Happy travels!

You are more than welcome to share this giveaway post to your friends and family. For travel inspiration feel free to follow Ticket to Adventures on social media: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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All I can say is wow! What a year it was. 2018 was such an active and incredible year for me. This year was all about adventure and exploring new countries. All together 9 weeks, 13 flights, 3 continents, 7 countries, 5 islands, 11 cities, countless villages. Thousands of photos. 33 blog posts. Feelings of all sorts. Happy smiles, crocodile tears, excitement, disappointments. I have encountered them all.

The memories I made and everything I got to discover in 2018 were truly amazing and I am so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to travel so much. Now looking back, maybe even a bit too much as there was too little down time at home. That said I would love to share with you my most unforgettable travel memories – highs and lows – of 2018.

Prettiest scenery: Bali’s volcano shooting ash at sunset

I will remember this scenery forever. Sweeping bays of Amed, black volcanic sand and the most beautiful sunsets with Bali’s active volcano Mount Agung in the background. No tv needed for entertainment when nature puts on a show like this every night! Mount Agung even kept shooting ash cloud into the sky as some kind of a warning sign of what was to come.

Scariest experience: Earthquake in Gili Meno

I had some pretty interesting but at the same time very scary times on the Indonesian paradise island of Gili Meno. Bali’s volcano Mount Agung was erupting and Gili Meno was hit by an earthquake. One night in Gili Meno at around 7.30 pm I was getting ready for dinner in my villa when the whole building started to shake. It lasted about 5 seconds.

I exited my villa immediately and went to the hotel reception to talk to hotel staff members. When I asked them whether they felt the earthquake the just said “It was the wind”. I was like yea right. I surely can tell the difference between wind and earthquake. The main reason why I was worried about the earthquake was the fact that I was on a small island that is basically an atoll with absolutely no high ground. Normally I take things easy and as they come but this time my imagination went a bit wild with tsunamis and stuff.

So, I decided to prepare my survival backpack with the most essentials only and ensured that my mobile phone, laptop and power bank were fully charged before I went to bed that night and had my backpack ready – just grab and run for your life in the case of a tsunami. Feeling restless, I went to bed with millions of thoughts in my head that night. I put on my earplugs and actually had a good night’s sleep. The tsunami never arrived and off I went to the beach in the morning.

Learning to ride a scooter in Lombok

I have travelled a lot in Southeast Asia but have never hired a scooter until in Lombok, which is a huge Indonesian island and you need a car or a scooter to get around since public transport is very limited. I was fairly nervous about riding a scooter as I was a beginner. I expressed my hesitation at the rental shop, which was opposite to my hotel and the friendly shop keeper asked one of his employees to give me a short driving lesson. After a 30-minute session I was ready to go. Exploring the south coast of Lombok on a scooter was a lot of fun and I got to see so any amazing hidden spots.

Feeling like a film star in Lombok

Another fun memory from Lombok is that the locals made me feel like a film star. No matter what I was up to, sightseeing, hiking, sunbathing, local people came up to me and wanted to get to know me even with their very limited English. All of them had two to three basic questions like “What’s your name?” “Where you from?” “Where you stay?” And then they asked the most important question: “Selfie?” They all wanted to take a selfie with me. It was very confusing. Why would they want to have me in their photos. But then I figured it out: I am a giant with pale skin and blue eyes. Okay just for your information, I am not a giant, I am just 156 cm tall so in the western world I am a very small person but in Asia I actually do feel fairly normal and sometimes even tall since Asian people are very small. Inspired by locals taking selfies with me, I got a bit carried away taking selfies with just me, myself and I, too.

Beating the heat in Doha

Doha is super hot, especially during the summer months when temperatures can reach 50°C and more. During my weekend in Doha in June temperatures were up at 43–47°C with no one cloud in the sky. My body and mind is not used to temperatures like this as I live in Finland where during the warmest months it can get up to 30°C. My strategy to beat the heat was wearing white clothing and covering my head with a light scarf. I also used my umbrella as a parasol and drank plenty of water. Further reading:  10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Travelling to Doha

Exhilarating challenge: Conquering Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo

I conquered Holmenkollen Ski Jump from toe to top. This is such a huge thing for a person like me with a severe fear of heights. With shaky legs I climbed up the steepest stairs from the bottom all the way up to the lower observation deck just to find out that most people arrive by car. After that the lift ride up to the ski jump tower felt like a walk in the park. Further reading: Conquering the Heights of Holmenkollen Ski Jump in Oslo

Quintessentially Indonesian: Bali belly

Two days into my adventures in Indonesia I woke up to Indo realism: I caught the famous “Bali belly” (upset stomach) in Bali and it lasted for more than 4 weeks. Antibiotics and other medicines didn’t really do much and I lost 6 kg during my travels in Indonesia. I didn’t mind the weight lost. However, this did hinder my island hopping adventures and I didn’t get to explore all the places on my list. It was also a positive thing as I ended up spending quite a few relaxed days by the hotel swimming pool doing absolutely nothing.

Best airline experience: Qatar Airways

Finally this year I had the opportunity to fly Qatar Airways, one of the best airlines in the world. It didn’t quite meet all my expectations but will definitely fly again. Further reading:  Airline Review: Qatar Airways  

Worst moment: Victim of pickpockets in Tunisia

On my second day in Sousse I headed out to discover the city’s old walled town, Sousse medina, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. The medina is a busy area with plenty shops, attractions, restaurants and cafes. Some side lanes may feel lonely and quiet and this is where you have to pay attention to your surroundings and belongings, especially if you are solo.

After visiting one of the museums in Sousse medina I strolled a quiet alley uphill with my mobile phone in my hand, taking photos like I always do when I am exploring. I stopped for a few seconds to locate myself on the map app. All of a sudden, a guy approached silently from behind and nicked the phone from my hand. I heard nothing. I only saw someone’s hand very quickly snapping my phone. Then he ran away. I ran after him trying to catch him. No luck. My phone was gone. I was shocked. Pickpockets are everywhere in Tunisia, however not everyone has bad intentions. I have been travelling around the world for 20 years and nothing like this has never happened to me. After the incident I spend several hours at the police station  filing a report for insurance purposes. I must admit that I still feel a bit jumpy when some approaches me on the street when I have my phone in my hand. Related reading: 25 Photos That Made Me Fall in Love with Tunisia 

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is only 8 sleeps away. Who is excited? I am for sure!All the way since the summer holidays my life has been chaotic. I have been super busy, worked long and unhealthy hours, travelled a lot for both work and pleasure, started a new full-time job, not really had any time to enjoy life and take care of my sanity, let alone do any blogging on the side. So here were we are.

I am not sure how wonderful and magical Christmas time this year really is for me, but to be honest I have decided to make the best of it despite the hassle. I am so thankful that Christmas is only one week away, and the long-awaited holidays are just around the corner.

This means relaxation, long sleeps, quality time with my loved ones, traditional Christmas dinner cooked by my mother and so on. But not this year. I decided to spend Christmas in a different way this year. I will head to Morocco next weekend! I will spend Christmas and New Year under the Moroccan sun and I intend to enjoy fresh sea air by the beach, do all sorts of outdoor activities, long walks on the beach, sample exotic cuisine and explore the country of course. Relaxation is guaranteed.

But before I am off to Morocco for Christmas holidays, let’s indulge in some Christmas magic in Helsinki. This weekend I finally took some time for myself and pampered myself with some Finnish Christmas hygge in my hometown Helsinki. I had such a lovely day yesterday wandering around in the city centre soaking up festive spirit and taking hundreds of photos. This is a perfect way to relax and spend quality time with just me, myself and I. I love browsing shops and Christmas markets,  taking in crisp December air and feel how my fingers get numb from the cold. I even got to meet Father Christmas at Helsinki Christmas Market. Despite the constant darkness and gloomy weather, Helsinki feels like a miniature Christmas wonderland with twinkling Christmas lights and glowing ornaments, don’t you think? 

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Ticket to Adventures | Finland by Piia | Ticket To Adventures - 4M ago

Welcome to Tampere, the “Manchester of Finland”. After dark. This may sound a bit dodgy, but believe me, it is not. It is magical I would say.

The city of Tampere, which is located between two lakes, Näsijärvi and Pyhäjärvi, and linked to one another by Tammerkoski rapids, was Finland’s most important industrial centre in the 19th century.

Today, Tampere is a modern and vibrant city with more than 200.000 inhabitants. The industrial red-brick buildings on the banks of Tammerkoski rapids form a Finnish national landscape that gives the city centre a distinctive look and feel.A couple of weeks ago I visited Tampere for four days on business. After a long and hectic day full of meetings I was tempted by crisp autumn air and clear skies. I changed into my gym clothes, put on my warm winter jacket and went for a long evening walk in Tampere city centre to see what Tampere looked like after dark.

It was a freezing cold evening with sub-zero temperatures. Colourful autumn leaves were history. The sun was down. All that was left was darkness. This time of year, darkness up at these northern latitudes is something pretty devastating. It is literally pitch-black out there. If you have been to Finland in November or December, you most likely know what I am talking about.

Despite the darkness, the atmosphere in Tampere city centre was very charming. Christmas lights were all set, and many industrial red-brick buildings were beautifully illuminated. I had a very enjoyable evening stroll. My fingers got all numb from the cold as I could not stop taking photos. Don’t you agree how pretty Tampere looks like after dark?

More posts you may like:

Picturesque Medieval old Town of Porvoo

10 Free Things to Do in Helsinki

Hidden Architectural Gem of Helsinki: National Library of Finland

Green Getaway in Helsinki: Lammassaari Island

Island Escape in Helsinki Archipelago: Former Military Island Isosaari

Helsinki Street Art: Guide to Pasila Street Art District

Follow Ticket to Adventures: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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Some time back I wrote about two beautiful libraries in Helsinki that hide amazing architectural details, Helsinki University Library and the National Library of Finland, both something very unique in terms of architecture and design in Finland and definitive must-sees for all locals and visitors alike.

Rikhardinkatu Library (Rikhardinkadun kirjasto) in the heart of Helsinki is another beautiful public library that is popular among locals and well worth a visit. I love the sophisticated and historical atmosphere of this library.Rikhardinkatu Library was the first public library in the Nordic countries designed for library purposes. It was built in 1882 and functioned as the main public library of Helsinki until 1986.

In particular, the architecture and design of the central staircase hall of Rikhardinkatu Library is a sight for sore eyes. The white spiral staircase rises up elegantly towards the sky allowing daylight flood in through a large skylight.

The interiors of Rikhardinkatu Library are beautiful and you can sense the past decades between vintage bookshelves.

In addition to a good range of books and attractive architecture, Rikhardinkatu Library is a cosy place to take a break, enjoy a moment of peace and quiet, read the newspaper of the day or get some work done.

Rikhardinkatu Library | Rikhardinkatu 3, 00130 Helsinki 

More Helsinki posts you may like:

Hidden Secret of Helsinki: Lapinlahti Former Psychiatric Hospital

10 Free Things to Do in Helsinki

Island Escape in Helsinki Archipelago: Former Military Island Isosaari

Helsinki: 6 Unique Summer Cafes Loved by Locals

Green Getaway in Helsinki: Kallahdenniemi Peninsula

Sightseeing Stroll Around Töölönlahti Bay

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Liuskasaari is one of my favourite islands in Helsinki archipelago. What makes this island very special is its location just a few hundred meters off the seaside promenade of Kaivopuisto Park in the southern part of Helsinki mainland. Thanks to its proximity to the city centre and relaxed maritime vibe Liuskasaari makes a perfect little evening outing or a nice day trip combined with the neighbouring island of Uunisaari, which can be accessed from Liuskasaari via a bridge.Boats to Liuskasaari island depart from Merisatamanranta (end of Kapteeninkatu) every 20-30 minutes. The crossing takes literally no more than 2 minutes. Return ticket is 6 €.Liuskasaari is home to Helsingfors Segelsällskap, one of the oldest sailing clubs in Finland. It is so much fun just to sit in the marina and watch sailing boats come and go. Fuel pumps line the dock in front of a minimarket. The island is open to club members and guests alike, and boats stop by to fill up their tank.Gigantic cliffs and coastal rocks on Liuskasaari island provide idyllic spots for picnicking and sunbathing. Views over Kaivopuisto and the Baltic Sea are amazing and on a clear day you can almost see all the way to Tallinn.Liuskasaari island hosts two lovely restaurants: Skiffer and HSS Paviljong (clubhouse restaurant). Skiffer outdoor restaurant is famous for their pizzas. Having strawberries on my pizza was something new and exotic to me. HSS Paviljong’s menu in turn is short and simple with quality ingredients.

Liuskasaari island, 00140 Helsinki

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I never expected to find a gorgeous gem like this in my hometown Helsinki, the capital city of Finland. The yellow building of the National Library of Finland, which is located right opposite to Helsinki Cathedral in the heart of Helsinki looks very modest from the outside but is something completely different on the inside.The National Library of Finland is possibly the most majestic library I have ever visited. It is a historical place and a perfect haven of peace and quiet away from the busy streets of Helsinki city centre.

This library is a must for all book worms and architecture lovers, and everyone who wishes to discover hidden secrets of Helsinki. There is no entrance fee. Overcoats and bags must be stored in the cloak room lockers.

Just like most buildings in the historic part of Helsinki, the National Library of Finland (Kansalliskirjasto) is designed by architect Carl Ludvig Engel and dates back to 1844.Entering the National Library of Finland, you are directly taken to the most striking part of the building, the Cupola Hall with an imposing dome ceiling, which is decorated with frescoes. This is something that you do not see elsewhere in Finland.The Rotunda annex has six floors with bookshelves placed around an open space in the middle. Whether you look up or down in the Rotunda, the views are amazing.The two beautiful reading rooms, South Hall and North Hall are both connected to the Cupola Hall. It is so incredibly quiet in these reading rooms that I have a feeling that everyone can hear me breath. You can see and sense so much history in these halls. Can you believe that they even have a microfilm aisle here.All rooms in the National Library of Finland are full of books, some of which are dusty and old, some very pretty and colourful. I stumbled upon red and blue books that were colour coordinated, or at least that’s what it looked like to me. Haha silly me, I am sure the books are organised in a specific way, and not by the colour. Who knows.

The National Library of Finland | Unioninkatu 36, 00170 Helsinki

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One of the many things I love about my home town Helsinki is the archipelago with hundreds of islands. Helsinki’s coastline is over 100 km long and accommodates more than 300 islands. Quite a number!These small islands in Helsinki archipelago provide perfect getaways from the hustle and bustle of Helsinki city centre. Many islands are just a stone’s throw away from the mainland. One of these is Uunisaari island, right off Kaivopuisto Park, only a couple of kilometres from the heart of the city.Uusisaari island is easily accessible by shuttle boat that runs regularly from Kompassitori Square in Kaivopuisto. The crossing only takes a couple of minutes and costs 2 € return.

Uunisaari is a small island and a very popular island escape among locals who come here for a stroll, to have a picnic with friends, relax on the beach and enjoy some fresh sea air and peace and quiet by the seaside.Uunisaari has more faces: you can also relax in a sauna and jacuzzi, have some food and drinks at restaurant Uunisaari’s inviting outdoor terrace under magic lights on a warm summer evening while watching the sun go down painting the sky in pastel shades.Uunisaari island actually consists of two small islands that are separated by a narrow strait. What makes Uunisaari island so special is its 360 degree view, so which ever direction you choose to look, there is something different to see:  Kaivopuisto marina and Kaivopuisto’s colourful buildings and the lively waterfront dotted with seaside cafes, small islands, as well as open sea as far as eye can see.What I also love about Uunisaari is the island’s old, red brick industrial buildings that date back hundreds of years when Uunisaari was home to a paint factory and oil boilery. And believe it or not, coffins were also made here in the past. The island was already used for recreational purposes as early as the late 19th century when Uunisaari accommodated a famous spa.Uunisaari is linked to the neighbouring Liuskasaari island and Liuskaluoto islet by a breakwater. Liuskasaari island is a very pretty island that is home to one of the oldest yacht clubs in Finland (Helsingfors Segelsällskap), and HSS Clubhouse Restaurant. On Liuskaluoto islet in turn you can have some of the best pizzas in town in Skiffer summer restaurant. The marina here is a lovely spot and offers amazing views over Kaivopuisto. Read more about Helsinki’s captivating islands, such as former military islands of Isosaari, Vallisaari & Kuninkaansaari and Lonna.

Restaurant Uunisaari | Uunisaari Island, 00140 Helsinki

You may like to read more about Helsinki:

Green Getaway in Helsinki: Kallahdenniemi Peninsula

10 Free Things to Do in Helsinki

Helsinki: 6 Unique Summer Cafes Loved by Locals

Hidden Architectural Gem of Helsinki: Helsinki University Library

Helsinki Street Art: Guide to Pasila Street Art District

Follow Ticket to Adventures: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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White daydream. Inspiring. Calming. Contemporary. Clean Scandinavian lines. Fresh and modern Finnish minimalism. This is how I would describe the design and architecture of Helsinki University Library.I am not a student or alumni at Helsinki University. And I am not a typical library nerd either. But after visiting the main library of Helsinki University (Helsingin yliopiston kirjasto) I actually might become a frequent customer as in addition to serving the academic community as a modern learning and research centre, the library also makes an elegant meeting place and a comfortable working space for citizens and visitors alike.

Located in Kaisa House at the heart of the University of Helsinki City Centre Campus in Kaisaniemi, Helsinki University Library was opened in 2012 and today serves as the biggest university library in Finland.

The building is a stimulating architectural masterpiece inside out and represents award-winning modern Finnish design and state-of-the-art library architecture. Helsinki University Library is full of light and fits perfectly in its surroundings.

The design of the interior of Helsinki University Library is based on an aligned series of apertures in the ceiling and along the street front. Plenty of natural daylight floods in from above in the central atrium. Three different openings and the main stairway form a series of spaces that serve as a basis for the ambience of the interior, functional areas and architecture of the facade.

When I walked into the gigantic main hall I was blown away by the curvy white shapes around me and people could see my eyes gleam and smile stretch up to my ears. So much pleasure for the senses.The building’s large arched windows offer amazing views of the cityscape from inside. Who would not want to study or work here? Or just sit down for a bit and take in the modern ambiance.

What do you think? Isn’t Helsinki University Library a true architectural gem of Helsinki?! I think it definitely is a place to add on your list for your next visit to Helsinki!

Helsinki University Library | Fabianinkatu 30, 00100 Helsinki 

You may like to read more about Helsinki:

Architectural Masterpieces of New Helsinki & Espoo Metro Stations

Green Getaway in Helsinki: Kallahdenniemi Peninsula

10 Free Things to Do in Helsinki

Hidden Secret of Helsinki: Presidential Palace

Helsinki: 6 Unique Summer Cafes Loved by Locals

Helsinki Street Art: Guide to Pasila Street Art District

Day Trip to Former Military Islands Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari

Follow Ticket to Adventures: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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Lights are on in Helsinki! What a feeling! So far the winter in Helsinki has been extremely dark and rainy with zero snow and zero sunshine. This is the reason why we got so excited earlier today when the Lux Helsinki Light Festival shedded new light on the Finnish capital city.The playground for Lux Helsinki Light Festival this year is the impressive Helsinki city centre district of Kaartinkaupunki, where the streets, squares and buildings come to life for 5 days (6–10 Jan 2018) with vibrant and colourful light art.

I had the opportunity to take a preview of some of the Lux Helsinki artwork already last night, but again tonight I headed into the city centre to enjoy the light art festival to the fullest. The city was crowded with thousands and thousands of happy people roaming the streets and exploring the light art installations. Let’s take a look at the highlights of this year’s Lux Helsinki light art festival.Erottaja Fire Station, which is one of Helsinki’s architectural gems and possibly the most imposing fire station in Finland, draws attention with dancing lights in all possible colours.In Koulupuistikko Park right next to Helsinki Design Museum hundreds of unique lanterns made by students of all ages create a dreamlike and magical atmosphere. I recall seeing some of the lanterns already last year and the year before.The facade of the Museum of Finnish Architecture has received a completely new identity and persona with a visual presentation method that creates a world of illusion.An installation called Ultraviolet Gallery brings colourful graffiti-covered containers to Kasarminkatu street. The containers have been painted with UV light paints making these colourful street art pieces glow brightly in the darkness of the night.In Kasarmintori square we met a fleeing refugee family. This minimalistic but powerful light installation, My light is your light, is an internationally renowned artwork by alaa minawi, a Lebanese-Palestinian artist.Espa Stage comes to life as a white Sugar Cube coated with changing colours and reflections.Helsinki’s most iconic landmark, the striking white Helsinki Cathedral, is naturally the main attraction of the Lux Helsinki Light Festival 2018. Here the world-famous pioneer in 3D mapping, László Bordos from Hungary, has created a light sculpture by using a combination of real lights and virtual lights.

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