Friday, 16 January 2015

Nordic Travel Fair 2015

The Exhibition Centre is full of inspiration for travelling as the biggest Travel Expo in the Northern Europe takes over Helsinki this weekend. But how is one to choose when everythigs seems to tempting? When you want to go absolutely everywhere? The partner country for this year's fair is enchanting Egypt - one of the first-timers is Madagascar (yeah, it's an actual country and not just an animated film!)

And yikes, yikes - my absolute dream travel destination is represented there too; the pearl in the Asian crown, home to all things bizarre: North Korea! Photo below isn't from their stand. Though I'm sure it could be: it would seem to be a right heaven on Earth!

I'm still absolutely dying to keep exploring Spain, though the idea of going back does still pinch a bit. Another old home of mine Tunisia also feels tempting - owing to the security situation of the time I lived there there were a lot I never got to see. Their tourism took a real blow in the aftermath of the Arab spring, but I heard it's on the mend now. Spanish, French and Russian tourists, long-time fans of the country, have re-discovered the country and in England the popularity is actually on the rise. Scandinavians are a still a bit shy and in Finland there's only one tour operator flying there and even then only part of the year.

From experience I can tell you there's nothing to worry about. It's a fine country. Nothing like Yemen. Or... say, Afghanistan. 

Tunisia's representative lamented how in the eyes of the rest of the world the unrest still going on in the neighbouring countries has marred people's perception of Tunisia too, despite the fact that Tunisia, while the cradle of the Arab spring, is also "its only success story".

(Tunisia just got its first democratically elected president. Who is just about as old as democracy itself...)

Political shakedowns and unrest in the region has also affected tourism in Israel. Finnair is about to re-open their previously discontinued route to Tel Aviv and later this year they will (as the only Nordic airline) launch  direct flights to Eilat, too. 

In June for instance Dead Sea region hosts an opera festival for which Masada, one of Unesco World Heritage sites without a doubt provides a spectacular setting. Tel Aviv and Nazareth are such treats for foodie travellers - in addition to that one bearded man in a robe, the latter is famous for its kitchen that combines the culinary traditions of the whole Arab region. 

There are trips, dreams and inspiration for every kind of traveller. And budget, too. Make the most of the special offers! Fancy a dive in the Red Sea? Trekking in the Himalayas? Safari in Africa? Caribbean cruise? Trip up north to see the Northern lights...?

This year's fair also utilizes social media like never before. At least at Finnair's and Turkey's sections you can hashtag yourself and win trips all over the world. I have my heart set on that Turkish prize though, so no point going there...

There's definitely something wrong with my camera though - my Instagram selfie somehow only manages to look sweaty and awkward - not at all dewy fresh with supermodel-like features...?

Different countries are showcasing their culture through artisans, too.

In Taiwan you can test what your name would look like in Chinese. Mine for instance looks, well, illegible. 

In Malaysia you can commission a portrait of yourself to hang on the mantel piece at your library or cigar room. And it's free! (leaves more money for those Cohibas hand-rolled by cherubs...!)

And you don't always have to cross oceans to explore new places - sometimes Baltic Sea is enough. Different parts of Estonia have strong presence at the fair, too. 

Domestic destinations are also well represented and, as our travels last summer proved, there's a lot to see and explore in Finland alone. One of the most pleasant surprises of the day was sampling the produce of Finnish vineyards (well instead of grapes we have currants...) Sparkling wines from Hermannin Viinitila were an absolute delight. Semi-dry Hengi in particular was a real treat and from the bouquet you would have never guessed they're not made of grapes. Great acidity, bright yet not overpowering minerality and no stale yeastiness. In a couple of year's time there will be Finnish whiskey, too! I think Ilomantsi just might be the destination for our next roadtrip...!

And you don't have to hungry here (leopards and spots, food bloggers and food...)

Stock up on lovely Italian ham or gorgeous Spanish salamis...

And finish the tour by stopping for fika at Sweden - with some freshly baked cinnamon buns, naturally!

Nordic Travel Fair at Messukeskus in Helsinki today 12-19 and on Saturday and Sunday  10-18. Go! Explore!





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