December 8, 2014

Hostel Mannila in Finland – not your typical hostel experience

Located at the shores of largest lake in Finland, Hostel Mannila surely has a splendid location. Lake Saimaa and nearby Punkaharju ridge area offers one of the most scenic views in Finland and should be everybody’s to-do list while traveling in the land of midnight sun.

Hostel Mannila is ideal for those yearning for peaceful surroundings. Smell of freshly cut grass and home cooked breakfast are part of an authentic Finnish countryside experience. You can enjoy your stay in red-painted cottages, in a summer hostel or in a hotel. For those who not seek complete isolation, a town of Savonlinna is only 30 kilometres away.

Wide variety of activities offered ensures that no one can get easily bored: skiing tracks start from the door-step in the winter, kayaking in summertime, horse riding and lakeside sauna are just one few activities to be mentioned. Surrounding areas have plenty of sightseeing from war memorials to art exhibitions.

The reception and a restaurant are at the 'Rantakatti' building.

Midsummer is celebrated at Hostel Mannila with a bonfire at the lake.

If you’re looking for a place off-the-beaten track, Hostel Mannila should not be passed. Finnish Lakeland is waiting for you!

P.S. Did you know Lake Saimaa is home for the rarest seal in the world?

Hostel Mannila is open all year around. Book your stay at:

Article by Laura H.

Edited 16 February 2015

December 1, 2014

#ILoveTravellinginEurope, Happy European Tourism Day!

Did you know that today is the European Tourism Day?

That of course means that there is a reason to celebrate! Our theme of today (well, everyday) among hostelling network in Europe is I love travelling in Europe. You do too, don’t you?

Here’s some of us Finnish hostelling people revealing why they love travelling in Europe. Hopefully they can inspire you with their chosen destinations.

3 questions will be answered:
  1. Why do I love travelling in Europe?
  2. My favourite destination in Europe (outside Finland)
  3. My favourite destination in Finland

Eurohostel, Helsinki
  1. I love travelling in Europe because the connections are so smooth.
  2. London has it all! There’s so much to see and do.
  3. Lapland is my favourite destination in the whole world. I love its nature and the peaceful and quiet atmosphere you can find there. It’s a great and welcomed contrast that I find there for the hectic everyday life.

Emmi (left) and Lea from Eurohostel in Helsinki

Eurohostel, Helsinki
  1. The sameness of how the systems work is refreshing sometimes, especially if I compare to Africa and Latin America, where I usually travel.
  2. I love Estonia, I like their language especially!
  3. Lakeland Finland - well, because of the lakes.

Eurohostel, Helsinki
  1. It’s fairly cheap to move around Europe
  2. I was surprised by how beautiful Scotland is.
  3. Lapland and over there especially Levi are special because of their ambience in the winter with all that snow. It’s full of magic and has a very Christmassy atmosphere.
Annika from Eurohostel in Helsinki

Hostel Vaihelan Tila, Joutsa

  1. The distances are short, it doesn't take much time to fly from one destination to another. That makes short breaks possible. The architecture and culture of the old European cities are interesting, worth experiencing.
  2. Reykjavik in Iceland has been the most memorable trip. I'd like to get to know the whole island outside the capital city too.
  3. To be honest I travel abroad more! Though I am planning to make day trips to neighbouring towns to see local culture and art.
Birgitta from Hostel Vaihelan Tila in Joutsa

November 10, 2014

Lapland, true winter wonderland destination: outdoor activities in Saariselkä

After visiting Lapland's 'capital' Rovaniemi and busy skiing resort Levi, we'll head for peaceful location in Saariselkä.

 Winter wonderland Saariselka, Lapland, Finland

Hostel Ahopää, Saariselkä

Saariselka is an ideal place for skiing in Lapland, Finland

Located at the root of one of the most loved national parks in Finland, Hostel Ahopää is a heaven for outdoor fans. The unique wilderness of Lapland is just one step away and beautiful fells invite you to go explore the magic of polar nights…

This area is suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities and the hostel has excellent selection of outdoor activities equipment, including GPS devices, available for hire. The accommodation price includes during the season participation in weekly hikes in the Kiilopää area. You can also choose from the many clearly signposted trails and go exploring your own. And why not try a refreshing dip in a fell brook after the sauna!

Hostel Ahopää has rooms and dorms sleeping 2–6 people. The dorms for male and female guests are separate, with shared toilet facilities just outside the dorms. All guests are welcomed to use the shared kitchen, a bathroom, and sauna facilities in the main building.

Did you know? Urho Kekkonen National Park is named after famous and longest-serving Finnish president, Urho Kekkonen. He was known for his sincere admiration for Lapland’s nature and often chose to spend his holidays in the wilderness. Urho Kekkonen also has been one of the protectors of Hostelling International Finland!

November 7, 2014

Lapland, true winter wonderland destination: ski and après-ski in Levi

We started our 3-part series of having a look at what Lapland has to offer during winter-time from Rovaniemi, the biggest town in Finnish Lapland. Now we are off to the biggest skiing resort in Finland: Levi.

Levi is a popular holiday destination is bursting with interesting activities such as husky and reindeer sledging, snow mobile safaris, ice karting and ice galleries. From the reception you can rent snowshoes and wonder around in serene beauty. After a day spent in nature you can relax by taking a massage or trying out several delicious restaurants in the area.

Hostel Hullu Poro, Levi

Hostel Hullu Poro is located two kilometres from Levi centre. You can easily arrive to Levi centre from Kittilä airport only in 15 minutes. Hostel has twin bed room apartments, where you have kitchen, common room and a bathroom. One apartment can host four people. You can also book a dorm bed.

National symbol of Lapland: Every year Levi hosts World Cup of Alpine skiing in the most Northern competition location in the world. Starting from 2013 winners are awarded with their very own reindeer and you might see these famous reindeers while visiting Levi!

October 29, 2014

In the footsteps of Finnish artists: an unforgettable trip to Eastern Finland - Part 3

Finn Kamilla Billiers decided to spend her holiday in Finland instead of travelling abroad. Her destination was Eastern Finland, an area renowned for its rugged landscapes. She let some of the most famous Finnish artists guide her on her journey. The trip was a journey into the heart of Finnish culture. 

This is the final part of the 3 part post. Before this Kamilla has visited the Koli National Park and North Karelian town Joensuu.

Just like granny’s house 

I travelled to Lieksa on the car ferry Pielinen. I was the only passenger on board and took in the beautiful scenery from the comfort of a rather retro-looking orange velvet couch. A tattooed deck boy came in to water the flowers on the windowsill and laughed when I asked about things to do in Lieksa. In the early evening, the small town was quiet and empty.

I walked past a small Orthodox chapel on my way to my accommodation. The Timitra Hostel is located in the Functionalist-style Timitra Castle, which was formerly occupied by a Finnish Border Guard training centre. The hostel is run by an architect who is also a keen collector of Finnish design works, and the interior and decor of the hostel reflects the personal taste of its proprietor. It is not very often that you see Artek furniture or Arabia dishes in a hostel.

Timitra Hostel in Lieksa is furnished with Finnish design.

When it was time for dinner, the atmosphere in the shared kitchen was relaxed. There was an older couple who were on their way to Pankakoski because the wife, a former pianist, once used to play a song by that name. I sipped my tea and watched steaming hot focaccia being lifted out of the oven.

On the final day of my trip, I explored the sights in and around Lieksa. The Pielinen Museum is Finland’s second-largest open-air museum, and its oldest buildings date from the 17th century. There are so many types of houses, barns, and saunas that you do not know where to look. The houses reminded me of my granny’s house, with all sorts of old tools and dishes hanging on the wall. Among other things, I saw a sledge and an old butter churn. When I reached the old shed, I took a deep breath to enjoy the lovely smell of tar.

After visiting the museum, I would have liked to see sculptor Eeva Ryynänen’s most famous creation – the Paateri timber church, with its magnificent wooden decorations. Unfortunately, it was 50 kilometres away, and I did not have a car. There is next to no public transport in that part of the country. As a keen cyclist, Inha would, no doubt, have cycled to Paateri in no time, but I had to settle for a walk to the railway station.


Read the previous articles of the 3-part post: 
1. Visiting the North Karelian town Joensuu
2. Visiting the Koli National Park

October 22, 2014

Lapland, true winter wonderland destination: start from Rovaniemi

Often claimed as the last place of true wilderness in Europe, Lapland is the destination for all winter lovers. Starting from Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland continues all the way up close to Arctic Sea. The harsh and unique conditions of the North have shaped Lapland into a magical place: polar nights and northern lights make you feel all the troubles of the world are far away.

Magic of Lapland can’t be described by words - you just have to experience it!

Winter wonderland: Lapland in Finland

Good place to start your winter adventure in Finland is Rovaniemi, the hometown of Santa Claus. Most places can only dream of such a combination Rovaniemi has: tucked in a nature of Lapland and having all the amenities of a bubbling university town!

Rovaniemi is the home of Santa Claus, don't forget to visit him!
Picture by Visit Finland Media Bank
To be warned, Rovaniemi might not charm you with its architecture but it offers more than a decent compensation: museums, Santa Park, cafes, location in the Arctic Circle and husky farms make a visit to Rovaniemi worth it.

Surrounding areas also have plenty to offer, for example Ranua Zoo with its arctic animals (polar bears!) is only one hour drive away.

Santa’s Hostel Rudolf, Rovaniemi

Hostel Rudolf in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

Santa’s Hostel Rudolf has a central location and offers a good base to explore Rovaniemi. All the rooms have their own bathrooms and room size varies from single rooms to dormitories. Santa’s Hostel Rudolf has been recently granted a HI-Q quality certificate!

Psst! Let your creativity flow while crossing the Arctic Circle! This has become a ritual for those from the South, since after all Arctic Circle is the place where all magic of Lapland begins. The most popular place for crossing is Santa Park and some visitors might be even rewarded a certificate.

October 15, 2014

In the footsteps of Finnish artists: an unforgettable trip to Eastern Finland - Part 2

Finn Kamilla Billiers decided to spend her holiday in Finland instead of travelling abroad. Her destination was Eastern Finland, an area renowned for its rugged landscapes. She let some of the most famous Finnish artists guide her on her journey. The trip was a journey into the heart of Finnish culture. 

This is part 2 of the 3 part post. Before this new destination Kamilla visited the North Karelian town Joensuu.

In good company 

I took a taxi from Joensuu to Koli. An hour later and I was walking toward one of the most famous landscapes in Finland with a newly purchased map in hand. After a few kilometres, I reached the summit of the Mäkrä hill. The views over Lake Pielinen have been said to embody the essence of Finnish identity better than anything else, and now that I have been there, I have to agree.

The pine trees and hills could have been from a Järnefelt painting, and I could hear echoes of Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony. It is easy to see why artists inspired by Karelianism and National Romanticism flocked to Eastern Finland, especially Karelia, in search of a national identity. The breathtaking view was like a painting. Landscape photography is great in that nature is perfect in itself, without any gimmicks. The orange tree trunks, dappled with summer sunshine, were crying out to be sketched and painted. But I am no Järnefelt, so I got up and left.

As I was walking down the hillside, I saw a red squirrel. We stared at each other for a moment before the squirrel let out an un-squirrel-like roar and hurled itself up a spruce. Have you ever heard a squirrel growl? Me neither, until then.

The big, knobbly roots of the spruce trees made me want to curl up between them, lie still, and listen to the sighs and whispers of the woods. Unfortunately, a huge swarm of mosquitoes also decided to stop for a while at the same spot, and the mosquitoes made it clear what they thought of me being there, so I had to carry on toward the most famous summits of the Koli range. The rocks at the summit of Ukko-Koli are worn smooth. I wonder how many hands have touched them over the years. A metal plaque had some letters engraved in it: ‘Ripa, Anu, and Veka were here.’ It is said that Järnefelt himself carved his name into the wall of a cave known locally as the Devil’s Church.

I rounded off the day with a visit to the village of Koli. On my way there, I came across an environmental art exhibition in the middle of the woods. Some of the pieces are apparent to only the perceptive visitor. A few birches have had some of their bark removed. When you look at these trees from the right angle, the areas where the bark has been notched out form a small circle, like a pale winter sun. I popped into the gallery of an English artist, and we talked for a while about the intricate lines of Japanese wood carvings.


Next Kamilla travelled to Lieksa

October 8, 2014

In the footsteps of Finnish artists: an unforgettable trip to Eastern Finland - Part 1

Finn Kamilla Billiers decided to spend her holiday in Finland instead of travelling abroad. Her destination was Eastern Finland, an area renowned for its rugged landscapes. She let some of the most famous Finnish artists guide her on her journey. The trip was a journey into the heart of Finnish culture. 

This is part 1 of the 3 part post.

Kamilla enjoying the evening sun.

While he was staying in Italy in the late 19th century, author Juhani Aho wrote about his longing for his native Finland, especially its majestic trees and lake landscapes.

Indeed, the desire to travel to Eastern Finland, to see the deep blue lakes and pine trees reaching for the sky from the summits of the many hills, is nothing new. In addition to Aho, composer Jean Sibelius, painter Eero Järnefelt, and photographer I.K. Inha all spent time in the area about a century ago. You can still see the breathtaking views from the Koli hill toward Lake Pielinen in your mind’s eye when you listen to the music of Sibelius, for example.

So, I put on some music by Sibelius and set off on my summer trip to Eastern Finland. When I arrived in Joensuu, I bought a Karelian pasty with butter and wandered around the town, soaking up the atmosphere of North Karelia. Someone was playing the kantele nearby.

I stopped by the North Karelian Provincial Museum and was told that I had just missed a guided tour led by a singing lady in a traditional Karelian costume. Elias Lönnrot passed through these parts when he was collecting material for the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic.

I found a bed at the nearest hostel, the Scouts’ Youth Hostel. I hired a creaky old bicycle and made my way to the Linnunlahti arboretum. However, the exotic trees there did not satisfy my yearning for quintessential Finnish landscapes, and I decided to go to the nearby beach, set against a backdrop of comfortingly familiar, solid Finnish pine trees. The water in Lake Pyhäselkä was lovely and warm.

As I watched cumulus clouds sail across the blue sky, I found myself humming Jukka Kuoppamäki’s ‘Sininen ja valkoinen’, as much of a cliché as that may seem. Well, I am not the first visitor to have found inspiration there over the years. I went back to the hostel and ended up admiring the impressively well-organised recycling system: there were separate, large bins for each type of waste, all clearly labelled in three languages.

The next morning, I woke up to a sunny day. I had morning coffee in a green patio area and chatted with one of the other guests, a middle-aged librarian, about Finland’s mediaeval stone churches. After breakfast, I was back on my trusty bike to visit the Noljakanmäki Natura area and the nature reserve on the estuary of the Höytiäinen canal. The bird-watching tower on the Höytiäinen estuary was voted the best in Finland in 2002, and it offers a commanding view over the lush landscape.

pitkospuut metsässä
On the way to the bird-watching tower.

I tried in vain to capture all the different shades of green with my camera. Inha did not have this problem – he was taking black-and-white pictures and could concentrate on the sweeping landscape itself. At least my pocket camera does fit in my pocket, whereas Inha needed three assistants to help with his equipment. When I was leaving, something flew past me, letting out a screech and disappearing from view before I got a good look at it. I think I might have seen a curlew, but I am not sure.


Next Kamilla travelled to Koli National Park

September 18, 2014

Big Blog Exchange 2014 - Meet the Winners!

The day we were waiting for finally arrived! 16th of September Hostelling International published the 16 lucky winners of Big Blog Exchange who are swapping lives, blogs and cultures for ten days around the world. Winners were selected amongst hundreds of bloggers and they will start their adventures on 31st of October.

Brianda Lopez, Sustainability Manager and project leader says “We are just as excited as our bloggers to announce the winners of the project. The Big Blog Exchange is all about giving the opportunity to bloggers to experience different cultures and meet new people; which has been Hostelling International’s mission for over 100 years.”

And we can’t wait to read about their adventures! Stay tuned #bigblogx

September 3, 2014

Pori's Hostel River has been internationally recognised for its high quality

Hostelling International (HI) has awarded its HI Quality Light certificate to Pori’s Hostel River. The certificate shows that the hostel meets HI’s strict quality standards. 

There are now five HI-Q certified hostels in Finland. The certificate has previously been awarded to Stadion Hostel in Helsinki, Dream Hostel in Tampere, and Hostel Borea and Hostel Turku in Turku. Hostel River is the first hostel in Finland to receive the Light certificate.

HI Quality (HI-Q) involves Hostelling International’s specially developed quality-management system, designed by hostel professionals. It has been created specifically for the use of hostels and other hostelling organisations. HI Quality Light is a scaled-down version of the HI-Q system, and it is aimed at smaller hostels. The HI-Q system is used at Hostelling International network locations all over the world. The HI network includes around 3,500 hostels, in 90 countries.

The quality-management system is based on high-quality management of all aspects of the day-to-day running of the hostel: the general management, the reception, cleaning, catering services, and property maintenance. Clear guidelines and consistent practices improve the efficiency of communication between hostel staff and managers.

‘Since the introduction of the quality-management system, we have started to plan and organise our work more efficiently, and I would say that we are now more professional in what we do. This means that we can provide even better service to our customers,’ explains Hostel River’s proprietor, Sirkka-Liisa Peni.

‘When everything is running smoothly, customers notice the professionalism and efficiency. Our customers must be at the heart of everything we do – that is the only way to success,’ says Hostelling International Finland’s Hostels and Quality Officer Ninni Lumme.

Back to nature! Hostelling International Finland's tips for lovers of the great outdoors

HI hostels offer a wide range of accommodation all year round for visitors who want to experience the unique Finnish nature. Whether you want to enjoy the best of the great outdoors without giving up modern comforts or embark on an unforgettable hiking trip on the fells of Finnish Lapland, our hostels offer accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets. We have picked some of our favourites that are perfect for nature‑lovers.

Photo credits: Vitaliy Glushchenko, Visit Finland 

Timitra Hostel, Lieksa

Timitra is a unique design hostel located in a former training centre of the Finnish Border Guard and surrounded by beautiful nature. The view from the beach sauna of this family-owned hostel opens out over the magnificent Lake Pielinen, and, true to Karelian traditions, the hostel offers a warm welcome to everyone and has won accolades for its tasty menus, which use locally sourced, organic ingredients. The clean and spacious rooms guarantee a peaceful night’s sleep, ensuring that you will be ready for the next day’s adventures.

The Lieksa area offers excellent opportunities for diverse outdoor pursuits, including canoeing, bird watching, fishing, white-water rafting, hiking, and skiing. Koli, Ruunaa, Patvinsuo, and the Karhunpolku trail are only a few examples of what the area has to offer for hikers and walkers. The Rukajärvi road, starting in Lieksa, and the beautiful Änäkäinen area offer a lot to see for visitors interested in Finnish military history.

The hostel has single and double rooms and dorms sleeping 4–5 people. Some of the rooms are hotel standard with en-suite bathrooms. You can book breakfast in the hostel bistro or use the hostel’s shared kitchen. The hostel is around 1.5 kilometres from the Lieksa town centre and ideally situated for convenient use of its services.

Hostel Visatupa, Raudanjoki

Hostel Visatupa, named Hostel of the Year in 2012, is situated in an idyllic lakeside location in the village of Raudanjoki, in the southern part of the municipality of Sodankylä. While Visatupa is a working dairy farm, the proprietors also have several decades’ experience of providing accommodation services.

There is a lot to see and do at Visatupa all year round. In the autumn, for example, guests can go cloudberry-picking in the nearby bogs. The hostel’s friendly service and tasty home-cooked food have won accolades from visitors from all over the world, and guests also have an opportunity to see how a modern dairy farm works. In the summer, you can go fishing on a bike, and in the winter, you can go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing under the Northern Lights. After a busy day, you can relax in the beach sauna and make pancakes in a traditional Lapland-style hut. The staff at Visatupa are also happy to arrange trips other to nearby areas, such as the Pyhä-Luosto area, the Arctic Circle, and Rovaniemi, on request.

Accommodation is available in three separate buildings, and you can choose from rooms sleeping 2–4 people and apartments sleeping 4–6 people. All apartments have a kitchen, fridge, shower, toilet, and sauna. Guests staying in the rooms have access to a large lounge, a kitchen, and bathrooms in the common areas. Visatupa offers accommodation on a full-board or half-board basis.

Hostel Ahopää, Saariselkä

Hostel Ahopää is a dream destination for all lovers of the great outdoors. Right at the edge of the Urho Kekkonen National Park, the hostel offers an ideal base for exploring the unique fell landscape of Finnish Lapland. Whether you are visiting to enjoy the midnight sun or to experience the polar night, the Kiilopää area offers lots to do all year round. The price of accommodation includes use of the sauna in the evenings. And why not try a refreshing dip in a fell river after the sauna? For those who are after a more exotic sauna experience, a traditional smoke sauna is available three times a week, for a separate fee.

Photo credits: Suomen Latu Kiilopää

This area is suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities, and the hostel has a selection of equipment, including GPS devices, available for hire. The accommodation price includes participation in weekly hikes in the Kiilopää area. You can also choose from the many clearly signposted trails and go for a walk or hike on your own or go geocaching.

The hostel has rooms and dorms sleeping 2–6 people. The dorms for male and female guests are separate, with shared toilet facilities just outside the dorms. All guests are welcome to use the shared kitchen, bathroom, and sauna facilities in the main building.

Hostel Hirvikoski, Toholampi

Hostel Hirvikoski is situated on the upper reaches of the River Lestijoki in the village of Sykäräinen, in the Central Ostrobothnia region. At Hostel Hirvikoski, you have the great outdoors on your doorstep, and the surrounding area offers plenty to see for visitors who love beautiful, untamed wilderness, white-water rapids, and bogs. 

More than half of the municipality of Toholampi is bog land, and the beautiful Ostrobothnian heritage landscape is best explored by bike. There are several lean-to shelters in the area, so even longer day hikes can be completed comfortably. The River Lestijoki, which flows through the entire municipality, is a dream destination for anglers. The river is also popular with canoeists.

The hostel has single and double rooms, with shared toilet and shower facilities. The price of a room includes breakfast, so you don’t have to worry about preparing breakfast. Other meals can be prepared in the shared kitchen or booked in advance from the restaurant.

Book your stay directly from the hostel or at

August 18, 2014

Eurohostel's intern Satu shares her tips of things to do in late summer Helsinki

Since beginning of June, you've been able to find Satu at the reception of Eurohostel. Satu is a third year Bachelor of Hospitality Management student and her internship is a part of her studies at University of Applied Sciences of Satakunta. 

Satu ended up applying to Eurohostel through Google: ”I specifically wanted to do my internship in a hostel. Eurohostel has an open search for interns, which encouraged applying here.” 

Big city and it’s variety of activities has made an impression on Satu. Now she shares her tips to enjoy last summer days in Helsinki:

1. Picnic at World Heritage Site Suomenlinna on a sunny day
2. Helsinki Zoo and its funny animals 
3. A quick escape to Tallinn by different types of ships
Suomenlinna © Visit Finland

About Eurohostel

Eurohostel is one of the largest hostels in Scandinavia open all year round. The hostel is located in central Helsinki in a unique part of the town close to the Market Square. It is surrounded by Jugendstil buildings and old red brick warehouses. Sights, shops and restaurants of the city centre are all within walking distance and passenger ferries to Stockholm is only a few steps away. Eurohostel is easy to reach, trams from the centre arrive just next to the hostel.

August 15, 2014

Restaurant Day Helsinki: Cheesecake bar Cupton on Stadion Hostel

Restaurant Day sprouted from Helsinki, is a food carneval when anyone can set up a restaurant, anywhere, for a day. The idea is simply to have fun, share new food experiences and enjoy common living environments together.

The next Restaurant Day takes place this Sunday 17 August and Stadion Hostel provides the setting for Heidi and Anna’s cheesecake bar Cupton.
There are three different flavours to choose from:

Call of Home Garden – currant
Voodoo Temptation – kiwi, passion fruit, coconut
Persian Dream – mint, cookie, chocolate

To accompany the cheesecakes try homemade rhubarb juice.

The cheesecake cups will be served at the north end of the Olympic Stadium, just outside Stadion Hostel, where you can sit down and relax while enjoying a sweet moment.

Oh bliss, see you there folks!

Cupton - Cheesecakes in a cup
On Restaurant Day 17 August, 10 am - 2 pm
Stadion Hostel, Olympic Stadium
Pohjoinen Stadiontie 4, Helsinki

July 23, 2014

The Big Blog Exchange, the biggest blogging competition is back!

The launch of the project last year was a roaring success and Hostelling International (HI) are back on the lookout for 16 passionate, adventurous bloggers from across the globe to take part. 23 July marks the beginning of the competition, and a new chance for bloggers and readers to get involved.

When the project first ran last year, it had never been done before, and HI was overwhelmed by the positive response it received. HI sent 16 excited bloggers from all corners of the globe on an adventure, swapping countries, cultures and blogs with each other for 10 days, all the while sharing their experiences with the rest of the blogging community following their journey digitally.

The competition saw all sorts of bloggers from 72 different countries, a total of 1173 of them, compete to win the opportunity of a lifetime. It gave 16 bloggers a chance to step out of their comfort zone and experience incredible things and this year it’s happening all over again!

This popular project received global recognition with three prestigious travel industry awards, including one from the UNWTO for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism.

With cultural understanding being at the heart of this project, we were pleased to hear what Camie, a Filipino winner from last year’s BBE, had to say about her exchange. “This unique journey in Germany gave light and opened my eyes to so many things.” She went on to say “I believe the Big Blog Exchange project not only helped me open my eyes, but helped open the eyes of those that followed my journey as well.”

Bloggers can register into the competition from the 23 July on, and the lucky winners will be announced on the 16 September. Bloggers scattered all around the world are busy preparing their writing, getting excited and joining the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the tag #BIGBLOGX. Last year’s winners had the time of their lives, now it’s somebody else’s turn to do the same! We need your help to keep on changing the world using the power of blogs.

 About Hostelling International (HI)

• Hostelling International is a non-governmental, not-for profit organisation representing 69
Member Associations and 4 Associate Organisations all over the world.
• Works closely with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and cultural Organisation
(UNESCO) and the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
• Around 3,500 hostels within 85 countries
• 37 million overnights per year
• 500 million GBP estimated annual revenue within the HI network
• Four million members, HI is one of the world’s largest youth membership organisations and
is the only global network of Youth Hostel Associations.

June 27, 2014

Delicious moment on Lake Saimaa

Summertime in Hostel Ukonlinna is all about swimming, sauna bathing and enjoying pure nature as well as the perfect combination of coffee and homemade doughnuts!

You can crab coffee from the hostel cafe and just enjoy the great view on a sandy beach. Ukonlinna offers a nice place to relax also for kayakers.

The cafe is famous for its homemade doughnuts. Hostel owners mother Kaarina reveals that the recipe has remained the same for the last 50 years.

Kaarina likes helping her son at the hostel.

"I love early mornings when the birds are singing and the day is just starting. Then I start washing saunas!"

May 5, 2014

Åland’s Bomans Gästhem reopens

Bomans Gästhem will once again offer hostel accommodation on the Åland Islands, from mid-May. After the retirement of the previous owners two years ago, the hostel is now under the management of a second-generation, with hostel owners Arto and Mari. This popular hostel is the winner of the 2007 Hostel of the Year award.

Bomans Gästhem is situated in a former farmhouse on the idyllic and peaceful island of Vårdö. The scenic island is on a historic mail boat route. Even the journey to the hostel by the Archipelago Road is an unforgettable experience.

Bomans Gästhem, founded in 2000, offers traditional bed and breakfast accommodation with rooms available in three buildings: the main farmhouse, a rustic-style terraced house, and a converted cowshed. The hostel has around 60 beds in total, which makes it suitable for larger groups too. Some of the rooms are equipped with a kitchenette, and there is also a shared kitchen that all guests are welcome to use. Lunch and dinner are available for groups by advance booking.
The island provides an excellent environment for cycling and hiking, while the archipelago is ideal for canoeing, sailing, and other boating. The nearest swimming beach is around 1.5 km from the hostel. The hostel has bicycles, canoes, and a motorboat available for hire.

In addition, the hostel is a perfect base for exploring other parts of the Åland Islands – for example, Mariehamn, the capital of the island region, is less than an hour’s drive away.

Bomans Gästhem opens on 17 May and closes for winter in late September.
Prices start at €45 per person. Breakfast, bed linens, and cleaning are included in the price. A 10% discount
is available with a valid Hostelling International (HI) membership card.

Bomans Gästhem
Vårdöbyvägen 75
22550 Vårdö, Åland
+358 44 211 8475

Bomans Gästhem is available for online booking at

Summer events in Åland, 2014

5–7 June, Salmon Trolling Contest (Eckerö)
14 June, Mail Boat Race (Eckerö–Grisslehamn)
20–21 June, Midsummer celebrations (various locations around Åland)
22–28 June, Åland Organ Festival (various venues around Åland)
16–20 July, Åland Sea Days (Mariehamn)
18–26 July, Rockoff Festival (Mariehamn)
8–7 September, Konstrundan Open Studios (various locations around Åland)
19–21 September, Harvest festivals (various locations around Åland)
Photo: Visit Åland / Heidi Ikonen

Åland in brief

Inhabitants: 27,500
Part of Finland and a member of the EU
Language: Swedish
Currency: The official currency is the euro but Swedish crowns are accepted in most places

April 14, 2014

Reflection Cycling Suomi

Where were the Monsters? ( 14 April 2014)

Looking back on this trip, what did it get us?
In the introduction  I wrote that this trip is all about fighting our Monsters.
Looking and reading back on this trip, I wonder if they were even there?

Although it almost one year ago, we still get filled with positivity when looking back at this adventure. Remembering the people we met, the stories we heard, the nature we enjoyed and the distances we concurred makes us feel alive and kicking again. Not because all went well, although you might get that impression when reading the previous post's, it was not all fun at all. There were moment's we really got annoyed by each other and the situations we end up in ( getting lost, getting on boring highways with rude car drivers, dealing with body ordure)
But I think it is how we dealt with the struggles/confrontations we had, that makes us feel good about ourselves.
The biggest struggle for me was to give up the plan to cycle on my own. I really looked forward to that, because I knew that would have been a big struggle, since there is really no escape from myself when being alone. 

Finland is a nice country to cycle in, I would advice everybody who wants to cycle in Finland to cycle the archipalog trail.

Tampere seemed to be the final destination for me (or atleast a new starting point to leave from). In January I moved to Tampere for real, to live with my boyfriend ( read more about that here ). Therefore I really am glad that Marcia has seen the city and the people here, because it is my new home now.(  If you want to know my first impression of Tampere you can see the short animation I made here!)

Did we meet the monsters? I think we did, but not the ones we knew. I wrote to my boyfriend Michel during the trip that there were not a lot of Monsters, but that I had some confrontations with myself. Learning to let go and be flexible and be there for Marcia in any way she would need me.

I found a nice old text which explanes that the monsters are only there, when you bring take them with you when you leave. 


As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
K.P. Kafavis (1863 – 1933)

Apparently I left them at home.They were welcoming me home after my return. But I couldn't live without them, if they do not block me, they inspire me to live the fullest!

This was the last post about this adventure!
If you want to stay updated of the live in Tampere, you can always go to the Dirtycars&Millioncows webblog.

Warm regards!

Loes van Dorp & Marcia Zaal

April 1, 2014

Tampere, Final destination

Cycling suomi (part 4) 25th august 2013


Sunday 25th of august 2013

On Pori station our bikes were lifted in an old-fashioned train where the conductor had to open the doors manually. Rusty edges around the windows.

Impatient we waited and played some silly songs. My stomach made really weird jumps, nervous to be reunited with my love again. Or was it because of the surprise Michel and I had in mind for Marcia? She knew about the surprise, but didn't know what and until now I was able to not spoil the surprise.( Which is really a big achievement for me.)

In the train we had company of cute little Finnish kids who talked in (for us) puzzling Finnish, the landscape pasted fast, sitting still seems impossible for both me as Marcia. A hyperactive dog outside. He looked like a fox. Rocks, vibrating train chairs. De conductor comes by after every stop. The light of the window flickers because of the trees next to the train track, which turned the cabin into a disco. Of course I had to film that. Birch trees,  a lot of birch trees.

We Arrived in Tampere, still nervous and me a little bit impatient. I forgot to look up where to find the Hostel. We asked some people on the street, the first tree weren't of any help. Or they didn't want to speak English, or they just ignored us. Finally we found a girl who showed us the right way to Tampere Dream Hostel. It was really close to the station.

We were very friendly received. Our bikes were allowed to stand inside and we our luggage could stay in the back until there was a room ready for Marcia. Because of our sudden change of plans, the hostel just found out that they that we would stay with them (or at least Marcia was, I was going to stay at Michel his place, a strange thing since Marcia and I have not been sleeping without each other for weeks)

Because of the surprise for Marcia, I was picked up by Mikko, a friend of Michel to prepare the surprise, and Marcia was picked up later by car by Michel.
Marcia was going to see Michel before I did, I was a little bit jealous.

Mikko and I cycled to the secret location: the airport! The big surprise was that We all would be flying ( in turns, since only two people fit in) with Mikko in a small plane! Our first impression of the city would be from high above! 

When Marcia and Michel arrived, Marcia still did not have a glue what the surprise could be. I took her by the hand and told her to look around and than guess what it could be.  'No... your kidding, no this is grazy! are we flying, no, it can't be, this is grazy!!'She couldn't stop shouting and screaming of unbelieve. 
Poor Mikko had to deal with the enthusiasm and hyperactivity of Marcia while getting in the air.


'I went crazy whaaaaaaa. To see Tampere for the first time and then in the air.
A lot of shots  adrenaline.... couldn't stop screaming.. hahaha. I drove Mikko nuts.
It was soooo great to fly. It felt so good. Exciting.
Blue sky, Sunshine and a view from out of the sky. Wow!'

While Marcia was in the air, I had the time to enjoy the company of Michel who I really misted a lot.

Flying was amazing. I was scared and excited at the same time. Strange to see everything in such miniatures. I made some nice video material and pictures.

After Michel and Mikko got back ( which took a bit to long, Marcia and I started  to get bored of waiting. The weather was hot, we were getting sunburned, but were still in thrill of the fly experience which made us more patient than normal)

That evening we had a easy salad meal near the water. While watching the sunset which had amazingly nice colours. It was really an amazing first day in Tampere.
Marcia took a dive in the water and couldn't stop singing of joy 'Party in my pants! '
'So you sleep at my place tonight?' Mikko asked Marcia.

  Strange te leave Marcia in the Hostel in the evening. But I was there first thing in the morning for breakfast. We met a lot of other people in the hostel and had some nice, weird and funny chats.

The common room/kitchen was a nice place to hang out and meet people, although most of them were more connected to their laptop than to each other. But this didn't stop us for trying to make contact. The staff was really nice and we shared stories and food with them.

We were in Tampere for a week and were able to explore the diversity of the city to the fullest.
One morning we spend sitting on the rocks  of the beach close to the centre .

In the evenings we either went for (Frisbee) Disc golf (discogolf. as we kept calling it ). We found it a bit boring, but as long as you are in good company, it can be fun. We only disliked the mosquitoes.


We played ultimide frisbee and took a  dive in the water afterwards from the Laitori
One day we spend the morning in the boutanic gardens  with nice old buildings and nice flowers and plants.We had some coffee in the small coffee house , which used to be an  sauna. 

We went to the small marketplaces with second hand stuff, and to the city shops and bought some lady chill things like mudmasks to have a chill afternoon in Mikko his place, were Marcia stayed for her last days and cooked him and Michel a nice meal.


Michel took us for a city guide tour, which he gives daily to tourists.We saw a lot of interesting things whit nice stories and enjoyed the bridge with the love locks and found our favourite lock without any efford!

Thursday 29th August.
Cycling in kaupi forrest, without luggage, A really nice forrest, but Marcia and I kept cycling in rounds, not getting anywhere, but it was real fun to be lost such a small forest.


We went to on the water near that forest the next day, in a kajak.
This was an amazing 'zen' trip, floating above the rocks in the water and the silence around us and the nice wooden houses near the lake.

Kajakking near the Sauna we saw red burned bodies walking down the stairs from the sauna into the water of the lake. They looked sunburned and made me me think of the film 'Ronja Rober's daughter' of the story of Astrid Lindgren. There is a scene where the robers need to wash themselves in the snow and you see the pink robers bodies in the white snow. Nostalgia again.( Reed more about my love for Ronja here.)

  We went to that sauna afterwards, and Than Marcia and I understood the red burned bodies. The sauna was very, very hot. Two old finnish man where holding a compition in throwing water on the hot stones. The view on the lake was amazing, but the water still very cold water.  It was a succesful first experience of public sauna.

Tampere is a city who seems to have it all. Nature piecefullness and  city lifelyness. The last night before I had to say goodbye to Marcia, we went dancing in a nightclub untill early in the morning.
When we woke up, it was raining, it was raining hard.

'Tampere is crying because I am leaving' said Marcia, before getting in the train. I would stay for two more weeks before going home.  It was hard to let Marcia leave alone., but she managed, of course she did. She even fixed a hotel room for a nice price. Marcia is the best!

Next week: a short reflection on this trip.
Hope you enjoyed the reading so far.