Art: Prague, Czech Republic
The skyline of Prague features so many church towers that this architectural feast has gained the affectionate sobriquet 'City of Spires'. The most modern of these spires is the Žižkov Television Tower, completed in 1992 and rising to 216 metres. Eagle-eyed visitors will notice odd lumps on its pillars. They have just spotted a gigantic piece of art in bronze, a set of sculptures by artist David Černý. The work, Tower Babies, depicts 10 huge babies crawling up or down the concrete tower. The babies began their climb in 2000 and were intended as a temporary installation, but their great popularity led to the decision that they would become a permanent fixture of the tower.
From Helsinki to Prague, at least two flights daily (Finnair, Czech Airlines, SAS, Norwegian)
Food and Drink: Dublin, Ireland
St. James's Gate Brewery is a 26-hectare area in Dublin. Brewer Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) established this brewery area in 1759, and today the old storehouse is open to the public as a museum of the brewery and its craft.
On offer are riveting multimedia shows about the Guinness brewery's history and beer-brewing processes. The brewery is still in operation, producing a whopping 2.5 million pints of beer daily. Visitors can taste the beer while admiring the views of Dublin that open from Gravity Bar, on the top-floor of the visitor centre.
From Helsinki to Dublin, four flights weekly (Aer Lingus, Norwegian).
From Alpha to Omega – Athens, Greece
Alpha, beta, gamma – Greek has used its own alphabet since the eighth century BC. The first alphabet to include vowels in addition to consonants, it formed the basis for our Latin letter system. In fact, the English word 'alphabet' refers to the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. While the Greek alphabet may seem confusing as one navigates in the Glorious City, things have certainly improved in comparison to times gone by: early Greek was written in a back-and-forth system, switching between right-to-left and left-to-right.
From Helsinki to Athens, 1–5 flights weekly (Norwegian, SAS)
History: Xi'an, China
In 1974, farmers seeking a place to dig a well near Xi'an hit a statue of a solder, then another, and another... Now nearly 8,000 soldiers have been unearthed. They are the Terracotta Army, composed of thousands of figures of soldiers and horses from 246–221 BC who surrounded Emperor Qin Shi Huang's tomb mound.
At the time of his burial, the statues were intricately detailed and painted in bright colours. Every single one is a unique creation, with its own hairstyle and facial expression. The soldiers are accompanied not just by horses but by war equipment, chariots, and even an enormous palace. And who knows what is yet to be discovered beneath the dirt?
From Helsinki to Xi'an, three flights weekly, from 15 June (Finnair)
Nature: Antalya, Turkey
The white rocks and natural pools of Pamukkale are Turkey's most famous natural tourist attraction and also one of UNESCO's World Heritage List sites. And it's no wonder, since Pamukkale (in English, 'Cotton Castle'), with its mineral formations, terraced pools, and frozen waterfalls, is such a surreal site – almost like a mini-glacier with a Mediterranean backdrop.
The limestone formations came into being slowly, over a long span of time, as water with a high mineral content flowed down the rock face from 17 natural springs high above, at a height of 200 metres.
From Helsinki to Antalya, 1–3 flights weekly (Finnair, Corendon Airlines)
Leisure: Tel Aviv, Israel
Trendy Tel Aviv has many ways to pamper its visitors. In the daytime, you can sink your toes into the golden sand of any of the city's dozens of beaches. For more active fun, why not alternate beach days with shopping on Sheinken and Sizengoff streets, at the many small shops in the Florentin quarter, and at shopping centres and markets?
In the evening, the lamps are lit and a whole new Tel Aviv comes alive. You can start your evening by enjoying delicious Israeli cuisine in the fine restaurants of the Neve Tzedek district and then proceed to party the night away in the New Port area.
From Helsinki to Tel Aviv, once a week (Finnair)
Text: Sari Peltonen