Happy 90th birthday, Finnair!

Finnair, the trusty airline of my home country, is celebrating a big birthday this year. Only 10 years to go until the BIG 100! Woohoo! 🙂 In January Finnair was named the world’s safest airline in 2012.

While just five years ago I didn’t have any particular ties to Finnair,  nowadays I have quite a lot: in 2011, I was selected as one of the seven Quality Hunters bloggers traveling on Finnair for seven weeks. That gig saw me zoom from New York to Europe, Japan and India in my own personal record speed. I also now have a couple of friends who work at Finnair as flight attendants.

In addition, I’m a frequent contributor to Blue Wings, Finnair’s in-flight magazine, where I’m currently in charge of compiling the monthly calendar of events. So if you are flying with blue and white wings anytime soon, check out my event recommendations under the “This Month Around the World” pages. My favorite event for this month is the breakfast buffet festival for monkeys in Lopburi, Thailand. Would love to check it out one day. 🙂

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With all these Finnair connections I’ve got going on, it was only suitable that Blue Wings asked me to write an article about Finnair’s 90th birthday – but to do it from the perspective of the passengers. Without the passengers, there would be no Finnair. So back in July I spent a day at the Helsinki Airport interviewing families and individuals for the story (and visiting the Book Swap that I helped create!). The point of the article was to show who flies with Finland’s national airline, and what they think about it.

Though I had to get up super early to get to the airport by the time the 6 a.m. rush starts, it was a really fun day of reporting. I was roaming around the airport together with photographer Tuomas Kolehmainen and our Finnair liason Markku Remes. Markku and I worked together during the Quality Hunters project too, so it was nice to catch up again. We met tons of interesting people, from international business men to Croatia’s official athletic team and Finland-loving Japanese tourists.

And here’s the result! The article is a pretty cool-looking three-page spread in the November issue of Blue Wings that is just now hitting the seat-back pockets of every Finnair flight from Hong Kong to New York. So if you are flying with the airline this month, keep an eye out for my story and my calendar. You can also read the latest issue online here (scroll to pages 24-25 for the birthday story that is pasted below, and to pages 64-65 for the start of my events listings. Just so you know – “sivu” means page in Finnish.). Hope you like reading the story as much as I liked reporting it!

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Have you flown with Finnair? What was your experience like?

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Weekly Wednesday Video: Korean cat cafe

I was poking around my external hard drive the other day when I realized that I have about a gazillion short bits of video footage just sitting in a folder. These are snippets I’ve shot on my travels all over the world, in hopes of one day doing something with them. Some of them have been waiting to see the light of day for months, others for years.

Well, that day is here. I’m starting a new blog series called the Weekly Wednesday Video. So every Wednesday I’ll be posting a short travel video of mine, shot in some random country.

The first flick comes from South Korea and features a cat cafe that I visited last October. It basically shows you what it’s like inside this cafe that is home to 50 cats. As you’ll see, sometimes tension builds up between the furry residents. My apologies for the quick moving camera work in the end of the video – I just wanted to give everyone a better idea of the decor of Y-Cat cafe in Seoul, Korea.

The video is actually pretty timely right now, as my article about the history of cat cafes is out in the May issue of Blue Wings, Finnair’s in-flight magazine. (Well, more than an actual article, this is a short side bar to someone else’s piece that talks about Japan’s cafe culture. But nonetheless.) If you view the video, you’ll surely recognize some of the cats that make an appearance in these Blue Wings photos as well.

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In case you are interested in reading the article and can’t squint your eyes enough to make sense of the tiny print (can’t blame you!), here it is:

CAT CAFES POUNCE FROM ASIA TO EUROPE

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY Mirva Lempiäinen

A cat cafe may seem like a quintessentially Japanese institution – after all, the country is Hello Kitty’s homeland. Yet the first one, Cat Flower Garden, opened in Taiwan in 1998 before the concept landed to Japan in the mid-2000s. Since then there has been no stopping the feline fever. Japan is now home to about 160 cat cafes, where for less than ten euros one gets a drink and a chance to pet tens of Garfield’s cousins. There are also cafes featuring dogs, goats and rabbits.

In 2012 the special coffee houses started making their way to Europe. The first of the continent, Café Neko (www.cafeneko.at, Blumenstockgasse 5) with five resident kitties, popped up in Vienna, Austria last May. St Petersburg in Russia followed suit in October of 2012 with Cat’s Republic (en.catsrepublic.ru, 10 Ulitsa Yakubovicha). London’s Old Street area is slated to welcome Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium (LadydinaHs.com) in May.

The project, which will be the home of rescue cats, recently received more than 120,000 euros in funding through the crowdsourcing website IndieGogo.

(You can also read the entire article about Japan’s cafe culture and my cat cafe history sidebar by clicking here and scrolling to page 56.)

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