A Tour Through The Best Airline Lounge In The World

Nordic countries are often well regarded as the design hotspots in Europe, and their airports are no exception. Helsinki is a prime example. In addition to its well laid out and spacious construction, the airport is also home to the top voted airline lounge in the world. Its operator? Finnair.

Passing through the airport on the way back from a week in Helsinki last month, Gadling Labs stopped by the Finnair lounge to check out what all the buzz is about. Take a look at what we found above, and do yourself a favor: find some lingonberry soap. It’ll change your life.

Helsinki, Finland By Bicycle

Why fret over taxi fares, bus schedules and confusing subway maps when you can bike an entire city, street by street? Helsinki is the perfect size for navigation by bicycle. You can cross the downtown stretch in a matter of minutes, and jumps from the raucous bars in Kallio to the sultry restaurants in Punavuori are but a minor commute.

Gadling Labs took a few bikes out onto the streets of Helsinki this month to get the lay of the land. Above: the view from the hardware.

8 Languages You’ve Never Heard Of (And Who Actually Speaks Them)

As anyone who follows my articles here on Gadling knows by now, I don’t travel to relax poolside at a resort or sip a fancy drink with coconut oil. I travel because this world is a fascinating place.

While everyone has their own travel philosophy and reasons for wanting to get away, I know that for many travelers, one of the greatest joys of travel is experiencing other cultures and peeking into corners of the world, which are far removed from our own. This could range from immersing yourself in a culture with a different religion, cuisine, or something as simple as driving on the other side of the road.

More often than not, however, one of the largest indicators that we “aren’t in Kansas anymore” is traveling to a place with a language that is different from our own. With linguists estimating there are over 7,000 languages spread across the globe, there is little to no chance of any traveler ever having the opportunity to properly experience them all. Furthermore, as Gadling blogger Kraig Becker points out, there are still uncontacted tribes in parts of the Amazon where we don’t even know what language they speak yet.

Though situations like these are encouraging, the sad reality is that the majority of indigenous languages is critically endangered and will most likely not survive the next generation. According to the United Nations and UNESCO, not only does an indigenous language go extinct every two weeks, but up to 90% of the world’s languages are likely to disappear in the next century if current trends continue.

While the Economist reports that recent advances in technology may actually be able to aid in the rescue and rebirth of languages, the fact of the matter remains that thousands of global languages are dying at a terrifying rate.

So, in a nod to the fascinating beauty of global tongues, here is a rundown of eight languages that you’ve probably never heard of, and are lucky if you ever hear.


Where it’s spoken: Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia
Approximate number of speakers: 25,000

More than just a single language, Sámi forms an entire family of languages, which are spoken in the northern reaches of Scandinavia and northwestern Russia. While neighboring groups of Sámi speaking peoples may be able to understand the sub-family spoken next door, Sámi speakers separated by hundreds of miles are considered to be mutually unintelligible. That being said, nearly all Sámi speakers are fluent in their native tongue as well as the national tongue of their home country, i.e., Norwegian. Once referred to as Lapp, the name is now considered to carry derogatory connotations.

As can be expected from a language rooted in northern Scandinavia, the Sámi language reputedly has over 300 words for snow. Though there is a movement to rejuvenate the language amongst the Sámi youth, some of the Sámi dialects such as Southern Sámi are feared to be on the verge of extinction.


Where it’s spoken: South Africa
Approximate number of speakers: 7.9 million

Ok, I’ll admit it. If you’ve traveled to South Africa then you’ve probably heard of this language. You’ve probably even heard it spoken. As one of the major languages of South Africa, Xhosa has been spoken by such recognized dignitaries as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Nevertheless, what makes Xhosa such a fascinating language is the inclusion of pronounced clicks, which seem to emerge effortlessly from the mouths of those who are speaking. Even though Xhosa speakers appear to be in the midst of rapid-fire dialogue, they simultaneously are able to create a sound birthed somewhere between the throat and the tongue, which is impossible to get tired of witnessing.


Where it’s spoken: Papua New Guinea
Approximate number of speakers: 130,000

With over 800 languages, Papua New Guinea is officially regarded as being the most linguistically diverse country found anywhere in the world. Out of the 800-plus languages in the country, Melba is a tongue that is spoken in the western highlands and centered around the town of Mount Hagen. One of the most widely spoken languages in the tribal highlands, less than 100 years have passed since the Melpa and their fellow highland people first came into contact with Western outsiders.

Plus they have an unbelievable YouTube video that makes me want to buy Jams pants.


Where it’s spoken: Russia (Siberia)
Approximate number of speakers: 600

An isolate language which, like the Basque language in Spain, is unrelated to any neighboring language, the Ket are such an obscure and unfathomably isolated group of former hunter-gatherers that many Russian people don’t even know they exist.

Located in south-central Siberia, just north of the border with Mongolia, Ket has begun being taught at the lower grade levels in the handful of villages that still host native Ket populations. With the Russian language infiltrating all forms of daily life, however, many fear that the Ket language is on a clear-cut path for extinction.


Where it’s spoken: Irian Jaya, Indonesia
Approximate number of speakers: 70

Yes, I’ve included this here for no other reason than its wildly sophomoric name. All joking aside, however, the Anus language is spoken by the Anus people, indigenous residents of an island off the coast of Irian Jaya, Indonesia. As classless linguists like myself will point out, the Anus language is not to be confused with the Anal language spoken by the Anal people of India. A language with roughly 14,000 native speakers, Anal is spoken in portions of India and Myanmar.


Where it’s spoken: Japan
Approximate number of speakers: 950

If you, like me, thought that only Japanese was spoken in Japan, then allow me to introduce you to Yoronjima, a tiny island in the Ryukyu island chain in the waters of southern Japan. A subtropical island that looks more akin to Fiji than Japan, Yoronjima is a haven for vacationing Japanese who flock to the island to scuba dive the turquoise waters and bake on the white sand beaches. Although mainstream Japanese is the de facto language of commerce on Yoronjima, about 950 of the island’s 6,000 residents still speak the native tongue of Yoron while privately gathered or while in the home.

Silbo Gomero

Where it’s spoken: Canary Islands, Spain
Approximate number of speakers: 22,000

Spoken on the rugged and mountainous island of La Gomera in Spain’s Canary Islands, Silbo Gomero is officially known as the world’s only language consisting entirely of whistling. Derived as a means of communicating across the island’s steep and precipitous ravines, Silbo Gomero uses whistles meant to mimic the sounds of four vowels and four consonants, which, when used in conjunction, are able to create a vocabulary of over 4,000 intelligible words. Though linguists debate over the exact root of the language, some theorize that it may derive from the Berber languages found in nearby Morocco.

Able to be understood at a distance of up to two miles, the advent of mobile phones has created a sharp drop off in the necessity of Silbo Gomero. Nevertheless, in an effort to retain the island’s culture, Silbo Gomero is now taught in state run schools at the elementary level in an effort is foster its use amongst the island’s youth.


Where it’s spoken: Peru
Approximate Number of Speakers: 1

Amadeo Garcia is the last person in the world who speaks Taushiro. A native tribesman of the Peruvian Amazon who also speaks Spanish, Amadeo realizes that as soon as he dies, the language will forever too die with him. As of this writing, Amadeo is 57 years old.

Imagine being able to speak a language that no one else on Earth understands. At first I’m sure there would be some novelty, but after time that novelty would simply turn to loneliness. While the above video is entirely in Spanish, it explains that Amadeo speaks Taushiro only to himself. Around his village, a remote town where he lives in a one-room, wooden shack, Amadeo speaks Spanish with his fellow villagers. In the jungles, however, when paddling his dugout canoe or hunting for birds with his traditional blow dart gun, he will occasionally break into song or speak to himself in Taushiro.

A sad reality to be sure, Amadeo personifies the plight of indigenous peoples and native languages in every corner of the world. From Native Americans in North America to ethnic minorities of the high Tibetan plateau, how many more people like Amadeo are out there, mumbling to themselves in the jungle in a language the world will never hear again?

[Cover photo credit: LivingOS on Flickr]

How To (Legally) Stay In Europe For More Than 90 Days

Planning an extended stay in Europe, travelers are often focused on what it takes to be there longer than 90 days, what is commonly believed to be the limit for tourists. Armed with a desire to stay longer, travel blog Nomadic Matt found a way and shares it in a recent blog post.

Getting to the heart of the matter, Matthew Kepnes, founder of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site, blogs “when people talk about the ’90 day limit,’ they are talking about restrictions on the Schengen Visa, which is the visa rule that governs 26 countries in Europe.”

The easy way to stay longer than 90 days in non-Schengen countries, says Kepnes, is to vary your location when traveling in Europe, moving to a different country near the end of 90 days. That starts the clock ticking all over again.

But those 26 European countries that are covered under the Schengen Visa are really more like states and staying longer than 90 days can be tricky.

“When most people ask me about staying in Europe, they mean staying longer in the Schengen zone. After all, it covers 26 countries and visiting so many destinations in 90 days can be a little rushed (it is an average of 3.4 days per country),” says Kepnes offering a solution that tells of loopholes and other ways to hang around Europe, legally.

See more at Nomadic Matt‘s.Want to know more about the Schengen Visa? See Schengen and the disappearance of European passport stamps by Gadling’s Alex Robertson Textor.

This video from Schengen Visa Guide also contains clear instructions, examples and a step-by-step approach that will ensure your success in getting a Schengen Visa.

[Flickr photo by www.jordiarmengol.net (Xip)]

Traditional holiday beverages from around the world

Americans aren’t very creative when it comes to traditional holiday beverages (do, however, look for my upcoming story on Boulder’s banging mixology scene, which includes some killer contemporary winter cocktails). Historically, though, we’re more of an eggnog/mulled cider/hot chocolate kind of society.

I’m not knocking our Christmas beverages of choice. Properly made, they’re delicious, and certainly festive. But some countries really know how to roll when it comes to holiday imbibing (especially Latin America. One word: rum.).

Below, a compilation of some of the more interesting boozy holiday beverages from around the world that can be easily recreated in your own kitchen. Online recipes abound, and all of these are (almost) as tasty sans alcohol.

Coquito: Puerto Ricans are great because they’re not afraid to embrace their love of saturated fats (lard, coconut milk, etc.) or rum. In case you’ve been living under a rock, coconut is the new fat du jour (read more about its health attributes here). Everything in moderation, including moderation, as I always say.

Coquito recipes vary, but in general, this rich, blended Christmas concoction is a froth of spiced rum, condensed milk, coconut milk or cream of coconut, vanilla, and spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Some versions may include ginger or ground nuts, but it’s always served chilled, in a small glass. Heavy, yes, but both sexy and satisfying. Add some eggs, and you’ll have ponche, the Venezuelan or Dominican version of eggnog.

Mulled wine: Variations on this warm, spiced, sugared, and otherwise enhanced wine (usually red) are served throughout Europe. There’s Nordic gløgg redolent of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and bitter orange (and perhaps a helping of aquavit). It’s very similar to German glühwein made with lemon, cinnamon sticks, cardamom or ginger, and cloves; in Alsace (the French region bordering Germany), they also add vanilla bean.

In Bulgaria, greyano vino contains honey, peppercorns, and often, apple or citrus. Polish grzane wino is more of a traditional mulled wine, but they also make grzane piwo, in which mulled beer (try a Hefeweizen or Belgian ale which are lighter and sweeter) is substituted for the wine. Na zdrowie (“To your health”)!

[Photo credit: Flicker user Akane86]Ponche Navideño: Not to be confused with those other luscious ponches, this Mexican version is made with sugar cane, apples and/or pears or citrus, raisins, prunes, and tejocotes–an indigenous fruit used by the Aztecs, who called them texocotl. Add tequila, brandy, or rum; heat, and instant fiesta. At Christmastime, ponche vendors can be found on the street, ladling out cupfuls of good cheer.

Another popular Mexican holiday beverage is champurrado, a version of atole (warmed cornmeal thinned to a pourable consistency) flavored with chocolate. It tastes much better than it sounds, and is delicious on a chilly day.

Sorrel Punch: This Jamaican Christmas drink is made from the petals of a species of hibiscus (jamaica in Latin America), locally known as sorrel. In Australia it’s known as rosella, and where it makes a lovely, delicate, fruity red jam. This isn’t the same plant Americans know as sorrel or French sorrel. That’s a bitter wild green, which would make for a truly revolting cocktail, unless you’re one of those people who find wheat grass juice “refreshing.”

Dried hibiscus buds can be purchased at Hispanic or Caribbean markets; the recipe varies, but it’s usually some combination of the flowers, sugar, smashed fresh ginger, water, lime juice, and rum (dark is more traditional than light). Mix, stir, turn on your light box (fellow Seattleites know what I’m talking about), and crank your fave reggae CD. It ain’t the islands but it’s a nice change of pace from all that mulled wine.

Wassail: Did any American not grow up hearing about or actually going “wassailing,” aka carolling? This mulled British cider is synonymous with knocking on stranger’s doors and breaking into song. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to hit the wassail bowl after mandatory childhood post-carolling; parents should remember that singing in public is the worst possible form of torture for a geeky, tone-deaf pre-teen. Wassail has been a Christmas classic across the pond for centuries, so I’m sure generations of British children suffered the same fate.

Cola de mono: Although Chile is better known for its pisco sours (Peru also claims this libation as its own, but both countries produce it and they’re still duking it out over who actually invented this potent grape brandy) and wine, Christmastime means a glass of “monkey’s tail.” Combine aguardiente (sub pisco or a neutral firewater) with milk, coffee, vanilla bean, and cloves. I have no idea what this has to do with the tail of a monkey, but it’s a cute name. Uh, bottom’s up.

[Photo credit: eggnog, Flicker user elana’s pantry; wassail, Flicker user jeremytarling]