Helsinki Airport Opens Free Lounge With Real Beds

If you’ve ever tried to sleep on one of those hard airport terminal chairs as announcements blare over the PA system and passengers jostle into you with their luggage, you know how hard it is to get any decent rest while waiting for your flight.

Skift reports Helsinki Airport is giving travelers a reprieve by opening a relaxation lounge where travelers can sleep, rest or work in peace. The lounge has pod style chairs and even real beds, so passengers can choose the relaxation option that best suits them. The walls and ceilings are designed with acoustic technology to ensure a quiet environment, and the décor is meant to reflect the calming Finnish landscape, with ice and northern light motifs incorporated into the design.The relaxation area is open to passengers 24 hours a day, and here’s the best part -– it’s absolutely free. While we’ve seen a number of airport terminals incorporate mini hotel suites and pod sleeping areas in recent times, most charge by the hour for the privilege. Thankfully, in Helsinki that’s not the case. There’s no need to be a member of an airline loyalty program or fork over any exorbitant fees to get some shut-eye here.

Photo Of The Day: Pink For Peace

It’s not often that you see a cheerful military tank, but this pink-painted tank in Ljubljana, Slovenia, is almost cuddly. According to Flickr photographer Bob Ramsak and his blog Piran Cafe, the tank was made over in March by some anonymous artists, who also placed some flowers inside the barrel. Parked outside the National Museum of Contemporary History as part of its collection of military equipment, the newly rosy tank now matches its surroundings. The museum director said in an interview: “Since we don’t know how we’re going to return it to its original color, we’d like to thank these guerrillas, or vandals, that they at least chose a color that matches the museum’s facade.” The public art statement is just another reason to love Ljubljana.

Seen some unusual public art? Share your pics in the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.

India restarts ferry to Sri Lanka after 30 years of civil war

Sri Lanka is still recovering after a long and brutal civil war that started in 1983 and only ended two years ago. The fight between Tamil separatists and the government left 100,000 people dead, many of them civilians, and there were accusations of war crimes on both sides. The government won and the island nation is now beginning to rebuild.

A sign of that rebuilding is the relaunching of passenger ferry service with India, which had been suspended for 30 years due to security concerns. The first boat left from Tuticorin in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu last night and arrived in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo this morning. The boat is called the Scotia Prince, can carry 1,000 passengers, and is fitted with a restaurant and casino. The Scotia Prince last hit the news when it rescued thousands of Indians and Sri Lankans from the war in Libya.

Flemingo International, the company running the India-Sri Lanka route, says their service will do two round-trip journeys a week and provides a cheaper alternative to flying. Travel to Sri Lanka has been increasing since the end of the civil war.

A second ferry will start soon, operated by the Ceylon Shipping Corporation.

[Image of Scotia Prince courtesy Rama]

Ancient Jerusalem tunnel causes friction between Israelis and Palestinians

Here’s a big surprise–the Israelis and Palestinians are squabbling over land rights in Jerusalem again.

Archaeologists have cleared an ancient passageway they believe was a drainage tunnel leading away from the Second Temple, the Jewish holy spot destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Canadian Press reports the tunnel runs from the Temple Mount, now the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, 2,000 feet under the Old City and into the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan.

The controversy centers around the dig’s sponsors, the Elad Association. Not only do they fund excavations of Jewish sites, but they also move Jewish families into Silwan. Locals have cried foul and say the dig is politically motivated, that what the archaeologists are really trying to do is make a connection with the Jewish temple and Silwan as a justification for moving the Palestinians out. Archaeology quickly gets political in a land where the past justifies the present. As I discussed in my article Two Tours, Two Jerusalems, residents of this city can look at the same thing and see something completely different. Silwan even has another name in Hebrew–The City of David.

But none of this matters to the child in this lovely photo by user Flavio@Flickr via Gadling’s flickr pool. She’s content to sip her drink in a quiet spot somewhere in Jerusalem’s Old City. Looking at her face you can’t tell if she’s Jewish or Arab. Many Israeli Jews can pass for Arab and vice versa. They both speak Semitic languages that share a large number of words. In Hebrew, the word for peace is shalom. In Arabic it’s salaam.My Spanish wife commented that the kid looks Spanish. Hardly surprising considering that many Spaniards have both Arab and Jewish blood, a legacy of the many periods in that nation’s history when they lived in peace. A thousand years ago, this kid would have been allowed to play with “the other side”. I doubt she gets to now.

I wish it were the same in Israel. When I was working there as an archaeology student back in the Nineties, I made friends with a Palestinian guy and an Orthodox Jewish family. Despite their homes being only a few minutes’ walk apart, they never met. I tried to get them all together, but they weren’t interested. So if you go to Jerusalem, remember you’re actually going to two cities and try to visit both.

Four quiet spots in London

London is a wonderful, energetic place and easily ranks as number one my list of favorite large cities. Yet the very qualities that make London so enjoyable can grate on the nerves. Most parts are crowded, noisy, and stress inducing. If you need to get away from it all, here are four peaceful spots in or close to the center of town. Wander around enough and you’ll find more on your own.

Parts of the Thames Path: The Thames Path is a 184 mile National trail running the length of the River Thames. Most of it runs through beautiful countryside and historic villages, yet there are peaceful spots on the London section too. Avoid anywhere that has a shopping area right next to the river or is near an attraction such as the Tate Modern. Walk for a while and you’ll get into residential areas where the only company you’ll have are the occasional jogger and the seagulls. One of the attractions of the Thames is that it’s the largest open space you’ll see in central London. After the crush of Tottenham Court Road or Piccadilly Circus, it’s a profound relief to bring a lunch, sit down on a bench, and watch the boats go by as the sunlight plays on the water.

Churches: London is filled with historic, beautiful churches, and everyone is welcome to sit for a while and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Nobody will bother you or expect you to be praying. Professionals often come on their lunch break and do sudoku. You can, of course, come to worship, and with the Anglican Church being so welcoming, you don’t have to be Anglican (or straight, or even a believer) to join in the services. Friends of The City Churches, an organization preserving churches in central London, has an informative website. My favorite guidebook is London: The City Churches by Nikolaus Pevsner.

Parks: Some of London’s many parks are more peaceful than others, but they all offer respite from the chaos that is London. Richmond Park or the Regent’s Park are good choices for their wide-open spaces. Richmond Park even has a herd of wild deer! Hyde Park is less peaceful but more central. St. James’s is a favorite for its beautiful lake alive with waterfowl, which turns into a magical sight in the golden light of evening.

Temple Yard and Gardens: The most peaceful place I’ve found is, strangely, right in the middle of The City, the bustling financial heart of London. The area around the old Templar church is owned by barristers, and they have a series of peaceful yards and gardens with shady trees, lush grass, sparkling fountains, and convenient benches. It never seems to be terribly busy, and everyone maintains a hushed silence, as if in unconscious respect of the one peaceful spot in this high-energy neighborhood.

Please keep these places peaceful! There’s a severe shortage of quiet spots in London, so come and be still.