Aura River in Turku, Finland
The Turku Cathedral rises above the frosted forests near the mouth of the Aura River, which runs through the middle of Turku, Finland.
Originally built out of wood in the late 13th century, the cathedral was expanded in the 14th and 15th centuries, mainly using stone as construction material. This would prove wise, as the Great Fire of Turku consumed much of the city in 1827 and badly damaged the cathedral. It was rebuilt over the next few years.
部分是科研园，部分是公园 Part science experiment, part public park
Haaga Rhododendron Park
In early June, if it's a 'good' year, people in Western Helsinki get treated to bursts of color at the Haaga Rhododendron Park. Started in 1975 as a research location for the University of Helsinki, the plan was to create rhododendron plants that would thrive in Finland's northern climate. And, boy, did they. Around 3,000 specimens of a Japanese variety of rhododendron were originally planted, then selectively bred to produce eight new varieties of 'rhodies' over the years.
In 1996, the park was expanded to include azalea plants which are in the same rhododendron family and bloom at the same time. The research garden now doubles as a public park that is visited by thousands of locals and tourists every summer. Since the gardens were originally planted, it's been observed that the blooms fluctuate. A vibrant year is usually followed by a more modest one. So, if you're 'rhodo-loco' and planning on making the trip to check it out, try to time it right.
Oh, to sleep under the northern lights
Perhaps there's no better place to watch the northern lights dance above you than curled up in bed under a heated glass-domed igloo here in Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland. There are other glass-domed hotels to choose from in Lapland, but the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, shown here, is the most famous. Visitors come to view the aurora borealis, or northern lights, and for various outdoor sports. There's cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, dogsledding and even reindeer-drawn sleigh rides to keep you entertained during the short winter days. Evenings are spent dining (yes, reindeer may be on the menu), warming up in the sauna, and for some, sleeping under the stars and the swirling, hypnotic northern lights.
Winter in the Finnish wilds
Don't be fooled by this frozen scene's tranquility. Once the snow melts in northern Finland's Oulanka National Park, the river's gentle swirl will turn to deafening rapids, hosting rafters as well as waterfall-peeping tourists. But there's time to enjoy the winter calm, since the region's wintery cold regularly stretches into April or May.
The partly frozen whirlpool churns near Myllykoski, a defunct mill that's now a resting point along Finland's busiest nature trail, Karhunkierros. The 50-mile route begins more than 500 miles north of Helsinki, with midsummer hikers enjoying treks lit by the midnight sun. For determined skiers and snowshoers, portions of the trail remain open through the frigid winter. Not feeling quite that intrepid? Chill at home with today's ice-themed quiz.
Lakeside serenity in Finland
Hikers and campers in Finland, where today's photo was taken, are allowed on nearly 90 percent of the nation's wilderness, regardless of the property's ownership. This practice is called Everyman's Right, or 'freedom to roam.' It's not really written down in Finland's laws, but is used as a sort of social pact: Those who want to enjoy the outdoors are free to roam just about anywhere, as long as they obey a few basic good-behavior rules. It's a practice that's observed to varying degrees across many parts of central Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic region, and Scotland.