Felicity Long
Felicity Long

*logoNew Zealand got all the credit, and the tourism bump, for providing the gorgeous scenery in the "Lord of the Rings" films, but in 2009 the spotlight has turned to Finland.

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the Kalevala, the country's national epic and the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved trilogy.

A 19th century epic poem along the lines of the Odyssey and the Iliad, the Kalevala has been translated into 60 languages and has influenced artists, musicians and even businesses in modern-day Finland.

Tourists can get in on the anniversary celebrations by visiting the 137-room Klaus K hotel in Helsinki, which used themes from the saga in its decor.

A one-night Design package, priced from about $310, bundles in free admission to the Design Museum and a Helsinki Card for two; the Helsinki Card provides free admission to many of the city's top attractions.

Also in Helsinki is an exhibit at the Ateneum Art Museum, showcasing works of art inspired by the Kalevala, including pieces by Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

Those who want to venture farther afield can visit the Kalevala Experience Park in Kuhmo in Eastern Finland. Guided, interactive tours let visitors participate in Kalevala-themed activities, followed by a sauna and a traditional meal.

The 47-room Hotel Kalevala nearby, shaped like the eagle that plays a key role in the epic, offers room rates from about $172 per night.

For more, visit www.klauskhotel.com, the www.hotellikalevala.fi, www.kalevalaspirit.fi or www.visitfinland.com.

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