RyanAir: Hell on Earth, or Just a Cheap Way to Get Around Europe?

d42 is currently playing expat in Germany, and while there, she had the opportunity to try out RyanAir, the airline I always wondered about due to the fact that you can fly from one country to another for less than you would pay for a Greyhound ride to another state. They even offer free flights. “What’s the catch?” I thought to myself, and then d42 went to Stockholm…


Here’s the article my boyfriend and I would love to write:

Everyone can easily summon a fairly detailed image of their conception of Hell On Earth(TM). In fact, for many, this is a serious pastime, and one they dedicate countless hours to perfecting. For some, it’s sitting in a boardroom listening to the droning of a middle-management lackey, for others, it might be toiling in the malodorous, dimly lit kitchen of a scummier-than-average White Castle. For me it is, without a doubt, languishing for hours in a flightless airplane with no hope of exit, rescue, or a decent tuna sandwich. Friends, this past weekend was like a delightful subclause, within the Dark Prince of Hell’s parenthesis. And that parenthesis’ name is RyanAir. We traveled for hours to an out of the way airport misleadingly named “Hamburg (Lübeck)”– Lübeck is only close to Hamburg by way of some mad cartographer’s artistic license. We waited in a tent– a tent!– for our decrepit spruce moose. We crammed ourselves into acrid-smelling pleather “seats,” wrestled with our seatbelts, […]

Can you see how much fun that was to write? I *loved* writing that. It was *awesome.* When it comes to creative ways to describe horribleness, I’m your lady. Unfortunately, it’s also mostly bullshit.

Our trip to Stockholm via RyanAir was almost entirely without incident or discomfort. We arrived at Lübeck airport with minimum fuss (it really isn’t close to Hamburg, that part is true, but is helpfully serviced via a direct stop by the Deutsche Bahn. It is also true that we waited in a tent, but it wasn’t really a bad tent– it seemed to be a cheap and quick way for the Lübeck Airport to expand its capacity, since I imagine it didn’t see too much traffic before the days of RyanAir). I checked my passport with a nice girl, we waited briefly in a line, and then we walked out onto the tarmac in an orderly fashion & boarded our perfectly nice plane. I put my bag in the overhead, sat down, and promptly went to sleep. Barely an hour later, I was in Stockholm.

a Swedish Alley with a German in it

a Swedish Alley with a German in it

Upon landing in a RyanAir plane, you are treated to a trumpet fanfare (probably an mp3), and a friendly Irish voice tells you that you’ve arrived on yet another on-time RyanAir flight. It goes on to exhort you to fly with them again, and wishes you a pleasant trip. In Stockholm, RyanAir lands at an airport about an hour’s drive outside of the actual city, and they helpfully operate a regular bus line that will ferry you hither and yon. On our bus (operated by another company because the RyanAir bus ticket website hilariously doesn’t seem to accept American credit cards), we found a half eaten bag of Swedish Gummi candies (see photo). My first experience with Swedish treats was less than promising, as you may note that on the bag, the word “Salt” appears in fancy script. Imagine liquoricey Swedish Fish, but… salted. Previous owner nommed all the shell shapes. Boyfriend helpfully licked the salt off some of them for me, proving his love yet again.

Swedish Gummi candies, bag, half-eaten. By a Swede. Maybe.

Swedish Gummi candies, bag, half-eaten. By a Swede. Maybe.

A word about Stockholm:

The first word is expensive, but I imagine most of you knew that. The Swedish Krona feels worthless, at 10SEK to 1€, which makes for really hilarious dinner checks & receipts!

hilariously worthless

hilariously worthless

The expensive aside, the city is old, beautiful, and situated on a freaking archipelago. Need I even elaborate? Well, maybe a bit. We stayed in a cheerful hostel called Castanea, right in the center of the oldest part of the city, Gamla Stan. It’s a small island with cobblestone streets, and all manner of chintzy shops selling all manner of chintzy tourist crap. Once you develop the chintz-blindness that visiting any large city demands, it is delightful and charming. Many small shops and cafes peer out from unexpected places, and the streets are full of character. Every corner has a second name, and most that I saw were out were of Greek mythos!

The Vasamuseet is fabulous– it is a huge 17th century warship commissioned by the King of Sweden, which sank on it’s maiden voyage. Serious design flaws. It lay at the bottom of the Stockholm Harbor for over 300 years, and was then raised in 1961, preserved, and placed inside the climate controlled museum. Besides the obvious maritimey topics, it is a fascinating glimpse into more aspects of 17th century Swedish life than you would expect. I took pictures of the ship, of course, but it’s kept in a carefully climate/light controlled environment because it is delicate, and none of the shots came out well, alas.

here is a shot of vasamuseet that the internet provided

here is a shot of vasamuseet that the internet provided

Skansen, a giant open air museum with many different exhibits including complete historic towns, a circus, a zoo, and Scandinavian wildlife, is fantastic.

Woman vs. nature. In Sweden.

Woman vs. nature. In Sweden.

We did some other stuff in Stockholm: visited the grounds of the Royal Palace via a nice boat trip, walked around a lot (and walked, and walked– the Swedish capital is eminently walkable, and the subway is a scam job), ate a lot of delicious treats, (there is an amazing cookie-like pastry that looks like a black & white cookie without the white, that was filled with the chocolatiest chocolate EVER), on a rainy night we saw “District 9” with Swedish subtitles (what the hell did the aliens say?), etc. etc…

But ETL asked me to write about RyanAir, and I have gamely attempted to do so. Unfortunately, the return trip was similarly uneventful, and this time I even stayed awake for most of the flight. We again found an abandoned half eaten bag of candy in the airport (a theme in Sweden? Perhaps..), but this time it was delicious peanut M&M’s! The only other unusual part of the flight was that the flight attendants abuse the PA system to hock cheap tourist junk to gullible and sleepy travelers.

Sorry, ETL– I tried, I really tried! (It’ll do, d42, it’ll do)


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