It took me three separate flights and almost 24 hours travel to get from Tangier to Estonia; to be fair, it’s not the most common of routes to take – most normal people travelling from Morocco to a lengthy sojourn in Europe would do the logical thing and take the ferry over to Spain, working their way up from there. But, being me, I shunned all logic [and exorbitant financial expenditure] to travel to the farthest point of Europe at the lowest possible cost. This entailed three flights with Ryanair: Tangier – Brussels Charleroi, Brussels – Stockholm and finally Stockholm – Tallinn.
I must admit, my first experiences with Ryanair were quite positive. I actually wish we had Ryanair in Australia – it’s legitimately cheap [unlike our ‘low cost’ airlines] and compared to Tiger [ignoring Tiger’s current situation] is absolutely brilliant. Sure, you haven’t got a lot of room or luggage allowance, the seats don’t recline and you should put aside all expectations of entertainment, but hey – it’s not a long-haul airline and I don’t think any routes are more than about five hours anyway so it’s easy to suck it up for a couple of hours. I was actually pleased that the flight from Tangier was delayed about an hour [once the status was changed from ‘Cancelled’ to ‘Delayed’] as this meant that my sleepover at Charleroi Airport would be shorter. However, I wouldn’t recommend eating the ‘breakfast bap’ that they sell on board – it was absolutely disgusting. I bought it because it had bacon, and that was something I’d missed. Not the best way to reunite with the deliciousness of bacon, that’s for sure. The flight was interesting as there was a lot of turbulence as we flew through a very impressive thunderstorm – the lightning was absolutely beautiful, like fiery veins dancing through the black sky.
Arriving in Brussels just before midnight, I think the customs officer gave up on trying to figure out how long I would be anywhere for after I explained that I would only be there for about 7 hours, and then Stockholm for about 4 hours before heading to Tallinn. And I was surprised at how many people were camped out on the cold marble floors of this little cheapskate airport – I struggled to find a place to lie down as the floors, benches, tables and check-in counters were strewn with other backpackers. I guess it’s cheaper than a hostel for the night! At about 2am, two little old men came through the airport with their little white fluffy dogs on leashes – out for a late night stroll I suppose, and they wanted to use the vending machine. And then at about 4am the cleaners arrived, looking unsurprised but unimpressed to find that there wasn’t really a lot of floor available for cleaning. A lot of people had made beds out of upturned black tubs that they use for the x-ray scanner things, and the cleaners crankily started pulling them out from under people – not bothering to wake them up or anything first! I was glad I was awake and had chosen to tough it out on the floor, as a number of people had a rude and painful awakening. I’d given up on sleep by this stage, and had been lying there with my computer reading a Chuck Palahniuk book I’d downloaded a few days earlier.
I was the first person to check my bag in when desk opened – I didn’t want to drag it around and was absolutely starving, so I wanted to get through security ASAP in order to get breakfast. For the record, Charleroi Airport has a dismal selection of food available at 5.30am. I wasn’t willing to pay €8 for a crappy sandwich, so I headed to the gate and selfishly slept for almost an hour stretched out over four seats with my scarf wrapped around my eyes as a blindfold. Being asleep, I was able to ignore any contemptuous looks that may or may not have been directed towards me, so I was unconcerned. I fell asleep immediately upon buckling into my seat on the plane and woke up only upon hitting the runway in Stockholm.
The airport at Stockholm looked like it was out of a story book – at least from the outside. It had the sloping roofs that you expect to see in ski chalets, but being summer the snow was on vacation. Instead, outside there was grass and trees, with people lying around smoking or checking their email or chatting. It was nice. As soon as I was able to check my bag in for the last leg of this part of my journey I sped my way to the cafeteria. I wish I hadn’t been so starving! I had to change €20 for Swedish krona, and ended up spending €14 on a sandwich and two bottles of water. I had to throw away the first bottle of water. I was feeling quite dehydrated and was so thirsty however when I opened the bottle and took an almighty gulp I discovered that the water was CARBONATED. It was absolutely revolting. I don’t know why anyone would want to ruin perfectly good water by carbonating it, but apparently it’s quite popular in northern Europe [weirdos]. I spent a good deal of time checking every bottle when I went to replace that horrible bottle of pure disappointment with something that I could actually drink. A girl eventually took pity on me [there were about 15 different waters there] and pointed out the ONLY one without gas. Thankfully the tap water in Tallinn is perfectly drinkable so with the exception of restaurants it’s generally easy to locate still water.
Going through security at Stockholm before getting on the plane was far more odious than any other airport. For the first time, I had to take my boots off. I was a bit annoyed at that, as they didn’t ask [demand] that anyone else do the same. My camera and lenses all had to come out of the cases to be checked, and after having to wait ages to get through I wasn’t happy when the security people told me to hurry up – after telling me to take off my Doc Martens! Needless to say, I subsequently [and perhaps spitefully] took my sweet time. It’s amazing how long it can take to unlace Docs when you want it to. I eventually made it through to the gates, although it was a little confusing given that the doors leading to gates 4-6 were locked. Everyone bottlenecked in, making it difficult for those trying to leave through gates 1-3. I was given a survey to do on my time in Sweden…all four hours or so in the airport…
And, finally, I arrived in Tallinn!