A couple of weeks after deciding to go on this new trip I received an e-mail from my best friend from school announcing that he was getting married this summer and that I was invited to the wedding, to be held in Germany. Perfect, I thought, another wedding I will miss because I'll be on the road - all my friends seem to wait until I'm travelling to get married for some reason. But since I knew I would still be in Europe I insisted to myself that I would not miss this one and figured out roughly where I would be at the appointed time and set about finding a cheap flight. Yes, that's right, I would have to have to momentarily suspend my no-flying principles in order to attend, but there was no other way around it - this trip of mine isn't supposed to be a jail sentence and so I decided to make a 5-day exemption from my self-imposed rules. Luckily Ryanair fly from Tampere in Finland to Frankfurt Hahn in northwest Germany (though not really close to Frankfurt at all, though that actually suited me to a tee). It seems strange to me, but in the UK budget airlines, and especially Ryanair, are universally despised for their poor service, added charges and flying to hard-to-reach airports. But that's what makes them so cheap in the first place - people who complain have only to take more conventional flag carriers. If you pay bargain-basement prices you would be stupid to expect five-star service. In fact my one complaint of budget airlines is that they're too cheap: flying half way across the continent now costs less than taking the train half way across the country. The price doesn't correspond to what is being offered and people take flying for granted, which leads to flights taken on a whim and elephant-sized carbon footprints. The problem, of course, is that air travel (or at least jet fuel) is not taxed and so therefore is artificially cheap compared to other forms of transport. But since I was taking advantage of this cheapness I suppose I'm not really in a position to pontificate.
|From right to left: Marina (with Elouan), Yann, Bahareh, Florian, Guillaume and Me (looking surprisingly presentable - so much so that even my friends were shocked).|
Having found my cheap flight my next problem was to find a place to stow my rucksack (so as to avoid the usuary additional charges). I was very lucky to stumble across Santeri, a gentle giant who accepted my unusual request with little hesitation and much friendliness which helped evaporate any worries I may have had.
At the airport I met up with 3 old friends from school. I suppose Florian, Marina, Guillaume and Yann (who was getting married) are my closest friends but unfortunately they live in France, Spain (x2) and Germany and so the last time I saw any of them was over 2 years ago. Not so great, but when we do meet we can easily just pick up where we left off before - which usually revolves around me teasing Flo for being a midget, despite the fact that we're the same height (luckily for me as he brought a shirt and respectable pair of trousers for me to wear to the ceremony), Marina chattering away unstoppably and Guillaume quietly listening on with a sage look in his eye.
The marriage itself was an unusual affair as Yann is French, his fiancée (now wife) Bahareh is Persian, but they live and work in Germany. This led to a wedding day that took various elements from each culture, such as a German civil ceremony, Persian dancing and French vin d'honneur. The guest list was just as eclectic with friends and family coming from all 3 countries which meant that, apart from the bride, I was the only person that spoke all 3 languages. Starting conversations with people was particularly tentative as you first had to determine which language would be most comfortable to talk in.
Seeing as I was in the right neck of the woods I decided to add a day to my stay and see my relatives who live in Cologne who, I'm sorry to say, I do not get to see often enough, before returning to Tampere and continuing with my trip and reimposing my no-fly rule.