Flying High... Ryanair!

Ryanair has been an airline that I have flown with to two destinations from two British airports. For the first time, I will combine my flying high concept with a section that focusses on the destination during each flight. Now, I am not promising perfection but from Kraków, Poland to then to Dublin, Ireland, I am going to put my best flight forward! I did not need a calling card! 

Reporting to East Midlands Airport before the sun had started to rise, it was time for my Polish weekend to begin! Along with my parents and younger brother, we parked the car and made our way to the pint-sized East Midland's Nottingham - Leicester - Derby Airport, now that airport had a name and a half for certain! Being Ryanair we didn't have bags to check in, due to that reason we proceeded onwards to the cosy Departures lounge to wait for our Ryanair budget flight to be called. Before we knew it, we were all assembled in a make shift line as we all waited for the pandemonium to begin. I had never before boarded a flight without an assigned seat number, that was a whole new concept. No jet bridge for us, it was out into the snowy conditions and on a bus to meet our B737-800 that would take us from England to Poland. After climbing the aircrafts own retractable steps was an experience in itself. What was this flight going to be like? Finding some seats close together, it was a relief to be sat together. Surely, it was Kraków?

The pilot then made a short speech on the intercom, the weather in Kraków, Poland was apparently bad? By some stroke of luck, the pilot went on to say that we wouldn't need to land into nearby Rzeszów Airport after all. Could we relax? Taking off from East Midlands happened quite quickly after our potential airport change was ruled out, as soon as the crew were released they were up and down the cabin selling refreshments, duty-free and even phone cards! I had never seen such a sales focussed flight ever before in my life before that Ryanair flight. Did people buy those items? No, we had our own sandwiches and had bought water at WHS Smith because we weren't about to be spending money before getting to Poland. The flight itself was smooth, only lasting around two hours as we made our way closer to Kraków's John Paul II International Airport. Landing into Poland with Ryanair, for the first time gave me the chance to see the airport operation that had been going on. No, no, the snow at the airport didn't delay us! 

Why had we flown to Kraków, Poland in the first place? With Jewish ancestry on my paternal side of the family, I had always wanted to visit the former Extermination Camps that had been used during the Second World War to eradicate the Jewish population. Having a connection to the camps meant the visit had been a surprise from the previous Christmas, the time had come for us to fly to Kraków, Poland for that sobering reason. Staying along Grodzka Street in the heart of the city, we had spent our first afternoon walking around the 'Rynek Główny' otherwise known as the 'Main Square. We were able to peer into St. Mary's Basilica and we were not disappointed by the magnificence of that house of god! Even though it was bitterly cold, we were able to appreciate the streets of Kraków. Veering towards the 'Kazimierz' allowed us to see the 'Old Jewish Quarter', the plan wasn't so well thought through but at that time. It turned out to be a right old adventure, ending up at the 'Galeria Krakówska' for a KFC! The ice cream was major!

Our airport transfer guy picked up from our apartment, we then started the journey to Oświęcim. Fast forward to the moment when we walked through the infamous 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign into the main Auschwitz Extermination Camp, that German phrase means 'Work Sets You Free'. For what we saw, every barrack held an exhibit that shocked us to the core, it was some bone-chilling stuff. From a mound of smashed eye-glasses to shoes that had been taken away from the Jewish prisoners, we saw how the German Army took everything from the unaware Jewish people who made their fate at Auschwitz. Seeing the photos of the emaciated children, it made me feel sick to my stomach because one of the children displayed was the same age as my young cousin at that time. Also going to Birkenau, we saw the train tracks that would take the Jewish prisoners into the even larger camp. Finding our way back to Kraków, we caught a view of the Vistula River. Those Wiśniówka shots helped to dull the shock. Ryanair, let's fly! 

A few years after that Polish weekend, I took my third and fourth Ryanair flights from Birmingham, England to Dublin, Ireland. I had never been to Ireland before that 2013 Spring moment, with a cheap deal from Ryanair it was set in the stars that the Irish capital would be in my sights! Reporting to Birmingham Airport for another early morning flight, I took the train from Birmingham New Street to Birmingham International, second time around with Ryanair I was able to travel independently from my centrally located university halls. Pre-checked in and with only a carry-on bag for the win, my interaction with Birmingham Airport was swift, proceeding once again straight to Departures. Once again it was time to take that well known Ryanair bound airport shuttle bus from the terminal to the aircraft. Same again, I didn't have an assigned seat so that wasn't an issue, with a few seats open I was able to change twice before the seat-belt signs were switched on. That fifty minute flight over the Irish Sea had me flying high! 

Having already had breakfast at Birmingham Airport at the Wetherspoons, I had myself a little snack onboard that Ryanair Dublin-bound flight. A Bounty and Snickers suited me fine with a can of Heineken to wash them down, being a short flight I wasn't down for any hot food. Landing into Dublin Airport before I could say 'Guinness', I was able to breeze through immigration because the agreement between the UK and the Republic of Ireland just meant a quick check but no stamp was needed. On the return flight to Birmingham I was able to see one of the many Ryanair aircrafts that we're parked ready for their flights. Being the Ryanair hub, Dublin was a huge meeting for that Irish low cost airline. From Dublin to Birmingham, that turned out to be my latest most recent flight with the Irish budget airline, it was great to also make the most of the Anglo-Irish agreement with a breezy immigration moment. Would I fly with Ryanair again? Absolutely, I would because the flights are priced right and there's variety! 

Oh, I told a lie! In May 2013, I flew from East Midlands Airport once again but to Bergerac in France. Back to Dublin! Getting off my airport bus, I found Temple Bar without any issues. Ireland's capital city was a wash with tourists, me being one of them, I was ready to see my fill of Irish sights! Rolling on the 'River Liffey', I loved catching a glimpse of Dublin's 'Ha'penny Bridge!' Being on a seriously tight budget, my hostel along Temple Bar was questionable but it was literally for sleeping, for the two nights it served its purpose. Moving out of the city centre, I decided to turn the usual visit to the 'Guinness Brewhouse' on its head by visiting the 'Patriots Inn' for a pint of the 'Black Stuff' before my guided tour at the city's 'Kilmainham Gaol'. That Dublin prison put the fear into me, the history behind those 1700 stone and steel had some story to be told. I took the Luas, Dublin's own metro system had me hearing things in the Irish language. The day had been long, having some food before bed had to be done. Those prices, D! 

I wanted more, I had pre-booked my return ticket on the Enterprise train from Dublin's Connolly Station to Belfast's Lanyon Place Station. I wanted my Irish trip to serve 'Cross Border' Realness! Crossing the borderline into the United Kingdom had me connected back with my phone signal, that Belfast addition was appreciated. Hitting UK soil and running with it allowed me to see Belfast's Victoria Street with Belfast City Hall looking like a smaller version of London's St. Paul's Cathedral. Finding my 'Taxi Trax' tour had me onto the next step of that Northern Ireland day, crossing the city centre boundary took me into the Shankill Road area. The murals and the intense coldness of that Winter/Spring morning had me feeling on edge. The peace wall made those lasting Belfast memories, such views from Bombay Street put things into perspective, both sides need to stop warring! Finally, I saw the Titantic Belfast experience with the 'H&W' cranes in full view! So, Ireland on both sides of the border had me feeling impressed! 

Keep It Ryanair!

Joseph Harrison


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