It has become fashionable for minor airports across Europe to seek prominence through association with major cities that are often many miles away. And airlines that serve these minor airports, largely because of their cheaper landing fees, are happy to join in the game.
Exploring Allgäu from “Munich West”
Canny Cheapos know that Germany’s Frankfurt Hahn airport is nowhere near Frankfurt. Likewise, one discount airline has now decided that the name “Memmingen Allgäu” airport just does not have the necessary appeal, so styles the airport “Munich West”—slightly to the surprise of folk locally who are all too well aware that their regional airport is not near Munich at all.
The cachet of a big city name has become important. So much so that it obscures the fact that the communities which lie on the very doorstep of those airports are interesting destinations in themselves. The name “Munich West” is misleading, and hides the fact that the Allgäu region, so close to the airport, is a stunning area of Germany well worth visiting.
Discovering lesser known gems in Germany, Italy, and beyond
But as airlines and airports create their own mysterious cartographic realities, sensible travellers exploit these secondary airports to visit spots that really are well served by them.
If you fly to what Wizz Air or Ryanair euphemistically call “Hamburg-Lübeck” airport, you will land a long way from Hamburg but happily very close to Lübeck. The medieval center of one of northern Germany’s most historic and engaging towns is just an eight minute train ride away from the airport (which has its own rail station).
And the same argument holds for other secondary airports across Europe. If you are bound for Barcelona, don’t be seduced by the publicity that suggests that Barcelona Girona Airport is close to Barcelona. It is not! But Girona, just twenty minutes away on the bus, is really worth a visit in its own right. It boasts a particularly well preserved medieval Jewish quarter.
Few of those who jet into Orio al Serio airport near Bergamo, Italy have any intention of visiting Bergamo, just a ten minute bus ride from the airport. No, the airlines market the airport for its rather remote proximity to Milan. Yet Bergamo is an absolute gem, and for first-time visitors to Italy an infinitely better introduction to the country than Milan.
Exploit the system
So does anyone really fly to Frankfurt-Hahn on purpose? Well, they should. The out-of-the-way airport, utterly inconvenient for Frankfurt, is just ten miles east of the most beautiful stretch of Germany’s Moselle Valley.
For those in the know, the wayward cartographic fictions of Europe’s discount airlines throw up a few unusual travel opportunities.