Monday, April 19, 2010

The Attack of the Icelandic Volcano

Since I live in Berlin and within the travel zone directly impacted by the ongoing Icelandic volcanic activity, I thought I'd write a brief post from the trenches, so to speak.

Let me begin by saying that the sky in Berlin is a flawless spring blue for the third day in a row. We are too far from Iceland to have any visibility impacts. Likewise, there are no anticipated volcanic odors or respiratory impacts at this distance. Away from the pandemonium that has befallen its airports, life is normal and pleasant here in Berlin. (Icelanders, unfortunately, have a distinctly more calamitous story to tell.)

My sister and her husband, who live in Los Angeles, happen to be stranded in Paris. If money is no issue, Paris is one of the better places to be stranded. True. Nevertheless, the volcanic ash problem coupled with a strike that shut down rail travel in France last week forced some travelers to resort to wildly circuitous and expensive alternatives. A business colleague of my brother-in-law, for example, who was trying to get from Paris back to his home in Israel resorted to the following route: (1) A 361-mile taxicab ride from Paris to Zurich followed by, (2) a 552-mile bus ride from Zurich to Rome followed by, (3) a fairly standard, hopefully unremarkable flight from Rome to Tel Aviv.

I continue to sit next to the radio to hear the ongoing BBC broadcasts concerning the situation, and I sit next to the phone with the vague hope that my sister and her husband will call to say they've been advised to take some ridiculous trajectory to Los Angeles through Berlin, a mere 425 miles in the wrong direction.

Indeed, as the days of uncertainty languish, European travel and commerce becomes further lodged in this unprecedented bizarre state of chaos. For the sake of my sister and her husband, for the sake of the environment and the health of Icelanders, for the sake of the global economy that can really do without another big setback, I hope the crisis abates soon.

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