Itinera mutantur – aut ab Vulcano aut ab aliis
These musings are, of course, a bit past the momentum. How many of you still remember that volcano that erupted in Iceland and stalled air traffic in Europe for several days? I allow myself this delay; after all, the biggest impact of the event might have been a realisation how fast paced our modern life is, and that it is possible to survive at a bit slower speed – at least for a few days. And, in fact, the beauty under glacier is still spewing ashes to the atmosphere and the Irish and Scottish airspaces have been closed for some hours yesterday and today.
Several days without air transportation options caused not only annoyance and changed plans but also a wealth of cute stories about politicians and other big shots driving in minibuses through Europe, businessmen taking a taxi from Düsseldorf to Stockholm (about 1400 km), booze cruise ships between Finland and Sweden filling up with men in suits carrying their laptop bags, and many other similar tales. Most striking perhaps was to see how widely this affected us all, personally.
I was supposed to fly for a weekend to Copenhagen, to spend some time with my wife who was there for professional reasons. Obviously, I could not go. And my better half was supposed to fly back on Monday, but the ash clouds continued to cover the skies … actually, not really cover; people outside Europe were inquiring about the scene, and the only things I could report were a bright blue sky and a beautiful sunshine. Nevertheless, we had to organise my wife back home by train to Stockholm and with a ferry to Helsinki – a journey that took pretty much exactly 24 hours.
In addition, I counted at least eight people among my Facebook friends who reported that they were stuck somewhere or prevented from travelling according to their original plans. That means about one out of 25 was directly affected, let alone all those who were waiting for somebody, or anxious about friends or family members. The tone in the status messages varied, but the implications were quite similar to everyone. Here are some picks that I am blatantly quoting without telling the sources (well, they are all people from my Facebook friend list)… some are slightly edited for anonymity, or translated into English from other languages.
‘I always knew that one day I'd be trapped in Chisenau by a giant cloud of Icelandic volcano dust.’
‘Happy that I booked my train tickets on time… might be a bit crowded tomorrow’
‘My flight to Dublin is cancelled… The nature is trying to teach me planning is no use?’
‘Flight cancelled, stuck in Atlanta. Trying to get re-routed through DC or NY but still waiting a looooooonggggg time to speak to airline agent…’
‘Now it looks like I might be back to Finland for Wednesday night’
’By flying I’d be there already’ [this is twisted from a Finnair marketing slogan]. Journey from Inari to Helsinki [about 1200 km] took 31 hours.’
‘The water is wide, I cannot get o'er, and neither have I wings to fly...’
Aut ab aliis?
There are other things than volcanoes that may affect travel plans of big groups of people – such as … other big groups of people. We like to visit Greece regularly (and bring suitcases full of aubergines and olive oil with us…). At this time, we hadn’t got any upcoming trips there planned, which might be good as the people there are storming the streets and there have been even violent confrontations. Instead, we should have Bangkok in the itinerary soon. Or more precisely, I should go there for a conference which now may or may not take place either in Bangkok or somewhere else… who knows. Cannot do much but wait and see.