Planes, Trains, Automobiles And Volcanic Ash

For many travelers stranded in Europe by the volcanic ash cloud, train travel is their way home. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli was supposed to hop a plane for Rome from Amsterdam. Four days later, she's made it as far as France.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Last Friday, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli was supposed to hop a plane for the two-and-a-half hour flight from Amsterdam to her home in Rome. The volcano in Iceland changed that. Four days later, she's still far from home.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: By Saturday, the only option was the train. A three-hour wait at the ticket counter in The Hague, and the news was bleak. The only way to Rome was to travel first eastward, then down through Germany and Switzerland, changing trains six times. Estimated time of arrival: three days later. I took my chances, grabbed the last available ticket to Paris - convinced once there, I could hop a train to Rome. Fat chance.

The Gare de Lyon was overrun, like a scene from World War II, thousands of travelers trying to escape southward. We're now Monday, and French train authorities decided to let anyone get on any train they could. We stormed a train headed for Nice. It was a standing-room-only free-for-all. First and second class became one. The voiture silence, the silent car, was a cacophony of languages: Spanish and Greek, along with French and English and screeching children.

Throughout this journey, travelers exchanged tales. There were the Swedish tourists who chartered a bus home, the businessman in a hurry who bought himself a car, and the car rental agency that wanted me to pay an extra $1,400 just to drop the car off in another country.

The odd thing about this volcanic travel disruption is the gorgeous weather. I scrutinize the skies, but no sign of a dark cloud - not over the windmills of the Netherlands, the sloping meadows of central France, or the shores of the Mediterranean.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Nice.

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