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Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 13:02 UK

Getting home despite volcano travel chaos: Your stories

Amsterdam railway station
Passengers queue at the service desk in Amsterdam railway station

The travel chaos caused by the volcanic ash cloud in European airspace has resulted in some exhausting journeys for people determined to reach their destination via other means.

BBC News website readers describe lengthy journeys across Europe.

Diane Parsons, en route to Perth, Australia
Diane Parsons
It was Diane's first trip to eastern Europe

I'm relaxing in Singapore airport, waiting for our flight to Perth, after a mad 27-hour drive from Budapest to Athens.

My only European experience was of Paris and London before this, so driving through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece was an eye-opener.

I was with my husband Robin and his colleague Mark Tafft, at a conference in Budapest. When Qantas cancelled our Saturday morning flight out of Budapest, we knew we had to get somewhere not covered in the ash - and chose Athens.

We left Budapest at 0700 on Sunday in a hire car with a Hungarian driver. We were quoted 1,500 euros for the car alone, and 1,600 euros for the car plus driver.

The driver really put his foot down. We booked our flights from Athens online in the car and soon realised we wouldn't have time to stop and sleep, if we were to make Athens for 1600 on Monday.

All I knew about Romania was vampires, so I took a photo of the country sign as we crossed the border from Hungary, to show our kids when we got home. Guards immediately pounced on me: "You not take photo" and waited until I'd deleted the picture.

I saw wrecked cars abandoned by the road in Romania, lots of pot holes, it felt like a third world country. Packs of dogs hanging around like people waiting to be fed. Traffic lights every 2 km or so - many of the roads are one way, so the lights allow traffic to go the opposite direction.

We crossed the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria on a ferry.

One of the worst moments was in Bulgaria as night fell and we realised our car headlights didn't work. Our driver said "In Hungary when you pass a driving test you learn how to change headlights!" So we left him to do the job while we went for a meal.

The menu in the Bulgarian restaurant was in English, but no-one understood when we tried to place our order. The owner rang his daughter and she translated our menu choices on the mobile to her father. Spare ribs and French fries, lovely.

The final challenge was being diverted from Greek motorway road works for a two-and-a-half hour romp through beachside suburbia in the middle of the night. In the end we reached Athens at about midday. It was an adventure and I'd probably do it all again.


Marcus Clifton, computer programmer, Holland

I am still trying to recover from an exhausting weekend.

Marcus Clifton

I had a flight booked from Amsterdam to Barcelona on Thursday to go to my brother's wedding on Saturday in Barcelona, and then to fly back on Sunday.

My flight to Barcelona was cancelled.

As I only have one brother and he will, hopefully, only get married once I felt I had to be there.

So, I borrowed a friend's car and drove 1500 km from Utrecht to Barcelona on Friday, went to the wedding on Saturday and drove back on Sunday. So altogether I spent 24 hours driving.

It was a nice drive, I would do it again but more slowly. It was well worth the 500 euros it cost to get there and back.

Ruxandra Dumitriu, Bucharest, Romania

I'm speaking to you from the taxi on the final leg of my 43-hour journey home to Bucharest from a work trip to Amsterdam.

Ruxandra Dumitriu
Ruxandra on her long journey home

When my flight was cancelled on Friday I was still unaware of the scale of the problem caused by this volcano. I thought I could easily get a train on Saturday morning.

The penny finally dropped when I saw the huge crowds at Amsterdam Central station.

I waited two hours in the ticket office queue, before a Dutch official announced there were no tickets left for any train out of Amsterdam in any direction until Monday.

By then I had made friends with a Romanian couple in the queue and we started making other plans.

I have very good friends in Cologne, Germany. I rang them, and they made a six-and-a-half-hour round trip to pick us up and drive us to Cologne.

While we waited for them, we booked rail tickets from Cologne to Vienna online. I had to ring a work colleague to ask him to put extra money in my bank account so I could pay for it all!

After a two-and-a-half-hour wait in Cologne, we boarded our train to Vienna. During this train journey, a good friend based in Vienna, Dieter, booked us all rail tickets from Vienna to Bucharest. He was so kind.

We had a six-hour wait in Vienna, but this meant I could visit a Vermeer exhibition in Vienna, and I'm a big fan!


Even if the Romanian authorities have proved to be unco-operative and unaware of EU travel rights, my friends are fantastic

My main fear had been travelling alone so it was great to still be with my new Romanian friends.

The Vienna-Bucharest train is direct, but we had lots of hassle from both Hungarian and Romanian passport officials on board the train.

Several times either side of the border they flicked on the train compartment lights and wanted to see all our documents. And we're all meant to be part of the EU now!

Without all my friends I'd still be stuck in Amsterdam. Even if the Romanian authorities have proved to be unco-operative and unaware of EU travel rights, my friends are fantastic.

Mark Bokenfohr, Canadian oil worker, Bergen, Norway
Mark Bokenfohr
Mark, at his wedding last year

I was in Italy on a business trip. My flight home via Frankfurt last Wednesday was cancelled and rescheduled for the next day.

At that point the volcano in Iceland hadn't started to cause troubles and Lufthansa put us up in a hotel for the night.

The next day the flight was cancelled again but this time - due to volcanic ash in the air. The airline offered us train vouchers, but I didn't take advantage of them as I thought we could still make it the next day. On Friday it became clear things were getting worse.

So I decided to take the train. There were long queues for tickets - there must have been more than 500 people there. The queue barely moved and I had to wait for four hours.

The plan was to take a train to a small station in northern Denmark and get the ferry from there to Norway. I changed trains five times. The German computer system just couldn't find that station in Denmark, so I just kept going northwards.

My faith in human kindness is renewed

I met many, many displaced air passengers along the way. We were packed into train carriages like sardines and not everybody made it onto the trains.

Once we were in the middle of Denmark, there were already five of us travelling together. We made it to Stavanger from where we hired a car. We got to Bergen at 0400.

I was amazed at people's fortitude and the helpful advice and little kindnesses that fellow travellers showed each other during the journey.

It's this shared experience of facing a common challenge together that I'll remember. My faith in human kindness is renewed.



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