When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the Lawrence Berkeley Lab last Thursday morning, she thought she would end the day by flying back home.

She didn’t reach Germany until Sunday.

Like millions of people, Merkel’s travel plans were disrupted by the huge cloud of volcanic ash that has spread across northern Europe. The ash cloud has forced the cancellation of all airplane flights, including those, it appears, of heads of state.

Merkel spent Thursday morning at the lab and then traveled to Stanford University, where she met with a group of CEOs and gave a speech. She then headed to the San Francisco airport, where her Konrad Adenauer, an old East German Airbus, took off, according to the New York Times.

But the ash cloud interfered with Merkel’s planned route, so the plane landed in Grand Forks, North Dakota. When it took off again, it went to Lisbon, Portugal. Then on Saturday — a long time after taking off in San Francisco – the plane landed in Rome, Italy.

Merkel then took a bus to Bolzen, in the southern Tirol. She spent the night there and then on Sunday hopped on a bus to reach Berlin.

It was a three-and-a-half day trip to get back home.

“We had a very pleasant time,” she told reporters. “And now we will all be very happy to return home, to Berlin.”

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...