Traveling Norwegians, grounded by a volcano in Iceland, turned to creative solutions. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg ran the government from a hotel in New York, Crown Prince Haakon tried traveling through the tunnel from London, and strangers agreed to share cabins on ferries from Norway to Germany and Denmark.
There was no lack of ingenuity as stranded but determined travelers tried to reach their destinations. Others had to simply stay where they were and make the best of it.
Norway’s prime minister, for example, was at the airport in New York Wednesday evening, ready to fly home to Norway after a busy week of high-level travel in Mexico and the US. He’d been on an official visit to Mexico City last weekend and then attended US President Barack Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, before heading up to New York for a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
But when it became clear Stoltenberg’s flight to Oslo wouldn’t be taking off, he and his staff headed back into Manhattan and he spent Thursday working from a suite at the Intercontinental Hotel.
“Like so many others, we’re affected by the volcanic eruption and can’t travel,” Stoltenberg told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). He managed, though, to keep working anyway. Hotel staff quickly set up secure phone- and Internet lines and Stoltenberg spent his morning talking on the phone to Iceland’s prime minister, and with the secretary general of NATO, among others. He also was in close touch with his office in Oslo.
“Fortunately it’s still possible to work from here,” Stoltenberg said. “I have all the documents and papers I need from Norway, so it’s no problem.” The prime minister later got a flight to Madrid, where he and his staff landed Friday morning, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Stoltenberg was trying to reach the weekly Council of State at the Royal Palace, always held on Fridays at 11am. His fellow party leader in the coalition government he leads, Kristin Halvorsen, was standing by to take over in his absence.
Royal change of plans
Crown Prince Haakon, meanwhile, faced bigger problems trying to get back to Norway for Friday’s Council of State at the palace. He had been in Qatar with a large government and business delegation, for the opening of a new aluminum plant involving Norwegian interests, but got stuck in London on his way home.
King Harald, who had planned to travel to Copenhagen Thursday for Danish Queen Margrethe’s 70th birthday festivities, was grounded as well and instead looked set to step in for his son and run the Council of State himself, before heading for Copenhagen by car . News bureau NTB reported that Queen Sonja departed ahead of her husband, also by car, Friday morning. Both missed a gala theater performance for the Danish queen Thursday night, but were trying not to miss her party.
Haakon hoped to meet them for the party in Copenhagen. “We’re sitting right now in a car from London,” palace spokeswoman Marianne Hagen told DN by phone. “The plan is to use the tunnel, Dover-Calais, and then drive up to Copenhagen.”
Norway’s Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen managed to get a flight from Qatar to Frankfurt and then up to Gothenburg, Sweden before that airport closed. He and many others who were diverted to Sweden then hired cars and taxis and drove to Oslo. Trains were already packed.
Both Color Line, which runs overnight passenger ferry service to Kiel, Germany and to Denmark, and DFDS, which sails to Copenhagen, quickly filled up as well with stranded airline passengers. Again, creative solutions abounded. When an Australian businesswoman ended up on a long waiting list, a Norwegian couple heading for Berlin offered to share their cabin with her. They became instant friends.
DFDS was setting up mattresses on the floor of its on-board conference facility, to accommodate as many stranded airline passengers as possible.
In another case, a Dutch businessman managed to get a seat on the train from Oslo to Gothenburg. From there he hoped to travel onward by rail to Copenhagen and Amsterdam.