A normal flight from San Francisco to Berlin can take up to 12 hours, depending on conditions. When a blanket of volcanic ash is covering Europe, the journey can take a bit longer. Just ask Chancellor Angela Merkel...
On Thursday, Merkel had no idea what was waiting for her
On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took an armoured limousine from Rome to Bolzano, in northeast Italy, on the next stage of an increasingly complicated return trip from the the United States.
She was already travelling for 36 hours trying to get to from San Francisco to Berlin with an entourage of some 60 officials and reporters following close behind in a bus.
Merkel's plane was diverted to Portugal on Friday, enabling her to spend a night in Lisbon due to the cloud of ash from Iceland that has brought hundreds of flights across Europe to a halt.
She flew as far as Rome on Saturday but could get no further by air.
A surprisingly cool Merkel was quoted after arriving in Rome as saying she would "take things as they come."
Merkel will spend the night in Bolzano and is to continue her journey home on Sunday.
A deputy government spokeswoman said on Saturday that the chancellor would "regrettably" not be able to attend the funeral of President Lech Kacynski and his wife, which is planned for Krakow on Sunday.
Editor: Andreas Illmer