The alarm goes off. It seems horrendously early to me. Outside it is still dark, or at least it looks like it, and then I notice that, for the first time on the trip, the sky is completely overcast. Later, as I am making the coffee, I suddenly realise that I need to get something from the “garage” (as I call the storage locker at the back of the Editourmobil which is full of all sorts of stuff). I step outside and it’s freezing. Overnight, the temperature had dropped by about 20 degrees.

To add to the misery, it then begins to rain. Definitely not nice. As I get back inside the van, I realise what the vehicle lacks: a doormat. Of rather more concern is to discover, on a quick inspection, that even this early on our journey, the Editourmobil has already taken a few knocks. The automatic steps are coming loose, and more alarmingly, the front windscreen has a large crack in it. How on earth has that happened? Later, I will also discover that the door sensor on the driver’s side seems wobbly because every so often my screen says that my door is not properly closed. A little later on the courtesy light flickers on and off as if the door were open. That doesn’t bother me too much, if these minor irritations are the only problems I have to worry about, but the windscreen is a different matter. I’ll get it fixed in the middle of the week in Sofia, as I shall be staying there a few days in any case.

I’m back on the outskirts of Zagreb, where I happen to notice an error has crept into the schedule for my interviews. Where I am currently stationed with the vehicle is also the location for my first meeting with Plamegal-Trio in almost exactly 30 minutes time. However, 2½ hours later, my next appointment is with Jamnica, which is 70 km further west. The journey to Zagreb, as I had found out to my cost yesterday, had taken me an hour to cover a mere 30kms. To compound the problem, after Jamnica I have to continue immediately towards Sofia, because I have some important things to do, and little time to do them in. To cap it all, my route will take me through the whole of Serbia. It’s just too much I take an executive decision. I will have to cancel my appointment with Plamegal-Trio. At that moment Mr. Ivo Mrsic, the director of the company, appears and gives me a cheery greeting as he approaches the Editourmobil. There I am, not exactly dressed for the part, in trainers, sports jacket and casual trousers. I run after him and catch him up by the offices for a rapid interview. Fortunately he speaks German so I try to explain the situation in a nutshell. Mr Mrsic proves sympathetic to my plight and after an exchange of business cards, he quickly shows me the company website where, he says, I will find all the information I need. Despite the rush, I ask him if he could give me a quick tour of the company’s products and machinery. Although I am really pleased about this, at the same time I feel pretty bad at disrupting Mr Mrsic’s schedule. He seems to take it in his stride and “fast forwards” the tour. On Nissei ASB machines, Plamegal-Trio produce PET bottles and containers in small quantities and for a number of different applications, mainly in the non-food sector, but also for water and wine.

As individual as each of the packaging is, equally interesting is the design and the closure. I am particularly impressed by a huge wine container (Weiflasche) with a 5l capacity. I take away with me a few product samples, but I really do have to leave, despite Mr. Mrsic and a colleague inviting me to have breakfast with them. Again, I tell them how much I regret not being able to stay any longer, as the thought of breakfast was really tempting. Maybe we will be able to do it some other time. I thank them once again and return to the Editourmobil.

We are now heading off to Jamnica. At the motorway exit I’m picked up by the GEA representative Kernjus Mario, who goes on ahead to show me the way. After about 20 minutes drive through beautiful villages and landscapes, we are there: the Jamnica Jana factory. Mr Darko Vernik is already waiting for us there. Mr Vernik is the manager of the plant, one of three in the area belonging to the Jamnica group. The meeting takes place in an impressive room dominated by an imposing table. Here I learn about the history of Jamnica, key facts about the company and its goals. Mr Vernik then gives me a conducted tour of the production lines which, exceptionally today, stand silent as it is a public holiday in Croatia. This was something I was unaware of and I was therefore all the more grateful that they had both given up their time to talk with me and show me round. I take a few pictures and finally get the Editourmobil on the road once more.

En route to Sofia I go through Belgrade. The buildings testify to the grimness of the socialist era and I find them deadly dull and drab, but at the same time they are a fascinating reminder of another epoch. A sort of grey mist hangs over the town, and by the roadside there is a lot of plastic waste. It’s everywhere, and it occurs to me that drivers’ behaviour here has something Darwinian about it.

It’s late and I need to find somewhere to park up for the night. There are still around 270km to go before I reach Sofia. I’m in a small town, in front of a clearly closed restaurant surrounded by tubs of flowers. Tomorrow, Sofia