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Friday, November 04, 2011 | Back to Germany

Who would have thought it? My delinquent satnav has now decided to behave itself at last. In Hungary it locks on to the house number like a dream, thus saving me a lot of fiddling with the buttons.

Hungary is the last stop in our epic Go to Brau Beviale tour, before we head back home to Germany. Although we have only two confirmed appointments here, they could be amongst the most interesting of the tour, with two very different companies at opposite ends of the size spectrum. First off is the small filler Hungarospa handling 1 million bottles per year and directly afterwards the biggest of the bottlers visited on the tour, responsible for a total production of 250 million per year, Aquarius Aqua. ... [ Read more ]

Wednesday, November 02, 2011 | Belgrade

There’s fog,there’s thick fog, then there’s Serbian fog. This morning I got up extra early at 4am, anticipating a slow crawl to my first appointment at 8 with Fruvita. I got there at 7, thinking, good, I can have a bit of a rest. No chance. Ivan Petrovic was standing there at the gate, laughing, ready to show me the only KHS aseptic line in the Balkans.

Next we were off to other side of Belgrade, delayed for an hour by congestion due to roadworks. ... [ Read more ]

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 | Serbia

The journey From Romania to Belgrade was frankly a bit of a slog. 50 km / h was the maximum average speed I managed to achieve. The problem this time was not getting the Editourmobil over the mountains, but the unwelcome arrival of a real pea-souper, a thick blanket of fog which greatly impeded progress. Eventually, brilliant sunshine re-appeared and things got better. I had two appointments today in Belgrade, the first being with the market leader in carbonated water, Knjaz Milos, and later Borverk Eurotrade, a manufacturer of preforms. Thanks to the fog, I arrived half an hour late for my appointment. I saw immediately that there were 10 filling lines to get round. All this took time, of course, so I was forced to put back my meeting with Borverk by an hour. When I arrived at their offices Predrag Radovancevic, Director at Borverk, greeted me affably, remarking that “He was pleased that I had managed to make it on time“. This came as a bit of a surprise but I had neglected to take into account that they change the clocks in Turkey from summer to winter time. Much too complex for me! So I arrived half an hour too early rather than too late for my appointment with Knjaz Milos. Well, these things are sent to try us!

When I was planning my visits to Belgrade all the companies seemed to be located in the city centre, so I should have been able to manage 4 visits per day, but I had my doubts. And sure enough, when I got there, I discovered that all the manufacturing sites lay outside the city, only the HQs were in the centre. Fortunately the motorway in Belgrade is a good one, so there should be no problem in making my appointments on time. ... [ Read more ]

Sunday, October 30, 2011 | Romania

Time to say goodbye to Turkey and head towards Romania. In between them lies Bulgaria. Kay has already interviewed the major players so I can just drive through the country. After the never-ending slog from the East to the West of Turkey, this would be my second long haul. It is not helped by the awful road conditions in Bulgaria, so it was a great relief on Sunday evening to be greeted by Tiberiu Bako, General Manager of Bericap, at their offices in Ploiesti, north of Bucharest. Even more welcome was the tasty meal we enjoyed at his local, a fitting reward after an arduous journey.

The pivotal point of the conversation was, horror of horrors (!!), Count Dracula from the Transylvania region, which has belonged to Romania since 1918. Tiberiu was at pains to explain that Count Dracula was not as black as painted, and the stories about him belonged firmly in the realm of fairy tales. We were able to establish, after a few glasses of wine, that there must have been some truth in the stories otherwise why would there be so many films about him. ... [ Read more ]

Saturday, October 29, 2011 | Istanbul: Hasplastik

A new experience this evening, sleeping amongst polyolefin bags. Hasplastik opened their factory doors to me at 10pm so that I had an oasis of calm in the bustling city of Istanbul. Promptly at 9am, Murat Aner, Technical Director of Hasplastik, presents himself at the Editourmobil. This is way beyond the call of duty for him since today is a public holiday in Turkey – independence day. Everywhere, hanging from the windows on every building, flying from cars and flagpoles, the Turkish flag is everywhere. This year the celebrations are somewhat muted, the big firework displays having been cancelled following the earthquake tragedy in Van last Sunday.

Murat takes me round the production area where there are 39 machines manufacturing closures. Most are Netstal machines. The pallets containing all the polyolefin bags, which I was able to see last evening from my window, have now probably disappeared into the various hoppers.

As a parting gift, I receive a bag of closures for our exhibition stand. Murat also promises to come over and bring some new closures, which he cannot for the moment show me. Which reminds me of the stiff challenge awaiting me in the Editourmobil: the luggage compartment. Kay has stuffed it to the brim with luggage, and beer bottle samples for our exhibition. With internal dimensions of 2.2m by 1m by 1.5 m, it is a veritable mountain of stuff. Fortunately, I've only visited the preform and cap manufacturers, and the samples will just about fit in the pocket. Next week, however, I will be visiting some bottlers in Serbia, so I need to do some clearing up and clearing out. ... [ Read more ]

Friday, October 28, 2011 | Eskapet

At Eskapet I am met by Ramazan Akar, who shows me round his brand-new factory. The new location has enabled Eskapet to increase its capacity by 300% up to a throughput of 50,000 tonnes of PET per year. He told me that for every child in Turkey the name Inegöl is synonymous with either meatballs or furniture. I did in fact discover the monument erected to the glory of meatballs, but there was no sign of a similar celebration of furniture. This is no doubt due to the fact that kids prefer eating meatballs to buying furniture.

As I am on my way to Istanbul to see HASplastik I notice from the highway a caravan manufacturer. "Well," I think to myself "I wonder whether there are any water pump specialists around. It’s got to be worth a shot" and indeed, although it is almost closing time, the proprietor of what is the only and therefore the largest caravan manufacturer in Turkey www.basoglucaravan.com.tr comes out to see what the problem is. Fortunately he also has an electrician in tow. The problem is quickly identified, something is broken in the control electronics. So we decide to cut the cable and connect the pump directly to the cigarette lighter. Miraculously it works. It does mean however, that it is no longer possible to enjoy a quiet cigarette whilst simultaneously taking a shower! Happily, that doesn’t affect me as I am a non-smoker. I don’t think that Laika (the suppliers of the Editourmobil) are going to be best pleased at having to sort out the spaghetti junction of cables, but at least I have running water again. The cans will remain as a standby until further notice.

Finally, it will come as no surprise to readers that in Istanbul, the satnav again failed to deliver the goods, but it did give me the opportunity to make the acquaintance of some friendly locals who guided me efficiently to HASplastik. ... [ Read more ]

Thursday, October 27, 2011 | Gaziantep to Bursa

Our starting point today is Gaziantep. Here the drinks industry supplies a huge customer base up to and including the oldest mosques. Indeed, in front of the oldest mosque in Gaziantep, the Ömeriye Mosque, built probably in 1150, (but no-one can say with absolute certainty) I found the Coca Cola delivery truck.

But there are other, more pressing matters, namely the 1050 km journey to my next objective, Eskapet in Inegol near Bursa. The Editourmobil has stood up very well so far to the rigours of the 10,000kms Go To Brau Beviale tour, suffering only minor damage. The driver’s door has been tightened and the loose handle on the bathroom door has been fixed (the correct screws having been brought over from Germany), and a bracket on our pop-up presentation kit has come adrift. The damage was quickly repaired. ... [ Read more ]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 | An incident-packed journey to Köksan

My arrival in Turkey was greeted by a soothing 20 degrees Celsius, yet the heating in the hotel is going at full blast. Apparently they are used to rather higher temperatures here. "In summer the temperature here usually gets up to around 40 degrees," according to Murat Kögoglu, the third generation of the family to run Köksan. With 17 preform production lines under one roof, Köksan is undoubtedly the largest preform manufacturer in Turkey and beyond. Indeed, the company is now big enough to build its own PET polymerisation plant, the foundation stone of which has just been laid by Murat.

Speaking to him was not the problem, the big challenge was actually to find him! Our preparations in Heidelberg via Google Maps had indicated a distance of over 100 km between Gaziantep and the Köksan factory. This would entail hiring a car. As agreed the said hire car duly appeared promptly in front of the hotel. But the satnav I had ordered was missing. A few frantic telephone calls elicited the information that there were no satnavs in the city itself but only at the airport. ... [ Read more ]

Monday, October 24, 2011 | Baton change at Baku

Recent events around the world have been turbulent to say the least, yet here I am calmly boarding the plane from Frankfurt to Turkey to continue the second half of the Editourmobil expedition to the Brau Beviale exhibition. Beneath the plane, the whole of the Balkans and Turkey is gradually unfurling. In the space of a few hours, I've seen from above almost all the places my Editourmobil has spent the last two weeks visiting.

Meanwhile Kay’s adventures continue. He has driven as far as Baku and from there, he’s taken a flight to India. En route, his luggage is lost. Every traveller’s worst nightmare. But how does losing two items of luggage compare with some of the real horrors going on at present? This week has seen the killing or murder of Gaddafi. ... [ Read more ]