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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 ]

Friday, October 21, 2011 | Ell & Nikki

Last night we parked in front of the imposing buildings which house the Ministry for Human Rights, a recommendation from one of the “Kitchenette", who were kind enough to show us the way. Actually we were a bit nervous about parking here. We joked that we would either be towed away during the night or have all the Editourmobil’s wheels clamped. Our fears proved unfounded however and next morning a young security guard knocked at the door and politely asked us to move on. Rolf, who’s taking over the reins, was keen to make an immediate start, so I decided to spend my last night in a hotel situated in Baku’s old town. The streets here are quaint but rather narrow which meant that it was impossible to take the vehicle all the way to the hotel so Rolf parked in a pleasant square and did some sight-seeing whilst I packed my suitcase and collected my things in preparation for my trip to India. ... [ Read more ]

Thursday, October 20, 2011 | Halfway stage!

Regular readers of the blog will be unsurprised to learn that today was yet another early start. Our goal today is Baku, the halfway point of our expedition, and the place where I hand over the reins to my colleagues. Naturally we are running on a very tight schedule ...

The first thing I notice immediately is the heavy police presence. A foreign vehicle, with its bright livery, must present a tempting target and sure enough, the inevitable happens. I’m hauled out of the van, allegedly because I failed to observe some traffic sign or other. Of course there was no such sign. The traffic control is situated on the road, conveniently next to the police station. The officer politely asks me to accompany him to a building with tinted windows from which you can see out but not in. I’ve read and heard a great deal about corruption in these parts and now I find myself enmeshed in it. That will be $500, they tell me matter of factly. I try to explain to them that I am a journalist, ... [ Read more ]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | Yerevan to Baku

After I had completed my reports yesterday, I decided to go to the same car park I had previously chosen. It’s calm here and relaxing – at least that’s what I thought. Scarcely had my head touched the pillow than there was a furious knocking at the door. What on earth! I staggered sleepily to the door to discover no fewer than eight policemen looking up at me. Apparently they can’t quite make up their minds whether I and/or the vehicle constitute a major traffic hazard. They examine my passport and go through the vehicle documents and everything seems to be OK. Perhaps I can now get some sleep? No such luck. A little bit later there is again a knock at the door and slightly fewer policemen indicate that they would like me to accompany them to the police station which, I now realise, is just across the way. After some explanations in a rather sparsely-furnished room, everything seemed to be in order, and, once they had noted my passport number, I was able to get back to bed. ... [ Read more ]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | Yerevan

A few words about Yerevan. I was surprised to learn that it is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, dating back nearly three thousand years. It lies in the valley of Mount Ararat, where biblical tradition holds that Noah built his ark. The city, and Armenia itself, have seen turbulent times, not least as a Soviet satellite but now it is the bustling capital of the country and proud of its heritage. ... [ Read more ]

Monday, October 17, 2011 | From Georgia to Armenia

Following the pattern of the past few days I am up with the lark. It is still dark. The petrol pump attendant is also awake and regarding with interest the goings-on around the vehicle. (I’ve just stepped outside to get a bit of fresh air). Across the road, there is another group of curious onlookers who are probably waiting patiently for the bus to work. But I have no time to lose. After a rapid breakfast and my daily dose of caffeine, I get in the cab and set off on the long drive to the Armenian border. This potentially daunting prospect is somewhat lightened by some of the sights I encounter which make up for the not-so-good roads and the hours spent behind the steering wheel. ... [ Read more ]

Sunday, October 16, 2011 | Onward to Yerevan

Another early start, heralded this time not by my alarm clock but by the urgent call of the muezzin. Today I am going to try to get to Yerevan, but whether I will get there or not remains to be seen. Who knows what the roads will be like? We will find out very shortly. As it happens, I reach the border with Georgia at around midday, with everything going super-smoothly. The border officials are very co-operative and I give them a brief inspection tour of the Editourmobil. Then they wave me onward with a cheery "welcome to Georgia." ... [ Read more ]

Saturday, October 15, 2011 | Across Turkey

A quiet night in Altintas. No rain and no street noise. The only disturbance is the muezzin calling the faithful to morning prayer at 5.00am. I wake up briefly then go back to sleep until 6. The distances between calls are now noticeably longer and I have to leave in the dark to make sure I arrive on time wherever I am heading. ... [ Read more ]

Friday, October 14, 2011 | Altintas

It is about 8 am when I get back on the road. During the night there was heavy rain and a fierce storm, so much so that the rain hammering on the roof kept me awake. Before me is Istanbul, a grey and monotonous sight due to the continuous rain and for the first time for ages there is heavy traffic, and even worse, severe hold-ups. I drive over a bridge and reach the Asian part of town. I have to turn off here for the appointment with Danone, which is not yet confirmed. ... [ Read more ]

Thursday, October 13, 2011 | From Bulgaria to Turkey

Today I take my leave of Sofia and point the Editourmobil in the direction of Turkey.
Victor, the Iveco manager, had put his premises at my disposal for a further night, which was handy as it is situated directly on the motorway for Istanbul. ... [ Read more ]

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | Windscreen repair

I have a lot to write about but my priority is to get the broken windscreen repaired. After a rapid breakfast, I bring all the visit reports and notes from yesterday up to date, and then, thanks to efficient backup from our Heidelberg office, I make contact with the local Iveco Service office and arrange for the repair. By early evening, having purchased some food from Kaufland (wow, that exists here, too) I set off for Iveco, so that the windscreen is replaced promptly tomorrow, and also to get myself a berth for the night. ... [ Read more ]

Monday, October 10, 2011 | Gotmar / Index-6

Two appointments today which I assumed were close to Sofia. To my dismay, I discover that they are 150 km to the northeast. It's raining cats and dogs, and the numerous potholes on the highway are full of water. I eventually arrive at Saedinenie where I meet up with Gotmar, who knows all there is to know about plastic packaging and parts. With the delay caused by the weather, it’s already midday when I arrive and Lydia, assistant to my contact Dimo Golev, production manager for preforms, greets me at the gate and kindly invites me to lunch, which was not a moment too soon. ... [ Read more ]

Sunday, October 9, 2011 | Sofia

We are now heading for Sofia. The road stretches before me and it’s not long before the highway gives way to a kind of country road where progress is slow. At least this gives me plenty of time to think about my experiences so far.

The landscape is changing. The gentle hills slowly become impressive cliffs and I make good progress along the valley. I am not impressed by the drivers in front and behind me, who seem to be getting more and more aggressive. Finally, I reach the Bulgarian border. I should perhaps take a break here, as so far there have been no traffic hold-ups despite my encountering one or two roadworks. ... [ Read more ]

Saturday, October 8, 2011 | Jamnica

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. ... [ Read more ]

Friday, October 7, 2011 | Radenska

All good things must come to an end and in this case, that means the weather. When I get up, it’s pouring with rain and overnight the temperature has dropped by about 15 degrees. It’s perishing cold, at least until the Editourmobil heating system starts to crank into action.

Big plans today: first on the list is an appointment with Radenska, the flagship brand of Pivovarna Lasko. I am greatly looking forward finally to having my first taste of the famous water. Mr Martin Lah, technical department manager, comes over to the gate to meet me, and to my delight, gives me a surprise introduction to the world of water, namely an umbrella! It is pelting down with rain and the umbrella thankfully prevents us getting soaked to the skin before we reach the office. ... [ Read more ]

Thursday, October 6, 2011 | Pivovarna

The next morning starts early and noisily, because a friendly forklift driver is moving the logs first to the left then to the right and in between cutting the grass.

I'm off to my next interview, to Pivovarna Union.

Mr Varsek, the technical director, greeted me kindly, and to my surprise, the interview is conducted entirely in German. Mr Varsek told me later that his language skills were down to a year he spent in Graz. ... [ Read more ]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 | Slovenia

My day begins in Podmolnik. Here I found a beautiful spot to park the Editourmobil and spent a peaceful night.

After breakfast I managed to arrange, at short notice, an interview with Dana dd in Mirna. Mr Mitja Majzelj greeted me warmly and took time to tell me about the company’s products as well explaining their vision for the future, and finally to take me on a conducted tour of the facility. Based in the region for nearly 60 years, Dana has been supplying drinks as varied as non-carbonated water, premium spirits, syrups, trend / sports drinks, soft drinks and juices, both locally and internationally. The packages range from PET to glass in the premium segment to Combibloc in the fruit juice division. ... [ Read more ]

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 | Onward to Ljubljana

I am woken up early by the cows of our hospitable farmer.

After two cups of coffee and an Austrian-style breakfast, it’s time to head off towards Slovenia.

I decide to give the motorway a miss and instead take the tourist route over the Katschberg Pass. The Millstädter lake provides a pleasant and welcome mid-morning break before I make my way to the border crossing and on to Ljubljana. ... [ Read more ]

Monday, October 3, 2011 | The tour begins

Time flies, as the saying goes. And more especially in these final moments of getting everything ready, – it has cost me the weekend but flexibility is the name of the game.

Half six in the morning, I’m tired and in an hour I’m supposed to be on the road.

Motivated, but bleary-eyed, I stagger into the Editourmobil. I’m pretty confident I haven’t forgotten anything. Well, I hope not, since the van is packed to the gunnels. Finally we’re ready for the off. ... [ Read more ]

September 2011 | Meetings with Customers

There is still so much to do. Our sponsors, Messe Nürnberg and other supporting PET firms opened the door for our initial contact with their customers at whose premises the actual meeting for the interview would subsequently take place. The approach when it comes to agreeing dates for meetings is as a rule instigated via the respective regional representatives of the machine manufacturer who kindly give us an introduction to their customers and then organise contact with us. An undertaking which would test my nerves to the limit and still does so. On the way from the headquarters to see the regional manager, then from the regional manager to the customer and finally from the customer back to us there are a remarkable number of variables that raise doubts in one’s mind as well as endless time costs – and all this even when all parties concerned have a commitment to the job. This is probably not least due to the availability of the different people in this complex chain; after all, everyone concerned has their hands full permanently and are not always on site. ... [ Read more ]

July & August 2011 | The talks with the sponsors

I established contact with those machine manufacturers we felt might be considered as supporters. The thoroughly positive feedback once they heard about the tour confirmed me in my determination and motivated me for the coming weeks. In spite of an exchange of contacts and information which was sluggish in terms of time due to the summer holiday period, I felt that these two months had an incredible effect. ... [ Read more ]

June 2011 | Initial preparations

The concept had been defined and the individual tour points roughly determined. Messe Nürnberg had been informed, they thought it a very good idea and announced that they would give us support on the marketing front. Now we were ready to embark on the first planning phase of the tour as such. We drew up list after list of all the things we would need for such a lengthy trip. The lists were endless. And pretty soon we were able to see from calculations what "the trip" would entail in terms of costs. One thing was clear: we needed some support here. Whom could we ask and who would enjoy getting involved in a tour of this kind? Some pivotal machine manufacturers with whom we had been working consistently for years and who maintain a constant presence in these regions and whom we know well were sounded out. ... [ Read more ]

May 2011 | The idea is born

A camper van is an expedition vehicle pure and simple. The idea of using a holiday home as a fact-finding bureau came to us over lunch at our favourite Italian restaurant round the corner from our offices. What could we possibly do that would be simply extraordinary? With the Brau Beviale Fair in Nuremberg in mind, we thought "let’s criss-cross Europe and find out what is really going on in the various markets". And thus was born the idea of the camper van. The “we” in this case consists of Alexander Büchler and me, Kay Krüger. ... [ Read more ]