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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 ]