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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.

A nuisance, but not a real problem, since my appointment was not until 12. So off I went to the airport. There, the car hire manager showed me two different satnavs, both of which only had menus in Turkish, unfortunately. “We’ll sort it somehow” was my first thought, but after five minutes I gave up and the car hire people kindly offered to help me enter Köksan’s address. Easier said than done, as it turned out. The menu was so baffling that it took nearly an hour to enter the address successfully. Then came another surprise. The factory was only 40 kilometres away. A quick call to Köksan confirmed that they were indeed just down the road from me.

Unfortunately the satnav proved temperamental, giving only a partial view of the whole itinerary. This meant that I had to trust my intuition, driving more or less blindly over junctions and intersections. Surprisingly this worked out very well, and I didn’t once take a wrong turning. There was the Ytong stoneworks, but no sign anywhere of Köksan. I reach an industrial estate and no sign there either of anyone who could speak English. Nonetheless, a great many people I met on the way to Köksan did actually help me: the cheerful security guard at Ytong who with a lot of arm-waving got me back to the main road, the friendly truck driver who pointed me in the right direction, the guy at the snack shop who first invited me to have a cup of tea, then showed me where I needed to cross the motorway. And then, suddenly, there I was, right in front of the Köksan building. The moral of the story? Forget about satnavs, you are better off asking the way, you’ll get to know an awful lot of helpful and pleasant people.
PS: Köksan was barely 20 km from the city...