Thursday, April 22, 2010

Riding the Bosphorus Express—Istanbul to Munich

For the 150 people attending the European Machine Vision Association Business Conference in Istanbul last week, the meeting began as a fascinating visit to a beautiful city with a rich history, but not one usually on the machine-vision meeting circuit.

As the presentations, market reports, networking, and boat cruise passed, the specter of “The Cloud” from the Icelandic volcano began to dominate everyone’s thinking. European airspace was shutting down as we took a scenic cruise up the Bosphorus past historic Dolmabahçe Palace:

By the last day of the conference--Saturday, April 17--it was clear that all plans to fly home were in jeopardy. I was able to fly out on Sunday because the flight was direct to New York’s JFK and we could skirt the southern edge of Europe.

However, my colleague and Vision Systems Design sales rep, Johann Bylek, had a different adventure on his way home to Munich.

Here is his report:

An unexpected adventure trip from Istanbul to Munich

After the EMVA conference in Istanbul most of the European attendees were not able to fly home because of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud. Most European airports were closed and all flights cancelled. As a result, most people were stuck in Istanbul.

It was nearby impossible to connect with any airline since all telephone lines were overloaded. Rental cars and trains were sold out across Europe, and thousands of passengers were hanging around the airports.

A group of attendees--with special thanks to the “chief coordinator” Dr. Horst G. Heinol-Heikkinen (CEO, Asentics)—began discussing other possibilities to get home.

After many false leads, it was possible to find and hire a Bulgarian bus to drive to Istanbul and pick up a group of 34 people. These passengers would then be driven over 2000 km (about 1250 miles) to Munich. And the cost for the bus and two drivers? About €290 ($385) per passenger.

Starting at 7:00 pm Sunday evening in Istanbul, we reached the Bulgarian border at 10:00 pm. We had to use a side road to avoid the highway customs station where about 200 buses were waiting for immigration.

Pushing on to the Serbian border we had to wait in line for three hours because of six other buses ahead of us--everybody has got a Serbian stamp in their passport. One of our group, Manfred Schaffrath, from Profactor, was picked out for detailed luggage inspection, maybe searching for cigarettes or drugs. We wondered if perhaps he was suspected because he is Austrian!

Driving the whole night and half another day the bus passed Belgrade at 3:00 pm on Monday, and then going further on through Hungary and Austria to Munich.

After a 37 hour bus ride through five different countries with different languages and currencies, the group arrived in Munich on Tuesday morning at 8:00 am. Everybody was tired but happy to be back in Germany.

Images courtesy of Manfred Schaffrath, Profactor

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