dBx Acoustics Goes Global

dBx Acoustics’ First International Project

Ten days ago we got a phone call about a fee proposal we had written in 2016. This in itself is unusual, as our clients often need our services in a hurry and so we usually know quite quickly if a bid has been successful or not. Things quickly became even more unusual though – ‘We need you to come to site as soon as possible. And the client has relocated from Liverpool to Slovakia, is that ok?’

Cue much excitement in the office, checking flights, looking for decent places to stay which wouldn’t cost the client a fortune, and wondering where the heck Slovakia is anyway. It turns out that if you want to fly to Bratislava from Manchester it’ll take you about 13 hours. Better to fly to Vienna, and rent a car.

I know. The humanity, right? We’ll have to go to Vienna too.

Obviously when I say ‘we’ this wasn’t really a two person job. There’s no better man for hanging around in a car manufacturing plant measuring noise levels than Chris. But I take my responsibilities as a caring employer seriously and felt that I really couldn’t let him venture into foreign lands alone. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Fortunately food and drink in Slovakia is insanely cheap – you can drink two litres of beer and dine on the biggest pizza you ever saw for about a fiver – so the only real additional cost in me tagging along was the airfare which dBx generously agreed to pay for!

Remembering that when Norman Foster’s architects go away on their Xmas party they fly on two separate planes so that the whole company can’t be wiped out, I flew out on Sunday night and Chris flew on Monday. This meant I had Monday to hang around in Vienna so I did what my mother always taught me to do and went on a bus tour around the city. I didn’t have time for any deep exploring but it’s definitely a place I would like to return to and get to know better. I spent a couple of hours sitting in the Stadtpark with my laptop, then off to the airport to do battle with the rental car people.

Our hire car was an adorable Fiat 500 convertible. We spent the first few miles heading towards the Slovakian border munching on salami sticks and discussing who should be Thelma and who should be Louise. Well, that and me freaking out about driving on the wrong side of the road, wondering what the speed limit was, and discovering that Slovakian drivers have a bad habit of riding millimetres off your bumper at 140 kph.

It’s only about an hour from Vienna to Bratislava on the border, and another hour or so from there to Nitra where we were working. After a night of football, beer and pizza (too much garlic. I think I can still taste it.) it was off early the next morning to the Client’s plant to actually do some work.

Unfortunately, the plant is in the middle of a new and incomplete industrial area. It was one of those classic situations where you could see it but you couldn’t get to it – from what I understand the road system changes daily and even the employees get lost! But we made it in the end and having waved Chris goodbye, I set off into the town to have a quick look around and then find another park bench to sit on and do some work. We will do a case study about the actual project we were working on at some point, I promise.

With all the measurements done, it was time to go exploring. Nitra itself is a sweet town, really not a tourist trap but has some nice churches and architecture and a lot of charm. I was delighted to discover that on the high street (and we saw this in Bratislava too) there are arches which mist water for you to walk through and cool down. What a great idea! It was also in Nitra that I saw possibly my favourite sculpture ever – with one, winking, owl imposter. No idea what that’s about but it did appeal to my sense of the absurd.

Determined to get back to our Air BnB in Vienna in time for the football (England vs Colombia), Chris wouldn’t let me go to Budapest but did humour me crossing the border and dipping into Hungary, just so that I could say I had been there. We also spent a couple of hours looking around the castle and old town in Bratislava which was beautiful – again a place I would like to get to know better.

We stumbled across the statue of Cumil the Sewer Worker, admired the stunning view from the castle across the Danube, had a moment of going ‘full tourist’ while buying presents, and stood for quite a while in the water misters while admiring the architecture – it was REALLY hot.

I liked how the character of the old town changed so quickly – you could be in a street of tourist shops one moment, then faced with the old city wall and some run down buildings the next. As with everywhere we went, people were friendly and the streets were immaculately clean and felt very safe.

After all these excursions we made it back just in time to sample a few more local ales, giggle about eating ‘Knackers’, accidentally eat the chocolates I had bought for my in-laws, and hide behind cushions to watch the penalty shoot out. It was time for me to head back, but Chris stayed on to have a day in Vienna for himself and was last seen playing Mortal Kombat on our host’s collection of arcade games.

Now for the hard work – processing the data and turning it into something which answers the Client’s questions about noise in their plant. It was great to have the opportunity to see some new places, though, and we hope that we’ll be able to explore some more of Europe soon!