Intro


Hello. My name is Isaac, 35 years old from Vancouver, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s 2013 “Privateering” tour, from April 25 (Bucharest, Romania) to July 31 (Calella de Palafrugell, Spain).

Due to Despite the tour’s obnoxious schedule (thanks, Mark), I cannot be entirely sure that I will attend all concerts. That being said, I will try. You are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read, and comment. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see the “Subscribe for Updates” box at the right hand side of the page. For standard RSS readers, select the “Atom” option).

Have fun,
Isaac

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/isaac_s

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Milano, Italy to Ljubljana, Slovenia (May 4, 2013)

The journey from Milano to Ljubljana was the first smoke test for vicious travel: Waking up at 6:00am, in order to make it on time for the 7:35am train from Milano to Trieste (an Italian city right on the border with Slovenia) arriving 12:08pm, then wait for a couple of hours to take the bus from Trieste to Ljubljana, finally arriving at the latter on 4:15pm. That’s 8 hours and 40 minutes total, out of which 75% are spent inside a vehicle of some sort.

What a way to spend a nice Saturday, but hey, it’s not like there was another proper option to do this travel.

Woke up at 6:00am, and much unlike Richard Bennett, I didn’t go to any gym, partly because I didn’t feel like it but mostly because the hotel I stayed in had no gym.

Quick morning routine, and off to Milano Centrale. Breakfast? sure. Wait. What? Yes, need breakfast: there’s a cafe‐bar in Milano Centrale offering good sandwiches and good coffee. You can either take things to go, or sit down in the premises and have a waiter look after you.

What you can’t (or, at least, shouldn’t) do is seat yourself in the restaurant area and then decide to go grab two bottles of water from the fridge, pay for them at the cashier and return to your table. Do that and you get an angry look from a waiter whose tip prospects have just been decreased by 10% of €4. Ask Jeroen, he knows.

Two sandwiches (each) devoured within the span of approximately five minutes; very good cappuccino and off to Frecciabianca 9707, the train that would take us to Trieste, in the eastern tip of Italy.

For adults purchasing the EURail pass, buying a 1st class pass is the only option; 2nd class can only be purchased by youth and students. Granted, though, it does make a difference. If you are going to be spending hours after hours on trains, might as well spend those hours comfortably. The Frecciabianca offers a moderately good ride in 1st class—no complaints there. You can even buy Wi‐Fi access for the staggering price of €0.01 (and later see that it doesn’t work at all).

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The first part of the journey was spent mostly trying to fall asleep. Shows in Italy start late and end late; combine that with early morning train rides, and you realize that not much time is left for this essential physical activity commonly referred to as “sleep”—and this “sleep” thing is important when you’re going to be spending 3 months on the road.

Alas, falling asleep didn’t work quite well. Completed the previous day’s blog entry and enjoyed the view.

Free drinks are offered for 1st class passengers on this train; a staff member pushes a cart of drinks all throughout the train right after the train leaves each station. After being continuously ignored by the staff for about 3 or 4 stations, I finally got the guy’s attention and asked for orange juice.

I got this:

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Having been born and raised in a country when the word “orange” refers to a fruit that happens to also be of the color named “orange”, I was surprised with the unidentifiable beverage that sneaked onto my tray.

I looked at the guy.

– “Orange juice”, I said slowly, moving my lips in all direction in order to match the visual to the verbal, as if I was trying to explain Einstein’s Private Theory of Relativity to my 78 years old grandmother.

– “Yes”, he said, in fluent English.

– “This is not orange”, I said, curious to know where my massive discovery is going to lead this conversation to.

– “It is a red orange”, he said.

I wanted to ask him “If it is not orange, why are you calling it ‘orange’?” but immediately decided to shut up.

So yes. It tastes (mostly) like an orange, but it is red. Looking into it later, I found out that I was drinking blood. Orange. Blood orange. Well, this.


The first time in my entire life that I heard about the city of Trieste in Italy was when I was trying to plan a route from Milano to Ljubljana to catch this show. As the train made its way closer and closer to Trieste, I realized that eastern Italy—at least the part that borders with Slovenia—may as well be worthy of an in‐depth visit. The area is made up of beautiful hills, rolling into the sea below, with red roofs spotting the valleys below.

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A beautiful sight, when photographed properly.

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Made it to Trieste’s central station on time and decided to get the bus tickets’ ordering over with. The bus ticket from Trieste to Ljubljana was the one and only travel leg in the entire tour that could not be pre‐booked—Veolia (the bus company) still hasn’t quite acknowledged yet that we’re in the 21st century.

According to the map, Trieste’s railway station and bus station are adjacent to each other. Still, you’d be surprised to learn how tricky it was to find out where bus tickets are actually being sold. The entire area was under construction and signing was as effective as it can only be in Italy, which means entirely ineffective altogether. Fifteen minutes were spent rolling luggage around until the bus station’s office was located, a distance of about 50 meters away from the train station.


Decided to have a last Italian meal before bidding Italy adieu for the next two months. Located a restaurant online and started walking to it, a walk that revealed a pretty city.

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The restaurant,Buffet e Trattoria Re di Coppe, is located close to the train station and provides a genuine, simple, Italian dining experience. It is owned by a nice couple, who, despite not being able to communicate well in English, did everything possible to explain the menu and provide recommendations.

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Food was delicious as it was simple: seafood risotto, good espresso and panna cotta. More than enough to get going.

Unfortunately, slightly more than enough.


I made a crucial mistake to have two cappuccinos within five hours of waking up, plus consuming a large bottle of water. Now, caffeine is diuretic, and consuming caffeine and a lot of water right before boarding a bus is, well, how should I put it… insane, especially if the bus you’re taking doesn’t feature a toilet.

The pain started two minutes after we left the station. Miraculously, ten minutes later, the bus made a stop to collect some other passengers. Approached the driver (who left the bus to administer some luggage), and asked him if I could go into the bus station for a minute.

– “No”.

– “OK. Can you tell me if there’s going to be a break any time soon?”

He said nothing and just proceeded back to the bus. I figured that this guy is either completely stupid, completely ignorant or both, so I wouldn’t want to take any chances. Boarded the bus and continued the ride with agonizing pain.

Half an hour later, the bus stopped again, to collect additional passengers. I noticed that the bus is stopped, people coming in, and the driver is busy with his phone, texting. Engine is on.

Minutes passed… nothing happens.

A few more minutes passed with even less happening.

Approached the driver again. “Hi. Can I go outside for a minute?”, I asked.

– “No, I leave in one minute”.

– “Please?”

– “You just had ten minutes. Why didn’t you go?”

I told him that he is a fucking moron, because had he not been a fucking moron, he would simply announce that break, rather than sit on his ass texting the devil about how he’s going to be spending his time in hell once he gets there, hopefully not too far ahead from now.

But not out loud.

– “One minute and I’m back.”

Stormed out of the bus, did whatever needed to be done and, when I was back, the bus was already pulling out of the parking lot.

Once I was back at the bus, I was finally able to enjoy the view. I was told that Slovenia is beautiful, but didn’t know that “beautiful” here also refers to natural scenery. Natural scenery wise, Slovenia reminded me a lot of British Columbia, and had you been to British Columbia before, you’d know how beautiful it is, nature wise.

As the bus made its way through narrow winding roads, I noticed that the driver was texting and driving. So, not only we’re talking about a stupid and ignorant driver, but also a potential killer on the loose. Being a jackass towards a caffeine‐drinking passenger is one thing: risking the lives of dozens of people because you must text and talk while driving a bus, is a completely different thing.

A complaint was filed with the bus company, Veolia Transport.


After a long travel day, finally arrived at Ljubljana’s central bus station.

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The nearby Apple Store caught our eyes.

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Off to the hotel, City Hotel Ljubljana. Nice, clean, spacious—perfect for a city trip, with the only disadvantage of Wi‐Fi not being available in the rooms (LAN access is available, though. Bring your own Wireless Access Point). On the way there, I realized that something is missing.

Something that every city has, and capital cities usually have more of.

People.

Saturday afternoon, beautiful weather; you’d expect Ljubljana’s city center to have at least a decent number of people walking around. Alas, nothing. The streets appeared empty. Are we in the wrong place? is this the capital city of Slovenia? Puzzling.

I had heard before that Ljubljana is pretty, so decided to do some walking. It is, indeed, pretty.

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Shoes, anyone?

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I never quite understood this shoe tossing practice. It happens a lot in North America. I’m often intrigued, thinking what goes through the mind of an individual when they conclude “actually, I could use tying the shoelaces of two shoes together and have the product hanging off an electricity wire”. Wikipedia doesn’t offer much in terms of explaining where & when this practice had originated. If anyone has an explanation, please share.

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Ljubljana’s city center appeared, on this Saturday afternoon, as a very quiet, laid back, pastoral place. I should visit this place again for a more in‐depth acquaintance.

Right at the city center, there’s the famous Ljubljana Castle, which dates back to the 12th century. It was used by the Roman Empire’s army in order to defend against Ottoman invasion. Later (and by “later” I mean 400–500 years later), it served as a military hospital and an arsenal, and later on—as a prison. In 1905, it was purchased by the Municipality of Ljubljana, with the plan of setting up a museum there. Once it was purchased, though, it was used as a temporary place to house poor families. That “temporary” arrangement lasted about 60 years. In the 1960’s, finally, renovations started. Renovations took 35 years (!) to complete.

Nowadays, the Ljubljana Castle serves as a tourist attraction and a preferred location for conducting events such as weddings.

Took the funicular up to see what it’s all about. As soon as the funicular arrived up the hill, it started raining so there wasn’t much to do there except finding shelter. There’s a restaurant up there in the castle, called Gostilna na Gradu. Fine, yet expensive, food.

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Then took the funicular down, enjoying very pretty views of Ljubljana:

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Time to head to the concert. The venue, Dvorana Stožice, is located about 4km away from the hotel. There’s a bus that goes from the city center directly to the venue, and you can ride it for free if you show your concert ticket to the driver. As the tickets were in will‐call, a nice young lad offered to give us his tickets, and he’ll “get by” somehow. He ended up paying for his bus ride. For some reason, when we handed him back his tickets, he refused to accept any sort of compensation for the money he paid for the bus. I didn’t quite understand why, but hey, that’s a nice gesture towards visitors who are clueless about the public transport code of the city.

Minutes later, the entire population of Ljubljana made it into that bus, at least from a sonic perspective. The bus carried about 50 people, but these 50 people made the noise of 272,000. Still, look at the bright side: there are people in this city.

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The venue was pretty to look at from the outside, designed like a shell. It is also huge, a fact learned the hard way through walking about half way around it to find the box office for ticket pickup.

The concert started fifteen minutes later than scheduled, featuring a similar set to the preceding show in Milano.

Sultans of Swing was in absentia again. I am not in the position to make any judgment regarding why this song is absent as this is none of my business and, frankly, I am not even interested in knowing; however, this particular blog is all mine and at the least, I can cast my feeling about it. The feeling is great. I know that I may be stepping on many sensitive toes when stating it: Sultans of Swing is a good, iconic song, but I personally prefer Knopfler’s solo career over almost every Dire Straits material, Sultans of Swing included. You may throw rotten tomatoes at me now.

Another very welcome (in my eyes, at least) change was the substitution of Speedway at Nazareth with Yon Two Crows. The latter has way more options for “growth” than the former, and, to put it simply—I like it better, partly because it’s easier on the ears.

Postcards from Paraguay seems to be serving as a platform for introducing band members, with each band member being introduced along with playing their part in the song’s opening sequence. This song sounds better and better every time it is being played.

The Running of the Bulls took place in an odd timing: right before the encore, after the band returned to the stage. That’s odd. At least, it wasn’t violent this time. Still, I felt bad for the lovely handicap lady who was seated in the front row and had to miss the entire encore because people, standing in front of her, never really bothered to pay attention to the fact that there was a handicap person right behind them.

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Left the venue as soon as humanly possible once the show concluded, as it was expected for roads to be jam packed with taxis, cars and buses after the show. Hailed a taxi and within ten minutes I was back at the hotel, preparing everything for the next morning’s early ride to Zagreb, Croatia.

Isaac

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