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,

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here:

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Istanbul, Turkey to Sofia, Bulgaria (April 28–29, 2013)

The following box shows an extensive list of everything I knew about Sofia before arriving here Sunday morning:


In other words: not much to work with. Not only have I never been here before, but I also can’t recall any time in my life in which I said “I could really use a visit to Sofia right now”.

Which is another positive thing in following a Knopfler tour: you end up visiting places you otherwise wouldn’t think of visiting.

Arriving at Sofia presented the first mental challenge in the tour: waking up at 4:30am, in order to catch the 7:30am Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Sofia.

It was harder than it already sounds.

As we left with the hotel’s shuttle to the airport, looking outside the shuttle’s window I was under the impression that I might be missing something. Sunday, 5:00am, and the streets are filled with people as if it’s lunch time. What on earth is going on here? GO TO SLEEP, PEOPLE. It was as hard navigating the cab between pedestrians (and other vehicles) as it was hard doing so in sane, normal working hours.

Then we got to the airport—Istanbul’s primary airport, named after modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (by the way, here is an interesting piece of trivia: in Turkey, it is illegal to criticize Atatürk and/or his legacy), which presents the fortunate traveller with quite the obnoxious airport experience.

Here’s a tip for you North Americans who are considering visiting Turkey and flying out of Atatürk airport: I know that some, if not most of you, ignore the fine print when flying within North America, advising you to arrive 2–3 hours prior departure.

Once you’re in Turkey, forget about it. Always be on the safe side. There are just too many things happening here.

First, you need to go through security just in order to get into the terminal building. I am not sure why—I’ve never seen it happening anywhere else—but I’m guessing it has something to do with safety precaution against possible terrorist attacks.

The problem (for the passengers) in this security line‐up is that airport & airline staff have precedence. Hence, even a small line‐up can end up taking long minutes to dissolve if a large group of an airline’s staff enters the building.

Check‐in seems to be a huge mess, so try checking in online.

Next up is passport control—the first of two. This takes a long time as each and every passport is thoroughly checked for your entry stamp, and you will be asked questions if your entry stamp isn’t clear enough. Can take about one minute per passenger, so in a line‐up of 50 people with 2 agents working in the passport control booths, you’re looking at a potential 25 minutes wait.

Right after passport control, there’s another, more thorough, security screening. Then, at the gate, there’s yet another passport control process. That I have never seen done before, anywhere.

Much fun and hassle at 5:30am, after having slept about four hours the night before. Boarded the flight on time and passed out in my seat—a rare phenomenon, as it is extremely difficult for me to sleep during flights—being completely oblivious that the flight was delayed by about half an hour. An hour or so later, the plane touched ground in Letishte Sofia‐Vrazhdebna, which, for all practical purposes, will henceforth be referred to as “Sofia’s airport”.

While Bulgaria belongs in the European Union, it is not a part of the European Monetary Union, thus it maintains its own currency (which is good for current EMU member countries; as if the Euro currency is not already in a huge pile of horse manure), called “Lev” and abbreviated “BGN”. One BGN is worth approximately €0.50 and $0.68 CDN.

Hopped on a taxi cab to the city center. It was Sunday morning, hardly a living soul on the streets.

The hotel, Hotel Sofia Place, is conveniently located in the city centre, and save for having no air conditioning in the month of April, is quite good.

The last paragraph requires elaboration.

Weather forecast called for about 28℃. Having lived in Canada for the last ten years, with Vancouver’s summer fluctuating around the 24℃ mark, it was quite expected that the first thing I was going to do was to charge at the air conditioner and attempt to operate it—a rather simple operation that had triggered a very interesting learning experience.

Quite expectedly, nothing worked. Minutes after reporting it, we got a call from the front desk saying that the air conditioning will not work today, and possibly not tomorrow. “No problem then”, I said; “let’s move to another hotel”, which is more or less when things started to get really strange.

As I was searching for a hotel, Jeroen went downstairs to talk to the front desk guy and inform him that we’re leaving. Here’s how the conversation went:

Jeroen: We are not happy with the fact that the air conditioning isn’t going to be working, as the weather calls for 28℃ and we are thinking about moving to a different hotel.

Attendant: What can I do for you?

Jeroen: Well, we would like to check out and go to a different hotel.

Attendant: Have you tried opening the windows?


Jeroen: No.


Jeroen: But we were specifically looking for a hotel room with air conditioning, so we’re interested in moving to a different hotel.

Attendant: All other hotels in the city will probably have the same problem.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I found the attendant’s last statement to be somewhat puzzling. Yet, I checked. Called up the nearby Best Western—a respectable 4 star hotel—and inquired about the workability of their air conditioning system.

What do you know… Same issue. “We don’t have air conditioning today, but we will most likely have it working tomorrow. But we can’t promise anything.”

(On a side note, opening the windows did help.)

More than I was frightened of the prospect of spending two days in a boiling hotel room, I was intrigued to know what the HELL is the problem this city has with air conditioning. After a few attempts to find out, it turned out that the reason has to do with how piping works in most hotels in the city center area. The same pipes are being used for both heating and cooling, and there’s a system that is tuned to switch into “cooling mode” on exactly May 1.

Is it possible to set it to “cooling mode” earlier? probably. Can you get to anyone who would take such decision? no.

Also, the western visitor to Bulgaria is likely to discover that everything here is cheap. There’s a sad reality behind this. Bulgaria’s economy was never really strong, and is nowadays going through a difficult financial crisis: unemployment is high and electricity—while costing less than anywhere else in the European Union—is still very expensive considering the fact that the average wages are about €400 per month (that’s $530 CDN) and the median wages are much lower, at the €250–300 range.

Recently, riots ensued in Bulgaria, demanding that the government is to be sent either to home or to hell, whichever is closer. I was told that people reached a situation when they can’t pay their bills anymore. As finances is one of my hobbies, I had to inquire further; and as annoying people with in‐depth examples is another one of my hobbies, here are some numbers.

€0.0846 per kWh (price of electricity in Bulgaria) means that a person consuming 100 kWh ends up spending €8.46, which, considering Bulgaria’s average salary, is 2.115% of their wages.

Compare with Vancouver, Canada. But here, let’s give Bulgaria a head start. Instead of comparing to Vancouver’s average wage, we’ll compare it to the minimum wage. The minimum wage is $10.25 CDN per hour. Assume 180 working hours per month, you get $1,845 CDN.

Electricity costs $0.068 CDN per kWh (according to my most recent bill); 100 kWh costs $6.80 CDN.

Hence, 100 kWh costs the Vancouverite earning minimum wage about 0.36% of their salary.

In total: the financial burden on a Bulgarian earning average wages when paying their electricity bill is almost 6 times (!!!) heavier than it is for the Vancouverite earning minimum wage.

To that, add the fact that Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada when it comes to overall cost of living.

That, like many other things recently, set me off to do some thinking. Obviously, the initial reaction to finding out that air conditioning is kaput for the next two days is disappointment and frustration. But really, wouldn’t it be considered selfish to feel bad about something like this? Perhaps these negative emotions are the direct result of myself taking things for granted.

Now, you might think that “electricity” is such a basic commodity that it’s natural to take for granted; I know I did. But then you come to realize that, what you consider in life to be so basic and elementary, is more than likely a big bonus in the grand scheme of things. In other words: instead of bitching about not having enough electricity to cool you off in the hot summer days in Sofia, perhaps it’d be prudent if you shut the hell up and be thankful for having the privilege to have such elements so readily available to you in your own home.

After catching up with some much needed sleep, we set off to the central bus terminal to complete one of the two missing links in our travel plans: bus tickets from Sofia to Belgrade on April 30, as these could not be purchased online (the other missing link is the bus ticket from Trieste, Italy to Ljubljana, Slovenia next week).

Long walk to the central bus station:


Very handsome central bus station building. Too bad it’s the domestic one; the international bus station is across the street, looking much less pleasant.

After spending about 45 minutes waiting in line, we were sent back in shame as it turns out that you need to present a passport when purchasing a ticket (makes absolutely no sense to me, but nevertheless).

Back to the hotel to do some work, and then decided to try the bus station once again and get the tickets’ purchase over with. A subway ride seemed more appropriate. Sofia’s underground system—at least, the part that runs south to north—is relatively new, less than a year old.


There, we met with Slavina, whom I met a few years ago in London and kept in touch with since. Slavina is local to Sofia, and was very helpful in ensuring that the tickets purchased were really what we were looking for.

(You would think that the international bus terminal in Sofia will be manned with English speaking personnel. Think again.)

After that, a stroll in Sofia’s main entertainment avenue along with Slavina, taking a few shots along the way:


A few drinks on a curb‐side patio, until Slavina’s friend, Maya, joined and demonstrated to me that it is physically and mentally possible to drink coke and espresso at the same time and actually enjoying it. Bloody absurd, I’d say. In proper countries, doing something like this would cost you a night in jail.


Hours passed quickly until we all bid each other adieu at around 11:00pm. Back to the hotel to catch up with some work.

First day in Sofia turned from absolute boredom to quite the enjoyment thanks to Slavina and her friend Maya who joined us later. Hats off to them.

Dreading the upcoming nine days, which are going to be the hardest travelling days in the entire tour, a joint decision was made to keep effort levels to a minimum on Monday, the day of the show. Caught up with work, great lunch in Cactus conveniently located about a block away and I was all set to keep to myself in the hotel room until I realized that the next 9–10 days are going to be hell, and it’s time to do the laundry.

I don’t understand what’s going on inside the head of a hotel owner when coming up with a price list for laundry. €1 for washing (drying not included!) a pair of underwear? You can’t be serious. This is Sofia; you should be able to buy an underwear factory for €1. €4 for washing one shirt?

Naturally, we set out to look for a laundry place. Found it. “Do you speak English?”, I asked. “No”, she said. Goodbye.

Alright, Sofia, you wanna play tough? I’ll hand‐wash my underwear, I said. And I did. Now how do you dry them?

This is very simple to do when you happen to carry a 3 meters long LAN cable that you’re unlikely to use. Luckily, the hotel room had a balcony.


Took the opportunity to take a few pictures of the view from the hotel’s balcony:


Short stroll down the street for some coffee:


The night before, Slavina offered to join her and her friend, Maya, for a short trip to the nearby mountains.

I have a long‐running romance with mountains. Mountains were the reason why I fell in love with the city of Vancouver in the first place, and is also why I decided to finally move there two years ago—the Get Lucky tour providing another great deal of motivation. There are at least four things I can hardly say “no” to, and being in the vicinity of mountains is one of them.


Sofia is surrounded by mountains, which look quite pleasant when viewed from the city centre and look even better up close. The destination: a desserts shop called “Romance” (although there’s nothing romantic about it, at least not in day time), offering a very nice view of Sofia from the top.


Wonderful desserts, plus I got proof for the coke & espresso nonsense:


Headed back to the hotel, and then off to the venue for tonight’s concert.


The National Palace of Culture consists of various halls and theaters, and as far as I am concerned, it wins the title of “the most poorly signed venue in the history of venues”.

I have watched this band perform approximately 150 times before, in many venues in many countries. Never was the experience of actually obtaining the physical paper ticket so annoying and stressful. After about 20+ minutes circling this giant complex, I still had no idea where the tickets are to be collected. Luckily, Slavina was on site and showed us the way—a small hidden doorway, leading to a set of stairs, behind which there is one small counter (practically invisible).

Now back in the venue:


The stage contained this:


Which implied that a new song was going to be played. The show kicked off about ten minutes past 8 o’clock, to the sound of massive cheers.

When it was the time for the third song, Richard Bennett took a seat next to the pedal steel. During the joint Dylan‐Knopfler tour, Redbud Tree was played with a lap steel guitar, so I thought we were going to hear that song again, until the opening C chord was played.

Redbud Tree doesn’t start with a C, but Seattle does. Talk about a surprise—definitely a favourite from Knopfler’s latest album. Beautiful live arrangement that just works, and by the looks of it, the band definitely enjoyed playing it.

Seattle is a nice city, but I’m much more in favour of that other city that is located approximately two hours and a half north of it, across the border. Homesickness kicked in and failed to depart until the next morning.

What else we had? an ecstatic audience, a cute young boy sitting on his father’s lap at the front row, seeming to enjoy every minute of this wonderful show. We also had a Sultans of Swing solo that was rather different than the usual line, and an aggressive Hill Farmer’s Blues solo worth listening to.

The second surprise came at the encore. As Brothers in Arms was skipped, So Far Away was played and I was under the impression that the show is over. Fortunately, the band had other plans. Piper to the End, the concluding song from Get Lucky that was played in 86 out of the 87 Get Lucky concerts in 2010, concluded the show. It was a real treat listening to this wonderful tune again, played live. Whoever went to a few shows in 2010 and listened to Piper to the End being played live, must know what I’m talking about.

After the show, we remembered that we need to buy some sandwiches for the next morning as we’ll be taking an early bus drive to Belgrade. Stopped over at a local cafeteria for a sandwich and a couple to go, and off to the hotel to pack.

Concluding this post from the hotel room in Belgrade. What a hectic day, I tell you…


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bucharest, Romania to Istanbul, Turkey (April 26–27, 2013)

Disclaimer: This post is likely to end up being a long one.

Of all the cities going to be visited by this tour, Istanbul is the one—and only one—city, that I considered skipping.

The reason had nothing to do with not wanting to go, though.

To understand why, some background is needed.

I happen to have been born in a country named Israel. Israel, as most of you probably know, isn’t exactly a problem‐free country. I am definitely not going to delve into politics here—heck, that would take forever—but let’s agree that, at the outset, Israel’s problems (as reflected in worldwide media) revolve around international politics and security.

Turkey’s population consists mostly of Muslims. That being said, it is—and has been, for a long time—generally secular. That allowed Turkey and Israel to maintain rather special relationship (Turkey was the first Muslim majority country to recognize the State of Israel after its establishment in May 1948). In a world when the words “Israel” and “Islam” can barely be expressed in the same sentence without igniting fire, the Israel‐Turkey relationships were truly one of a kind, involving extensive trade and military cooperation.

Since the late 1980’s until the end of the first decade of the 21st century, Turkey was an extremely popular destination for Israeli tourists. Around 500,000 Israelis toured Turkey every year, flocking its wonderful beaches, its all‐inclusive resorts and its renowned markets. Many of my family members visited Turkey way more than once or twice; I never have.

Everything was just fine between the two countries until December 2008, when the Israeli military launched Operation Cast Lead against Palestinian militants. Turkey’s stance during the conflict wasn’t favourable to Israel; as a result, Israel’s tourism minister at that time has decided to demonstrate his immense stupidity by advising Israelis to boycott Turkey as a tourism destination. That resulted in a significant drop in the number of Israeli tourists in Turkey—from 560,000 in 2008 to 110,000 in 2010.

Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, there was the 2010 Gaza Flotilla Raid incident. In May 2010, a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip refused to listen to Israeli navy orders, ordering the flotilla to be inspected in Israel prior to the goods being shipped to the Gaza Strip (the Gaza Strip was under a blockade at that time; it still is).

The raid started with Israeli commando fighters being landed on the flotilla. Video footage shown that the commando fighters did not initially use power—to the contrary: they were brutally attacked by dozens of people carrying sticks, knives and whatnot—and ended with nine Turkish activists dead, and many others wounded, including Israeli soldiers.

What happened in between? that highly depends on who you ask. Turkey, Israel as well as the United Nations have all conducted their own investigations. The last investigation, also called The Palmer Report, was headed by New Zealand’s Prime Minister and decided that, when all is said and done, neither side displayed perfect reasoning to its actions.

Israel refused to apologize to Turkey for the incident. As a result, The Israel‐Turkey relationship deteriorated even further, to the point that it became unsafe for Israeli citizens to even visit Turkey due to the Turkish public’s anger over the flotilla raid.

When the Istanbul show was announced, the Israel‐Turkey relationship were still sour. That prompted me to heavily consider whether I should travel there at all, with the scale tipped towards “yes” primarily due to the fact that I also am a Canadian citizen. Needless to say, I was still pretty tight about the issue.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago—close to three years after the flotilla raid—that Israel’s Prime Minister finally agreed to apologize to Turkey, much due to efforts by President Barack Obama. Since then, the Israel‐Turkey relationship has been warming up again; still, there is a way to go.

Why can’t we all just get along, it’s what I say.

Early morning ride from Bucharest’s old city to the airport, as the flight to Istanbul was scheduled to depart shortly before 9:00am. The worst thing about it was that I had to skip the hotel’s breakfast, which was one of the best breakfasts I have ever had in any hotel, anywhere. Instead, we had to settle for a mediocre meal near the departure gate, with the seemingly usual Romanian approach towards service—one waiter per 8,000 diners. Close to an hour was spent there, out of which about 15 minutes were spent eating breakfast.

Back at the gate, I somehow was able to let go of the worries regarding visiting Turkey. I would expect to be very nervous, but oddly enough, I didn’t really care anymore. I come in peace, and that’s what really matters.

Short haul flight—less than one hour—and we arrived at Istanbul Atatürk Airport. Bags quickly collected, hotel’s taxi driver quickly located, and off we left the terminal building en route to the city.

Welcome to Istanbul.

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and is its economic, trade and financial center. Population is a little short of 14 million. It is split between two continents, Europe and Asia, divided by the Bosphorus—which also happens to be one of the busiest waterways in the world.

I am trying to gather my thoughts about this city and, frankly, I don’t know where to start. This city is so different from anything I had ever experienced before: westerners who are accustomed to western lifestyle are extremely likely to experience a massive culture shock (not necessarily a negative one!) once being faced with this beautiful city, its rich heritage dating back to around 660 BC, its genuine people and—of course—the food (we will get to that later).

This is a city with some rich history. Istanbul has been, at times, the capital city of not one but four different empires: the Roman, the Byzantine, the Latin and the Ottoman. Talk about heritage!

In 2010, Istanbul was the tenth most popular tourist destination in the world with 7 million tourists. Seven million. One city! Can’t get my head around this.

Before coming here, I was told the following about Istanbul, from people who had visited here numerous times:

  • Don’t even think about driving a car in Istanbul. Never assume anything about traffic control: red lights and “no entry” signs don’t do much more than serve as a guideline.
  • Turkish drivers are the craziest drivers in the world.
  • The Turkish cuisine is one of the best cuisines on the planet.
  • The best way to explore this city is by foot.

The first two points took exactly 5 minutes to verify as we were making our way to the hotel. I have been to many countries before; I was certain that, of the countries that I had been to, Israelis are the worst drivers. I didn’t really know what to expect.

So let me tell you: at least in Istanbul, there is not much difference between the road and a jungle. “Survival of the fittest”? Istanbul’s road scene is a great case in point. The concept of “Right of way” doesn’t exist here. Road courtesy? YEAH RIGHT. Speed limit? our driver drove 130km/h on a 70km/h road, just to catch up with the traffic in front of him.

Once the highway ride was over, there was no longer a reason to be afraid of the vast speed. The fear of crashing into a post in 130km/h has been substituted with the fear of crashing into other cars and—more than anything—pedestrians. As the taxi made its way towards the district of Taksim, the streets became narrower and narrower, literally flooded with people. Cars driving with the flow of traffic and against it; pedestrians everywhere. There are close to 14 million people in this city, which is, coincidentally, the same number of almost‐accidents I was witnessing.

Finally, after about 40 minutes, arrived at the hotel: Plussuite Hotel, located a few minutes walk from the popular Taksim Square. About an hour later, got ready for some walking and left the hotel towards the old city area.

(The owners and operators of this hotel are of the nicest, most helpful hotel staff I have ever came across. It is strongly recommended.)


Long, long walking day. Walked all the way from the hotel down to the old city area, passing through the tourist‐famous Istiklal Avenue. The latter is the very center of all tourist traps known to mankind, and aggressively caters itself to westerners. Worldwide corporate chains such as Gap, McDonald’s, and other fashion and food chains (Starbucks included, of course) are common.


Crossed Galata Bridge to the old city…


Which things started to get really interesting. Istanbul’s Old City area has so much to see and do that it would take a week or so to cover just the highlights.

In case you wondered as for the origin of the famous magic lamp, it’s right here in Istanbul:


The Turkish cuisine is considered by many to be one of the best cuisines in the world. It is said that the best Shawarma (called “Doner” in Turkey) is made right here, and the desserts—well, that’s an entire world right there. Walking through the streets of Istanbul, you’d encounter dozens over dozens of places selling “Turkish Delights”, which is an expression covering a large variety of desserts.

Here you will find any type of Baklava one can think of.


The streets of the Old City are narrow, winding, very old and swamped with tourists. Definitely a pleasant walk in such perfect weather of 24–25℃.

Sat down for lunch. Can’t remember the name of the place but here is how the meal started:


And then, off to the Grand Bazaar.


The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is enormous. It is covered, and spans more than 60 streets spotted with about 3,000 shops. What’s for sale in here? better ask what isn’t. Everywhere you look, all you can see is a sea of people walking through yet another street within the market. This is certainly not the place for those with personal space issue: it is crowded. If you happen to travel in groups, better keep a good eye on the whereabouts of each other or you will get lost. I, myself, have never experienced anything quite like walking in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. An experience to remember.

A long walk back to Taksim district—almost entirely uphill, mind you—and a brilliant, fabulous meal consisting solely of sweets.

What a great city.

The next day started late, as there was quite some sleep to catch after the very long preceding day. This time, a walk along the Bosphorus seemed to be the right approach.


A nice cafe by the water:


This is how tea is served in Turkey:


I got myself some Turkish coffee instead. Turkish coffee is different from North American coffee primarily in the way that it is prepared: cooked on the stove top, rather than being filtered. It is also served in insanely small cups:


Walked back to the hotel, chilled out for a while, and off to some dinner. Initially, I was very tempted to consume some Kokoretsi—a brief taste a day before proved to be extremely delicious—however, after reading about it, I decided not to. Turns out that, among one of the issues that Turkey will have to face if and when it joins the European Union, is that Kokoretsi will have to be banned for sale, as its cooking method is deemed unsafe by the European Union’s standard. There’s still a long way to go with this tour, and I am not in the mood for risking any food poisoning, so I decided to settle for Doner Kebob—that is, Doner cooked by coal (rather than regular, gas‐based flame). A few deserts afterwards, of course. Paradise.

Back to the hotel and off to the venue.

Istanbul is split between two continents. The European side is generally where all the “action” is: the vast majority of tourist attractions are located there. That’s the Istanbul you’d see in the movies. The Asian side, on the other hand, is more relaxed, laid back and thus boring (at least, that’s what I was able to gather). Naturally, then, I preferred to stay in a hotel in the European part.

The venue, Ülker Sports Arena, is located in the Asian side. The distance between the hotel to the venue was about 18km, and involved crossing a bridge over the Bosphorus.


A traffic jam turned a 30 minutes ride into one hour. Surprise surprise: they drive insane even when there’s a traffic jam. Again, the survival of the fittest: if you’re not strong enough to push your own way through, you’ll be left behind to rot, die and—in extreme cases—miss a concert.


The front of the stage was designated for general admission, which was happily passed on in favour of a seat in the tribunes. When purchasing the tickets, we knew that we would be very tired by the time the show starts, as we’d be spending a lot of time walking in Istanbul; therefore, the seated section seemed like a better approach.


The show started twenty minutes past the scheduled time, the venue not being too far from being completely sold out.

In the last post, I mentioned that it usually takes a few concerts into the tour for the band to start firing with all cylinders. Turned out that “a few concerts” in this tour’s case equals the number “1”, because the show in Istanbul was nothing short of brilliant. A truly great performance, led by a suspiciously upbeat Knopfler—he must have taken his Turkish coffee extra strong prior to the show.

Istanbul features a few popular soccer teams, such as Beşiktaş (named after a municipality within Istanbul, by the same name), Fenerbahçe (named after a neighbourhood) and Galatasaray (named after an Istanbul district). I don’t know much about soccer; however, where I grew up, European soccer has always been very popular and the main thing I remember about Turkish sports teams is that their fans are borderline insane when it comes to their affection to their teams. Therefore, I wasn’t extremely surprised to find the audience yesterday cheering in levels of intensity that make your ears bleed, giving the performance the feel of one real big party.

The band, as previously mentioned, cooperated fully. It was evident that they were having quite a bit of fun. The Sultans of Swing solo sounded like something I can hardly recall listening to, not to mention Telegraph Road.


The pinnacle of the evening, for me, was the introduction of a new song to the set—a song that I have never witnessed played live before. Postcards from Paraguay—one of my all‐time favourites—beautifully played, with the show completely owned by John and Mike playing flute. Flute work in Postcards from Paraguay? I couldn’t have seen it happening, but hey, it just fits. Brilliant arrangement.

A set of sixteen songs, very loud cheers from the audience and show was over.

As the taxi made its way back to Taksim district, it was evident that Istanbul is a very active city. It was around midnight when we arrived back to Taksim Square, only to find that Istiklal Avenue is as full of people as it was in 3:00pm. Amazing. So many people, so many stores and restaurants open—does this city ever sleep?

Unfortunately, no time could be spared exploring Istanbul at night. Only had four hours and a half to sleep before heading to the airport at 5:00am, to catch a flight to Sofia, Bulgaria.

I will visit Istanbul again.

Signing off this post at 6:00pm in my hotel in Sofia. Day off today, show in Sofia tomorrow, and then Belgrade.