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:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bucharest, Romania (April 24–25, 2013): Part 2

Here is an abridged list of things I knew about Bucharest and/or Romania before Tarom flight #302 touched ground here on April 24, 2013:

  • It is a part of the European Union, but not a part of the European Monetary Union (practical knowledge: yet again dealing with esoteric currencies).
  • They went through quite the unpleasant (to say the least) revolution back in the 1990’s, after the country was led by a vicious dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu. At the end of this revolution, Ceaușescu and his wife (who happened to be a big fan of shoes; either that, or she had many feet that nobody knew about) were executed by a firing squad. I watched it on the TV; I was eleven years old.
  • Dracula.

Not much, is it?

That is to say, I didn’t really know what to expect. The first structure I encountered upon landing—the main terminal of the Henri Coandă International Airport—was definitely a positive sign: clean, advanced terminal building, the result of an extensive airport improvement plan which cost the Romanian taxpayers about €150 million.

It is always nice to arrive at a spacious, nice airport. Gives you the feeling that everything’s going to be OK—especially if “spacious & nice” is what you got so accustomed to. Over the last couple of years I have become a rather spoiled individual when it comes to defining my comfort bubble: much of it has directly to do with my moving from Canada’s east coast to the wonderful city of Vancouver—a city that appears to go out of its way to strip its residents from most challenges in life (that is, the residents who could still afford living in this stupidly expensive city).

To the uninformed visitor to Bucharest’s international airport—that is, at least as uninformed as I was—here are a couple of tips:

Currency exchange. As you make your way from the gate to the arrivals hall, you will encounter a few currency exchange stands with their exchange rates published on a sign. The closer you get to the arrivals hall, the worse exchange rate you’re going to get. Best you can do is simply ignore them: as soon as you are at the arrivals hall, there are a couple of bank machines where you can get local currency for a better rate.

Transportation to the City Center. The city center is about 20km away from the airport. You could do this by public transit for the price of about €1; however, if you were to use a taxi, this is a different story. You have two options:

  1. Use the services of Fast Taxi, which is a taxi cab operator licensed to pick passengers up right upon exiting the terminal building.
  2. Call a local taxi cab company. Local taxi cab companies (other than Fast Taxi) are not allowed to wait for passengers in the airport: instead, you need to call them, then wait for them outside and they come pick you up.

The difference in cost is quite substantial: the Fast Taxi service costs almost three times more than most local taxi companies. Expect to pay the equivalent of about €20 with the Fast Taxi service to the city center area, much less with the local taxi companies.

Of course, we knew none of the aforementioned when we arrived. We chose the more convenient route, took the in‐airport cab and off we went to the city center.

The conversation with the taxi cab driver was very entertaining. Not much because of the contents of the conversation, but more due to the fact that it wasn’t really a conversation. The poor driver really did his best to communicate in English, but all that came out was a mixture of nouns, adjectives and adverbs, not entirely related to one another, and almost consistently failing to make any sense.

To the driver’s credit, he was really trying.

Barely two minutes into the drive, the driver decided to inform us that Bucharest has “excellent women”. That aligned with other things I had heard about this city, being some sort of a preferred destination for sexual extravaganzas.

I never really subscribed to the concept of sex tourism to begin with, but my position changed from ambivalence towards this subject to utter disgust last year, when I was involved with a lady who happened to be feminist. There is much that I am aware of now that I wasn’t entirely aware of before. Using women’s sexuality as means of “selling” a city—actually, using women’s sexuality as means of selling anything—is gross, backward and wrong. Why we, as a society, allow this to happen—is entirely beyond me.

Anyway. The hotel for the two nights in Bucharest was the Z Executive Boutique Hotel, conveniently located right at Bucharest’s old city area. Great hotel, highly recommended—although not cheap by any means. Quick setup and we were off for a walk in the city.

Three minutes later, I was on the ground.

What a nice way to start exploring European cities by foot—tripping over some inconsistent sidewalk, falling down and bruising a hip and an arm. What a violent fall it was, too: BAM, face touching the ground. A couple of days later, I’m still bruised and it’s a bit painful to walk, but I’m pretty sure I’ll survive this.

As equally annoying it was to fall, was to realize that no one around (and we’re talking about a very busy street in rush hour) even bothered to lend a hand.

Guess I’m not in Canada anymore.


The city of Bucharest is the capital of Romania, as well as its financial and industrial center. It is a home for about 1.6 million people, and it is old—it dates all the way back to the 15th century. Parts of the older city have been destroyed over the years by the powers of mother nature, as well as the idiocy of one person who used to answer to the name Nicolae Ceaușescu before a firing squad put an end to his worthless life and his vicious dictatorship in December 1989. Ceaușescu decided, after visiting North Korea in 1971, to start a process called Systematization, involving mass (forced) relocation of people from the city to rural areas. As the Systematization process started in the more rural areas of Bucharest, it arrived to the capital city in the mid 1980’s.

Other than just obliterating many buildings of historical value, Ceaușescu decided that he really needs a palace. The fact that people were living in the area where he wanted his palace set up, wasn’t much of a hindrance: Ceaușescu simply issued an order for 40,000 people to evacuate their homes and relocate.

It was only unfortunate that those 40,000 people had exactly 24 hours to relocate.

The resulting palace was called Palace of the Parliament, and is considered to be the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon.

How big is it? Take a look (by the way, many pictures in this blog are courtesy of Jeroen Gerrits):


The city of Bucharest is busy. Very busy. Unfortunately, it is not the cleanest city in the world, to say the least. Dirt and garbage are rather commonplace. To the typical Canadian visitor, for instance, many sights of this city will appear aesthetically appalling. I am not entirely sure about how this affects the health of people living here, but I’m guessing that the answer is along the lines of “not very positively”.

Infrastructure seems to be in poor condition as well. It is not uncommon to walk around and suddenly encounter an electricity cable hung from above, just because it fell off somewhere. Sidewalks are extremely dated, roads are rather uneven… and, by the way, nowadays the situation is better than it used to be not too long ago, as Bucharest is booming financially. By the looks of it, though, there still is a way to go.

One thing that was a good surprise was the people. I was forewarned, by some, that Romanians are “not very nice”. I did not encounter this. I mean, OK, when I fell down and almost broke every bone in my body, nobody wondered whether I’m still breathing—but leave that aside for a minute; nothing too “rude” about people here.

(The preceding paragraph applies only to pedestrians. On the road, things are different. People drive like crazy fucking maniacs.)

A (planned) quick meal in Gargantua ended up taking much longer than expected:


Oh yes, if you are to visit Bucharest and are planning to eat in the more touristy areas, you better not be on a rush. Restaurants here are severely understaffed.

Not too far is the Romanian Athenaeum, a beautiful piece of land largely occupied by a concert hall.


Walking back to the hotel, the old city is literally around the corner so a walking tour was warranted. Dozens of bars, pubs and clubs catering to pretty much everyone on this planet with the exception of myself.

Spent the rest of the evening, and most of the next day, working. A couple of hours before the show, it was time for dinner at Cafe Van Gogh:


Then headed to the venue.


Sala Palatului (“The Palace Hall”) is a conference center, as well as a concert hall, in Bucharest’s city center. With the capacity of 4,000, the interior of the venue reminded me more of a theatre than a concert hall—not unlike the types of venues Knopfler plays in while in North America. Philipp and his friend Werner, who made their way from Switzerland for this, were already there. First time meeting Philipp after a few years of online communication—it’s always (well, usually; OK, rarely; but true in Philipp’s case) nice to meet the face behind the Facebook account.


Upon entering the venue, it felt as if I’m in the wrong place. Looking to my left, right and front, all I could see were stands of cosmetic products. Turned out that there’s a cosmetics exhibition at the Sala Palatului over the next few days.

The next 30 minutes passed quickly and rather uneventfully; on 20:10, ten minutes past the posted time, Junior Parker’s Feelin’ Good started playing and the Privateering tour officially kicked off.

I am not an expert in these things, but it appears that this is the first time that Knopfler is setting foot in Bucharest as part of a solo tour. Perhaps related is the fact that the concert was sold out weeks ago. Hence, one could conclude that Bucharest is going to be very happy to welcome the band, which is precisely the impression that I received. Waves of applause even before the show began—highly unusual; I cannot recall when I last encountered this—and great audience support throughout the concert.

Structure‐wise, the show seemed to be a continuation of the last two joint Dylan‐Knopfler tour: similar structure (plus a few Dire Straits tunes; I guess you can’t do without those), now featuring a rather neat fade from Father and Son (“Cal” soundtrack. Beautifully played live) into Hill Farmers’ Blues. Some songs featured slightly different arrangements comparing to the Knopfler‐Dylan tours’ versions.

The concert lasted two hours, with the only break taking place before the encore (no band introduction). A sixteen piece set, concluding with a full rocking performance of Going Home—the audience couldn’t have asked for more. Altogether a very good show, despite a few glitches here and there (it takes a few shows into the tour for the band to get running on full speed).

Easy walk back to the old city area after the show, quick dinner and off to bed, myself being extremely excited knowing where I was going to go next. More on that in the next post.



  1. Great blog. Sorry to hear you fell. Vancouver is on Canada's WEST coast...but you knew that.

    1. Thank you. About Vancouver... not sure where I implied that it's in the east. It's definitely in the west. As west as possible, actually.

  2. Wonderful! Thank you so much & get luck following MK 2013 tour. We, fans in Baltic States, will follow you virtually.

  3. I'm so pleased I got to hear about this blog via Richard Bennett on twitter. Rather annoyingly I have obviously missed you GetLucky 2010 blog but hey ho, I can now indulge with this one. Superb stuff so thanks very much.


  4. I wish I had discovered your blog back in Spring. Happy your adventures made their way to our lil' ol' developing city and I agree with everything you wrote here even from a local point of view.