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,

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Belgrade, Serbia to Milano, Italy (May 1, 2013)

The day‐off in Belgrade came at the very right time. The day before, a long, boring bus ride from Sofia, arriving at the boiling hot city of Belgrade, and then a (great) concert at the Kombank Arena—quite the tiring day.

Woke up and checked the weather forecast, which called for 30℃—which is about 6℃ more than I’m willing to handle in a good day. Still, I was interested in seeing some of Belgrade, having been told a thing or two in its favour.

The staff at Hotel Adresa wins the prize of the loveliest hospitality staff so far in the tour. Hats off to them for wonderful service and maintaining a hotel with stunning rooms.


We had a few hours to kill before leaving towards Belgrade’s airport. A short walk, and then hopped on a bus to the city centre. Time constraints, as well as an apparent wish to conserve energy, prompted us to opt at a quiet walk around the city center: no elaborate sightseeing—I’ll leave that to my next time here, which, judging by my life’s circumstances at the moment, is likely to be never.


Walking in the city center area, you wouldn’t be able to tell that this city was, more than once, the subject of merciless beating by various armies. It does look old and dusty, but nothing that would indicate savage military beating. Perhaps I didn’t look hard enough.

It was May 1, Labour Holiday in Serbia. Labour Day in Serbia is a holiday; however, unlike most western countries (that I know of), Labour Day here is (also) celebrated by demonstrations commemorating Serbia’s touch with communism and solidarity.


Rather vocal demonstration around the area of Hotel Moskva; I could not make any sense of whatever was announced through the speakers (carried by an old beaten car in front of the demonstrators), but from the voice’s tone, I could tell that someone is pretty upset.

Altogether a rather negative tone of things, so we decided to abandon the premises.

The insane heat and the unbelievable humidity shortly got into me and I was pretty much content confining myself to some coffee place and let time pass, playing online chess with one of my closest childhood friends who wishes to remain anonymous, and thus will henceforth be referred to as Mr. L.

Oh, yes. I forgot about that. Chess.

I used to spend quite a bit of time playing chess when I was growing up. When I was 20 years old, Gary Kasparov arrived to Israel for promoting the business of a new mobile carrier in the Israeli market—the famous Orange brand. A part of the promotion included a simultaneous chess match against a few dozen players.

I was very close to score a draw. The game got to a point when Mr. Kasparov had to think for about a minute or two on his next moves. The game was very tight; at some point, I decided on a new strategy, and made a questionable move. Kasparov quickly replied with a killer move that left me no chance but resigning two or three moves later. I was devastated for a few days.

(Kasparov ended up winning all games that day.)

Recently, I started playing chess again—this time, almost exclusively online (as I have no Canadian friends who know how, or are willing, to play). I have a profile on, called “isaac_s”. If you play chess and would like to keep me company during the tour, then by all means, let’s play.

Until then, I’ll keep on losing to Mr. L exclusively.


Back to the hotel via bus, took our luggage and off we went to Belgrade’s airport, for another obnoxious airport experience which seems to be the general theme in east European airports.

Check in—quickly done, thank you. Then off to security (which was very quick, thankfully—probably because it was a holiday).

Then came passport control.

I happen to carry two passports, as I am a dual citizen of two wonderful countries. For convenience’s sake, I hold them both in one leather‐based passport case. The passport control officer, upon noticing my second passport, looked at me as if he was threatened by something.

“So you have two passports?” he asked, in a tone that implied some sort of trouble.

“Yes. I have dual citizenship”, I replied.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that less than 1% of the global population holds more than one passport. Some research I conducted a while back indeed revealed the fact that the concept of dual citizenship isn’t well recognized by certain countries, mainly in Africa. Why? beats the living hell out of me. I happen to have been born in one country, and later immigrated to another. Under no circumstances am I willing to give up any of my citizenships, as my life is (at the moment) quite balanced between the two and I fully accept the responsibilities derived from both.

(The single most important rule of holding more than one passport is that when you travel, always exit a country with the same passport you used for entering it. Makes a lot of sense, as countries keep record of incoming and outgoing passengers.)

But why is holding more than one passport still frowned upon in certain countries? I couldn’t find an answer for this. If any of you knows, I urge you to share your knowledge as a comment to this post.

Once the officer got over the dual passport issue, he couldn’t find the Serbian entry stamp—the reason being that such a stamp never really existed. When we crossed the Bulgaria‐Serbia border by bus, passport control consisted of a Serbian officer boarding the bus, taking all passports, leaving and returning with all passports several minutes later. No stamp in my passport, none in Jeroen’s as well.

That prompted the passport control officer to inquire Jeroen and I about the method by which we entered Serbia. Obviously we had nothing to hide. They seemed a bit non‐believing at first, but after a while they let us through.

The malpractice of neglecting to stamp passports is not exclusive to Serbia, by the way. I have heard of cases of this happening before in eastern Europe, as well as a few countries in the far east.

Once that was done, off we went to the gate. A slight 30 minutes delay, but the obnoxious airport experience started getting to me (I suppose I became quite spoiled, getting used to how relatively flawless airport experience is in Canadian airports), and once that happened, all I really wanted was to just leave the place. The sight of various security personnel armed with pistols and clubs didn’t make me feel any more welcome, neither did the second security check at the gate (with X‐rays, body scanning and everything).

Richard Bennett wrote in his blog about the band’s airport experience, and concluded with an inconvenient, yet perfectly valid, statement: we, westerners, are, after all, guests here; and we shall abide by our host’s customs.

Still, I can’t help but thinking how much better this sad blue planet would be, if people and governments, in general, would behave nicer to one another.

Meanwhile, reading the news I came to learn that May 1st didn’t go quite well in Turkey. The Turkish government decided to shut down all public transport leading to Istanbul’s city center, in order to avoid “unwanted” demonstrations in Taksim Square—coincidentally, two blocks away from where I was staying just a few days ago.

Demonstrations, however, did take place, which prompted Istanbul’s police to use brutal means to control (read: oppress) said demonstrations. Various demonstration control measures were taken (helicopters included), resulting in many injuries and a total mess.

Makes me question, then, to what extent is Turkey’s society really “free”? Criticizing Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is illegal. You know what? as odd as it sounds, I’m willing to accept it. Must be some sort of a cultural thing—you want to be able to positively commemorate the founder of modern Turkey—fine. I mean, borderline fine. Not perfect, but let’s move on.

But shutting down public transport in order to avoid demonstrations? I don’t know, something smells rather suspicious here. I’d understand if there was some sort of a terrorism concern or something of the like. But hey, pals, we’re talking about a demonstration. To avoid demonstrations, you shut down public transport? And once demonstrations actually took place, what the hell is the deal with using brutal force to “control” them?

Pretty disappointing. I wish well to all people who were injured during the demonstrations.

On the positive note, I suppose it could have ended much worse, as it did in 1977.

Signing off this post while on board Jat Airways flight 416 to Milano; touching ground in about an hour or so, and then quickly to a hotel in the city center, leaving by train to Torino tomorrow.

Very excited to be in Italy again.


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