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, June 14, 2013

Hamar to Bergen to Stavanger, Norway (June 12–13, 2013)

I have very fond memories of Bergen, as I had spent two days in that eye‐candy of a city back in during the 2010 Get Lucky tour. For the three years after that marvellous day‐off in Bergen, almost exactly three years ago, the name “Bergen” was engraved in my mind and soul right next to these:


No wonder, then, that I was really eager to get to Bergen. I could already see myself take the funicular up to that mountain again—a dear reader who answers to the name Lars has, in his kindness, provided me with the exact name of that viewpoint so I can look it up on the map (last time, I came across that funicular completely by accident and just took it)—it’s called Ulriken 643.

The flight out of Oslo airport was scheduled to leave at 10:40am. The train from Hamar to Oslo leaves every round hour, and takes an hour to get there. Nobody wanted to take risk of any train delays so, instead of taking the planned 8:01am train, we ended up taking the 7:03am one, knowing that, if everything’s going according to plan, we’d have almost three hours of wait in Oslo’s airport.

That’s fine. I just wanted to get to Bergen.

Of course, no train delays whatsoever and we ended up in Oslo’s airport right on time. Busy airport. Armed with knowledge of how Norwegian Airlines expects people to check in themselves (after the nonsense that took place the day before), checking in went like a breeze and it was time to kill two hours in the airport.

I was tired. Very tired. To make the 7:03am train, I had to wake up at 5:30am, as there’s about 20 minutes walk from that hostel in Hamar to Hamar’s train station. I managed to doze off for a few minutes here and there while on the train—actually, I was half asleep when the train’s announcer announced the Oslo airport stop (and I’m pretty sure Jeroen was passed out as well), which could have been rather problematic—but still, I missed the sensation of a long, good night sleep on a mattress.

Time passed slowly, flight left on time and arrived earlier than planned. Interestingly enough, a similar thing happened a couple of days earlier, again with Norwegian Airlines—arriving almost 30 minutes before schedule. I’m wondering if they’re trying to impress anybody.

Welcome to Bergen.

So, after three years of bearing Bergen in my memory as the representation of everything that is beautiful about sunny weather and beautiful nature, it finally dawned upon me that Bergen is actually rainy. Very rainy. The average annual rainfall there is 2,250mm (89 inches). Hence, my three years old experience in Bergen—two sunny days in a row—was actually a complete miracle.

Upon arrival, taking the bus to the city center, it was still dry. Roads were busy, and it took about 30 minutes until arrived at the hotel for the night—Citybox Bergen.

The Citybox hotel is located a couple of blocks away from where things start getting interesting in the city center. Last tour, I stayed in a hostel high up on a mountain, which was very good as far as peace & tranquility were concerned, but rather mediocre with respect to facilities—which is why I was willing to get rid of a few more dollars to stay in the city center area. Another reason was that the venue for this tour was also located in the city center (the 2010 venue was very far away).

A bit of a rough‐looking environment but still definitely manageable. Checked in, put the luggage down and prepared to leave towards the city center.

– “I can’t hear anything through my left ear”, I heard stereophonically.

I remember what it is to be sick while following a tour. For me, this happened during the 2010 Get Lucky tour, as I was leaving Budapest towards Italy. I remember waking up quite off that morning, and my situation worsened; by the time I got to Italy (long train ride that day), I was sick like a dog. As my illness progressed, I lost my senses of smell and taste. Luckily, this all happened during a five days break in the tour, and I happened to have my friends Daria and Valeria—the two beloved Italian sisters from northern Italy—to take good care of me.

Being sick is terrible.

Being sick away from home is worse.

Being sick while you’re following a busy concert tour, then, is a bloody nightmare. If whatever they’re saying about Satan is true, this must be how Satan punishes people he really dislikes. It’s a huge physical and mental challenge.

This time, it wasn’t me who was sick, though. Jeroen has been feeling ill ever since the day we departed Delft towards Zwolle, a week ago; what started as a cold because more and more severe. As we landed in Bergen’s airport, the Dutchman realized his hearing turned mono, which meant that perhaps it was about time to do something about it.

The first guess was that we’re talking about an earwax build‐up. Out of the hotel to the city center for some lunch, some wax dissolver was purchased, and was attempted during lunch—to no avail. Rightfully concerned, the Dutchman decided to seek medical help; for tourists, it seemed at that point (not sure if it’s fully correct) that a hospital’s emergency room is the only option (in Canada, it is possible for anybody to step into any walk‐in medical clinic). Decided to keep in touch as our ways were split and I headed to the city center.


Bergen’s city center is very pretty, featuring beautiful coloured buildings with the background of magnificent green‐rich mountains. Tourism is a major source of income to the city of Bergen, and to my taste, they took it a bit too far as the city center seems, at times, overdone. This reminds me of the town of Banff, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies: Stunning natural setting, stunning everything—but so touristic that I can’t spend more than two days there without wanting to leave. That’s why Jasper (also in Alberta, also in the Canadian Rockies) is my favourite spot—underdeveloped, beset by second‐to‐none, wild natural beauty.

When exploring Bergen’s city center, you are bound to, eventually, hit the harbour. Bergen’s harbour is one of the main point of interests in the city, for locals and tourists alike. It provides for postcard‐like scenery of colourful houses, beautiful mountains and, of course, water partly hidden by marine vessels of all sorts.

At that day, there happened to be a food market thing going on in the harbour. All sorts of foods—mostly seafood—sold on plastic plates to passer byers.


Walking back, I was contemplating whether I should be going to the Ulriken 643 funicular. Considering the cloudy weather (expected to rain), the time it’d take to get there and back, and the fact that I was very tired, I decided to pass; instead, I decided to head back to the hotel to catch some sleep.


Once at the hotel, my desire to sleep had a short battle with my desire to write, which meant that I kept awake a little longer—long enough to notice a message from Jeroen saying that he’s still in line for medical treatment with no particular expectation of how long it was going to get. Plus, as he’s been having problems with his ear, we decided that it would be worth the while to at least check whether it’s feasible to make the next days’ travel without flying.

On top of everything, the tickets for the Bergen’s concert were under Jeroen’s name, which meant that none of us could attend the concert unless the Dutchman was present on site.

That’s a lot to deal with when you’re tired, about six hours before the concert. I let go of any desire to do anything else and switched into focus mode.

Jarle and Kay, two nice fellows from Norway whom I had met just the day before after the concert in Hamar, were saying, that same morning (we met at the airport as well), that they would be taking a ferry from Bergen to Stavanger. I recall feeling utterly frustrated: as we were planning the tour’s itinerary, we overlooked the option of taking a ferry and instead opted for an early 7:00am flight, which was both much less convenient and more expensive.

Fortunately, there were still seats available on that ferry (though not very cheap). Kept an eye on those, while looking for non‐air travel option for the day after (Stavanger, Norway to Gothenburg, Sweden): no luck there. The only way to travel between these two cities and still make it to the concert is by air, at least from Stavanger to Stockholm (and then a train connection to Gothenburg is possible).

At the meantime, a few emails were sent asking to change the name under which the tickets were registered, so I could pick them up ahead of time.

That being done, I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the city center. My tasks: find out where exactly the next day’s ferry was leaving from (in the rush of things, I couldn’t quite get it from the ferry company’s website); find out about their cancellation policies (if we decide to take a flight after all); and pick up the tickets.

Of course, once I arrived to where I thought the ferry terminal was, I noticed that it was vacant. One security officer on site, behind a glass window. When I asked him where the ferry to Stavanger is leaving from, he looked at me with a big smile reserved specifically for the cases when one looks upon another human being with extreme mercy. “It’s on the other side of the harbour”, he said, pointing at a location about 25 minutes walk away.

It rained.

Decided that I don’t care much about cancellation policies anymore, and headed to the venue to pick up the tickets. Fortunately, the name change took place and within a few minutes I was on my way back to the hotel, not before verifying the show’s start time (originally 7:30pm; then, an email sent out by said 9:00pm; and the ticket office at the venue said 8:30pm).

I’d like to thank Mark’s management team dearly for helping out in resolving the ticket pickup issue in such a short notice. Hats off to you, folks. Love you all to pieces.

On my way back to the hotel, I got a message from the Dutchman saying that he’s on his way back to the hotel. Figuring the poor fellow might be hungry, I stopped by a bakery to grab some food. Fifteen minutes walk and it was good to be in a dry place again.

The diagnosis ended up being an ear infection that started in one ear and was now spreading to the other. That’s the thing about ear‐nose‐throat illnesses—things start in one location and then spread all over the place. With the aid of penicillin, we should have a healthy Dutchman within a few days.

The concert in Bergen was a general admission one; organized ticket buyers with early entry starting 5:30pm or so. The day was already very tiring and therefore it was decided to skip the early entry altogether and enter the venue a few minutes before show time. At around 8:00pm, we made our way back to the city center.


The venue, Bergenhus Festning (“Bergenhus Fortress”), is located right by the harbour. It dates back to the 13th century—when Bergen used to be Norway’s capital—and contained a royal residence, churches and a monastery. Nowadays, the fortress is under the command of Norway’s Navy, which might explain why uniformed soldiers were seen hanging around the place during the concert. The area appears to be beautiful and very interesting—that is, when it is not infested with loads of food stands, alcohol stands, an impromptu seating area for consuming said food and alcohol, and—of course—millions of people. Wish I had the time to explore this fortress in normal conditions. Maybe next time.


Arriving late, a decision was made to simply stand in the very back, leaning against the fences and enjoy the concert from a distance. The disadvantage of distance is offset by the advantage of better sound, and better freedom to walk around listening to the music. This venue being outdoors probably prompted the resurrection of Cleaning My Gun and the omission of Haul Away; in general, the set was more on the rocking side this time.

It rained occasionally—well, not really “rained”; more like “drizzled”—but people didn’t seem to be very concerned about it. I learned my lesson from last tour’s concerts in Helsingborg, Sweden and Middelfart, Denmark and came prepared with my rain jacket which turned an otherwise annoying experience to a pleasant one.


The audience—those who stood close to the stage as well as those who stood afar—loved the show; people were seen dancing (by themselves or with others) and having a good time regardless of the weather. When you live in a city where it rains most of the year, I suppose rain is seen as yet another “thing” you get used to so it doesn’t really annoy you anymore.

Being standing in the far back was a good change. Not that I would like to spend too many concerts located so far from the action, but once in a while, I’m perfectly fine being far off the crowdedness. Of course, that also depends on the city I’m in: the more there is to explore around town, the less I am likely to opt spending hours over hours at the venue just to catch a good spot against the stage—many, many people deserve it more than I do as, for me, there’s always a concert the next day.

In other, boring places, I might just show up early and enjoy the concert from the front.

We’ll see.


Concert ended shortly before 11:00pm. Quick walk back to the hotel, hoping for a better day to come.

It didn’t. Thursday morning, the Dutchman woke up reporting that he feels worse than the day before. Great. Well, at least we didn’t have to wake up at 4:30am to catch the 7:00am flight to Stavanger; instead, woke up at 6:30am and by 7:30am we were at the harbour, waiting for the ferry.

The ferries from Bergen to Stavanger (as well as a few other routes) are operated by a company named Norled, offering—among others—trips around the famous Norwegian fjords. The particular ferry taken to Stavanger, though, doesn’t go near any fjord. Four hours ride in a ferry where it’s impossible to visit the deck—and even if you could, you’d rather not as it was raining most of the time.

Long, boring ferry ride was spent in repeated attempts to fall asleep and repeated failures in doing so, due to the particularly uncomfortable seats which wouldn’t recline. An hour left to the journey, I somehow decided to see what it’d be like to sit in one of the seats in the middle, rather than by the window. Turns out that the seats located in the middle of the ferry are much more comfortable than the ones by the windows, and, hell, they even recline!

It’d be very helpful if there were signs on the ferry telling people “for ridiculous, uncomfortable seats, please turn towards the window. For a much more pleasant ride, seat your ass anywhere else on this ferry. Welcome aboard”.

Arrived at Stavanger at around 12:30pm.

Stavanger is the third largest city in Norway. Like Bergen, it is located in the country’s west. Located on a peninsula, Stavanger dates back to the early 12th century. Wooden, coloured houses are aplenty; these houses, located mainly in the city center, are protected and considered a part of Stavanger’s heritage. For that reason, there is not much building opportunity left in the old city area—leading to the city’s growing population settling outside that area, further increasing the landmass of what’s considered “Greater Stavanger”.

Norway itself can’t be considered a “poor country” by any reasonable mean. Even within Norway, though, Stavanger is considered a wealthy city. This is not surprising as Stavanger is dubbed the “Oil Capital of Norway”: the oil industry is what drives the city’s economy, which makes me think what would happen once mankind finally ends torturing Mother Nature and becomes independent of this commodity.

Rich city… expensive city… and as such, hotel choices were limited. Originally, I booked the Myhregaarden Budget Apartments, which is owned and operated by the Myhregaarden Hotel. The hotel is located about a kilometer away from the apartments, and as checking in must be done there, we went to the hotel.

The hotel is located in an absolutely fantastic location, right in the old city area and less than five minutes walk from the ferry terminal. A stroke of luck came in the form of a particularly nice receptionist who actually offered to switch our booking so we stay in the hotel instead. Four thumbs up. The hotel also offers 24 hours coffee/tea, great comfortable rooms, free breakfast, free light supper and an exceptionally helpful staff. Oh, gas fireplaces as well. If you happen to be in Stavanger, stay in this hotel.

First order of business: lunch.


Wandering the beautiful narrow streets of the old city, a couple of potentially good restaurants turned out to be closed. By chance, came across a Thai restaurant by the simple, straightforward name “Thai Cuisine”. This place, currently ranked #8 in Stavanger by TripAdvisor, provides excellent food for surprisingly reasonable prices. A large plate of Pad Thai and the world seemed to be smiling again.

Being very tired due to the rush of the past couple of days, I took a painful decision and decided to go to for an afternoon sleep instead of exploring this pretty city. It’s a shame; this city is beautiful. I think I’ll visit again at some point.

Afternoon sleep proved to do wonders. Woke up full of energy, tiredness went away as if it never existed. Dressed up and off to the concert, not before sipping some mediocre coffee in a nearby cafe.

Close to the old city area, there is a very pretty park called Byparken (“City Park”):


On the other side of this beautiful pond, Stavanger’s central station is located, from where many buses take you to the DNB Arena. Boarded a bus and within 10–15 minutes we arrived at the venue, bypassing lots of cars that were struggling to find parking nearby.


The venue, DNB Arena, is a ice hockey rink located south west of the city center. It is less than one year old, owned by the Stavanger Oilers (a ice hockey team) with the naming rights owned by DNB, which is a Norwegian bank.

The venue can seat around 6,000 for concerts, as 4,500 are seated and about 1,500 more are standing. The standing, general admission area was on the rink itself. When planning the tour, we consistently preferred to sit in venues that offer seating, and the DNB Arena was no exception. Hence, we were seated somewhere on the side, first row above the rink. Sound was so‐so, but again, these deviations from floor area seating give you yet another way to enjoy a concert.


Good concert, featuring a set that has been played before with no special surprises. As usual, I was watching Mike & John trying to synchronize their entry into Postcards from Paraguay; Mike decided to start early—about a second after Mark finished the introductions—while John preferred to wait for those 8 bars to finish. Alas, when one plays, the other must join: that resulted in John jumping forward towards the microphone in order to make it in time. Funny moment. These two crack me up each time.


Mark seemed to have started I Used to Could before Richard was even ready, which prompted Mark to stop and restart, to the sound of roaring cheers.


Altogether a good show, ended within two hours; back to the bus station, long wait and off to the hotel.

Signing off this post from the hotel room in Gothenburg, Sweden. Re‐reading the text above, I noticed the slight negative tone of it all. Well, it’s been quite hectic here for the last few days. Fortunately, things appear to be picking up now. Should be an easy day today, and easier tomorrow and there are NO MORE FLIGHTS PLANNED FOR ME FOR ABOUT A MONTH, Praise the Lord.


1 comment:

  1. "the oil industry is what drives the city’s economy, which makes me think what would happen once mankind finally ends torturing Mother Nature and becomes independent of this commodity." S H O O T! Can mankind withstand the transition without WW3 and destroying ourselves in the process? Do you believe in God Isaac?