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:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Regensburg, Germany to Vienna, Austria (June 20–21, 2013)

Stayed up late after the concert in Regensburg as I decided to catch up with my blog: uploaded the Frankfurt entry and completed writing the Regensburg entry, preparing to publish the latter just before leaving Regensburg the next morning.

From Regensburg, it’s an easy 3.5 hours direct train ride to Vienna. The train being scheduled to depart 9:27am, together with the fact that Regensburg’s central railway station is located right across the street from the hotel (I could see the railway station through my hotel room’s window), allowed for a wake‐up alarm set to 8:10am. Easy morning procedure, and we were at the station before 9:00am.

The Regensburg central railway station is connected to a shopping mall. There are a few interesting dining options in that mall (well, everything is relative. By “interesting”, one should take into consideration just how “interesting” dining options in a mall can be): grabbed a sandwich from one of the many bakeries on site, together with some coffee from San Francisco Coffee Company (which, by the way, is a German company having nothing to do with the city of San Francisco, California)—both consumed with ease on site.


The train arrived a few minutes later. Intercity Express, 1st class, like a boss. Did a bit of writing on board and enjoyed the view: the train ride from Regensburg to Vienna shows postcard‐perfect views of Bavaria, featuring hills, a tremendous amount of green and, of course, the Danube.


Bavaria is indeed gorgeous: even a mere train ride through the state is enough to demonstrate that nature freaks are very likely to fall in love with this place.

Germany, in fact, is of the few European countries that I actually feel comfortable in. I’m not saying that I miss Germany or anything like that (let’s not get carried away); what I mean is, that in a multi‐country trip across Europe, Germany is of the few countries I’d feel much less stressed out in (Poland, for example, would be on the other end of the scale). I can certainly see myself having a short, few days trip to Bavaria’s natural scenery.

Bye for now, Germany; see you again July 1st.

Hello again Austria (last time here was a little more than a month ago, as I passed through Vienna en route from Zagreb to Prague).

Unless my memory is betraying me, the 2010 Get Lucky tour didn’t include too much time in Austria. I remember getting to Vienna after what was possibly the most stressful day for me in that entire tour, involving riding a taxi for about 200km in order to catch up with a train.

Fortunately, getting to Vienna this time around wasn’t anywhere near as stressful. Train arrived at Wien Westbahnhof (“Wien”: “Vienna” in the local language; “Westbahnhof”: western train station) right on time. From there, it was a long 2km walk in the searing heat to the hotel—a walk that could have been saved had any of us bothered to look at the map and realize that there’s a tram that takes 10 minutes to get from the train station to the hotel.

The heat… blimey. The heat! the sun mercilessly pounding on the skin, and the humidity so high that my sweat was emitting its own sweat. By the time I made it to the hotel, it was already after cursing on living things on our solar system and all I wanted was to just bury myself under a glacier.

Such as this one.

When you are going to stay more than one night in one location, it is very important to book a better quality hotel than you’d otherwise book: it’s OK to be stuck in a stupid hotel for one night, but being stuck in a crappy hotel for more than one night can adversely screw things up.

Booking the hotel for Vienna was under Jeroen’s list of tasks, and I have to admit that he scored it big time. The Austria Trend Hotel Park Royal Palace (such a catchy, easy‐to‐remember name; isn’t it?), located far from the city’s touristic center but very close to a nice park and within easy access to public transportation, offers great value for the money. Brilliant hotel room that was already cold when we got there. Surprisingly fast (and free) Wi‐Fi. Spotless rooms. What else could I ask for?


Last week, while in Bergen, Jeroen was terribly sick and went to a hospital where he was diagnosed with an ear infection. As he was due to a follow‐up within a week, and the hospital in Regensburg couldn’t offer an ear‐nose‐throat doctor, he had to go for a follow‐up in Vienna. Minutes after checking in, then, the Dutchman went on his way to the nearest hospital and I was left to my own.

The first task at hand—that is, after restoring my body’s core temperature to normal levels—was to head out, eat, and buy a proper brace for my right wrist. Took a look at TripAdvisor, listing a few possible dining places; grabbed a few things and went outside.

To the hotel’s immediate south, there lies a nice park—Auer‐Welsbach‐Park—offering a pleasant walk amidst some greenery, better than having to walk by Vienna’s busy roads.


At the southern edge of the park, there lies the huge Schönbrunn Palace. This palace dates back to the 16th century, and is labelled a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The word Schönbrunn means “beautiful spring”, named after a well of which waters were used to water the gardens.


The Schönbrunn is considered a major touristic attraction in Vienna; however, the busy schedule, as well as the fact that hunger was starting to be a major annoyance, caused me to care very little about the area’s touristic value.

Inside the Schönbrunn was my destination for lunch—Cafe Residenz—which turned out to be focused mostly on desserts so I had to leave (although things looked wonderful). My search for food—consistently following TripAdvisor’s recommendations and even more consistently finding out that dining places, at that part of the city, were closed until later in the evening—took about an hour and a half (!).

At the least, I was able to find a drugstore and bought myself a fancy, shiny wrist brace. Let’s hope I am in the position to get rid of it as soon as possible.

After wandering around for a while, sweating my arse off, I came across a complex called U4 which had a few restaurants and cafes at the lower level, right on the street. Entered a cafe that turned out to be air conditioned.

A few people were seated in the smoking section of the cafe, behind shut glass doors. Nobody was seated in the non‐smoking section.

One worker there, not even looking at me; instead, she was typing something on her phone.

And typed.

And when she was done, she typed again.

I was standing there for a long minute, not understanding whether I arrived at a cafe or at a public display of everything that is wrong with humanity. Finally she was done, and looked at me with a punishing look as if she wants to smack me for interrupting her texting extravaganza.

Schnitzel with rice for €7. I was setting my expectations low—what quality could you really expect from a schnitzel that costs €7?—but it was surprisingly delicious. Either that, or I’m not quite the schnitzel connoisseur. Entire contents of the plate were devoured in about 5 minutes.

Jeroen was periodically in touch, informing me that the hospital experience was ridiculously inefficient. Minutes after I was done eating, while making my way back to the hotel, good news beeped on my phone: Jeroen’s illness was over and done with. Met in the hotel room after half an hour, and immediately left to head to the venue—some 2km away.


The venue, Wiener Stadthalle, is an indoor arena built in the 1950’s. It has six halls, used for sporting events and concerts. I was here before in 2010, although it took me a few minutes to get oriented as this time I approached the venue from a different direction than I did the last time.

Not much time was left for the show to start: therefore, I had to pass on the opportunity for some coffee in the nice looking cafe conveniently located right next to the ticketing counter, and headed to the entrance instead.

In this venue, there are two entrances to the floor area: north and south. The indication as to which of the entrances was applicable in our case was, indeed, marked on the ticket. However, at the entrance, there was only one sign leading to the floor area so we followed it. Line up… warmth… humidity… the entire package. Great, here’s the usher.

She checks the ticket, looks at me and mumbles something in fluent German. In German, mind you, ever single word sounds to me like some sort of a command, so I became anxious even before I understood what she wanted to say.

– “Sorry, I only understand English.”

She then proceeded to instruct me, in broken English, that the entrance I should be taking is at the other side.

OK, fine. Well, but I’m past all this queue already. This is the floor area. Once you’re in, you can get anywhere in the floor area. I understand that I’m a complete human failure—just let me in.

But no. Instead of just letting us in, she decided that it’s a much better idea to force us to backtrack—of course, bumping into other people along the way, thus increasing the total amount of anxiety in the venue—just in order to teach us a lesson.

Power clouds compassion, and it clouds it most when said power is given to an individual who would otherwise be rather powerless in their everyday lives. Dear attendant: if you’re reading this, kindly go screw yourself.

Once past the obstacle of stupidity involved in entering the venue, I came across this:


Last time I saw a bulk food stand in a concert venue—which also happened to be my first time ever witnessing this—was in Zwolle, The Netherlands, just two weeks prior. I was sure that this is so peculiar that I’m unlikely to come across it again in the future, so I cherished that moment. Apparently, though, I may be the crazy one and selling bulk foods in concert venues isn’t such an insane idea.


Concert started a few minutes past schedule—maybe because people kept trying to enter the floor area through the wrong entrance and were sent back to the other side of the venue; who knows—and offered a similar set to the usual except that Seattle was back after a long absence.

I was seated in the second row. Behind me, two or three small children (couldn’t be more than 10–12) were seated along with their parents and kept on talking through most of the show. At times, they were trying to emit loud whistles, to no avail; but it didn’t stop them from keeping on trying, not only between songs but also during actual performance. At some point, the guy seated next to me turned to them and barked something at them in German. It helped for a couple of minutes.


Having consumed quite a bit of water before the show, I left for a bathroom break after Romeo and Juliet, just around the time I started feeling a strong sensation of complete tiredness. As I was going back to the venue, I started feeling very weak so I remained in the hall for about ten minutes, sitting down on one of the now‐empty vending tables. At some point—I believe it was between the middle of Song for Sonny Liston and the end of Haul Away—I think I passed out. Found myself coming back to my senses at once, as if struck by lightning. Headed back into the hall, but decided to watch the remainder of the concert from the side door, instead of heading to the seat, as it was cooler there and, frankly, I didn’t feel like being surrounded by people.


First part of the concert concluded with a mild Running of the Bulls carrying no casualties. A happy lot near the stage celebrating a good encore—Our Shangri La, for the first time after the London shows. Beautiful performance, but honestly, once you listen to it live with Nigel Hitchcock on stage, you can’t go back to the saxophone‐less version without feeling that something’s amiss. So Far Away and the show ended.

Long walk back to the hotel. It was still hot and humid outside, and I was simply dying for a shower. That long‐awaited shower finally arrived: I was waiting for it for so long (since morning!) that I think I actually sang. Jeroen did report hearing a few unidentifiable vocals coming from the shower’s direction.

Caught up with a few things and chatted online with a friend until the wee wee hours; the next day was a day off spent in Vienna—nowhere to hurry to.


When planning the tour’s itinerary, we had to decide whether we spend the day off, June 21, in Vienna or in Budapest. The distance between the two is about three hours train ride. Eventually we decided on Vienna, and I’m happy we did. It was one of the best day offs in the tour so far, almost entirely because it contained so little.

Woke up late—around 10:00am (!)—and off to the city center. From the hotel, it’s a short walk to the Schönbrunn U‐Bahn station, and then another few stops until you get to Karlsplatz, which is an excellent place to start walking around this gorgeous city.


First call of the day—breakfast at The Breakfast Club, for good breakfast followed by a good cup of cappuccino (well, this is Vienna. Coffee here is known to be excellent)—done. Headed back north towards the more touristic area of the city.


Only recently I was told about the Sachertorte. The Sachertorte is a torte invented by Franz Sacher in 1832 to please some royalty, prince Wenzel von Metternich. The “Original Sacher Torte” is sold in a few locations in Austria, however the recipe of the version sold in Hotel Sacher itself is secret. According to Wikipedia, the difference is in the icing: in Hotel Sacher’s version, the icing is made up of three different types of chocolate, produced by three different vendors for the sole usage of being a part of that icing.

Naturally, a visit to Hotel Sacher was definitely called for.


Seated on the patio in the shade, beautiful weather (the sun was only warming up for the day), and asked for two slices of that so‐called sensation and a bottle of water.


I ate it.

Is it good? yes, certainly. Is it extraordinary? well… no. I’ll put it this way: consuming this cake did not result in an explosion of colours in my brain. It was good but, really, I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. My one and only sister, Natali, bakes much better cakes—better in appearance, better in texture, better in taste and better in aftertaste—than this one (at least to my taste), with her eyes closed and possibly while talking on the phone the entire time. Every time I visit home I gain a few pounds mostly thanks to the cakes she keeps feeding me with. And she wasn’t even formally trained for it (unless you consider “learning the basics from our mother [who had learned the basics from her mother]” to be “formal training)—just natural talent for these things.

If you want a really good cake, then, forget about Hotel Sacher and fly three or four hours east to Tel Aviv.

Hotel Sacher claims to be selling 360,000 slices of this cake every year. That’s about 1,000 slices a day, selling for €4.90 each. Revenue of about €5,000 a day for selling a good (even very good), but not great, cake.


Kept on walking at the touristic area of the city center.


Came across this guy:


I’ll let you figure out how this one works. Next time I’m there, I’m going to show up with a huge magnet and a can of termites.

Walking on, came across this:


This is the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, dating back to the 14th century. According to Wikipedia, this is the most important religious building in Vienna. The Archbishop of Vienna is seated here. As impressive it is from the exterior, it is absolutely gorgeous inside.


Walked on to the river…


… and once scorched by the sun, decided to head straight back to the nearest U‐Bahn and off to the hotel. A few hours spent at the convenience of the hotel’s lobby, doing some work and writing. Back outside—now, for dinner.

The destination: Gasthaus Pöschl, located again in the city center. Took the U‐Bahn, and from there it’s a pleasant ten minutes walk, primarily through a park.


The restaurant is located in a small square, along with a few other cafes—each of which has its own seated area in the square. Other than the occasional peddlers passing by trying to sell you weird things because you look like an ignorant tourist, the experience is quite lovely. Food is a bit pricy but a great schnitzel nonetheless.


From there, continued exploring the city center area. Some desserts in Cafe Imperial, again on the patio overlooking this busy city:


Kept on walking, now back to the St. Stephens Cathedral area:


And, of course, before boarding the U‐Bahn—some coffee and tea to call it a day.

So… yes. After a few days of feeding almost exclusively on sandwiches, the day off in Vienna was payback time. Vienna offers thousands of dining options and standards here are relatively high. Coffee? fantastic.

Liked this city a lot; this day off was revitalizing, invigorating, a huge energy boost. Bring on the rest of the tour, I’m ready.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in Budapest, Hungary. A bit of a travel hiccup earlier. Off for a snack, dinner and then to catch tonight’s concert.



  1. You get three sizes of Sachertorte and they ship them globally exclusively by DHL to anywhere on the planet. Not sure Wikipaedia is correct about the icing. I wrote part of the Wiki page on Vienna, but there is a lot more to Vienna than just cakes.

  2. I love Wiki. I am left with three sentences that are mine, but they re-jigged a bunch...hahaha...long live the free internet!