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, July 5, 2013

Köln to Halle (Westfalen), Germany (July 3, 2013)

Note: this post is being uploaded along with its predecessor. Had to accumulate a couple of posts due to Wi‐Fi availability issues. Make sure you check out the previous post: Dijon, France to Köln, Germany (July 1–2, 2013).

Slightly less than two days after arriving at the beautiful city of Köln, it was time once again to decamp. Woke up tired: all energy that was regained during the day off in Köln seemed to have evaporated. Opened up the window to find out that weather decided to play another trick: after two days of sunshine and fantastic weather, the buildings and sidewalks were all wet. People walking around with umbrellas. The rain was back.

The original plan was to leave Köln at 9:48am; however, as Köln proved to be such a fun place to be in, it was decided, the day prior, to push the schedule a little bit and depart at 11:48am instead—allowing time for breakfast in that wonderful restaurant discovered the day before.

Nobody, however, took into consideration that the weather might change.

Armed with rain jackets, two wanderers made their way through the rain and through the city center all the way to the promised land—Cafe Eigel, exactly where breakfast was consumed the morning before. Great breakfast, followed by a prolonged period of chilling out. There was no desire whatsoever to even leave the restaurant: what for, really? they have everything required for human survival. Great food (including mind‐numbingly gorgeous desserts), lots of space, free air to breathe… and where the hell is that “Halle” place that I need to get to later today, anyway?

But, plans are there to be followed. Back at the hotel, grabbed everything, checked out and headed to catch the train. No incidents this time as the train left on time.

The original plan called for travel from Köln to Halle and spend the night there. It was tricky to book a hotel in Halle as there weren’t many options to begin with—not even one twin room available anywhere, which is why two separate single rooms were booked.

Later on, a closer look at the travel schedule revealed an inefficiency. To get from Köln to Halle, one needs to take a train from Köln east to Bielefeld, and then west to Halle using a regional train; and in the next morning, to get from Halle to Dresden, a change of trains in Bielefeld is required once again. To avoid this redundancy, it was decided to spend the night in Bielefeld instead, as it would save some train rides. From Bielefeld, it’s an easy 30 minutes train to Halle for the concert.

Intended to do some writing during the train ride to Bielefeld, but shut the laptop down after a few minutes as I realized that I can’t really concentrate on anything due to tiredness. Less than two hours later, the train arrived to Bielefeld.

The hotel booked for Bielefeld was called B&B Hotel Bielefeld. Now, I may not have enough travel experience but, for me, a “B&B” and a “Hotel” are two different things. I would associate the term “B&B” with a nice quiet house, privately owned, in which rooms are offered to guests along with home made breakfast. Also, it was rather suspicious to find that the rate offered by this “B&B Hotel” didn’t include the second “B” of the “B&B” package: breakfast has to be paid for separately. Silly. Call it “B(&B)” instead. Or “B&maybeB”. Or “B&mayB”.

That hotel, located right across the street from the central railway station inside a complex that includes a movie theater and a few restaurants, looked brand new.

Checking in. Two nice ladies in reception. I started suspecting that something might be wrong with the reservation as soon as one of them mentioned that we had reserved a “French bed”. I don’t know what a “French bed” is, and I can’t recall ever encountering that term before. I wouldn’t book a hotel room with a “French bed” unless I know exactly what it meant, and I trust Jeroen wouldn’t do so either. For once, I am not entirely confident in the properness of assigning nationality to furniture; and for twice, the plural suffix “s” was missing.

Luckily, the mishap was corrected on the spot. Then, I was informed that there are available rooms in certain floors of the hotel—which one do I want?

I thought about the first, most important criteria.

– “Are the hotel rooms quiet?”, I asked.

The receptionist looked at me as if she has just unravelled a brand new type of frog yet unknown to science.

– “Sorry?”

– “Are the hotel rooms quiet? is it quiet in the rooms?”, I elaborated.

– “No.”


– “… No?”

– “No.”


– “So I guess it doesn’t really matter which room we get, then.”

At that point, Jeroen, who speaks German, decided to intervene and translate my question to German. So, the hotel rooms are quiet after all. Good.

– “Would you like to have breakfast tomorrow?”

– “Can we decide tomorrow morning?”

– “Yes, but we would highly prefer that you decide today, so we can call the breakfast provider to let them know.”

We decided to think about that one. Up to the room, did some writing and before I knew it, it was time to head out for dinner. That’s one of the downsides of staying the night far away from the venue: you need to have your dinner early (unless you’re planning on having dinner at the venue, which is a very risky thing to do. Don’t do it unless you know exactly what the venue offers).

On the way out from the hotel, a different receptionist. As the hotel’s reception is closed late at night, it was unclear how one would enter the premises afterhours—say, upon returning from a concert located 30 minutes train ride away. Also, the hotel doesn’t provide keys, or cards, to enter the hotel or the room: instead, they give you a code which you’re supposed to be punching on a keypad.

– “So, the reception is closed after 11:00pm, right?”

– “Yes.”

– “So, can we enter the hotel if we return late?”

– “No.”


– “No?”

– “No. There’s nobody in reception after 11:00pm.”

– “We don’t need to check in after 11:00pm. We’re already guests here. But can we enter the building if we return late?”

– “Yes. Just enter your code on the keypad outside, by the front door.”


TripAdvisor suggested a place called Westside Lounge, about ten minutes walk from the hotel: an Asian‐Italian fusion restaurant. Sitting outside on the patio, beautiful weather: fantastic dinner for a very affordable price. Jeroen’s starter arrived with a small bread that was baked on site, over coal: I can’t remember when was the last time I had such a tasty bread—France included.

Terrific. Great food in affordable prices—I’m developing a whole new opinion about dining in Germany. It’s convenient—restaurants are open most of the time; it’s very affordable; service is usually very good and efficient. What’s not to like? I’ll need to dig up some of my old notes from previous tours to see why I wasn’t a fan of dining in Germany to begin with. Something has changed… either Germany or myself.

Back to the hotel, to get prepared for the concert. Weather forecast suggested that it might be raining, and as we were going to take the train back to Bielefeld after the concert, it was necessary to prepare for the possibility of spending some time outside.

Back to the reception, as we decided to have breakfast at the hotel. Same guy as before.

– “Is it early enough to order breakfast for tomorrow?”, asked the Dutchman. Now, a normal person would phrase the question in a more simplified manner, such as “is it still possible to order breakfast for tomorrow?”, but we’re talking about a Dutchman under stress.

– “No.”

Applying some logic to the aforementioned question & answer, it’s easy to conclude that it was too late for ordering breakfast.

– “What? So we can’t order breakfast anymore?”

– “Oh, sure, you can.”


Arrived at the station, regional train to Halle left on time. Two or three cabins, all 2nd class. The difference comparing to 1st class is evident: it’s noisier here. More crowded. More children, which amounts to more noise. Half an hour train ride, passing through rural hilly areas… certainly not the landscape in which one would expect to find a concert venue. One station past Halle’s central railway station, arrived at the very small railway station servicing the venue; left the train and followed the crowd.


The venue, Gerry Weber Stadion (Stadion means Stadium in German), is an indoor arena located in Halle. There is another city named Halle in Germany—a larger one, by River Saale. To differentiate between the two, the larger city is referred to as Halle (Saale) and this one—the one where the concert took place—as Halle (Westfalen), or Halle (Westf.) in a shorter form.

You might think that the Gerry Weber Stadium is named after an individual named Gerry Weber. Seems reasonable… but I couldn’t find any reference to such a person. There is, however, a tennis tournament called Gerry Weber Open—a tournament that takes place at (drumroll, please) the Gerry Weber Stadium.

Walking from the stadium’s railway station to the venue, I couldn’t really believe that there’s actually a venue there. The surroundings were such that a tennis stadium simply wouldn’t fit in—almost farmland.


After picking up the tickets, I went ahead and walked for a bit around the venue, to take some pictures. Turns out that this is a residential area. There are houses located within less than 20 meters away from the venue’s area.


It was nice to get a breath of fresh air in these quiet surroundings. Time was up—back to the venue.


The venue being a tennis stadium made the concert experience very different from the usual indoor experience. For once, the ceiling wasn’t opaque, and didn’t cover the venue’s perimeter shut; as a result, there was pretty much free flow of light from outside. It gets dark late in Halle during the summer, so most of the concert was performed in daylight. Strange feeling… you’re indoors, but still watching a concert in daylight.

The stadium can hold 12,300 spectators for tennis events, but the seating configuration for the concert allowed for up to 7,000. Still, the venue felt surprisingly small. The feeling of a small venue, together with the daylight, cast a special atmosphere of casualness and intimacy.


The band started with the usual set, featuring Nigel Hitchcock who is going to be joining the band for all shows in Germany this week. After Song for Sonny Liston, I was going to take a quick toilet break when I noticed that Glen Saggers was holding a Gibson guitar, to be played by Mark in the next song. This is very strange, considering the fact that Mark was already holding a Gibson guitar in his hands. That meant that the guitar switch was needed either for a different Gibson sound, or a different tuning.

Richard grabbed the Telecaster, which prompted me to think that maybe it’s Back to Tupelo again. To confirm, I looked at John: John plays a mandolin‐like instrument (can someone comment and shed some light about the exact name of this instrument?) cittern (thanks, Benoit, for the information. I was under the impression that citterns are bigger, but apparently they come in different sizes) during Back to Tupelo, but instead was holding a flute.

– “Look, they have Nigel”, the Dutchman mentioned. I looked, and there was Nigel there, but he wasn’t holding a saxophone. What is this? a clarinet?

Can someone please explain what’s going on?

Eyes back at Mark, and I noticed the capo on the third fret. Third fret? what could these guys possibly play in Cm (or Gm or E♭ or B♭)? My brain started emitting smoke for all the computing it was required to perform along this time span of about six seconds, when Guy played the initial Cm.

And so, yes: in the small venue in Halle, a small town in the middle of seemingly nowhere, a new song was introduced to the set… and what a song it was. Dream of the Drowned Submariner—as far as I’m concerned, the most moving piece of music in Knopfler’s latest double album. I have listened to this song so many times before and, admittedly, already lost any hope of listening to it performed live.

An unexpected arrangement, too. In the studio version, Mark plays both an acoustic guitar and an electric one: in one particular section, both guitars sound at once (I’m guessing that both guitars were recorded in separate tracks, then mixed together). All the while, an electric rhythm guitar is played in the background. The studio arrangement can’t, therefore, be played live; instead, the acoustic guitar went away; John and Mike played flutes, Nigel on clarinet, Richard on the telecaster for the rhythm part and Mark with the Gibson.

It was evident, though, that Mark was quite undecided as to which direction he wants to take the outro solo to. Much like Kingdom of Gold, the outro of Dream of the Drowned Submariner can wear millions of shapes and forms. I can only hope for this song to be played again during this tour (preferably, 21 more times) and see where it gets.

The tiredness I was feeling all day to that point, simply vanished.

The rest of the concert went well, followed by a rush to the stage which I preferred to avoid altogether. A much awaited quick toilet break, and back to the hall to watch the encore from the side, near the entrance.

Once the concert ended, it was time to head back to Bielefeld. The next train to Bielefeld (which also happened to be the last train heading that direction for the day) was scheduled to arrive to Halle in more than an hour. Initially, when planning to stay in Bielefeld instead of Halle, the one hour wait seemed reasonable; however, when it was time to face the music, it was decided to just forego a few dozens of Euros and hail a taxi instead. €35 and 25 minutes later, we were back at the entertainment complex adjacent to the hotel.

I’ve been trying to reduce my food intake recently, with some success. Still, as dinner in Bielefeld took place very early (around 5:00pm), by the time the concert was over I already developed some sort of hunger. There were a few restaurants in the entertainment complex. Walking through them and inspecting the menus, came across an Italian one.

Needed to check whether the kitchen was open at all. Jeroen headed inside.

– “Is the kitchen still open?”

– “Yes.”

– “Good. So, can we eat here?”

– “No. The kitchen is closed.”

Sigh. I’m wondering if there’s something in Bielefeld’s air, or water, that makes people’s listening comprehension go a bit off.

Found a nearby Asian restaurant. One roll of sushi was ordered, two were provided. Yum. Back to the hotel and off to bed.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in Dresden.



  1. Hi Isaac
    As already written here to you, I'm one of your readers. My specificity is that I just can't stop reading until the final sentence of your daily travelog. Fascinating ... surely because it's that kind of empathy feeling that makes me step into your shoes. Then I would also call it some kind of selfish jealousy.
    This time describing the show held in this oddity i.e. this tennis venue in the middle of strictly nowhere, you made us (me at least) realise that you felt so surprised and pleased and moved and (nothing more, personal lexical field out of print) when listening and watching that someting different was happening on stage. Lucky you to have been there for this delicate and profound piece of poetry which is the Dream of the Drowned Submariner. And lucky us (me at least again) to have felt that sort of emotion just by reading.
    Have fun and enjoy the rest of your tour d'Europe (by the way do you know this band called Europe ?)

    1. If I was able to convey an emotion and make you feel as if you were here instead of me, then I did my job well.
      About Europe - yes... "The Final Countdown"...

  2. Regarding John's mandolin-like instrument : it may be a cittern. With 2 T preferrably to play music !

    1. Thanks Benoit. I was under the (false) impression that citterns are bigger. Apparently they come in different sizes. Post updated.

    2. If Schleyer had any weapons skills he would have been with the rest of the Nazi SS cohort that was shipped out to the USA that began the NASA kernel. I like the way you take an observers view point and keep your emotions out of the essay. Vancouver was the destiny for you Isaac. No one and I mean not a single soul will talk about the years from 1933 to either draw the line or accept that Germany and Austria could not function after 1945 unless those with blood on their hands received a token of justice..people knew what was going on.