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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Sunday, July 7, 2013

The 199th: Bad Mergentheim to Stuttgart, Germany (July 6, 2013)

It’s July 6th already. Hell, time flies.

The hotel I stayed in in Bad Mergentheim, Kurhotel Alexa, was located by the river in the quieter area of town, amidst a bunch of green. As a result, not even a peep could be heard while in the room. Also, the room featured curtains that could be turned completely opaque, which meant no light could enter the room in the morning. The result: very good night sleep.

The original schedule for the day called for departing Bad Mergentheim close to 12:00pm, arriving Stuttgart about two hours later. Very easy schedule, which would have been perfect had I not been terribly worried about my wrist. The day before, while my brain was working overtime worrying about my wrist’s fate, I decided to change the schedule and arrive to Stuttgart much earlier (hospital visits usually take hours, and I didn’t want to risk missing the concert). The Dutchman decided to tag along instead of spending a few more hours in this beautiful relaxing environment of this spa town, so by 8:30am we were already on the platform.

I’ll miss this place.


Short ride north east to Lauda (about 10 minutes), in a 2nd class cabin full of suitcases and—even worse—people. Those rural trains… I dislike them. Started hypothesizing about what would happen if the longer ride—from Lauda to Stuttgart—was to take place in a similar train: nightmare. Luckily, after about half an hour break in Lauda, a more proper train arrived carrying good 1st class cabins.

I cannot possibly stress this enough: if you are planning on a long trip to Europe, relying on trains, upgrading to 1st class passes is one of the best investments you could make.

The train ride from Lauda to Stuttgart passes through typical German country scenery. Germany is beautiful. Those of you who live in North America might not think of Germany as a travel destination, and I understand why: it’s not really promoted as such by travel agencies or airlines. In North America, destinations such as Paris, Amsterdam and London are most of what you would hear about with respect to European destinations. I have never seen any advertisement anywhere promoting any German destination.

Shame, really: it’s a beautiful country. I find it dumbfounding that people will buy into trips to Amsterdam and would consider it not exciting to visit, say, Köln; the latter is a more exciting destination than the former in almost every parameter.

(At least, that’s my opinion.)

It was once again a train ride of silence. I was almost as apathetic as I was the day before. I wanted to get to Stuttgart already, just so I can go to the hospital there and get a better idea of what the hell was going on.

About half an hour before arriving to Stuttgart, the Dutchman bothered to look at the reservation for the hotel we were booked for: Hotel Unger, right at the city center. The price was €230 for 2 nights, and the reservation said that “some of the rooms are air conditioned”. Internet connectivity? Wired only, for €5.50 per hour. Who booked it? myself. Why? I have absolutely no clue. I’m pretty sure that, when booking it, I had a good reason to; still, it’s not a reason to not at least try to change things around.

Two travel ninjas then fired up their mobile phones. Five minutes later, the reservation for the “possibly air conditioned” hotel was cancelled, and a reservation to a much better hotel (judging by the description) was made, for €62 less—for a 4 star hotel nearby the station.

Arrived at the hotel—ARCOTEL Camino—and immediately recognized that I’m lucky to be staying here. Beautiful. Room wasn’t ready yet, so I quickly changed to a slightly lighter attire (it was getting really warm outside), left the luggage with the hotel and rushed to the hospital.

The evening before, in Bad Mergentheim, I met a reader of this blog, by the name of Dirk. He happens to be living in Stuttgart, and gave me excellent advice which hospital to go to: Karl‐Olga Krankenhaus, about 6 minutes ride by underground from the central railway station. A small mix‐up in realizing which entrance I should be using—well, I don’t understand German at all—but eventually, found myself at the emergency department.

By myself.

I mean, I was the only patient there. The entire emergency department worked for me.

After a quick diagnosis, the doctor said that he’d like to see the X‐rays I took two weeks prior, in Regensburg. Loading those on his computer, he noticed a faint line that, in his opinion, was a fracture. It was very faint; still, I am not a doctor so I don’t know what doctors are trained to look at when inspecting X‐rays.

A new set of X‐rays was then needed. Done on the spot. The new X‐rays showed that the fracture (assuming that it was indeed a fracture; the doctor said he’s pretty sure about it) has almost disappeared. Instructions: continue wearing that wrist brace for a couple more weeks, and see how things unfold. These things are known to take a long time to heal.

If you are a doctor, or happen to know one, here’s the two applicable X‐rays: The one done in Regensburg two weeks ago is on the left.


Overall, I was there for just about two hours. Great service, and I’m indebted to Dirk and his girlfriend Sabine for helping me out with this. Hats off to them.

Back to the central railway station and went to the hotel. The room was located on the very first floor, and once the door opened, I was shocked: the room was almost as big as my apartment in Vancouver. HUGE. I don’t think I ever stayed in a hotel room that big.

Once I took a look at the bathroom, I figured it out: it was a room for the disabled. That explained the fact that the room was located on the first floor, and had ample space for disabled people to move around in.

Quick setup, sat down to do some writing, and before I knew it, it was time to leave again. Last time in Stuttgart—about two weeks ago—we got a lead to a place offering excellent local food. As Ingrid and Maarten were in town this time around, it was decided to have an early group dinner. Delicious food again, good conversation, good times. A couple of hours flew by as nothing.

Took some pictures on my way to the restaurant and back. Stuttgart is certainly a beautiful city.


Back to the hotel, but not for long. As Ingrid’s hotel was located right next to the venue, it was decided to meet there and head to the concert together. Knowing that I’ll probably opt to stay near the venue for (non‐alcoholic) drinks afterwards, I took my laptop with me so I can do some writing while the others enjoy themselves. The idea of writing my blog in Saturday night in a bar, surrounded by dozens of people who treat Saturday night as a “night out”, did nothing to deter me.

Dropped the laptop in Ingrid’s hotel, and off to the venue, a few steps away.

The venue, the Hanns Martin Schleyer Halle, is located in Stuttgart and named to commemorate Hanns Martin Schleyer, a former Nazi SS officer. Sounds a bit odd? I know it does. Sounds odd to me too, and I wrote about it last time I was here. I never quite understood what prompted the City of Stuttgart to commemorate a Nazi SS officer by naming one of its biggest arenas after him. Nobody bothered to explain it to me, either.

Arrived at the venue about 10 minutes before the concert started. Tickets picked up, and I went to buy some water for the group as everyone else headed to their seats. As I got to my seat, it wasn’t long before Feelin’ Good was played and the concert started.

And it was certainly not boring.

Before playing I Used to Could, Mark demonstrated the opening sequence as he tends to do recently. As he was done, he asked Richard whether this is “too fast for him”, to which Richard responded with “everything’s too fast for me” (which is, of course, false. I suggest you get a hold of Richard’s albums—all four of them—nothing is “too fast” for this guy)—prompting Mark to report to the audience that “everything [indeed] is too fast for Richard”.

As the band lined up to play Dream of the Drowned Submariner, Ian Thomas started performing the opening percussion sequence of Postcards for Paraguay instead (the percussion sequence during which Ian is normally being introduced. We’ll get to that below, read on). That was odd. I looked at Ian; the entire band looked at Ian; and the entire audience looked at the band looking at Ian. He then understood that something is amiss, stopped and said something along the lines of “oh, I thought we’re doing the [something I couldn’t decipher]”.

That triggered quite a bit of laughter from everyone present in the arena; all in good spirit, of course. Once the laughter was over, the band proceeded to play Dream of the Drowned Submariner the way I was waiting for it to be played. So, as I expected (and wrote about), this song indeed needed a few runs to catch substance; and in this particular song, most of the substance (again, that’s my personal opinion) is in the outro solo, which is Mark’s territory. Up until now, it seemed like Mark was experimenting, trying to figure out where to take things to—and in Stuttgart, for the first time, it simply sounded “complete”. Stunning performance of this song.

Get the USB stick for this one. Not only the performance of Dream of the Drowned Submariner was absolutely stunning: in my opinion, the Stuttgart concert was one of the top gigs in the tour. That shouldn’t be taken lightly, considering the fact that it was the fifth concert in a series of back‐to‐back concerts in Germany. Takes a lot of energy to perform this way after four concert days in a row.

Postcards from Paraguay is when Mark introduces the band. Ian Thomas is introduced first. This time, Mark mentioned Ian’s name and added that he was “dying to be introduced”—referring to Ian’s error from before, as he was performing the percussion sequence of the band’s introduction.

Quite an eventful concert, but by far, the oddest event took place at the very end. At the very end of the last song (Going Home), Ian struck the drums as he usually does, then got up, threw the drumsticks away and just left the stage. By “threw”, I mean simply throwing them high up in the air without aiming anywhere in particular. One stick flew to the back, and one stick flew forward, almost hitting Glenn’s upright bass once gravity kicked in to bring the flying stick back to the ground. The entire band, minus Ian, stayed on the stage to bid the audience farewell.

I have absolutely no idea what prompted the throwing of the sticks and the early departure from the stage. I have never witnessed such an occurrence before, and as this post’s title suggests, the Stuttgart concert was the 199th time I watched this band perform. I can only hope that everything’s OK back there.

Oh, yes. 199. I was going over my records a few months ago, and unless I’m missing something, the Stuttgart concert was the 199th time I watched this band perform—the first time being July 5, 2005 in Toronto.

199 concerts in 8 years, out of which 193 since June 2008.

I am privileged to be able to do this.

As the band left, something appeared to be going on at the left hand side of the stage. Someone seemed to have been trying to steal something from the stage. A figure (a crew member?) ran from the back of the stage to its front, and there certainly was some contact going on. Seconds later, I saw security pushing away a young idiot wearing a white T‐shirt.

Earlier today, I was informed that the idiot actually went on the stage, in an attempt to grab the drum stick that Ian had thrown away before. The person who informed me of this stood closer to where the action took place, so perhaps they are more accurate in their description of what really happened there.

One thing is for sure: it involved a selfish idiot.

After the show, went to a pub/restaurant nearby and spent a couple of hours chatting with friends. Did almost no writing at all, despite my plan to do so. Good times, made me almost completely forget that wrist thing. There aren’t many chances to socialize when following such a busy tour, but still, I’m happy to have had the chance to do so.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in Stuttgart, after a great day off here. Tomorrow: train ride to Nîmes, France—for another day off. Next concert—the 200th—on Tuesday, in one of the most stunning venues I have ever seen.



  1. Ohne Schadenfreude: MK runs a tight ship which does not include temper tantrums mid-show.

  2. Hi Isaac,

    I am greatly enjoying your tour blog. Being a longtime Knopfler fan myself, I can fully understand why you would want to see as many of his concerts as possible because they are never the same.

    Regarding the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer in Stuttgart, I just wanted to say that Schleyer is not honored for his difficult Nazi past with it but for the fact that he was a leading industrialist and manager in the old Federal Republic of Germany who was kidnapped and killed by the leftist terrorist organization "Rote Armee Fraktion" in the course of the so-called "German Fall" in 1977. It was a very brutal kidnapping and murder and one of the deepest crises of the old Federal Republic, from which Schleyer emerged as some sort martyr for liberal democracy and free-market capitalism. While some of the terrorists are still alive, they have never said who of them murdered Schleyer, whose live was very much entangled with the city of Stuttgart.