Writing: seated at the lobby of Leipzig Marriot Hotel, my hotel for tonight. 11:20pm, Saturday night and I ain’t looking for anything that is more challenging than parking my ass on a couch and writing. Thank you.
The one month anniversary of the European leg of the tour (oh Lord. I find it hard to appreciate the fact that I’ve been traveling for more than two and a half months now!) amounted to a fabulous night sleep at Berlin’s Motel One—Bellevue. Same as the last few days, today’s train ride was scheduled to be a mere one hour ride via the ICE train to Leipzig; direct trains to Leipzig depart Berlin Hauptbahnhof on an hourly basis, so no need to hurry.
Motel One doesn’t offer free Wi‐Fi in the rooms, unless (and that’s the weird deal) you buy their breakfast buffet for about €7. Figuring I’d have to eat breakfast somewhere, and I really need that Wi‐Fi thing working, it was really a good two‐for‐one deal and I made it worth the while by devouring a really healthy and tasty breakfast.
I mentioned it before, I think: so far in my European travel experience, even the cheapest hotels I stayed in had breakfast buffets superior to most hotel‐provided buffets in North America. Fascinating.
Another hour was spent with my ass occupying one of those comfy funky seats at the lobby (you should check that hotel chain out), booking hotels for Italy (thanks Daria!). A free coffee with milk, courtesy of a nice redheaded receptionist with surprisingly good English, and I left the hotel at around 12:00pm to catch the 12:58pm train (it’s 15 minutes walk to the train station… But again, I’m in a “take it easy” mood nowadays before the craziness of July’s travel begins).
Friends of mine who had been to Berlin before were signing their lives next to stating that this is one hell of a fun city to be in. I felt bad for having to leave without seeing anything there; but hey, sacrifices have to be made. I will be back here some time for sure (Paris, however, comes first).
Saturday morning… Bellevue’s streets are empty. Cloudy sky. It’s windy, a bit cold. Walking up the street towards the central train station really didn’t feel like walking in the streets of one of the most vibrant cities on this planet; it felt more like walking on the moon (the actual activity, not Police’s song). Arrived at the central station having enough time to shop (for water) and take some pictures; Berlin’s central train station is very nice, functional, easy to get oriented with.
Train left on time and I found myself at the quiet zone of the ICE train’s first class cabin—joy. Got a lot done during that short one hour ride to Leipzig.
Leipzig (pronounced Lipe‐Zikh) (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leipzig) used to belong to East Germany at those times when that stupid wall used to exist and make life miserable for way too many people. It was seriously hit during World War II but was rebuilt ever since. Economy here is doing well comparing to other ex‐East Germany cities, and it has some interesting character to it. Not quite the boring German city, no; comparing to Frankfurt, for example, Leipzig is pretty interesting.
(Then again, Frankfurt isn’t really located high up in the “worldly interesting cities” list, but work with me here)
My hotel was the Leipzig Marriott Hotel which I Priceline’d for quite the ridiculous amount, given the fantastic location: across the road from the main train station, about 1.5km away from the venue which can also be accessed via a short tram ride from the main train station, and right next to Nikolaistraße (read: Sh‐tra‐sse) which is the street offering most of whatever is there to do at the city centre area.
Crossed the road towards the hotel, checked‐in and felt really good being in one great hotel room. It’s really hard to fail when you book with Marriott—they may be expensive (unless you Priceline the living sh*t out of them) but you can be sure that you’re getting a fabulous room.
I was hungry but determined to manage to book a hotel for Rome before I leave. The last part of the tour (Italy post‐Perugia onwards) is going to be the toughest, with Spain being the pinnacle of annoyance as I’ll probably have to fly everywhere, rent cars and altogether work way too much; so I’m trying to get rid of planning as soon as possible.
Once booked, it was already 4:00pm and I went out for some early dinner. After eating sandwiches for almost two whole days, I promised myself a restaurant. The receptionist guided me to the best Italian restaurant she can think of; thank you very much dear, but it’s closed between 3:00pm and 6:00pm (that I found out after looking for the place for 20 minutes).
Took some pictures while looking for a place to eat. Weather was lovely and Leipzig’s city centre is pleasant to walk around.
San Remo restaurant is very hard to miss as its terrace is so massive that it takes more than half the width of the walkway. Lots of people on the terrace, watching the world cup (Ghana vs. Australia. Ended 1:1) so I sat inside.
The first thing that caught my attention about this place is that they have five (yes, five) menus—four of them are for desserts, and one—small—for actual meals, mostly Italian. The sight of the awesome desserts was so great, so strong that, had Jeroen Gerrits seen it, he’d take the first flight from Amsterdam to Leipzig and wouldn’t return until “the job is done” (Jeroen has very weak resistance to sweets. You get to learn these kind of things about people once you drive 14,000km with them throughout North America).
Pasta—not bad. Some variation on a latte that I have never seen before—excellent. Then came the dessert and I thought I died and went to heaven. Cherries crepe with some ice cream on top. Oh, it was worth eating sandwiches for two days just to lay my tongue on this heavenly mixture of sweets.
An hour was killed there chewing on good food and it was time to leave. Decided to do some more walking around, take some more pictures. It’s nice outside and my hotel is right there, so why not.
Time to go to the venue… up to my room, got whatever I needed and headed out. My right ankle still hurts so my plan to walk to the venue (about 20 minutes) was deserted towards the ankle‐friendlier alternative of taking the tram. Once again I got totally and completely amazed by the quality of public transport in Germany; why have a car here—that’s beyond me. You can get damn near anywhere you need with public transit; perhaps it takes a bit longer than when using a car, but the experience is altogether less stressful, cheaper and if you plan your schedule right you will actually spend less time in transit.
Simply awesome. I have no other words to describe it. Public transit in major cities in Germany should serve as a beacon for all major cities in North America (except for NYC of course. You know… NYC isn’t really representative of North America). Harper, Obama… come on, get your ass moving.
A short tram ride to the Sportforum station, then crossing the road to Arena Leipzig. I’m here, about an hour ahead of time.
Arena Leipzig (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leipzig_Arena) is a sports arena that seats up to 12,000. It is a part of the Sportforum (Wikipedia (German): http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sportforum_Leipzig) which offers, other than the arena, a swimming pool, sports museum and Leipzig’s central stadium.
The Arena is located at the southern tip of the Sportforum, surrounded by a fair bit of ass‐friendly grass as people waiting for the concert spent their time sitting on it, basking in the sun. I joined them, of course, right after obtaining my ticket and taking some pictures.
45 minutes before the concert’s scheduled start time (8:00pm) I went inside to explore the area.
My ticket: block A (front) row 1 (you know where that is), seat 1 (the count today started from the centre). Good to be back at the centre.
Lots of people traffic near the centre of the stage tonight; people seemed to be excited about having the band over for a short visit, and that excitement was demonstrated a few minutes after 8:00pm when the band took the stage to the sound of immense cheers.
The concert started… but something was definitely missing. Didn’t sound quite like previous concerts, and after a few minutes I realized what was going on. Comparing to previous concerts, there was relatively less guitar action on behalf of Mark. He seemed to be distracted for the first few songs (things improved significantly after Hill Farmer’s Blues)—often just going to attempt to play something, then regretting; or playing it while the volume pedal is depressed so no sound is made. On his face, it was as clear as daylight that either something distracted him (pain, perhaps?), or he was very tired, or both.
Get well soon, Mark…
Romeo and Juliet extorted severely loud cheers from the audience, and Sultans of Swing was the turning point of the concert as things appeared to work much better for Mark from there on.
Done with Bonaparte was played at the C key today (like yesterday. To my taste, this is preferable over playing it in the D key but who the hell asks me) and during the Marbletown jam‐session it appeared that all hell broke loose as the band gave a fantastic performance. What made this performance so good was that there was no gap at all between John’s part and Mike’s part—perfect synchronization, not even one intermission bar. Straight to business, so the momentum built by John transcends directly to Mike and kept thereafter. Good stuff. I got my ass off my seat at the end of the song for a standing ovation; one of the best Marbletown’s yet.
There have been talks recently, following Guy Fletcher’s recent diary entry announcing setlist changes coming up soon. Martina, whom I found myself sitting next to in pretty much all concerts in Germany so far, diverted my attention to the fact that there’s a guitar slide on the tray holding Mark’s towel and water. I naturally assumed Donegan’s Gone is up next right after Marbletown… but no. Mike remained seated with the pipes, Richard grabbed an MK Stratocaster and Mark re‐gained his National and neglected the slide altogether.
No, I didn’t guess. It took about 10–15 seconds for the band to start playing, during which I ran through all instrument configurations I yet to have seen but couldn’t figure out what was coming next.
The first song from Kill to Get Crimson to be played during this tour—ladies and gentleman, please welcome The Fish and the Bird to the setlist. Together with the Coyote we already have, we got ourselves a nice zoo thing going. Performed very similarly to the way it was during the Kill to Get Crimson tour, except that Mike’s pipes add a whole lot to it—beautiful.
I couldn’t help but smile all throughout the song; you should be able to figure out why. Mike McGoldrick appeared to have understood why, a bit hearty smile aimed directly at me. I guess my happiness was evident.
Fantastic Telegraph Road finale and the audience at the front blocks were all standing. To ensure I can watch the concert, I stood up and walked peacefully towards the centre. Good to be there, listening to the usual encore.
About a minute before Piper to the End started, some nice‐looking woman shoved herself to the front, right beside me, pushing me aside. She had an interesting agenda—handing Mark an envelope. Here, see:
Now, you know me… I’m curious. Now get this: the envelope’s addressee side had the following written on it:
To: Mark Knopfler
Notting Hill, London
(Doesn’t he live in Chelsea? Even I know that, and I know less about Mark Knopfler than 100% of his fans)
The other side of the envelope (the sender’s details) had everything filled in. Now you may think it’s bizarre, right?
Wait. There’s more.
The envelope actually had post‐marks of what appeared to be genuine post‐marks of a legitimate country (Germany or the UK… couldn’t tell which). I’m strongly suspecting that she once actually tried to mail that letter and it was sent back to her. She put a stamp there and everything…
For a minute I toyed with the idea of explaining to her how mail works; you actually have to write down the address as mailmen kind‐of need that in order to deliver mail. Might as well saved her €0.40 and use a bird as transport. But I decided to just let this be—Lord, just when I thought I have seen everything.
Cute, though. Made me smile; she was quite disappointed though when her attempts to deliver the mail have failed.
Concert ended at 10:20pm. The audience loved the show—cheering all throughout and roaring at the end.
During one of the songs, some tiny piece of paper appeared to have made its way from the ceiling onto the floor, right beside me. It was a sticker, apparently got loose somehow and detached from one of the projectors up above. It wasn’t too warm at the venue so I suspect one of those projectors got heated up? who knows. I collected it, and once the concert was done, returned it to one of the crew members who appreciated it very much.
– “See you tomorrow”, he said. Well, I guess they all got used to my face hanging around.
Got a bit disoriented as I left the venue; finally found the tram and within 10 minutes I was at the central station, steps away from the hotel.
Decided to take a short walk around Leipzig’s centre area to see what’s going on. Surprisingly, not much activity. Some places were open—especially those with terraces—mostly mature people sitting out and about chatting quietly over drinks.
Back at the hotel and I started writing this blog entry at the lobby.
Good day. Very good day; I’m happy.
Signing‐off this post at 2:30am, in my hotel room. Long train ride (about 4 hours or so) to Köln tomorrow.