Returning to my hotel after the indescribably fabulous day off in Bergen (see previous post), I already felt sad for having to leave so soon. Like Paris, Bergen (in particular; Norway in General) is a place I will for sure revisit in the foreseeable future; a beautifully‐carved country such as Norway has no way to escape the 79kg weight of my feet.
It was time to plan for the airport ride. As a train connection between Bergen and Hamburg takes about 25 hours including the stops along the way, a flight was the only option; I booked an early flight—leaving Bergen’s airport at 8:00am, touching Oslo at 8:50am, an hour wait and then arriving to Hamburg on 12:10pm.
From the Bergen Montana Hostel, a normal route to the airport (except for a taxi) would be to take the bus to the city centre, then take an airport shuttle. Together, that’s about an hour ride not including unforeseeable events such as traffic jams as well as the actual connection time (buses leaving in different frequencies). A lot of hassle… mainly due to taxi cabs in Norway being notoriously expensive.
So, you could imagine my complete and utter puzzlement when I approached the receptionist at the hostel, asked her to help me plan for my airport ride and got a response with the words “but there’s a strike”.
You’ve got to be kidding.
She wasn’t. Turned out that Norway’s airports’ security‐staff are unionized. Every now and then some asshole there raises a red flag and decides to make people’s lives unbearable; this time it was about demanding a salary raise (well, it really is always about the money, isn’t it). Negotiations collapsed and the union decided to significantly decrease the capacity of airports’ security staff, causing long delays and, occasionally, cancellations.
The implication for me was that I had to leave very early, and have an airport route that is as predicable as possible. Thought about it for a few minutes and decided to not risk having my trip becoming a nightmare. Taxi‐cab it is. Would leave 5:30am—the airport is 30 minutes away, and it’s a small airport; quite a comfort buffer zone, don’t you think?—arriving at the airport two hours before departure.
Oh, I miss the days of just packing some hand‐luggage and arriving at Toronto airport about 45 minutes before departure…
Wonderful good night sleep and I woke up just in time; taxi cab was already there, waiting. It’s nice when everything’s planned out just right and all you have to do in the morning is behave like a robot. 25 minutes and about $55 later, I was at the airport, ready for action.
Automated check‐in (of course), luggage drop‐off… and the line‐up in security was literally non‐existent. 5 minutes later I was at the gate. I guess someone didn’t communicate the details about the strike to the Bergen airport staff; things definitely seem to go as usual there.
A 3‐seater just for myself and I glued face to the window. Perfect weather with hardly any clouds—I figured the views should be gorgeous; and they were. I took a few photos, as well as a video; as soon as I have the time to figure out how to export the camera’s video format to something that is web‐friendly, I’ll post it here. For now, here are some photos.
What a beautiful view; after taking the video, I continued to stare at this beauty until my eyes closed; ten minutes later, we landed in Oslo’s airport.
I must admit that, from far above in fantastic weather, Oslo does seem inviting; that is, not necessarily the city itself (there’s only so much that you can tell about buildings and architecture when you’re looking at it from an airplane), but its surroundings. Lots of shades of green all over, a few lakes and rivers. May make a nice day (or two days) trip. So, who knows… maybe my next Norway trip will consist of flying to Oslo and making my way to Bergen by car, stopping along in all bunch of nice places.
An hour wait in Oslo’s airport and I was already very tired. Just about four hours of sleep the night before, and already past one flight, I couldn’t bear it anymore and attempted to fall asleep at the gate—to no avail. Too noisy. I tried to sleep during the flight from Oslo to Hamburg, with very limited success courtesy of a young boy that cried during the entire flight, easily bypassing any filters imposed by my noise‐cancelling headphones.
Finally, at 12:10pm, I landed in Hamburg. Thank goodness; I’m travelling by land again.
From Hamburg’s airport it’s a 25 minutes S‐Bahn ride to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (treat this blog as an opportunity to learn key words in different languages. From past posts, you should know by now that hauptbahnhof means central train station). The S‐Bahn at that section goes mostly on the ground, revealing quite a bit of greenery—surprising to me as I have heard that Hamburg is not really a small city. I would imagine it to be more industrialized and thus less green.
(Later, I became aware of the fact that many Germans argue that Hamburg is the most beautiful city in Germany)
Arriving at the train station, upon exiting, I was expecting to have my eyes meet with the sort of “beauty” that is typical to the surroundings of central train stations—from past experience, the immediate areas around central train stations are often run‐down, shady and altogether failing to please any sense. That wasn’t the case in Hamburg, though; with the sunny blue sky on top, even the train station area looked appealing: lots of restaurants and cafes around, inviting you for a pleasant walk.
My hotel, Hotel Alpha Garni, was located 300m away from the train station. Truth be told, I was expecting a disaster here as well—in most cases, hotels nearby a central train station aren’t very good quality, trading comfort for noise and beauty for greyness.
The walk towards the hotel was pleasant; very crowded architecture there and it was often hard to tell when one store / hotel ends and when the next one starts. Had to do a bit of walking around until I found my hotel tucked in a corner I had missed before.
And, voila—surprise again. It’s a simple hotel—don’t expect miracles here—but the staff is very friendly and the rooms offer everything you need for a good night sleep. For its price—about €50 per night—it was a bargain, considering the brilliant location in a very quiet neighbourhood literally 5 minutes walk from the train station.
I was happy.
Miriam and I decided to get together for some food prior to the concert. It was 1:30pm, I’m dead tired and we agreed to meet on 3:00pm or so. Well, I should have known, from past experience, that when women provide a time for meeting, it’s actually a time starting which you have to wait with great anticipation to the “real” time to be announced. Hence, the potential of getting 3 hours of sleep has been reduced to slightly more than an hour.
Two hours late, we met at the train station; quick meal in a mediocre Italian restaurant, then coffee at a nearby cafe. It was 6:00pm, with the show starting at 8:00pm, so a joint decision (“joint” in the sense that Miriam decided and I had no option but to agree) has been made to start making our way towards the venue.
From the central train station, S‐Bahn #21 takes you to a station named Stellingen‐Arenas, from which (according to James Morris) a shuttle should take you to the venue. Having no shuttle appear in 20 minutes, we decided to walk.
The BlackBerry’s GPS took us through a highway with very narrow sidewalks. While walking there, some cars actually honked their horns at us, as if to tell us we’re not really wanted there; well, those cars had a good point. As soon as we finished walking through the tunnel, the sidewalk disappeared. Dead‐end. Feel free to walk on the highway if you wish to.
We then decided to walk back to the station, get a taxi‐cab and get it over with, no shuttles needed, thank you very much. It’s a 1.5km distance. 15 minutes later, we arrived at the venue.
The Color Line Arena is adjacent to a soccer stadium hosting Hamburg’s soccer team. It actually is located at the edge of a huge park (so I have learned later); it has recently (?) been renamed to “O₂ World”, to commemorate the acquisition of arenas in Germany by large corporations.
The instructions for markknopfler.com ticket holders were to pick‐up their tickets at the entrance, marked “E2”. On your way there, you first have to go through some skim bodily search (to ensure you’re not carrying any weapon, or even worse—cameras with detachable lenses). I did, and then was told that I have to go pick my ticket up someplace else. Wrong / inaccurate instructions again… come on.
I don’t think that the Color Line Arena is a concert hall (I’m on the train now, can’t really check. Sorry). Seems more like an indoor sports arena, maybe hockey or something.
Picked my ticket up—Block I‐2, row 1, seat 13; as always, first thing I did was to get acquainted (briefly) with the venue and find my way to my seat, which was located at the front, slightly to the left—facing John McCusker this time.
Sitting at the front row here was very nice—lots of leg space, and the stage wasn’t too high (although not as low as, say, the Royal Albert Hall). By the simple, plain structure of the venue, I concluded that the sound here isn’t going to be the absolute perfect acoustic experience.
A quick chat with familiar and unfamiliar faces—introduced to a few Knopfler fans who offered the usual “you’re crazy” routine which doesn’t offend me anymore (but thanks, nice to meet you too). Knopfler has a strong fan base in Germany, hence the total of 11 (!) shows in Germany during this tour—that’s just about %12.5 of the shows (nine in a row starting Hamburg; Frankfurt about a week ago, and Würzburg in July).
The concert started as the band took the stage at 8:00pm.
The day before (June 15) was a day off for the band, which they had spent in London (I would have suggested to spend it in Bergen. Oh, I still can’t let go of the Bergen experience, can I). I have heard opinions before saying that the band needs some time to “warm up” before the show starts to kick arse after a day off; in my mind that’s not really the case, but yesterday was the exception as the first few songs appeared to have missed some “boom” factor.
But, even that exception had its own sub‐exception as the quiet solo part of What It Is was very pleasing to the ear. By the time Prairie Wedding has ended, things got back to normal and the show was great as usual; Hill Farmer’s Blues followed with (if I recall correctly) a shorter‐than‐usual outro solo but pleasant nonetheless.
There was someone at the audience that was either severely drunk or developing some serious implications in his vocal cords. His “yeahhhh” cheers before and during some of the songs reminded me some scenes from the movie Gladiator—you know, those cheers that, once they’re over, you expect to find the yeller’s kidneys somewhere on the floor as there’s no way his internal organs managed to hang on to their natural location. I vividly remember this guy’s cheer during the quietest part of “Romeo and Juliet”…
About a week ago—I don’t remember in which concert—Mark presented Mike McGoldrick as Mike McCusker. Yesterday we had a funny sequel when Mark, when presenting Mike, said something along the line of “some people believe he’s the best flute player in the world; (turning to John) I believe even John thinks so, don’t you John?”. The “Oh no, I’m in the spotlight again” expression on John’s face was priceless, as well as the gesture he made with his hands as if to signify “… well… so‐so”.
An outstanding Telegraph Road solo sent the seaters in the front rows towards the stage; in Germany, I call it “Ze Running of Ze Bulls”—actually not as bad as, say, the Royal Albert Hall stampede. I was baffled, though, to find out that a particularly gorgeous lady, who was seated at the seventh row, found her way to the very dead centre of the stage. Something in her doesn’t really scream “violence”. Interesting.
We all listened to the encore while standing, very close to the band. Good experience as always.
During So Far Away, right at the starting chords, Mark stopped playing and started gazing at the audience while the rest of the band kept on playing. A few bars later, it was Richard Bennett who stroke the famous B5—A5—E5 chords instead of Mark. Nice trick to fool the audience; they actually did it in Bergen as well—don’t know how come I didn’t write about it.
The concert ended shortly after 10:00pm after 16 songs (Get Lucky made a very welcome comeback).
Miriam, her friend Wolfgang, his sister and I then left the venue, and realized that the shuttles that take people back to the nearest S‐Bahn station had a line‐up the length of The Nile; we decided to walk instead. Pleasant walk through a softly‐lit park. Hamburg is indeed a beautiful city.
A short S‐Bahn ride and we all split our ways. A quick meal in Brock House, which appears to be a German chain restaurant offering steaks, seafood and some American menu items. Surprisingly, good stuff; a platter of four small steaks, plus healthy goodies for about €11. Not bad.
Back to the hotel for a good—no; GREAT—night sleep.
Signing‐off this post at June 17, about 5:00pm from my hotel room in Hannover. Concert starts in about 3 hours.
There’s these moments when you travel alone, especially for such a long time, when things start to feel a bit… how should I say it… too much alone. It comes and goes, I guess: sometimes you can be very happy by yourself, sometimes you can be totally miserable even while surrounded by people.
Well, as I wrote (I believe) at the Kill to Get Crimson tour blog, such voyages often offer a chance for one to look at things from a different angle and re‐evaluate the very merits based on which one builds himself his own set of values, beliefs and goals. So it’s not necessarily bad, you know.
Not necessarily bad; but often very hard to do.
Gonna be tricky falling asleep tonight, I suppose…