Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here:


Hello. My name is Isaac Shabtay, 32 years old from Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s “Get Lucky” tour during the spring‐summer of 2010. This is in much the same way I did for Knopfler’s 2008 “Kill to Get Crimson” tour (see the “Links” section), except that this time, I will be following the entire tour—starting April 8 in Seattle, Washington, and ending July 31 in Gredos, Spain. Similarly to before, though, you are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read and comment. All comments, positive and negative, are welcome. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see links at the right‐hand side of the screen), so new posts become available through your favorite RSS reader. Have fun, Isaac

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Concert Day: Papp Laszlo Budapest Sportarena, Budapest, Hungary & Leaving to Italy (July 4–6, 2010)

Writing: on board the 6:50am RailJet train from Vienna to Budapest.

First of all, happy independence day to all of the Americans reading this. Oh, how I wish I had lived in Vancouver—celebrating Canada Day on July 1st and then driving 3 hours south to Seattle to celebrate July 4th.

So, where was I.

Oh, OK. Here.

My hopes that as night sets in my hotel room’s temperature will become more and more manageable, shattered tragically as I opened the hotel room’s door and entered what I, had I been blindfolded, would mistake for an oven. Shower didn’t help; upon drying myself, I became sweaty again. Unbearable heat, and when it’s humid, it doesn’t matter how dark you leave your room when you step out—humid air takes forever to cool off.

I really didn’t know what to do. I was so tired, and the inability to fall asleep made me miserable. I tried everything—even wetting a towel with cold water and using it as a blanket.

I just couldn’t fall asleep.

At 5:00am, I decided to simply stop trying. My hotel in Budapest was going to be the Hilton West‐End Budapest, a 5‐star hotel that I Priceline’d a while ago; I knew that I am very likely to have some decent sleep there so I decided to flee the oven and get to Budapest as early as possible, then beg at the Hilton for an early check‐in.

The earliest fast train on Sundays between Vienna and Budapest is the 6:50am train by RailJet, making it to Budapest in 3 hours. I got up, wrapped my belongings and went downstairs.

It’s funny that the hotel’s reception area is air‐conditioned. How stupid is that, a hotel in which one feels better staying at its reception than at the very room they paid good money (well… €55) for. Spent about an hour there blogging, then took the subway to Wien Westbahnhof (Vienna’s west train station).

A short overpriced breakfast at a cafe in the train station, and I went to the platform. Significant improvement over Wroclaw’s miserable Wroclaw Glowny station; now here’s a train station that is properly marked and signed. Found my train with no problem and entered the first‐class cabin.

You may remember me talking about the InterCity‐Express (ICE) trains in Germany, how nice the first‐class cabin is there and such. Well, regrettably, if this train that I’m on is of any indication for RailJet’s trains, apparently the ICE still has some way to go. This train’s first‐class cabins are super‐spacious, well‐lit, LCD screens all across, very clean—hell, it feels like you’re at the first‐class cabin of an airplane!

Attempts to fall asleep while on board have failed and therefore I decided to give up and wait until I get to the hotel.

Writing: in Crazy Cafe, a funky restaurant about 5 minutes walk from my hotel.

Oh, the difference that even some short sleep can do!

Arrived at Budapest Keleti‐Pu, which is Budapest’s main train station. Tired and weary, I walked along the platform to find the exit, sifting through the myriad of bums, crooks and other sub‐attractive life forms that appeared to have one and only one goal in mind: take my money. It came to a point that I actually had to tell them to go away.

I’m used to central train stations being the hub not just for transportation but also to those who would go to great lengths to take more and more money from you, but I think Budapest’s Keleti‐Pu station has set a standard that will be very hard to break. The situation was so bad—and it was a Sunday early morning!—that I almost stepped on some people trying to make my way out and to the city.

Hungary is a part of the European Union, and had its plans to join the EMU (European Monetary Union) as well but those plans have been postponed to some time between 2012–2014 (according to local politicians; that might as well mean 2120–2140). Another nuisance—get local currency. The local currency here is called Hungarian Forint; the exchange rate? at the moment it stands at around 286 HFN to €1. Somebody here had trouble keeping inflation at bay, I suppose.

Failing to find a bank machine at the train station, I decided that I’m too tired to look any further and just pay a visit to the Western Union stand there to exchange some Euro’s. Even as I approached the stand, somebody tried to sell me local currency for a rate that was better than Western Union’s but worse than the inter‐bank rate. As I had no interest in taking a risk for dealing with counterfeit bills while following the band, I completely ignored him; he didn’t seem to like it, judging by the tone of his voice while emitting what I believe was a curse word in Hungarian.

The short yet excessively‐unfriendly initial contact with the inhabitants of this place made me want to walk the 3.3km stretch to my hotel instead of taking a taxi. Started walking and immediately saw a few police officers questioning somebody; fuck it, I said, retraced, found a taxi cab with an half‐asleep driver in it and within 5 minutes we were at the hotel.

Now apparently somebody ripped me off as I find it hard to believe that a 3.3km taxi ride—about 5 minutes—came to just about €15. But you know what? I’ll treat this as the cost of my ignorance. Not in the mood for a battle, I departed the taxi and entered the hotel.

(In retrospect, I could have actually made it to my hotel via the metro, for the price of just about €1)

The thing I dislike most about 5‐star hotels—and unfortunately I have yet to find any 5‐star hotel anywhere that would be an exception—is that such hotels think it is reasonable to charge ridiculous money for Internet connectivity. They take the liberty to think that whoever is rich enough to book a hotel room in their establishment, shouldn’t be too concerned with paying €20 (!) for in‐room Internet access.

However, my argument against such hotels is not just about the stupid amount of money they charge for Internet access; Internet access, as far as I am concerned, is a utility that it’s just about damn time be provided for free (by, for example, factoring costs into local sales taxes). The Internet has become a facility so vital that I really can’t see any difference between it and, say, a highway that everybody can ride for free. Governments who don’t strive to provide Internet access to the masses (unfortunately, that amounts to pretty much all governments in existence; yes, including Canada) for free—essentially state that those who can afford it can become smarter and more productive, while those who can’t afford it—can’t.

Doesn’t sound to me like the perfect path to raising intellect within the population; having said that, it is a well‐known fact that it’s much easier to control and govern uninformed, or sometimes stupid, people.

Anyway, enough with the rants. I passed on the generous offer for in‐room Internet access for millions of dollars, which explains the delay in July 3rd’s post (please direct your complaints at the hotel); went to my room, enjoyed my newly‐found, air‐conditioned space and went for a shower.

The room I got was a twin room—two single beds that are attachable into one double bed. It has a shower as well as a bath. Strange, isn’t it. As if the room was designed for couples going through some rough times. After spending about a minute deciding which side of the couple I wish to be, I chose the shower and had such a superb shower, washing away the bullshit of the last couple of days. Then went to sleep on a super‐comfortable bed. I felt glad for surviving the trip so far.

The hotel, Hilton West‐End Hotel, is named that way because it is attached to a big shopping mall called “West‐End”. It is located about 2km away from whatever it is that’s interesting for most tourists to see in Budapest. There is not much to see at the immediate area of the hotel, however there are far less “tourist traps” here than 2km south where tourist traffic is significant.


Using Google Maps for BlackBerry (the single most important application you must install when you’re travelling. Without it I’d probably be missing quite a few concerts already. Forget RIM’s‐provided BlackBerry Maps; it’s pure crap) to look for places to eat, results came back with a few interesting opportunities. One of them was a medieval‐themed restaurant (“Sir Lancelot” something) that had fantastic reviews but was way too pricey; I ended up going to a nearby place called Crazy Cafe.

Well, there are many things I heard about Budapest in the past—but what I only recently learned was that Budapest boasts some very interesting dining options—food here is apparently great (generally speaking of course). Crazy Cafe, perhaps a bit of a tourist trap, is divided into four sections, each with its own “theme”. Very cool design for it all—went downstairs to what appeared to be a dungeon, then navigated through what appeared to be a cave into the “Jungle” section. They have plants there, some artificial waterfalls… everything to make you feel as if you’re having a picnic in a jungle. Very cool.


Now, I wouldn’t go too much into details about this place; after all, I was there to eat, not to experience a jungle atmosphere. Initially I made the assumption that I shouldn’t expect too much from the food here; if it looks like a tourist trap, it probably also tastes like one. However, reading the menu, I couldn’t avoid seeing some very interesting picks. After considering taking the Kangaroo Steak, I decided that I should leave something to look forward to while visiting Australia and opted, instead, for a delicious dish involving veal‐wrapped ham stripes, baked with mozzarella cheese and served with Gnocchi & parmesan cheese. Sounds good? I know. It tastes even better; as I am writing these lines at around 12:10pm in my hotel room (late checkout privilege… Woo‐Hoo) I’m seriously considering paying another visit there.

So, make a note of it.

A couple was sitting at a table next to me. Turned out they’re both Hungarian, but he has been living in Los Angeles for quite a while. Asking me the inevitable “so what are you doing in Budapest”, I had to give him the full story which he found a bit tricky to comprehend. He’s probably reading this blog entry right now—and, as almost always, I completely suck with names so I have no recollection of their names. Hey guys, nice chatting with you yesterday and have fun back in Los Angeles!


I had a few hours to kill. Neglecting any plan to explore the area, I decided to keep things easy and parked my butt in a Costa Coffee (interesting. I thought it’s a UK‐only chain) very close to my hotel, offering free Wi‐Fi. Some travel planning, catching up with the world… easy.

At 6:30pm, an hour and a half before the concert’s scheduled start time, I took the metro to the Sportarena. Budapest’s metro system is efficient, very simple to understand however looks a bit depressed if you ask me. Cars from the 13th century or so, and the ticketing scheme is quite primitive.

About 15 minutes in the subway (over two subway lines) and I arrived at the Sportarena.

The Papp László Budapest Sportarena (Wikipedia: used to be called “Budapest Sportarena” however on May 2004 was renamed after László Papp, a Hungarian boxer who died in 2003. Its maximum capacity is 12,500 and it’s the second largest hall in Hungary.

From the outside, the venue looks like a huge spaceship completely unrelated to the general view of Budapest. There’s a metro stop right in front of the venue.


The venue configuration for the concert was general admission at the front, and seats in the back.


At the presales for this concert, buyers had the option to choose whether to get a general admission ticket or a seated ticket. I chose to be seated as I knew that I’m not going to line‐up for hours in the venue—I have never been to Budapest before and figured I’d like to use the time to explore the city for a bit. My seat, then, was slightly off the centre, to the left, at the sixth row on the terrace. Quite far from the stage; the soundboard was right below me.


The concert started about 5 minutes after the scheduled time (8:00pm).

As I was very far from the stage, I took very few photos and even some of those went out crappy as the combination of high zoom and low lights is very hard to cope with. Also, right in front of my face, a cable stretched from the ceiling to the soundboard. Not such a thick cable, but you know, once you realize its presence, you simply can’t ignore it anymore. Lets see if you can spot it in the pictures below.

The concert in Budapest featured a setlist one song shorter than the night before (Get Lucky wasn’t played). Wouldn’t say that this venue should be renowned for its fantastic sound—it shouldn’t—but fair enough.


People on the terrace taking pictures using their flash were immediately approached by ushers and instructed to turn the flash off; but at the general admission area… well, things were different there. As it was unlikely that ushers will sift their ways through thousands of people to locate a criminal, one thing that was very clear about that show was that it was video‐recorded by a lot of people. Take a look at the next picture, showing tiny lights at the general admission area…


During Mark’s explanation about the stool, as he was swivelling around waving his hand at the audience, he located one of those people who were filming the show.

– “Not so nice to see you… Get a life, join the rest of us”

He didn’t sound angry; he did sound, however, as if he really considers the filming individual to possess some pretty low IQ. Apparently Mark doesn’t think much of those who film him.


Marbletown scored the show’s spotlight (yes, again), a slightly shorter version than the now‐usual (the band has been playing an “extended” version recently, often with an extended outro).

The loudest cheers in the concert came once the last chord of Speedway at Nazareth was struck. The audience all over the venue—everybody—was cheering and clapping their hands at the extravaganza. Me?… I don’t know, Speedway at Nazareth was never one of my favourites although I started liking it a bit more during this tour.


Before Piper to the End started playing, I made my way upstairs and watched the last song being played as I was standing next to the exit—I knew that the masses were going to flock the public transport links and I had no intention to wait. The reward: fantastic view over thousands of people clapping their hands, cheering, bidding the band farewell.


After the concert, I took the subway to the city centre—that is, where everything that there is to see & do in Budapest takes place. Exiting the city centre’s metro station, I was faced with almost complete quietness; started walking the alleys and I felt as if I’m in some sort of a fantasy.


Maybe because it was Sunday night, but the walk along Budapest’s narrow, breath‐taking streets was a quiet, calm, romantic walk (well, as romantic as a solo‐walk can be. I admit to sometimes feel bad for not having someone to share these walks with; then again, it’s only sometimes).

There was a magical, almost surreal atmosphere. Very much unlike, say, the bustling city‐centre of Vienna at night, in Budapest everything appeared to happen in slow motion. For couples, I would recommend walking around those superb streets at night: if the couple is in “good state”, they’d be falling in love all over again; if the couple is in a rough patch, they could leverage on the fact that the streets here are narrow and winding and simply disappear one on another when they’re fed up with the other side’s crap.


Decided to sit down to eat before returning to the hotel, so I sat down in a tourist trap amidst what appeared to be a popular square. Restaurant sold Italian food and desserts, and consisted of, well, a terrace only (the entire restaurant was located in the square). Just outside the terrace, a funny‐looking man made money off passer‐byers by playing backing tracks through some speaker and playing the melody using a suspiciously small saxophone. I usually dislike these kind of things; but, as I approached the restaurant, I heard a very familiar backing track playing, and the man did a great job playing the melody with the sax. It took me over a minute (!) to finally recall what song it was: it was Roxette’s “Crash, Boom, Bang” from some time in the mid‐90’s, maybe before. What he played sounded better than the original, sung version; I am seriously thinking about coming up with my own cover version.


The huge pizza I ordered was just WAY too much for me to handle. Some leftovers and I went back to the hotel. A short walk ahead, and I noticed a nice pool surrounded by grass hosting the asses of quite a few youngsters.


I think that was the first time in quite a while since I’ve seen so many youngsters sitting together, often in circles, sometimes leaning upon each other, without screaming and yelling their souls out. The last time I encountered this was actually in Brussels last September, at the main square there at the city centre (whoever is familiar with Brussels may wish to comment and provide the square’s name; I believe there was a courthouse there?), and I remember being just as shocked.


Continued to walk towards the hotel. Sunday night time, and as you leave the tourists’ core area, people slowly disappear from the streets until you find yourself walking completely by yourself. Finally, arrived at the train station located next to my hotel; looked pretty so I took a picture.


Perfect night…

… Or so I thought. As I returned to the hotel room and took a shower, I was looking forward to a great night sleep on the hotel’s super‐comfy bed. However, shortly after laying down, I started feeling strange. The room’s temperature was perfect, but heat‐waves came and went every minute or so. Got up to wash my face, and noticed my eyes being blood red.

Could barely sleep that night.

Remember what I wrote yesterday about the trip starting to take its toll? Well, I guess I know myself better than I thought. I guess I caught some cold.

The next day (July 5), the first in a four day offs sequence, I was scheduled to take a night train at 9:00pm from Budapest to Munich, then connecting to Trento, Italy where I will be spending about a week with my friend Daria and her sister. I was sick, having to wipe my nose every two or three minutes; I did nothing that day except for eating two big fabulous meals in “Okay Italia” (received great reviews in Google and TripAdvisor, plus it was recommended to me by the hotel’s staff; so I had to check it out), sit at Costa Coffee by my hotel and planning my Spain trip.

By the time I had to start making my way to Budapest Keleti‐Pu station, I was dead tired and looking forward to just lay my head upon the bed and sleep. I paid some good money for the cabin I was at—having to share with at most one person and I was told it has en‐suite facilities.

Bullshit. Well, I was alone in the cabin but the cabin itself was old, dusty, no facilities, the mattress was awful and the pillow was hard as a rock.

End result? A 32 years old male, sick, not managing to get any sleep. Over 48 hours, I slept maybe 6.

I am signing‐off this post on board the EuroCity train to Trento. A couple of hours left to go. Beautiful, superb views around as we cross the border from Germany to Austria. I am on the verge of starting to hallucinate; headache, runny nose and now my left ear appears to be in pain.

I am officially sick. Lets all hope for better times.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Status Update: Tickets for Shows in Italy & Help, Anybody?


Just a quick update if I may.

First, regarding the tickets for four of the five shows in Italy (see this post for more details). Thank you to all those who responded. As it stands at the moment:

Padova: concert have people interested in them so, unless I get a cancellation notice, those have run out—sorry.

Lucca: one reader mentioned he’s interested in two tickets, so two tickets are still left for the concert there all four tickets are still available.

Perugia and Rome—four front row tickets for those are still available. If you’re interested, please email me directly; if you know someone who would be interested, please forward this information to them.

The logistics of how to pick‐up the tickets at the venues have been worked out; if you’re interested in the tickets, contact me and I will provide details in private.


Second update… actually, not really an update, more like asking for advice or help. Thanks to Elian & Arnaud, I have resolved the Montreux lodging problem—the three of us are going to share a big hotel room (guys, I call the single bed; have fun in the double bed and please spare me from the details) in Montreux. The day after, I will take the train to Locarno.

The problem I’m facing is that staying in Locarno would actually present a risk of missing the concert the next day in Würzburg. The only way to get from Locarno to Würzburg by train, on July 17, would be to leave Locarno at 7:00am and get to Würzburg at 3:30pm (that’s eight hours and a half!), switching trains 4 times with relatively short connection time. I would be OK with spending eight hours and a half in a train, but the risk of train delays / missing a connection is way too high, so I am seeking other options.

By far the easiest thing would be to fly from Milano to Frankfurt. Cheap flights, but for that, I would need a way to get from Locarno to Milano after the concert as there are no trains leaving Locarno past 9:00pm or so. I know that there probably are people driving from Milano to Locarno for the concert… if you are one, would it be OK if I catch a ride back with you? I would stay in a hotel near Milano airport and fly the next day.

Another alternative is to catch a ride with someone who’s driving anywhere north of Locarno right after the concert—for example, Basel. From Basel, trains to Würzburg are very easy—there’s an hourly train leaving Basel to Frankfurt and from there it’s a piece of cake. So if you live in Basel and are driving to Locarno and back… May I catch a ride back?

I’m hoping for some feedback… or, if you have other ideas, I’ll be more than happy to help.

Thank you!


Concert Day: Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria (July 3, 2010)

Writing: on board the EuroCity train from Katowice, Poland to Vienna, Austria. Just a couple of hours ago I was on the verge of exploding.

So I guess my second‐to‐worst nightmare was realized this morning. So far, this month of July is the worst July I had in my entire life and, quite frankly, it sucks goats’ asses.

What, what, what have I done wrong. I woke up in time; took the taxi to the station, arrived there early. Bought the first‐class ticket to the Czech border (beyond which my pass is applicable) and went to the platform.

Now, remember what I told you about Wroclaw Glowny? This is one ugly train station I wouldn’t wanna touch with a 10‐foot pole. I have seen 200 years old farms in Ontario, full of horses as well as horse‐shit, still looking and smelling better than this place.

But still, whenever you’re adjusting to new realities, there still is a part in your brain that keeps seeking some common grounds; some universal rules. And my universal rules were simple: a sign upon a platform, stating the departure time, must always show the planned departure time and not the arrival time at the current station—and, more important, trains must never leave before their scheduled departure time.

Reality, in turn, apparently decided to raise its ugly head and flip a huge middle finger right at my face. My train was scheduled for 6:08am; I was there, NEXT TO THE TRAIN, when it departed 4 minutes earlier while the sign upon the platform read “6:04am”. To me, that meant that my train was just the next one coming.

A guy who left the train—MY TRAIN!—told me that the train he just left is not going to Katowice. Two minutes later, he grabbed me and went with me to the attendant, and translated the words I really didn’t want to hear.

The train is gone.

Now, the situation here was even more desperate than the situation I faced in Amsterdam. The next train leaving Wroclaw towards Vienna includes 3 (!) changes and will not arrive before 6:30pm or so assuming no delays. If you had seen the trains leaving Wroclaw Glowny, you would understand why making the assumption of “no delays” is the stupidest thing one can do when following strict schedules over the weekend. Those wagons look more fit to carry cows, goats, sheep and other means of lunch; not people.

I was really on the verge of just losing it all, and then decided to calm down. I guess that’s the hardest thing to do once you realize your plans are kaput—relax, understand that what’s gone is gone and plan your next move.

Seeing that nothing good will happen if I take trains, I started looking for flights while exiting the station and approaching a taxi. A phone call to poor Jeroen, who had to wake up at 6:15am to listen to my troubles—and we both researched for flights.

Arrived at Wroclaw’s airport. Desolate place and the ticketing agent told me that it’s going to cost me around $800 to get to Vienna on time—about 4:30pm, assuming no delays. Shortly after, Jeroen came with the bad news: no flight & train route would do (I considered flying to Bratislava and take a one hour train; price seemed reasonable at $285, but only later realized that the total elapsed time of the route is 24 hours), after considering all major cities surrounding Vienna.

Desperate, very desperate. I exited the airport not knowing what to do, but still my mind was racing.

And then, it came to me. I rushed to a taxi‐cab driver.

– “How much would it cost me to get a ride to Katowice?”

What I wanted to was to basically do the first part of the train ride—by taxi. That’s 200km away and €150. I asked the driver if he could make it on time—he replied with a firm “yes”.

I jumped into the car and asked the driver to hurry up. He had 2.5 hours to complete a 200km distance, and he did it in 1.5 hours. I’m telling you, he drove like a pro. 150 km/h on the A4 highway which is limited by 100 km/h, and he was very upset at people having the nerves to drive 120 km/h while blocking the left lane that—so he believed—was created only for him.

So, yes. My train ticket—about €25–30—gone; €150 to the taxi‐cab driver—gone.

But then again… whatever it takes. I decided to make it to Vienna despite any difficulty—even if it means renting a car and driving through unknown highways with crazy Polish drivers all around.

The end result? I got to Katowice on time, 25 minutes before the connecting train’s departure.

I won.

Fuck you, Polish railway system. I truly and genuinely dislike you.

Getting through all of that stress after having slept only 3 hours the night before, seemed to have really taken its toll. As soon as I was safe on board the EuroCity train to Vienna—in a cabin vacant of any other living things—I reached the final conclusion that I have absolutely no patience to see anybody, hear anybody, talk to anybody, chat with anybody, nothing. All I wanted to do was to write, and then write more—which I did.

It took the train about 3 or 4 hours to make it to Wien Simmering (“Wien” means “Vienna” in German), which is a major transportation hub in Vienna for trains coming into and going out of the city. I left the train, did a quick check to ensure I still have everything with me. All OK.

I am in Vienna. Not that I was so happy to be in Vienna specifically; I think I was happier about the fact that I survived that awful day so far.

It was very hot in Vienna when I arrived. The sun was out and I believe the temperature was above 30℃. Hitched a ride on the S7 S‐Bahn train and arrived at the Ostbahnhof, from which it’s a short walk to my hotel, Congress Hotel Vienna.

Perhaps this trip is taking too much of a mental toll on me, but I was under the impression that the Congress Hotel which I booked was a really cool, big, nice hotel. Imagine my disappointment when I approached and realized that it was a 3‐star hotel, very small and quite far from the city centre—about 4 subway stops.

Tired, weary and a bit hungry, I checked‐in and got completely appalled when I realized that the room has no air conditioning. Not even a fan. It was so hot in that stupid room that, even as tired as I was, I couldn’t sleep for more than 15 minutes after taking a cold shower. Waking up after 15 minutes, I was sweating again.

Realizing that trying to get some sleep is an exercise in waste of time, I decided to cut my losses, dress up and just go out to see the city. Following some bad advice from the hotel’s receptionist, I took the U3 subway north—one station beyond Stephanzplatz (which is the station I should have taken) and upon exiting and looking around I really didn’t see what the fuss is all about with Vienna. Really nothing special except for scores of cafe’s and restaurants—mostly serving drinks and desserts.

A bit disappointed, I was looking for a less crowded place to sit down. Still at the tourist trap area, I went to a cafe and ordered a Wiener Schnitzel—well, being in Vienna and not trying this thing out is a bit silly, I thought. Very overpriced, but you know what… it is indeed tasty. Fried breaded veal cutlet served with potato and side‐salad—very filling.

A short stroll around the corner for some ice cream, and I decided to head to the venue. Getting to the Stadthalle meant taking three subway lines; not pushing luck this time around.

Public transit in Vienna is a pleasure—after spending slightly more than 24 hours in Poland, I was so happy to use, once again, a public transit system that actually makes sense even if you don’t speak the local language. 20 minutes later, I arrived at the Stadthalle subway station and started following the herd towards the venue, a mere 3 minutes walk away.


The Wiener Stadthalle (Wikipedia: is a sporting arena located about 3km west of the city centre, close to Vienna’s Westbahnhof. It is frequently used as a music hall—big names in the industry have played here before—and it seats 16,000 to the max. It is surrounded by quite a few establishments for shopping and dining, as well as a nice park to walk in or rest your ass upon one of its benches.

The weather was still very hot, despite the time being around 7:00pm. I seem to recall a sign showing a temperature of about 32℃; humidity was very high, and I decided to enter the venue as quickly as possible because, if the temperature was going to be any less annoying, it must have been inside.

Picked up my ticket; some mess around the entrances as there was no particular line‐up to join—just a bunch of humans jammed together all wishing for the ticket scanners to do their job already and let us in. Once inside, I was not surprised at all to find out that there’s no air‐conditioning there and ventilation was too insignificant to serve as any comfort. Not as terrible as the Hala Stulecia experience the day before in Poland, but still.


My seat was at the front‐row, mid‐right section; as I arrived, the arena was already pretty full. Daniel and Jacqueline came all the way from Switzerland to see the show, so we met for a short little while and caught up with things. Always happy to meet nice people along the way.


Disliking the idea of getting completely dehydrated during the show, I went outside to buy some water to sip over the next 2 hours. They have this practice in quite a few venues in Europe, when you actually pay for your drink and your cup—and upon returning the cup (which usually looks like a small milk jug) you get your “deposit” back. €2.80 for water, €1.00 for deposit—essentially, they make extra dough due to people simply not wanting to bother with returning their jugs after the concert (who has the time and the nerves to wait in line after the concert to return a small milk jug for €1.00?); in some places, locals know this habit and scour the arena for empty milk jugs right after the concert is over—essentially, a modernized version of the homeless seeking out empty cans in the streets for the purpose of cashing in on the deposit.

Back at my seat; the concert was scheduled to start at 7:30pm, but started 10 minutes later. The band entered the stage to the sound of a few thousands of people screaming their minds out.

Being able to actually listen to Mark singing, after the sound fiasco in Poland, was already a blessing. We’re back on track… Woo‐Hoo. Nobody seems to be sweating off their asses (at least not on the stage) and the band’s back in business.

There’s something I was meaning to write a long time ago but don’t think I ever did; I was reminded of it when discussing the issue with one of the people reading this blog—not sure who. In a sense, these nightly concerts serve as some sort of a balancing point; it doesn’t matter what I go through during the day—be it an easy train ride in Germany or extreme stress riding out of Poland—at the end of the day, when this beautiful band appears on the stage, when Mike McGoldrick plays the opening notes of Border Reiver—almost nothing else matters anymore and I know that life’s back to normal. Between all the places I have been to—different cities, different people, different weather, different everything—this show serves as a superb line connecting all the dots. If it doesn’t make any sense to you, I suggest you attempt attending 87 concerts over 4 months and see for yourself.


What It Is featured, once again, great collaboration between John and Mike. A few weeks ago, the duo came up with a brilliant idea for the transition from the song’s quiet section to its outro solo, playing beautiful violin / flute sequence of F♯m—C♯m7—Dmaj7/C♯—D—E that does not appear in the song’s studio version but sounds fantastic played live. Am I the only one thinking that the “D—E” at the end should be replaced, for experimentation’s sake, with a C♯m7/B?

(Sorry about the music lingo)


Mark is back to making love with the Gibson’s fret‐board during Hill Farmer’s Blues, as well as during an interesting outro solo for Romeo and Juliet (give it a listen if you can).


As almost usual, Marbletown was the ultimate display of power: this time, the “power” wasn’t just represented by great exhibition of musicianship by John / Mike / Mark / Glenn / Matt, but also, literally, power. The Marble‐jam session sounded louder than usual; whether I like it or not—I don’t know, will have to listen to it again at some point.


I should mention that, during the entire concert, I was so tired that I often found myself staring. During the encore, as everybody and their sisters were attached to the stage, there actually was a period of a few minutes that I leaned against the stage and stared at the stage’s floor, for the simple reason that I didn’t have any power left to do anything.

One thing that was very evident during the concert was that someone apparently forgot to tell people to not use the flash when taking pictures; also, obviously nobody checked for professional photography equipment. During the concert, I was blinded many times by flashes coming from all over the place; however, the most annoying part was during the encore, when a few people around me kept taking pictures with their professional cameras—not only with flash, but also while neglecting to turn off the shutter sound. Can you think of a more annoying sound to hear while the band playing Brothers in Arms?

At the concert in Poland, I mentioned that some people were raising certain objects along with a pen in hope for a signature. I think that the record was actually broken at the Stadhalle, when someone right behind me begged for an autograph on his Mark Knopfler Signature Stratocaster guitar, waving it in the air. That was surreal.

Concert ended at around 9:45pm. I got my €1.00 back.

Walking back towards the train station, people were flocking the terraces, most of them watching Spain playing against Paraguay.


I was tired but the thought of going back to the oven called “my hotel room” made me want to wander around for a bit. Who knows, maybe if I return late at night, the room’s temperature will turn into something humans can actually live in. So, I took the subway to the Stephanzplatz; THEN I saw the Vienna people were talking about.


VERY nice city centre. Romantic, too. Restaurants, cafes, pubs, clubs, bars—anything, by the millions. Well, it was Saturday night with brilliant, absolutely brilliant weather to spend time rambling the streets to.


Therefore, yes, Vienna has been added to the list of cities I intend to revisit for a more in‐depth stay.


At some point I decided that I had a very hard day and it’s time for reward. I noticed some people sitting down at the terrace of a place called Cafe Europe and having interesting‐looking desserts. Grabbed a table for myself and looked at the menu: now tell me how was I supposed to pick between these?


I ended up picking the item at the left‐hand side of the right‐hand picture. It’s their house specialty. It goes for €7.10; I thought it’s a bit too expensive, but I ordered it along with some hot chocolate (I usually despise hot chocolate but the occasion seemed fitting). Then I understood why it was so expensive. Take a look:


It was HUGE. It was as delicious as it was bombastic. Of the tastiest desserts I had in my adult life.

(Jeroen, I told you, you should come with me to Vienna)

Took a while to devour this wonder of creation while gazing at people walking out and about.


Walking around these beautiful buildings, I started doing a bunch of thinking and realized that, finally, after almost 3 months on the road, this journey starts taking its toll. I realize that it may be mostly due to the horrible last few days, with travel plans to and from Poland crapping out with hardly any recourse available; still, as my goal is to convey whatever is in my head unedited to you, I should tell you that the feeling of loneliness and restlessness starts taking its toll. I am in desperate need for some rest.

But… is it all worth it? you might be asking; the answer is a resounding YES. Overall, so far, this adventure has been the single best experience I had in my 32 years of living.

Signing‐off this post, dead tired, while on board the superb, fantastic, AWESOME RailJet train to Budapest. Didn’t sleep at all last night as it was too hot to breathe; more details at the next post.

All the best,