Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grand Canyon

When we talk about icons we hardly can avoid banal statements…
I will try to avoid all well known things bout Grand Canyon… actually, what I knew was mostly visual images from movies about America, like Thelma and Louise, Westerns etc…
By the way, somehow images of Vinnetu the Apache Chief (for those who remembers “Indian” movies from Eastern Germany in the 60s and 70s), those images also blended into my ideas about Grand Canyon. Shortly speaking, when it comes to icons we know little truth and a lot of myths about the subjects.
Great Canyon happened to be what I expected it to be, and not quite the same.
One thing I have learned over the years of travelling – knowing nothing before you see the thing is the best thing.
I expected something absolutely spectacular, but what I found was a lot of rocks. May be I have been spoilt by seeing some spectacular and huge rock formations in Kazakhstan, Switzerland, China and in Kakadu Park (Australia). There are many breathtaking and beautiful mountains on this planet…
Great Canyon is also breathtaking, but mostly by the sheer size of it. Kakadu Park is sort of more petite, if such adjective can be applicable to such a massive cluster of rocks; however, Kakadu had colours and a variety of rock formations as well as vegetation and wild life to enhance the picture. Great Canyon is great, but with a limited palette and very modest vegetation to entertain human eyes. I cannot understand what all those Indians and sheriffs from American Westerns did in this deserted and hostile place. Well, of course, I know – gold kept them there. They say that gold and silver mines still operate in that area, but no gold would keep me there. The place was hot that I think it is one of the entrances to hell…
Nonetheless, I took a few photos.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Las Vegas

Everybody knows that Americans love show business, and they are very good at show business. Also everybody knows that Las Vegas is a show and gambling capital of the world, and Hollywood is a dream making capital of the world (together with Bollywood).

By the way, we even did not plan to stay in Las Vegas. Our original plan was to drive through to Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, in a high holyday season as now there were no accommodation available anywhere in Nevada except Las Vegas, so we had to stay there.
Everything I ever heard about Las Vegas is correct: it is exactly what I thought it is. There is no point to repeat all the same stuff about glamour, glitter and sin.
There was something I have never realised, however.

Las Vegas is a city of fakes, poor style fakes of a very good quality and on an incredible scale.
Nearly every building is a fake image of something: an African village, a Venetian palazzo, a tropical island, a pyramid, an Ancient Roman palace or even New York or Paris CBD, with all the appropriate clichés and attributes of the theme. Funny enough, nobody cares about a purity of style: an Italian baroque Bellagio has Chinese lions at the entrance; Caesar’s palace has a title written in Greek fonts, etc… The Venetia Palazzo is the most stylish, probably, more or less strictly keeping late Renaissance and Baroque style.
On the other hand everything is of a magnificent quality: the materials are the best (marbles, silks, sculptures…), the artists are the best (producing art in all imaginable styles with perfection), technology involved is mind boggling (coloured fountain shows, moving sculptures, canals running through the buildings)…
Do I sound like everybody else before me by now?..
As much as I despise fakes of any kind and treat it as a cheap kitch, I have to take my hat off in honour of all those artists who invested into this city’s dazzling madness. Las Vegas offers fakes of an outstanding artistic quality (as well as real crap, forgive me my French, as some would say), art which is on a borderline with masterpieces, or actually masterpieces, original in all respects. I hope my photo album reflects my feelings till certain degree.
One downside which cannot be overturned by the impressive scale of attractions is gambling and smoking. They come together, they are inevitable. The city stinks from a cigarette smoke, because everybody who gambles – smokes, and everybody in Las Vegas gambles (Chris and myself happened to be a rare exemption).

Visiting a couple of shows in Las Vegas and Universal Studios in Hollywood also revealed something about America: if they entertain – they do it properly. Every detail is thought through, the skills are incredible, no effort spared – and the result is always at least good, and sometimes excellent beyond imagination. From time to time I watch American shows on TV – no comparison to a real thing. TV robs a show on depth and colour and real life pulse. I have enjoyed the quality and professionalism of what I’ve seen in the last few days…

Photo album

Nevada Desert

As always – there is something I’ve learnt about the place and expected certain things, and as always – there is something no book ever mentioned…
I won’t repeat what I expected from Nevada – it can be read in books, articles, Internet.
What surprised me is that Nevada desert is really a desert. It is practically dead. We drove about 100 kms there and Chris spotted once a dead rat on a side of the road. I did not see it. As a matter of fact, I did not spot even a single fly. When you walk in an Australian desert (we drove from Adelaide to Lismore through Broken Hill in February 2008) there is always something happening: some animal will skip or crawl by, scavengers eat road kill, colours of the desert change, some twisters pop up here and there… Our drive in Nevada was quite uneventful in this respect. We saw some military equipment because a huge portion of the state is occupied by an air force military base and some crazy people (soldiers???) jogging in 42 degree hit.
From time to time a shop was popping up in a desert (instead of a twister), some odd pottery shop, or garden sculpture/outdoor features shop. They were huge and beautiful, well equipped and well stocked: thousands of pots of all sizes are under the open sky in a middle of a desert, or armies of garden lights of all sizes and designs… I cannot imagine who would go to a shop like this, hours of drive from any civilisation, to buy a pot or a garden light…
Also there were some odd beautiful hotels and casinos appearing in the mist of a desert like a mirage of some kind, maybe for those who cannot wait till Vegas and has an urge to start gambling right now…
What about the desert itself, I would not call memorable…
Chris would disagree with me (he finds this desert beautiful and interesting) but I believe there are much more beautiful deserts on this planet. Colours can be brighter, flora can have more variety, fauna was not present at all….

One thought occurred to me while we were driving: how Leonardo da Vinci could recreate in his mind Nevada desert? He could not possibly know about it, but the landscape in Mona Lisa is so strikingly similar to Nevada desert (apart from the shape of the mountains, maybe), especially in the mood and colour scheme. If you ever saw Mona Lisa you got an impression about Nevada desert.

Photo album