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Exploring the World One Laugh at a Time

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Colorado Springs. Garden of the Gods.

My flight from Frankfurt to Denver on Lufthansa was a breathtaking journey. A previous trip to Vegas had taught me how to choose the best side of the plane for stunning views. The secret? Check the flight’s previous route and approach to landing on Flightradar24 to pick the perfect seat, considering the wing’s position.

Flying over the ocean, which looks the same from all sides, pales in comparison to the fascinating landscapes over land. Flying over Canada, I was surprised to find Quebec and Ontario, usually green on Google Maps, mostly barren in June, one of the Northern Hemisphere’s warmest months. The terrain resembled the moon’s crater-filled surface, eventually giving way to roads without houses, only appearing as we neared the U.S. border.

The confluence of the White River and Missouri in South Dakota was a spectacular sight, creating a unique natural phenomenon.

In Nebraska, circular fields soon turned into rectangular ones, creating a patchwork landscape.

The Westin at Denver Airport looked stunning, but this time, I opted for a homely stay in a cottage. Surprisingly, the interior felt twice as large as it appeared from outside. The first floor housed the kitchen, living room, and a bedroom, with more bedrooms upstairs. Sleeping there after the long flight was incredibly comforting.

Near Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods awaited with its striking red rocks and landscapes reminiscent of ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’.

The rest of Colorado evoked scenes straight out of ‘Far Cry 5.’

Before leaving, I had to stop at Old Chicago for some beers and a slice of their famous Chicago-style pizza. Enjoying a game at the bar, switching channels during ads, and savoring a piece of pizza was a delight, a culture sadly fading in Europe.

But the trip’s highlight was the unexpected finale. On the night flight home, I got to watch the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights live on Lufthansa. Witnessing Ovechkin’s joy at winning his first cup after 14 years in the NHL, 10,000 meters above the Atlantic, was an unforgettable experience.

Rome. Foro Italico.

My startup journey unexpectedly led me to Rome, Italy’s majestic capital, to participate in traditional ceremonies aimed at attracting luck and success. Ironically, despite my numerous visits to Italy, Rome had always eluded me.

On the night of May 13th, the streets of Rome were deserted, yet the city was far from asleep. The fate of the Italian Football Cup was being decided – Juventus, having confidently drawn 0:0 with Roma, clinched the Serie A title. The streets instantly erupted with crowds of jubilant fans, their joy palpable.

Rome’s architecture inspires genuine awe. To truly savor its splendor, one would need at least two weeks. There’s simply too much beauty and history to absorb.

I had the unique opportunity to visit places usually off the tourist trail: the Italian Forum and the Olympic Center. The Olympic Center is a beautifully maintained site, imbued with the triumphs of athletes.

Foro Italico, a group of sports facilities built in the late 1920s, exudes an imperial grandeur typical of Mussolini, who used sport to propagate his ideologies. Despite its origins, it was preserved post-war in its original form as a historical reminder. In 1960, it hosted the Summer Olympics.

For the first time, I experienced a live tennis match. Previously, I found tennis somewhat dull, likely due to television broadcasts failing to capture the court’s intense emotions and the physical exertion each professional strike demands. In person, the experience was electrifying.

The monumental sculptures of Roman Olympians at the Forum add a sense of historical grandeur to the sporting events held there. Performing in such a venue is undoubtedly an immense honor.

New York. Snowstorm.

The comfort of a hotel bed after a flight is unparalleled, especially when you can luxuriate in 8 hours of sleep instead of a cramped 4 hours in an airplane seat.

New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio had declared a state of emergency just the day before due to an approaching snowstorm. With schools and kindergartens closed, the city – usually teeming with its 20-million population – turned eerily quiet. Well, almost. The subway and hipster cafes remained open, and the snowstorm turned out to be less severe than anticipated.

A snowstorm in New York is a unique spectacle. Due to the city’s proximity to the ocean, the snow is dense, not fluffy. About 20 centimeters of snow had fallen overnight and into the morning, creating a rare opportunity for tourists to see the city free from the usual crowds.

After a delicious breakfast, we set out to explore the classic sights of New York. Walking these streets felt surreal, like déjà vu – I’d seen it all before in GTA video games and countless Hollywood movies. It was like stepping onto a film set.

We planned to explore the iconic views of Manhattan – the Empire State Building, Broadway, but the highlight awaited us at Madison Square Garden. This isn’t just New York’s premier arena; it’s a symbol of America’s entertainment and sports scene. We were lucky enough to get a tour without a reservation or a long wait.

Preparations were in full swing for Justin Timberlake’s concert that evening. And the next day, the same venue would host a Rangers game, followed by a Knicks game. In a city where space is a luxury, it’s not feasible to have separate arenas for basketball and hockey teams. Hence, they share Madison Square Garden, ingeniously converting from a hockey rink to a basketball court in just four hours. The process is more complex when setting up for concerts.

The locker rooms for the Knicks and the Rangers are separate. The Rangers, who had a tough season in 2018, are quite superstitious; they cover their club logo with a special carpet to prevent tourists from jinxing it. The Knicks, on the other hand, proudly display their logo in their locker room.

Our departure from Newark Airport in neighboring New Jersey wasn’t delayed by the snowstorm. Surprisingly, the usually congested journey from Brooklyn took us only 30 minutes, a trip that would typically take an hour and a half.

New York. Islanders.

The flight from Seattle to New York took a mere five hours, a journey made swift thanks to the earth’s rotation and the helpful shift in time zones. For us, the JetBlue aircraft transformed into an impromptu hotel room in the skies. Despite the ample legroom in economy class, a restful sleep or even a brief respite remained elusive.

Upon arrival in New York, we were immediately greeted with news of an impending snowstorm. Yet, the snowstorm was forecasted for tomorrow, leaving today open for exploration. Our adventure took us on a walk through Long Island, accompanied by geese. True to its name, Long Island stretches extensively, a place where one can drive for ages without reaching its end.

After checking into our hotel in Brooklyn, we headed to the Barclays Center for a hockey game. The arena is notably owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who also owns the Brooklyn Nets NBA team. Additionally, it serves as the temporary home for the New York Islanders until the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island is fully renovated and restored to its former glory.

The game between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins wasn’t particularly spectacular. The Islanders had already lost their chance at the Stanley Cup playoffs, while the Penguins were comfortably positioned in second place in their division, having already secured their playoff spot. I had long anticipated watching Malkin and Crosby play, but unfortunately, they didn’t make a significant impact in this match, possibly conserving their energy for later games. Spoiler alert: this strategy wouldn’t help them much, as Malkin’s fellow Putin-team (🤮) player, Alexander Ovechkin, would later dominate in the second round.

Seattle. The Suburb of Bellevue.

The morning in sunny San Diego began with a flight to Seattle, Washington. The three-hour flight along the West Coast, transitioning from summer to winter, was a journey worth mentioning. Flying in a small Embraer, the flight offered a low-altitude view of the West Coast, including Los Angeles, Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake, and Oregon’s mountain peaks, culminating in a flyover of downtown Seattle.

Delta Airlines, considered the best in the U.S., was the airline of choice. Seattle is famous as an IT hub, home to major companies like Amazon, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Valve, Philips, SAP’s Concur, Costco, Expedia, and the U.S. offices of HTC and Nintendo. It’s also where Starbucks was founded.

Seattle’s football stadium with a retractable roof is another highlight, though not for everyone. After a brief city tour, the trip continued to Bellevue, where many of these firms are headquartered, to meet an old friend who had moved to the West Coast.

Meeting a familiar face on the other side of the world brings a realization of the planet’s small size. Washington’s nature is diverse, with oceans, lakes, forests, and mountains. A short drive can take you to Canada or a flight back to sunny San Diego. Life in Washington is expensive due to high salaries in IT companies, but working for one of these firms can make it manageable.

After enjoying Bellevue’s views (unaware of a future friendship there), it was time to head to the airport for a trip to a unique version of New York.

San Diego. One foot here, the other in a burrito shop.

Traveling from Austin to San Diego required a detour via Los Angeles and a two-hour drive along the Pacific Ocean. The initial plan was to spend two days in San Diego, relaxing by the pool and enjoying Mexican cuisine. However, plans changed in Colorado Springs, requiring a flight to Seattle instead of New York, cutting the stay in a beautiful ocean-view hotel in San Diego to just four hours.

Work obligations were completed after dark, leading to a decision to hold negotiations in a nearby burrito shop. The experience with tequila shots, Mexican beer, and great food was so enjoyable that it made the traveler want to stay permanently. La Jolla, the neighborhood, was especially appealing at night.

P.S. The San Diego airport also stood out, particularly an installation featuring car taillights.

Austin. Not SXSW

In Austin, Texas’ capital, the key event is the South by South West festival, an indescribable music, art, and media event. Texas radiates a sense of freedom, with lenient laws on drinking and arms. The spirit of personal freedom is strong among locals. The atmosphere in the city during the festival is vibrant and unique.

Bronco ❤

A notable experience was attending an AHL hockey match, a league where young NHL players adapt to the big sports show, where the benched or penalized players refine their skills, and where aspiring players strive for fame despite lower salaries. The match between Texas Stars and Manitoba Moose was more fight than hockey, raising questions about the developmental value for aspiring NHL players. Many drafted players, unable to find a spot in the team, choose to play in Europe instead of staying in the AHL.

Colorado Springs. USA Hockey

I flew out of Detroit early in the morning and arrived in Denver, Colorado. Denver Airport deserves special mention for its beauty. The Westin hotel building, resembling a ‘W’ or bird wings, and the airport’s light, airy structure with a roof mimicking nearby mountain peaks, make it the most beautiful airport I’ve ever seen. Then, we drove south to Colorado Springs, the Olympic City of the USA, home to the US Olympic Committee and training bases for various sports teams.

Visiting the USA Hockey headquarters was astonishing. It felt more like a museum than an office, emphasizing that great victories require strong rivals. Each trophy and medal has its own story of victories and defeats, a result of the team’s effort on and off the ice.

And of course, there were gifts reminding rivals that they didn’t become Olympic champions this time.

Detroit. Red Wings

Detroit, a city rich in history and character, has experienced a journey marked by both triumph and hardship. Once faced with bankruptcy, its story unfolds like a patchwork of resilience and rebirth, a narrative deeply etched into America’s urban landscape. Those interested in the depths of Detroit’s challenges and transformations can delve into a detailed account on Wikipedia.

The city presents a fascinating contrast: while parts of its heart lie in abandonment, the suburbs exude the quintessential American spirit. Names like Plymouth and Pontiac echo through the streets, not just as echoes of the auto industry but as familiar symbols of the city’s heritage.

Detroit’s cultural vibrancy is undeniable, resonating with the legacies of musical icons such as Kid Rock, Eminem, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder. Their stories and sounds are interwoven into the city’s fabric, each artist contributing to Detroit’s rich musical tapestry.

Sports enthusiasts find a special connection to Detroit, particularly through the remarkable story of the Russian Five. Their legacy, celebrated in the documentary “The Russian Five”, brings to life the Detroit Red Wings’ era of NHL dominance, a chapter of my childhood filled with awe and inspiration. The narrative of Vladimir Konstantinov, marked by triumph and tragedy, mirrors Detroit’s own fluctuating fortunes — a city that knows the delicate balance between flourishing and faltering.

In a testament to Detroit’s resilience and renewal, the Little Caesars Arena emerges, not replacing but rather complementing the legacy of the Joe Louis Arena, which stood elsewhere. This architectural marvel, featuring multi-level ice rinks, symbolizes the city’s forward momentum. During my visit, the arena was in a state of captivating transformation, preparing to host the exhilarating March Madness college basketball teams. With the ice skillfully hidden under layers of insulation and parquet, the arena encapsulated the essence of Detroit: a city that continuously evolves, surprises, and defies expectations.

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