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The mountain guide from Kazakhstan, Andrey Gundarev 

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Los Angeles: This city is not only American dream

I confess — California is the only place on the Earth where I’d like to live.

It was not very difficult for me to get to the USA. All I had to do was to present the required documents, pay for the visa and, most importantly, explain the purpose of my visit to the consul in a convincing manner. The purpose of my first visit was to climb the Denali peak in Alaska, which is the highest peak in the North America.

After a long haul flight from Moscow with Delta company, I arrived in Anchorage. By the way, not everyone knows about so called «open-jaw: tariff. With such a tariff, the point of destination in the tickets is not the same as the point of departure for the return journey. Companies do not offer this tariff on their sites upon online booking, thus I’d recommend you to see an experienced ticket sales specialist.

Climbing the Denali peak did not take much time or strength, but nevertheless, I needed a rest after climbing to the height of 6194 m in the Polar Cycle latitude. There are many options in Alaska to make your rest interesting. You can go fishing, river rafting or cruising in the sea where you’ll see unexplored wilderness, grizzly bears, elks, huge glaciers generating glacial streams running to the ocean, fjords, icebergs, goldminers’ settlements and real … Russian villages. It’s all wonderful, of course, but not exactly what one needs after ascending a «great mountain», when all you could wish for is sun, hot sand and sea waves. Therefore, we had two options to choose from — Hawaii and California. While reaching a decision, I thought of the not very well known song California Paradise by Zhanna Aguzarova, as well as Schwarzenegger, Morrison, Mansone and Pamela Anderson. As for Hawaii, nothing coming to my mind. Finally we decided to go to the famous City of Angels.

Domestic flights in the USA turned out to be rather expensive. Moreover ticket prices do not include carriage of baggage; you have to pay additionally for the second article of baggage and for excess weight. On the other hand, you can buy tickets right at the check-in counter in the airport.

In Los Angeles we were met by our friend Leonid — a former circus performer at the Minsk circus who has been living in the USA for the last 15 years. He became our guide and showed the city and its outskirts to us. His old but rather spacious and comfortable Volvo rushed along freeways and brought us to very surprising places. Lenya’s Russian speech, good knowledge of life and mental outlook supplemented the visual imagery perfectly. 

The city is huge. As we were approaching it we noticed that it was not possible to see stars in the sky because of the city lights. As a matter of fact, this area is an agglomeration of big and small cities: Los Angeles itself, coastal Santa Monica, Hollywood, Westside, San Fernando Valley and others with total population of over 17 million people.

This city called «the Big LA» in America is considered by urban geographers to be the prototype of a modern American metropolis. Los Angeles’ total area is 1290.6 km. The longest distance between the city’s southern and northern points is 71 km, between the western and eastern ones — 47 km. The Big Los Angeles stretches almost for 200 km between the cities of Ventura and San Bernardino.

In Santa Monica, Lenya helped us to settle in a hotel located on the Pacific coast which was rather unpretentious according to the local standards ($130 for a double room). For example the next one we checked did not have any rooms cheaper than $250. It is said that the actor Sean Penn likes to stay there.

In the very first night we were awakened by the sounds of the sirens of dozens of police cars which drove to the road crossing right before our windows. There was a guy who did not want to obey a fragile policewoman; she called for reinforcement and nearly all the police of Santa Monica arrived at the site within several minutes. It seems that they honestly use the taxpayers’ money instead of just pushing a pen in their offices. However the conflict was resolved in a peaceful manner — the unfortunate guy was interrogated and released.

A morning jog on the beach followed by swimming in invigorating water and Mexican style breakfast ensure burst of energy for the whole day. The beaches are worthy of mention. They all are similar to each other, because the beach line stretches for thousands of kilometers, but each of them has its own special feature. For example Venice Beach (located between the Santa Monica’s and Marine de Ray’s beaches): This is not only a beautiful beach; it is also a cultural and extreme street sports center. I liked very much the image of the leader of the famous band The Doors Jim Morrison painted on one of the buildings. Jim and his band started becoming popular in the small clubs in Venice Beach in the 60s. Venice is also popular among moviemakers. Some scenes of films like The Big Lebowski, American History X, The Doors and others were shot at the Venice’s sports grounds, beaches and streets.

The beaches of Malibu are famous thanks to the Baywatch series. In my young days, I dreamed of becoming friends with the character of the series, the beautiful Pamela Anderson, who courageously dived into the wild waves and carried drowning people to the shore literally on her breast. Unfortunately, I did not meet her at this famous beach. But maybe that was for the better, because she must have changed very much over fifteen years which passed from the moment of our onscreen acquaintance…

The main scenes of Planet of Apes were shot in the dunes of Malibu beaches. The modern surf originated in the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Many Hollywood stars such as Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Bob Dylan, Cher, Julia Roberts and many others live in luxurious villas in Malibu. One of the most well-known universities of the USA, which we know little about, is also located there. It is named Pepperdine University and it was established in 1937.

Many people dreaming of catching their own huge halibut (up to 1.5 meters long ocean flatfish) choose Malibu beaches to go fishing.

When you drive along the Pacific Highway your eyes are stricken by one of the most magnificent buildings in Malibu. The Getty Villa Museum is placed within the territory of the founder of the museum J. Paul Getty who was an American businessman, oil magnate and founder of the Getty Oil Company. At the moment of his death, he was the richest man in the world and was considered to be one of the first dollar billionaires. That eccentric man made oil wars, cold-bloodedly exterminated his competitors and was richer than any of the Rockefellers, but at the same time, he believed in transmigration of souls. He believed himself to be the reincarnation of the Roman emperor Adrian Troyan. He was crazy about art and had a fantastical talent for making enormous amounts of money. That is why he built an exact replica of Villa dei Papiri, which was owned by Troyan anciently (The original villa was buried in ashes during the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in 79 AD).

By Getty’s order, 16 tons of golden stones travertines were brought from Tivoli (Troyan’s villa in Tivoli was built from stones of the same kind). With the help of millions of dollars from oil, he made it look as if one had gone back in time: luxurious gardens just like those of the ancient mansion were planted, fountains and waterfalls started to spout sparkling splashes. One wing of the mansion became a museum and was opened to the public. There, the most unique collection of Greek and Roman paintings and sculptures, tapestries and Persian carpets was kept. Getty bequeathed all his billions to the museum and left his descendant without inheritance. All of a sudden the villa became the wealthiest museum in the history (as of today, according to expert estimations, the cost of its active assets is two and a half billion dollars) and the wealthiest buyer of works of art by ancient craftsmen and antique sculptures at the auctions in London and New York. Admission to the museum is free.

When you go along Pacific Highway towards Santa Barbara, you eyes persistently catch numerous vineyards and wineries. Los Angeles has subtropical Mediterranean climate, due to which winter in the region is always mild and rather humid, while summer is warm, even hot and often rainless. Breezes blowing from the Pacific Ocean make the climate in the city sectors located next to the coastline cooler in summer and warmer in winter, which creates perfect conditions for winemaking. California is famous for its wines, which along with Argentinean and Chilean ones, are of the same quality as those of France and sometimes even excel them in prices. A bottle of wine from the most well-known Napa Valley may cost up to several hundred dollars, while vintage ten years old wine may cost even several thousands. Since Robert Mondavi opened Oakville winery in 1966, Napa valley has been considered to be the symbol of the new «golden» age of the Californian wine.

 If you turn off the road to the Sunset Boulevard and go eastward along it, from the ocean towards Hollywood and business center of Los Angeles, you will get to the famous district of Beverly Hills where lives the richest people of the city and the whole country, although the stars living there are not the main point. One of the richest oil deposits in the USA is located underneath this region of Los Angeles. Since the property right to land in America is one of the basic rights provided to the citizens by the Constitution, nothing prevents for example Madonna from installing an oil-derrick in her villa’s yard and producing black gold. Since the Government represents the interests of big oil producing companies, there will be no advantage for it if anyone starts the exploration of that tasty morsel of the oil pie, which is considered to be the strategic reserve. Thus, land owners in Los Angeles will be paid considerable amounts of money to stop any attempts to drill wells in their backyards till there is oil in the Gulf of Mexico and the Persian Gulf.

The starry cast of Beverly Hills can not be left unnoticed. If you go further along Sunset Boulevard, you will see a lot of street vendors offering maps of the region indicating the addresses of celebrities’ villas. Some travel agencies even offer corresponding tours. It is not known who provides them with information. But since there is supply, it means that there is demand, on the part of paparazzi, for example.

Having descended the hilly part of Beverly Hills, you will leave quiet green villas behind and will find yourself in the very heart of Babylon. At the famous Rodeo Drive there are boutiques of all the fashion houses known in the world. You can have one of the best shopping tours there just like in Milan, Paris and New York. In Los Angeles airport I noticed an interesting thing: all the women going to the Southeast Asia held in their hands one or several Louis Vuitton handbags. There is also The Regent Beverly Wilshire, the filming location of Pretty Woman. featuring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. You will not find so many Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bugattis and Bentleys in any other place in the world. 

You will not see homeless people there. There are some, of course, but in other parts of the city, though there is only a small percentage of them compared to the total number of citizens.

Generally speaking, it seems that everyone is busy, everyone is engaged in some activity. There are no idle people in the streets, except for the mentally sick ones. You can meet them in the streets easily because specialized clinics are very expensive. That is why the major part of sick people insulated in their own microcosm live at home. There are plenty of freaks as well, especially at the Venice beach. They are not sick, but rather weird people.

If you speak Spanish, you’ll have an opportunity to practice it communicating with numerous legal and illegal emigrants from Mexico and the whole Latin America. Those smiling people are engaged mainly in the service industry, they work as sales people, waiters, receptionists and chambermaids. By the way, Spanish is the second official language in the USA after English.

However even if you speak only Russian in the Western Hollywood for example, you will not fail either: in this region one can find printed media in Russian, artists from Russia go on tours there, «Russian» shops and restaurants are localized there. The Russian speaking diaspora is represented by extensive numbers of immigrants from the former Soviet countries, though Armenians are leaders in terms of quantity in that mini CIS. There is even a district in Hollywood called «little Armenia». The prices of the real estate in that district are among the highest in the whole city. However taking into account the fact that the Armenian diaspora controls practically the whole jewellery market of the city, such prices are acceptable for them. There is a joke saying that the name of famous diamond-mining company De Beers originated from the surname of its Armenian owner Debeersyan.

Los Angeles is a home to people from over 140 countries, who speak 224 languages. The city is the second in the USA after Miami in terms of population born outside the country. One of the most important elements of the city culture is its ethnic quarters. The most outstanding are the following: Chinese, Korean, Thai, Philippine and Minor Ethiopia, which demonstrate the megalopolis’s vividness.

Those who have got tired of the city bustle during the working week can go to one of its numerous parks: smoothed-over public gardens, theme and natural parks. We visited two of them. The first was Runyon Canyon Park located on the Hollywood Hills. On the way to the park you go along the street among usual Western Hollywood houses, then suddenly the street ends and you find yourself in the park. Right beyond the fence there are steep hills overgrown with thick bushes, huge aloes and cacti. The infrastructure in the park consists merely of paths. There are no lights, cafes or sports grounds. Only wildlife and fresh air! Earth roads lead to the nearby hilltops where you can have a magnificent view of the city. In the distance you can see Nakatomi Plaza building which is known for appearing in Die Hard with Bruce Willis. On the opposite we can see the famous HOLLYWOOD sign which was nearly lost recently. The reason for that is that the land beneath the famous letters does not belong to anybody (the slope is not of commercial interest, it can’t be used for building a house or laying out a garden), there is only a broadcasting station on the hilltop. But one opportunistic person bought that land plot and started to blackmail the municipal administration by threatening to demolish the famous symbol of the city and of the whole country. The city hall had to buy the land plot for a considerable sum, which of course was larger than that paid by the owner.

When in Los Angeles, it is a must to see the world-wide known Walk of Fame represented by the sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. Over 2600 five-pointed stars bearing the names of famous people who made considerable contribution to the entertainment industry are embedded in the pavement. Nowadays. the movie industry objects are located mainly in the outskirts such as Westside, while considerable part of the support infrastructure objects (related to editing, effects, and properties), as well as Paramount Pictures filming ground, are located in Hollywood.

The concrete pavement in front of two the most famous cinema theaters in the USA — Kodak Theatre (the stage for the Oscar Awards Ceremony) and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre bears the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular personalities. The most impressive in size (which is rather logical) are the handprints of the present governor of California State, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

California is also famous for its Silicon Valley. In Russian it is called Silikonovaya Dolina (Silicone Valley). This incorrect name appeared a result of mistranslation of two English words silicon and silicone, which are spelled similarly. »… Silicon and silicone are not similar things. Silicone valley is what some Hollywood actresses see when they look down. Silicon Valley is a location in North California where chips are produced". The youngest dollar billionaire in the world (he became a billionaire when he was 23!) and the founder of the famous social network Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, lives in the Valley. Although high-technology manufacturing facilities are situated mainly near the city of San Francisco, the headquarters of computer companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo and others are located in Los Angeles. We stayed in a hotel in Santa Monica next door to the office of Google, the Internet search giant.

In conclusion I’d like to say that the City of Angels is the real embodiment of the American dream, the city offers equal opportunities for all its citizens. Everything depends on motivation, willingness to achieve things in life and persistence. Henry Ford said once «Those who gave up are much more numerous than those who lost». 


My Articles


You have never been to the Great Wall of China? You have never been to China! This statement enhanced our motivation to get acquainted with the Celestial Empire’s capital as close as possible. At the same time, we had only one day for this.
The Whole Beijing in one Day.

You have never been to the Great Wall of China? You have never been to China! This statement enhanced our motivation to get acquainted with the Celestial Empire’s capital as close as possible. At the same time, we had only one day for this. 


When you come to Alaska one immediately realizes the vastness of the territory the former Russian Empire lost to North America together with its incredible beauty and natural resources. While the young United States were actively conquering the Wild West after the Civil War of 1861-1865, the Russian Empire abandoned its far away colony and switched to the expanding territories in Central Asia. The governments of the Russian Empire and the United States negotiated the sale of Alaska in 1867. Russia sold its territory with a total area of 1,518,800 km2  to America for 7.2 million dollars. The Empress Catherine II was not involved in this bargain since she died 71 years before Alaska was sold.
Conquering Alaska

When you come to Alaska one immediately realizes the vastness of the territory the former Russian Empire lost to North America together with its incredible beauty and natural resources. While the young United States were actively conquering the Wild West after the Civil War of 1861-1865, the Russian Empire abandoned its far away colony and switched to the expanding territories in Central Asia. The governments of the Russian Empire and the United States negotiated the sale of Alaska in 1867. Russia sold its territory with a total area of 1,518,800 km2  to America for 7.2 million dollars. The Empress Catherine II was not involved in this bargain since she died 71 years before Alaska was sold.


… The Galapagos Islands and the Pacific Ocean, cities with colonial Spanish architecture, the volcanoes Antisana, Cayambe, Kotopaxi and Chimborazo with heights from 5500 to 6300 m.At that time I had the opportunity to visit a very exotic country — Ecuador.   The mountains and ocean are beautiful, of course, but, despite their beauty, they are quite usual. What I really wanted was to experience something new and unusual, for example, walking in the equatorial jungle.
Ecuadorian Jungle - Adventures for Real Men

… The Galapagos Islands and the Pacific Ocean, cities with colonial Spanish architecture, the volcanoes Antisana, Cayambe, Kotopaxi and Chimborazo with heights from 5500 to 6300 m.

At that time I had the opportunity to visit a very exotic country Ecuador.   The mountains and ocean are beautiful, of course, but, despite their beauty, they are quite usual. What I really wanted was to experience something new and unusual, for example, walking in the equatorial jungle.


I went to the United States on a business trip directly connected with tourism, so I tried to see there as much as possible. Having enjoyed the views of Alaska with its mountains and national parks and California with its famous beaches, movie industry and wines, we were looking forward to visiting the Great New York…
Louisville – the birthplace of bourbon and Mohammed Ali

I went to the United States on a business trip directly connected with tourism, so I tried to see there as much as possible. Having enjoyed the views of Alaska with its mountains and national parks and California with its famous beaches, movie industry and wines, we were looking forward to visiting the Great New York…


Probably late autumn is not the right time for visiting this city. However, it is this dull weather that cloaks the city with a mysterious atmosphere…
Lviv’s Gothic and Much More

Probably late autumn is not the right time for visiting this city. However, it is this dull weather that cloaks the city with a mysterious atmosphere…


Many people believe that so called Kapchagai Buddhas is the only Buddhist monument in Semirechye, if not in the whole Kazakhstan. In order to verify these data I went to the Alakol Lake in search of other Buddhist monuments.
Buddha’s Trace on the Silk Road

Many people believe that so called Kapchagai Buddhas is the only Buddhist monument in Semirechye, if not in the whole Kazakhstan. In order to verify these data I went to the Alakol Lake in search of other Buddhist monuments.


White people discovered the Galápagos Islands in 1535 when a Spanish ship came upon them after being blown off course by a storm. The islands were uninhabited, there were no signs of human settlement. The unfortunate ship was supposed to takea Panamanian bishop to Peru without loosing sight of the South American coast. However, when the storm calmed down, the Spaniards found that they had brought the bishop to a sailor’s nightmare where the bits of land were mockeries, with no safe anchorages nor shade nor fresh water nor fruit, nor human beings of any kind.
Galapagos Islands: the Land of Sir Darwin and Sir George

White people discovered the Galápagos Islands in 1535 when a Spanish ship came upon them after being blown off course by a storm. The islands were uninhabited, there were no signs of human settlement. The unfortunate ship was supposed to takea Panamanian bishop to Peru without loosing sight of the South American coast. However, when the storm calmed down, the Spaniards found that they had brought the bishop to a sailor’s nightmare where the bits of land were mockeries, with no safe anchorages nor shade nor fresh water nor fruit, nor human beings of any kind.


Traveling with my parents around the USSR in my childhood, I fell in love with adventures. At school geography class was my favorite, and the world atlas always lay on my desk. At the university I was engaged into alpinism as a member of the Kazakhstan sport team. So, at the present I possess a rare occupation called «worldwide mountaineering guide».Recently I finally got acquainted with the highest peak of Africa — Kilimanjaro.
Unknown route TANZANIA

Traveling with my parents around the USSR in my childhood, I fell in love with adventures. At school geography class was my favorite, and the world atlas always lay on my desk. At the university I was engaged into alpinism as a member of the Kazakhstan sport team. So, at the present I possess a rare occupation called «worldwide mountaineering guide».

Recently I finally got acquainted with the highest peak of Africa — Kilimanjaro.

 


As I continue traveling in the most amazing and incredible places, I understand that there are similar places in Kazakhstan as well. I was lucky enough to visit them.
Nomads’ Inspiration on the Khan Tengri Peak

As I continue traveling in the most amazing and incredible places, I understand that there are similar places in Kazakhstan as well. I was lucky enough to visit them.


Tyshkan-Tau and Muz-Tau ranges in Southern Dzungaria are located not far from the Chinese border. That was the place where our small expedition consisting of five Englishmen and me, their guide, went. What are the region’s remarkable features? Despite its close proximity to Zharkent (40 km), the site is an unexplored tourism area of Kazakhstan. One would think that the absence of infrastructure such as hotels, good roads and routes will scare picky foreign visitors. But in our case, everything turned out differently.
Exploring Dzungarian Alatau

Tyshkan-Tau and Muz-Tau ranges in Southern Dzungaria are located not far from the Chinese border. That was the place where our small expedition consisting of five Englishmen and me, their guide, went. What are the region’s remarkable features? Despite its close proximity to Zharkent (40 km), the site is an unexplored tourism area of Kazakhstan. One would think that the absence of infrastructure such as hotels, good roads and routes will scare picky foreign visitors. But in our case, everything turned out differently.


«From Kazakhstan? In an original way …» — personal introduction was hardly an only reason when my Argentinean interlocutors displayed a genuine interest to the person naming himself «Kazakh» having the good knowledge of geography. In most cases, local residents could not recall a single country ending with «stan». But it was more pleasant to learn that here nobody practically heard about the character by name of Borat either.
Argentina: a tango with icebergs

«From Kazakhstan? In an original way …» — personal introduction was hardly an only reason when my Argentinean interlocutors displayed a genuine interest to the person naming himself «Kazakh» having the good knowledge of geography. In most cases, local residents could not recall a single country ending with «stan». But it was more pleasant to learn that here nobody practically heard about the character by name of Borat either.

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