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Pictures from Las Vegas: December 1999 - February 2000


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LAS VEGAS - an infusion of lights, architecture, fantasy and colors

At dawn, a cold desert wind blows through the dry plain of the Red Rock Canyon; swirls of dust spin like small cyclones towards the sky. All of a sudden, the wind ceases and the first rays of the rising sun appear on the horizon and plunge the desert and the red and gray rocks of the majestic mountains into warm colors. We enjoy this lovely breakfast spot in the wild cacti garden near the creek. It is the last morning before the New Millennium. In the far distance, a blanket of smog announces already the fabulous desert town of the gambling halls and whirling wheels of famous and unique Las Vegas, the town of around the clock easy money, easy life and fast marriages – a place of real “24/7”. Once a former Mormon settlement and a sleepy oasis en route to California, it reached fame in 1931 when gambling was legalized in the State of Nevada. Glamorous casinos sprang up almost over night in this dry, deserted land and gamblers looking for the big money flooded the city. Soon, exquisite variety shows with world famous stars and circus performances popped up and attracted more and more people. Las Vegas began to grow.







Las Vegas Strip by night
The unique Eiffel Tower
revives the ambiance of Paris
Wonderful water fountains rise
in front of the Bellagio Casino

Is it day or night outside? In the 24-hour artificial light of the elegant and pleasantly air-conditioned halls, we loose any sense of time. The gambling fever spreads when suddenly the red light at the slot machines flashes and the promising siren shrills. Then, there is hardly anyone who is able to resist to the tempting sound of tingling coins. A big exception is Emil. Gambling means nothing to him; he even refuses to try it. Not so for me. My hopes and illusions grow with every coin I put into the hungry slot machines. Who knows, maybe I am the next one with luck? At some point, Emil pulls the emergency brakes, “We want our epic journey to continue”, he argues! As darkness falls and the innumerable lights and colorful neon advertisements glitter in a sense confusing way, we stroll through the flashy Las Vegas Boulevard, called "The Strip". Immediately, we find ourselves in a fairy-tale-world of exotic architecture from distant countries and an ongoing spectacle of sounds and lights. The wealth of ideas and the splendor of the sights are endless.








The pyramid-shaped Luxor Hotel with the Egyptian sphinx as entry
The sense confusing flashing
of the Riviera Casino
The impressive skyscrapers of the
Manhattan Skyline in New York

In the small artificial lake in front of the Bellagio Casino, innumerable outlets of a bubbling fountain perform a fantastic water show to the sounds of Pavarotti and Sinatra music. The “specialty” of the MGM Grand Hotel – with more than 5’000 rooms it is said to be the biggest hotel in the world - is the two impressive bronze lions guarding the entrance and its unique attraction of a whole playful lion family behind glass in an exotic environment inside the casino hall. For a few dollars, pictures can be taken together with a lion puppy. The Mirage Casino offers an artificial lagoon with rumbling waterfalls in a spectacular surrounding, where every 15 minutes a man-made volcano erupts, spitting lightening and fire 100 feet against the dark sky from dusk to midnight. In their glamorous halls we find a lush tropical garden with lovely cascades, flowering orchids and an exuberantly growing variety of exotic plants. And in the middle of this tropical jungle there is a cozy restaurant for enjoyment. But also the striking underwater world is not missing. In a 20’000 gallon aquarium we admire shiny fish, colorful corals and small sharks. It is such an offer of overwhelming impressions that we think we are dreaming.







The fanciful turrets and spires
of the Excalibur Casino
Beautiful cascade with the
Venetian Casino background
The Canale Grande recalls the
identical Venetian atmosphere

But there is still more in Las Vegas. Absolutely fascinating are also all the fabulous replicas of world famous sights, which line the six miles long “Strip”: The ambiance of France gets alive with its unique Eiffel Tower and its richly decorated Triumphal Arch. New York greets with twelve gigantic skyscrapers of the impressive Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the 300-feet-long Brooklyn Bridge. A turbulent roller coaster speeds in dizzy heights along the skyline. Fond memories of old Egypt arise at the sight of the pyramid-shaped Luxor Hotel with its 10-story high Sphinx as front entrance, and the richly carved Obelisk of Luxor. In the Mandarin Bay Casino, at the lower end of the “Strip”, we get attracted by splendid Burmese Pagodas. Adventure is the theme of the Treasure Island Casino, where a true scale model of an English pirate sailing ship is anchored in a colorful artificial harbor setting. Classical elegance and a tasteful architecture with much stucco and marble statues can be admired at the Monte Carlo Complex. More fairy-tale like is the sight of the castle-like structure of the Excalibur Casino with its four stone turrets and 14 fanciful red, blue and gold spires beaming brightly in the darkness.







The glittering casinos on Fremont
Street in Downtown Las Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas happy
and loaded with money!
The outstanding Eiffel Tower by night

Exceptionally attractive is Italy's picturesque Venetian Palace, not only the beautiful San Marco Square, but also the “Canale Grande” with its arched, romantic bridges reflecting the Venetian atmosphere with their traditional gondolas floating the channels, rowed by typically dressed 'Gondolieri'. Actually, it is a strange feeling to realize that all the enormous masses of water of the “Canale Grande” are situated on the second floor, right above the busy casino hall! Comfortably air-conditioned shopping streets with specialty restaurants and souvenir shops invite to stroll either under an artificially blue sky or a dark night firmament with millions of stars. The entertainment industry of Las Vegas knows no limits. But Las Vegas is also famous for its cozy little wedding chapels, nestled between glamorous casinos. They offer one of the few opportunities to get married in the shortest of time and attract couples from all over the world. 'Old' Las Vegas with its covered pedestrian zone seems to have lost some of its past splendor. On the freezing evening hours before the New Millennium change, only a few elderly tourists gather at Fremont Street for the impressive hourly spectacle. It is such a wonderful moment when the luxury casino illuminations suddenly are turned off and simultaneously two millions of bright lights appear on the arch above our heads, taking us back into the American history with a six-minute computer-generated sound and light show.







The tingling slot machines in Las Vegas
A man-made volcano erupts
in front of the Mirage Casino
The wonderful replica of
San Marco Square of Venice


Already long before midnight, people start to fill the narrow pedestrian passage in the flashy Las Vegas Boulevard. Narrow, because of the high fences put up in an amazing speed during late afternoon on both sides of the “Strip”. They hermetically protect the glamorous hotels, casinos and their illustrious visitors. Also the police are put on alert, posted behind equally high fences in the center of the street. The fear of possible riots, violence and demolition during the turn of the millennium is the reason for these probably exaggerated precautions, because it recently happened at the WTO conference in Seattle. It seems that the good reputation of this outstanding city of big money and fast marriage must be protected by all means. Law also prohibits carrying drinks in glass and metal containers, i.e. a toast with champagne will have to be in plastic cups. Luckily, the last hours of the ending year remain calm. Just now and then, some juveniles try to provoke the police.




Las Vegas City Welcome Sign
Ceaser’s Palace on the “Strip”
Worldrecord Holder visit Guinness
Record Museum in Las Vegas

Then, all of a sudden, as the clock moves towards midnight, everybody is filled with high expectations for something exceptional, something special to occur in this town of the superlatives - a colorful firework, just something unusual and outstanding. But nothing happens, absolutely nothing. Even the sparkling neon billboards do not pay any attention to this very special moment of the change into the New Millennium. Even the crowds - around 300’000 people - show no outbreak of emotions. Soon, they all are on their way home. Also we return to our desert nightspot outside of Las Vegas, deeply disappointed. The lights of the city become weaker and disappear later completely; we are surrounded by the eerie silence of the desert again. The stars and the moonrise are magnificent. As we open our bottle of champagne and toast (with glasses) on the New Year, we hear the howling of coyotes in the distance. It is a magic moment! Then, we crawl into our warm sleeping bags. 2000 just began!




Wild cacti garden in
Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas
Howling of Coyotes instead of
firework into the New Millennium

Sunset in the Mojave Desert

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