The Return of the NBA

After writing a lot about books, movies and video games the last few months, so today is the time to write about the return of the biggest league in my second favorite sport, basketball.
I’ve been a huge fan of the NBA since my teenage years, but I never played organized basketball.

Yesterday evening, the NBA kicked off its 2013-14 season and I’m really excited for it. Here are a few things I’ll be watching throughout the year.

Can the Heat three-peat?

The last two years, the Miami Heat have come away with the championship rings thanks to LeBron James elevating his game to a new level. At the moment, he is the best player by far. But the rest of the league has not been sleeping and championship teams have a tendency to get fatigued by their success. Younger, hungrier teams might be ready to pounce on any perceived weaknesses. Especially in the Western Conference, one superstar seems primed to take the next step in his development: Kevin Durant.

Will KD win the MVP?

Without his currently injured sidekick, Russell Westbrook, the 25-year-old superstar will need to lead the Thunder team on his own for the next few months. While he is good enough to lead the team to more than enough wins, will it be enough to keep in the pole position in a stacked Western Conference? If he does keep them fighting for a 1-seed, he will definitely be a strong contender for the league’s MVP award.

Which Point Guard will be the most fun to watch?

My favorite position in Basketball is the point guard. And there is an incredible number of fantastic players at the position, all playing with a different style. There’s Chris Paul, a leader on the court capable of taking over whenever he needs too; there’s Stephen Curry, arguably the best shooter in the league; there’s Ricky Rubio, a flashy pass-first playmaker and of course the youngest MVP ever, Derrick Rose, returning from a torn ACL. These are just the players are the ones I’m most excited about. But of course, it would be foolish to count out the older geniuses Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, the up-and-coming superstars John Wall and Kyrie Irving as well as the currently rehabbing Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook. Every night you’ll be able to see a fantastic duel at the guard spot.

Who will win the Lottery?

This year, there are two tiers of teams: the contenders and the tankers. With the 2014 draft shaping up to include the greatest amount of talent in years, teams like the Suns, Celtics and 76ers have blown up their teams to finish as low as possible. Especially in January and February, when other teams will be eliminated from playoff contention, it will be fun to see who joins the “Riggin’ for Wiggins” (named after probable no. 1 pick Andre Wiggins) craze.

How good will Kobe still be?

And the last question is about Kobe Bryant, who tore his achilles tendon last season and will return to the game sometime this season. Will he be able to continue his quest of catching Michael Jordan and his six years as well as Kareem and his scoring record?
Has his time on the sidelines rejuvenated him? How good is the old Lakers team? Kobe will want to prove all his haters wrong and I’m looking forward to seeing the Black Mamba step back on the court.

Will you be following the NBA? Who’s your favorite player? Or team?
Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

I’m back on Friday with chapter 22 of “An Elusive Hero”!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

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Travel bucket list

I’ve been back in Switzerland for a week and am slowly settling back into daily life, meeting friends, enjoying the beautiful summer days and taking a lot of walks. With my summer holiday already in my rear view mirror, my eyes are firmly planted on the future and the new horizons to be sailed to. It will take a while until I’m going to be travel outside of Switzerland, but dreaming doesn’t cost anything, right?

So, let’s look at a few of the places on my bucket list:

Cologne, Germany

The German city plays host to the biggest gaming convention in Europe, the Gamecom, in the middle of August. After being at its predecessor in Leipzig as a teenager a few years ago and loving it, I am intrigued by the opportunity to see the newest games and consoles in the historic city closer to me. Cologne is also famous for its medieval cathedral and has an interesting Old Town to discover. But to be honest, I don’t know how much of the town I’ll be able to see if the sights and sounds of the convention distract me.

London, England

I’d love to travel to London to watch an Arsenal game, as I’ve written before and I’m positive I’ll manage to go during this Premier League season. But the Emirates is not the only place I’m keen on seeing, I’d love to explore the city and its countless museums now that I’m a little bit older. Not unlike New York, this city is constantly evolving and new shops, pubs and restaurants are waiting to be discovered. Speaking exclusively English for a weekend would definitely be a welcome distraction during the busy school year.

France & Belgium

I’m turning 25 next year which marks the last year I’m eligible for the steep youth discount on Interrail passes. The pass, which allows you to travel across many European countries for a flat rate (excl. reservations) is a great and traditional way for young people from around the world to see Europe. I’ve taken an extensive train trip to some of the Scandinavian capitals, and next on my list would be a trip through the north of France and Belgium. Medieval castles and towns have fascinated me since visiting various Swiss keeps as a young boy. A trip through the French-speaking countries would definitely have its fair share of culture, history and exquisite cuisine.

The West Coast, USA

Moving on to a more long-term outlook, the US is a country that has fascinated me for a long time. My recent visit to New York has only affirmed my wish to see more of the massive country across the Atlantic. The West Coast is a region I’ve never seen before, with a couple of cities capturing my attention. Of course, Los Angeles with its sprawling highways, beautiful beaches and Hollywood lifestyle is atop the list. But since I can’t drive, I don’t if I’d feel so comfortable in the metropolis. Relatives and friends alike have recommended also the city of San Francisco to me. Since I enjoy walking over bridges I’d love to use the famous Golden Gate Bridge to enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean up-close. Travelling up and down the coast would be fantastic as well, just to discover smaller American towns after spending so much time in the country’s biggest city.

The Philippines

Not to be excluded from this list is my birth country, the beautiful Philippines. I haven’t visited the Islands in 14 months and obviously, the time to go back home once more will arrive rather sooner than later. I can only recommend the Philippines to anyone travelling to the South East Asia. Manila is a great city to spend a few days discovering remnants of the Spanish colonizers, walking through the newish planned districts and for great night outs. Boracay is the entire rage when looking for parties and Palawan is the beach resort for diving and relaxing. With over 7’000 islands to choose from, I’m sure anyone will be able to find the white-sanded beach of his or her choice. But beaches are not everything the country has to offer, with the famous rice terraces of Banaue, chocolate hills of Bohol and the island volcano on Lake Taal waiting to be discovered. Thinking about it, I’m looking more and more forward to my next trip back to my second home.

Kawayan Cove

Photo: Mirella Haldimann

As you can see, my travel bucket list is quite extensive. I don’t know when and if I’ll be able to fulfill my wishes in the near future. But they still remain part of my dreams and aspirations. What’s on your bucket list? Where would you like to go next?

This post wraps up my two-week series focused on NYC and travelling, and we’re back to the diverse topics of my regular schedule on Monday. Please also get the word out by liking, sharing and subscribing!

Have a great weekend.
Sincerely yours,

Albert

The park takes center stage

First off: The Zürifäscht was incredible. With great booths and fantastic parties, I spent most of my weekend in the city enjoying the party. The highlight was the spectacular display of fireworks both on Friday and Saturday, illuminating the clear summer sky and accompanied by a brilliantly fitting soundtrack. As far as pyrotechnics goes, the Zürifäscht didn’t disappoint and still delivers the gold standard. I really hope you didn’t miss Switzerland’s biggest festivity this time around, because it kept its promise of sun and spectacle. If you did, make sure you’re here in 2016 for the next edition.

After such a busy weekend, obviously many visitors of the Zürifäscht will have the need to calm down and relax. The city of Zurich has many great places by the lake for an afternoon of bliss, including the Renten- and Chinawiese. On beautiful summer days, they’re packed with high schoolers, college students, stay-at-home mothers and fathers and anyone lucky enough to have a free day.

However, nothing can compare to the recreational area my friend and I visited last week: New York’s central park. The massive green patch in the middle of Manhattan is one of the great wonders of the city. Also known as the lung of the city, the 840 acres has been a mainstay of all of my New York visits so far.

The first time I arrived in the city of dreams, I was awestruck by the skyscrapers as well as the energy and mass of people. I felt right at home. This feeling was amplified when my friend and I, staying in a hostel on around 95th street, walked the few blocks and stepped into the park. Seeing such a large space of grass and trees amidst the brownstones and posh apartment blocks was fascinating. We then made our way to the Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis Reservoir. I clearly remember standing there, staring at the calm face of the water, getting passed by the swift movements of joggers and thinking: why would I ever leave?

On my second visit my girlfriend at the time and I covered even more ground: we took a bicycle tour through the park and explored more of the east side I didn’t know before taking the route to the sullen memorial to John Lennon. One of the great architectural feats of the central park is the ability to merge cyclists, joggers and tourists. During the tour we discovered many of the hidden ponds and fountains scattered all over the park. We enjoyed the shade the tall, impressive trees provided and listened to the bits of trivia our guide had to say about the park.

This time around, my friend and I spent most of our time on a Sunday lounging in the large lawn in the south of the park near the Fifth Avenue entrance. Just watching the various pastimes of New Yorkers brought serenity to the hectic pace of our six-day trip. To our left, three twenty-somethings were trying to produce bubbles as large as basketballs with one girl succeeding after what seemed to be a hundred tries. Our eyes followed the bubble as it took flight, ascending higher and higher passing the young ladies lying on their towels tanning themselves. With the help of the slight breeze the bubble travelled over to the group of high school kids celebrating the end of the school year and the promise of future. It continued to the couple clumsily tossing a baseball back and forth. The girls, who had blown the bubble, were naturally delighted by their success and their laughter filled the air, although it was soon drowned out by the excited shouts from the group playing high level beach volleyball nearby. The bubble, now slowly descending, got a last bout of second wind and flew by a kid in Spain jersey (unsuccessfully) trying to emulate his idols with his father. We took a last look as the bubble burst on the soft grass and continued our journey reenergized and completely recharged.

Sincerely yours,
Albert

PS: I’ve been really motivated by getting new followers the last few days and I would like to thank them so much for reading! Please continue to like, share and follow!

On top of the world

The next two weeks will feature a special summer series about my favorite city: New York. The town has inspired millions of people from around the world. I love its energy and diversity as well as the unique blend of old buildings and modern skyscrapers.

This year, I’m fortunate to be able to visit the city for the third time. Travelling with a friend, we spent our first day walking around and exploring downtown, starting from the financial district and working ourselves up to the village. The Sunday was then spent in mid-town at the traditional tourist attractions and at the lung of the city: the central park. Both ofus have been enjoying the warm weather, taking in the scents and scenes of a city so different from all the others.

My favorite tourist attraction in New York is the fabulous Rockefeller Center with its observation deck. Every time I visit the city, I take the 43-second elevator ride to the 82nd floor deck. There are three reasons why I prefer the Top of the Rock to the world-famous observation deck on the Empire State building. Firstly, the boundaries of the deck are glass and therefore transparent. Secondly, it is more spacious and accommodates fewer tourists, making it less crowded and easier to move around on deck. And thirdly, you are treated to a magnificent view of the beautiful Empire State building in all its glory.

To start off this series and end this post, I would have liked to show you the view that never fails to inspire me to follow my dreams: But unfortunately, due to technical problems with my laptop (it wasn’t able to read the SD card), I’ll have to upload the picture later!

Edit: Here is the promised picture with the Empire State taking center stage, and World Trade 1 and the Statue of Liberty barely visible in the background!

IMG_5005

Foto: Darko Miodragovic

So, we’re off to do more exploring. See you soon!

Sincerely yours,

Albert