Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Dear friends,

it's time to go (mostly) on mute and celebrate Christmas an New Year's Eve with my family and my friends here in the Northern part of Germany. 

This little blog is had now more than 30,000 visits since I started it and I thank every single one of you for reading along.



MERRY CHRISTMAS 
HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Yours

Christina

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Angry Opinion Piece 2 - Gun Control

I took me a lot of time and a lot of consideration to start writing. I posted pratically nothing related on Facebook or Twitter. I did not talk with my family or friends about what happened. I even wrote a long email to my best friend without even mentioning IT. The only thing I did was talking with my 3-year-old niece about orange juice and listening to her serious consideration if I should get some as well, when I come over for Christmas (The result was: "Maybe."). 

I seriously considered just keep going like this and allow only my rational me to deal with numbers and a couple of facts, carefully avoid the media and definitely stay away from REALLY thinking of those 20 dead children and their teachers. These little boys and girls were not much older than my niece curious for life and full of trust (one of the most impressing magic powers children have).
But is that what I have a blog for? Saying nothing while an opinion is building in my head and heart? Probably not. 


In the last couple of days there were a lot of people who said, that topics related to this
shooting should not be discussed while everybody is so emotional. I think, excuse me,  this is bullshit. 20 children age 5 to 7 and half a dozen of adults, who tried to protect them, died. And oh yes .... this IS emotional and will always be and if not we are doomed to hell. And when do we want to raise the issues attached to this? When people start to move on and forget?  Or when it happens the next time? NO, we need to do it now while we feel the pain

Then there is a group who would like to leave the gun control topic behind and focus on the mental illness part of the problem. I partly agree. Mental illness is one of the root causes of tragedies like this. And there is a severe problem in the USA with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnes as well as health care that needs to be solved, because these families need HELP. Urgently. For more on this topic you can read this courageous blog post of a mother who's son has a mental health issue and severe problems to control his aggressions.


While we do not know for sure yet if the shooter had similar problems like the boy in the 
blog post I noticed a big difference between the two mothers: While one desperatly tries to keep her son away from all weapons the other,  the mother of the Newtown shooter, was an avid gun collector. Her son had just to cherry pick from what was accessible for him at his own home including the Bushmaster .233 - a semi-automatic assault rifle modelled after a M-16 - he used to kill.
And now please tell me ONE SINGLE RATIONAL REASON, why a mom, a lady living in a 500,000 $ home in a wealthy and safe neighborhood in a quiet and peaceful town needs a semi-automatic killing machine?  I will tell you how many reasons there are for this:  ZERO! 
Security in your home? Are you awaiting a foreign armee or a terrorist attack in your living room or what? This is ridiculous. And because this is an opinion piece, I can tell you my opinion: guns like this should not be legally accessible for any private person. Period. 


But let's have a closer look at the situation:
The 2nd ammendment was ratified in 1791, when guns looked like this and while you click that link do not just look at the rifle but also read the post, because I agree with the author about the fact that the 2nd ammendment in the form it now exists is outdated and need to be revised. And NO, it is not untouchable. This is not a rule from god (and even if - who's god in this multi-religious country would that be?), but from the citizens of the USA. Legislation is an essential part of the democratic process and it is equally essential that this democratic process is used to ammend and rework the rules of living together if necessary and I am convinced in this case it is. It's overdue.


The usual argument when a statement like this comes from a foreigner living in a country with stricter gun control like Germany is, that we do not understand how important the right to own guns is for a lot of Americans.
Well, let me update you a bit about German gun culture:
In the beginning gun control was, when it was implemented, not our idea, but the Allies made sure  - and who could blame them - that after two World Wars the German nation would go "unarmed" into the second half of the 20th century although we are not SO unarmed now.
Still while I HATED IT to shoot and touch a gun and have no desire to do it ever again, lots of people here feel differently.  2 million marksmen are members of rifle clubs and organisations and every single village has a yearly, very popular event to find the new champion marksman. We also have hunters and people who claim the right to wear a gun for self protection (but the rules for this are very strict) or business (security, bodyguards, etc).  We have around 80 million citizens and 10 million registered guns.  This is by far not a gun free country full of pacifists. 


BUT - here is the big difference:  You cannot go into a shop and simply buy a gun. You need to go through several knowledge and aptitude tests including a health status and clean records for mental illness and of course criminal activity. You will have a gunholder pass and need - if your gun is at your home - special, secure lockers. There will be also checks after 3 years or less if the gunholder permission should be suspended or not. No permission is given without naming and proofing the exact need to own a gun.
Guns are - to summarize - much less accessible than they are in the US and only a very small minority of gunholders is allowed to actually wear the gun in public for self defence.


Does this completely solve the problem of criminal violence and illegal gun ownership? No.

Does this legal situation gives us a 100% protection against a shooting rampage like the nightmare of Newtown? No.

BUT I am convinced the high effort that is needed to either legally or illegaly (money, contacts, criminal energy) aquire a gun lowers significantly the likeliness that a potentially mad gunman could get those deadly weapons in his hands. In fact fatal rampages like the one in Newtown are very, very rare events over here.
Additionally I am also convinced that it is important to change the mindset in the Unites States and gun control - removing the guns - especially assault rifles - from the shelfs of the shops as an easy to get consumer good - is a big part of this. It has to STOP being something totally normal to shoot a gun, it has to STOP being a realistic, easy to achieve option to deal with a situation. It needs to become what it really is: a life threatening event.

I wish the families who lost their beloved children and family members  that they will able to find some peace. I think that is the best we can hope for. For the children and their teachers I am not worried, because I strongly believe that they were welcomed with open arms at a much better place than ours. 

In the name of these children let's work together to make this world - and not just in our own cities, our own country but in general -  a safer place. 


PS: The name of the shooter and his family was avoided intentionally. Attention and fame - even if it is posthum - are often part of the motivation for those crimes. We should not feed this. 

Angry Opinion Piece 1 - The Lockout

Before I start let's clarify something important first: 

1) It is NOT okay to call the President of The United States horrible rasist names because he was so "impertinent" to hold his speach in Newtown on a Sunday - in the holy hour of god foodball.
Pro tip: That is a) never okay b) disgusting c) merciless.

And it is not that I do not like football. I do - a lot. 

2) Is it then in sad times like this in general okay to talk and discuss passionatly something so relatively unimportant like hockey (replace with any professional sports of your choice)?  YES, in my opinion it is and I will explain you why:

I went through really rough times in my life. I had to watch helplessly how cancer killed both of my parents long before they could get old. There were very dark hours and that is when distraction is needed. Somethingelse you can put your focus on, something that you love and that lifts your spirit for a little while. It does not mean you "forget" anything or that anything is less horrible, but you can escape for a short moment and rest your soul. This short breaks from the fight help you to get up again and face what you need to face. And that is what hockey means for many of its passionate fans and this is why it is important although it is - just a game


The current unresolved labor dispute between the NHL (owners) and the NHLPA (players) and the ongoing lockout make me really, really, really angry and sad and it is time to list why.
BOTH organizations built together an succesful, popular, multi billion $ business of a league but now act incredibily irresponsible with risking to lose a full season - the second in less than a decade - and much more than that. 


And here is is why:
  • While both parties discuss how to best share millions of dollars thousands of people lose their jobs. The clubs themselves might still protect their direct employees, but the majority of people working around the NHL are not staff of the clubs.  They work in the parking lots, the cleaning company, the catering service, the gift shop. They are the waitresses in the bars next door of the venue or set up the guest rooms in the now mostly empty hotel around the corner. Those people are are in trouble, existential trouble and can forget about a festive Christmas.
    The business owners - the small local ones we all appreciate so much - still had to fight hard to catch up on lost revenue from the last lockout and suffer now badly from the recent one. A lot of them need to fix the holes with expensive loans on their businesses and private homes, cut back on staff and investment and not a small number of them had to give up or will need to give up soon.
    Alone in Pittsburgh every cancelled home game costs 1.2 - 2 million $ of local business revenue. And that does not even count in the millions of tax $ lost and / or frozen in billion $ high end arenas being mostly empty now.
  • The fans deserve better. I wrote already above what hockey means for the fans. In many of the NHL cities the hockey club is part of the local identity. The fans are the ones, who make this league valuable. If they would not pay for tickets, buy jerseys and switch on the TV every time their team is on this league would be worth NOTHING. Treat the people who pay for your million $ incomes with respect, gentlemen, and deliver your product.
  • Talent is wasted. Hockey is an intense sport and the professional players only have a relatively short career (one reason why they fight for their share with this intensity). As long as the lockout is in place this talent is wasted. The players lose a relevant piece of the time they can play in the NHL, they cannot make use of what they got and have fought for - like for example Sidney Crosby coming back from his injuries. Young players are limited in their development possibilties, older ones at the end of their career maybe lose the last games they could play.
  • The sport is damaged significantly for way longer than this lockout is in place. This is probably the point I understand least. Why would you bite the hand that feeds you? Fact is with a 2nd lockout in less than 10 years the NHL is losing value every day. Sponsoring partners and TV stations step back. Who would pay that much money to such an unreliable partner?  While the parties are busy discussing shares the actual share dissapears in thin air - day by day a little more. 

I understand that each side has its points, but that's life. If it is at work, in a marriage, a friendship, business or politics - standing in your corner and blaming the other for playing foul does not help. The key to success is compromise from BOTH sides. This is NOT about winning. 

And that's why I say it with my favorite Pirate AJ Burnett (and I am not ***ing):

SIT THE FUCK DOWN


.... and figure it out. NOW!  

It is almost too late already. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guest blogging for Pop City Pittsburgh 2

Today is a happy day!  In the middle of Christmas business madness some words and pictures about the gorgeous time Gabrijela and I had in Pittsburgh in October went live at Pop City Pittsburgh!

Please see our post here:

A European Perspective of Pittsburgh: Part 2












Just in case you missed the first part about our trip in spring 2012 you can find it here:


A European Perspective of Pittsburgh: Part 1

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Grinch vs The Communitree


It is that time of the year, when my blog posts get less frequent and  the book reviews stop, because instead of reading on my way to work I sit exhausted in the subway train with my eyes closed and my earbuds in to shut the noise of the world out.  It is Christmas time. 

The real Christmas dissapeared from my life when I started to work in retail in December 1994 to fund my life as a student at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster. I worked at a record shop and while I still think it is one of the coolest and most fun jobs a person can have, it's pretty nasty right before Christmas. It means long hours, hurting feet and legs and lots and lots and lots of people buying music, who have no idea what they want and what they are doing. And NO, you cannot behave like  the guys in this very fun "dealing with the clueless customer scene" in High Fidelity (l love the book by Nick Hornby and the movie with John Cusack is not that bad either). But working in a real shop is not even that bad. You feel the excitement of Christmas and if the shop is in the city center like ours you can always have an afterwork hot punch at the Christmas market and get the feeling at least a little bit.


For several years now I am not dealing anymore directly with customers. I am doing online marketing for online retail companies. While I love selling stuff over the internet that makes people happy this Christmas thing is getting tough for me. It is all just about increased campaign volumen, constant checking on business performance and lots of long extra hours at work. It is what the business demands and the career I chose. It is like it is, but sometimes I really miss the real spirit of Christmas in my life. 


And then last Monday I had this on my Facebook timeline from Pittsburgh artist, awesome dinner companion and friend Alexi Morrissey

"Me and Patrick Jordan are hosting this for 8hrs a day for the next 3 days. Robots! Toys! INSANITY!! Internet!" 
Below the post was the link to The Communitree.

I clicked. I pretty much always click Alexi's links, because they are usually worth it and saw .... *blink* (still there) *blink* (still there) *blink* Pat and Alexi in pretty awesome-ugly Christmas sweaters jumping in some kind of studio around a Christmas tree with some strange technical construction above dropping Christmas ornaments on the tree, but also on the floor or on Alexi's head or Pat's sweater (where it got stuck). WHAT  THE HELL???

I will try to put it in as rational and understandable words as possible:
Pat and Alexi were hosting a live webcast for 3 days / 8 hours each, where people could watch them doing ... stuff ... and also log into a website to use the machine to drop the Christmas ornaments on the Christmas tree in the studio. Every time an ornament would be dropped 5$ would be donated by two sponsoring companies to the children's charity Toys for Tots. Facebook likes for the site and the ornaments you dropped brought in extra money. The goal was to keep people engaged and playing along the show to get 20,000 $ in donations together.
This is the theory. For real Alexi's "INSANITY!!" described it much better. You can watch this video to get an impression:


The Communitree on TV

And yes, just in case you are wondering about the mentioned call into the studio (one more interactive element) from Germany - that was me. 


It was wild, it was crazy and it was ... magic and addictive for everybody who started watching. I LOVED it. I enjoyed the insanity very much, because it was the PERFECT contrast to my business numbers controlled professional life in a moment when I REALLY needed it.
The magic of the internet also shrunk the usually painful big distance of almost 4,300 miles between Munich and Pittsburgh to a felt 0, because I could see the guys and in parallel lots of my friends watched as well, dropped ornaments, posted and tweeted. It was a bit like having three great nights out together getting totally wasted.
And ... what was that ... this fuzzy feeling in my tummy? CHRISTMAS!!! As weird as it sounds ... hanging out on my couch with my notebook in my lap playing with a 4,300 miles away operating roboter while two guys were freaking out in front of a camera kicked out my personal Grinch and got me more into Christmas mood than I had been in years. And it felt GOOD!

I thank Alexi and Pat and the whole Communitree team for the amazing ride. It was so much fun and such a great success. I also have the deepest respect for what you all did, because doing 3 days / 8 hours each of live impro show must be INSANELY exhausting on every level.
I am so happy the 20,000 $ came together and I hope very much that The Communitree becomes a Christmas tradition!!!


The 3 days of  The Communitree are over, but of course you can still donate to Toys for Tots and other charities. I would love to use this chance to make you aware of one that is really close to my heart:


I am talking about kids looking forward to a sad Christmas away from home, because they had to escape with one of their parents / relatives (often but not always the mother) to a domestic violence shelter. These kids have seen often more bad than most of us. Don't you think just like me these kids should at least have a nice Christmas with some great gifts? I am sure you do!


YOU can help and donate to CHRISTMAS CRAZY - the charity of my lovely friend Michelle of the fantastic Burghbaby blog . Please read here for more information and get your Paypal accounts ready! Every $ will directly go into purchasing Christmas gifts. There is no costly administration or organisation behind it. It is just Michelle investing her time and energy to conjure a smile on the face of some kids who usually have not much to smile about. If you want your donation to have a direct impact, this is your way to go! THANK YOU!



Monday, November 5, 2012

No lockout can stop us ...

... from raising the next generation :)
This is my niece showing us proudly her new t-shirt "from Ameeeeeerica". 


She’s a good girl ... loves Jesus and America, too... Part V - Election Edition

Tuesday - the election day in the USA - is almost there and since I'm as usual pretty bad with keeping my mouth shut, I just inhaled and launched my blogging software to write my election post. 

As a German native, passport holder and resident I logically cannot vote in the USA although I care a lot about the future of this country. Thankfully - and we should not take this for granted - the freedom of speech is in place and in the United States as well as in Germany so I can at least write down my thoughts. 


Most importantly:  You should vote! Democracy is nothing that happens to you - you ARE the democracy and there is no bigger threat to the political system than not voting. It is your responsibility. Make your choice and your voice heard. 


IF I could vote - well you can see in the image on top who I would vote for. From the perspective of a German that is by the way an easy choice, because if that would be Germany, there would be no Mitt Romney and no Republican Party - at least not in the recent form - because their program includes several proposals that infringe the German constution and diverse laws in place. There is especially this one from the constitution, which would stop Mr. Romney and his team dead right way:

Article 20, paragraph 1:
Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland ist ein demokratischer und sozialer Bundesstaat

Translation:  The Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic, social and federal state.

Yes, we have the word SOCIAL in the constitutional definition of our nation and I am very proud of it. We are the living proof that a country can be one of the economically most successful countries in the world and a stable democracy with having at the same time a social system in place that is - although it is still by far not ideal - capable of providing a certain level of social security including health insurance, pension system, education and the security of basic livelihood for its citizens. 


Sometimes when I try to explain the social aspect of our political system to Americans (none of those a close friend thankfully) they stare at me puzzled and state: "So Germany is a socialist country!?"
SIGH ... no, it's not! By definition (Oxford Dictionary) socialism is:


"a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole."

The idea came up when the unlimited capitalism of the industrialization had led to an equally limitless exploitation of labor and an inhuman society benefiting only a small minority of capitalists.
Let's quote Kurt Vonnegut for better understanding of the idealistic concept especially contrasting the reality of the so called socialist countries at the former Eastern bloc:

""Socialism" is no more an evil word than "Christianity". Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve." (Kurt Vonnegut, "Man Without a Country")


That said ... Germany is by the definition no socialist country. Our system is called social market economy and it is the - fairly good working - approach to have the best of both worlds with providing a system of social security and allowing the privately driven economy to be succesful and internationally competitive. It is not perfect, it is always in a process of change, it is not easy to handle and balance, it does not come cheap for anybody, but - in my opinion - it is absolutely worth it.
 

That said ... Barrack Obama is by definition also no socialist. To get a better picture let's put his political positioning in an (international) perspective at the example of the political parties in Germany:
Here Obama with his program would not even really qualify for the Social Democratic Party - SPD (moderate left wing, 2nd biggest party in the country), because his approach is still significantly too conservative and "liberal" 
(note: the use of the word "liberal" is different in Germany it translates maybe a bit better as libertarian). His position can be best compared with the slightly more social wing of the FDP - the liberal / libertarian (see note above) party in Germany, that usually works in coalition with the conservative CDU/CSU.  The US Republicans are of all parties in Germany closest to the CSU, but in lots of the topics on their agenda they even range beyond the political spectrum we have here.

Barrack Obama is a hard working political realist (he was from the beginning much more realistic about what would be possible in a first term than many of his voters) who tries to be the President of all Americans - despite of race, gender, sexual orientation or social class. He is not a socialist, he does not want to cut your personal freedom, he supports although his political opponents try to maintain the opposite the US economy (Some interesting numbers about the mostly positive development during Obama's term can be found for example here at CNN), but he is also not the Messiah like super hero many had hoped for.  But what he does with all he got is fighting for a fair chance for a happy, healthy and successful life for all citizens of this great country. Wasn't that what America was once all about? 

So let the man just do his job for four more years.  Thank you. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The final travel day


Above you see our final breakfast at Espresso A Mano. That is a must do before leaving. Going through that door then is always a hard thing to do, because after that ... it is just driving out of the city, returning the car and then hours and hours in planes and airports. 

The trip was kind of eventless which is a good thing for a trip. The flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia was delayed but since we had plenty of time it was nothing that caused us any trouble. 

In the plane I watched "Mr. Poppers's Penguins". Don't judge. I had watched all the more decent movies in the entertainment system already and Jim Carrey is wearing a Sidney Crosby jersey in a scene. 

And that's about it .. back home now doing laundry.

I made a lots of pictures and for now neither my camera nor my computer died on me this time. It also means that I still have a lot of pictures I did not show you yet and I think I will create the one or the other little picture gallery here over the next couple of weeks. 


Back to "normal" life now. I guess. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pittsburgh Day 7 - Rounding corners

The last day in town.  Damn ... what a painful feeling, but Gabi and I had a plan for this day: "Not thinking about this day being the last, keep going and enoying as much as possible." And so we did.

The morning was mystic because fog hovered over the city.





We got started with a strong breakfast at Pamela's in the Strip together with the lovely and incredibly supporting ladies from Neighbors in the Strip before we started into the final working round in our favorite part of the city.

We did a couple of more interviews and learned for example from Gus Stamoolis, who's family runs a business in the Strip for over hundered years, a lot about the history of the area and its constant changes. We also walked up and down to make sure that we got all important buildings covered for the project and to take additional pictures of some of our favorite corners.















This one is one of our favorite walls (from the picture taking perspective), but damn ... what a diva. Always is there a fence in the way or a pole or a big shadow is breaking up the picture.



And while Gabi was working out there with her camera I had finally a minute to sneak into St. Stan's:







When we finally went on our good bye round my heart was seriously aching. And then I spotted something really awesome. The night before we had asked the owners of Bar Marco if they could try to make sure that there is no car parking in front of the house. Gabi already had shot the building but only with a big SUV parked in front and since the house is small the car kind of killed the picture. It's just that keeping a slot like this unoccupied in the Strip on a Friday morning is not easy, but when we arrived I saw this and had to snap it with my little camera. Ladies & Gentlemen - Our officially first Pittsburgh Parking Chair powered by Bar Marco!
By the way ... the house stays straight up and is not as warped as it looks here. This visual effect my normal little camera (and any other normal lens) produces is why it needs Gabi's fancy architecture lens to make propper pictures of buildings. This is already corrected in Photoshop as much as possible. 





We also quickly went over to Smallman Street to give the beautiful Regina Koetters of Marty's Market a final good bye hug.  The market is a fabulous place to explore and shop for local groceries and the bar offers tasty lunch, good WiFi connection and great coffee a little bit (2 min walk) away from the biggest Strip crazyness. I can't wait to come back to Pittsburgh to see how Marty's Market grows and flourishes.

After saying good bye to the Strip we quickly crossed a river. And yes, dear Pittsburghers, crossing rivers is pretty easy and there is great stuff to explore on all waterfronts!  Just do it ;)

Sadly time was already short and I could not really show Gabi the Southside Flats (next time). We just stopped quickly at Southside Works to hand over some Croatian goodies imported directly from Korčula to photographer Matte Braidić.  Soon his project Faceburgh will reach the magic number of 20,000 candid shots of normal Pittsburghers doing normal things and catching the soul of the city.

And now comes a pro tip:

If you are on vacation at a place you really, really love and you are scared of the heartbreak the last evening will be, schedule there a final dinner with super awesome friends in a really great restaurant - and instead of crying you just can't do anything else than looking forward to it.

We went to Pusadee's Garden, a really good thai restaurant in Lawrenceville, with some fantastic people. We enjoyed the great food, talked, planned a trip to the London adventure of the Steelers in September 2013 and - most importantly - laughed until our faces and tummies hurt.

Pittsburgh is an exiciting and absolutely beautiful city, but what makes it magic are its people. There are no better. 

We thank everybody who spent time with us, talked to us, ate with us, drank with us, laughed with us and supported our adventures from the bottom of our hearts.

We'll be back soon!

All polaroids by Gabrijela Obert


















Pittsburgh Day 6 - The perfect surprise

Our final two days in Pittsburgh were totally crazy and I did not manage to write before now, when I am in Germany again and try to fight the jetlag and get to a normal sleep schedule as quickly as possible.

But back to Pittsburgh at least in writing, mind and soul.

When we drove back from Mount Lebanon last Sunday Karla - our GPS - was leading us through Dormont. That was the first time we came through this part of the city and we were surprised how cute it looked with a lot of restaurant store fronts lightened up in the evening.

I remembered that our friend Sylvia McCoy of Burgh Bits & Bites mentioned a while ago a new tour in  Dormont and I made a mental note, that I would like to do that when I get to Pittsburgh the next time.
Apparently I had not to wait that long because shortly after Sylvia called and told me that she had a new tour guide for even this Dormont tour and asked if Gabrijela and I would like to be the test candidates for Jennifer (who by the way did a very good job and will be a great tour guide) to try the food and the timing of the tour together. OF COURSE we said "YES!"  We loved our Bloomfield tour in spring and the Strip District tour on my first trip to Pittsburgh was one of the main reasons for me to fall in love with the city in general and the Strip in particular. 

So on Thursday morning we got the car ready and set up the GPS for the Dormont Public Library. At this time for you to get a better picture it is the right moment to introduce you to our car and GPS.

Some people may find it odd but naming cars is a family tradition and why not include rental cars? And of course rental cars in Pittsburgh should be named after famous Pittsburgh people. Our Mazda 3, who was really fun to drive, in spring we named Roberto (after Roberto Clemente).  This time we had a Toyota Corolla. It was a solid car, but in his whole apperance less sporty than Roberto and so we were looking out for a more classic name and chose Andrew (after Andrew Carnegie). And there he is:




But the most significant improvement was to go for a rental company that does offer a decent GPS (Alamo in our case). As much as we loved Roberto, we hated "Suzy" aka the Hertz Neverlost GPS, which was so bad (at least for Pittsburgh) that it was leading us strange and often simply wrong ways. This time we had a Garmin and it was just fine. Only in Downtown Pittsburgh with all the high buildings it got very confused and was constantly recalculating, but in general it was big help to get around town especially when we left our Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Strip, Downtown, North Side turfs ("dahn" there we do not need the GPS anymore). To make sure that the lady telling us where to go could not mistaken for Suzy we called her Karla:




In general I would strongly recomment renting a GPS along with your car to every tourist who is new to Pittsburgh. This city is naturally grown and goes along old trails and is not as clearly structured as many other US cities.  Without a GPS it is really hard to get around. 


Thanks to Karla we easily made it over to Dormont and arrived a little ahead of  time. When our small test group was complete we first stopped at the neighborhood mural and Jennifer gave us an overview about the history of Dormont.



Then we threw ourselves into the food fun with Halloween treats at the Potomac Bakery ... 




... and the super cute Dormont Dogs for very tasty hot dogs. I tried the "Pittsburgh Dog" and it was super delicious as was the Texan that Gabi tried. 



We kept on walking along the Dor Stop Cafe, which is a very popular breakfast place, the Hollywood Theater, where I realized that with being back to Germany I cannot go there today (Sunday) to see "To Kill a Mockingbird" (BUMMER), and a really cute book store to a food place called Fredo's. Gabi and I looked at the sign and got all exicted because it looks like this - what a SURPRISE:




The owners of Fredo's are from Bosnia (Banja Luka area) and now ... my Pittsburgh life is complete, because down there we got absolutely amazing ćevape u lepinji. The food was SO GOOD. They also have traditionally, made from scratch pita with cheese, potatoes, meet or spinach and cheese. Totally awesome.


Often when you enter a restaurant in the US that is supposed to offer "authentic European food" it does not do the job at all. I was suprised how much you can do wrong for example with a ... Schnitzel. It's usually pretty awful. But at Fredo's it tastes 100% like it has to. The lack of Bosnian / Crotian comfort food was always one of Pittsburgh misses for me, but this problem is solved now. YAY! Funny enough I was obviously so excited that I could not hold the camera still. All pictures of the fantastic food turned out blurred - sorry :(.
 

The surprise was btw on both sides.  They had expected German speaking guests and got Croatian speaking ones but that was of course even better for everybody involved and we had lots of fun to give Sylvia and Jennifer a crash course in Bosnian / Croatian food, culture and history.

Final stop on our Dormont tour (we had to cut it short a little bit) was the famous Sugar Café and indeed the cupcakes were as good as I had heard before and I loved the interior design of the place.




After the super fun food tour we did some neighborhood cruising in Squirrel Hill and Oakland. It is always impressive how many different faces Pittsburgh has and now we saw two at the same time:  Pittsburgh the city of students, colleges and universities and ... Gotham. Thursday afternoon was the only time when it really rained. Most of the time it was very sunny, but Oakland was really gloomy that afternoon. 

The Cathedral of Learning 


Where Batman fought Bane


We were  totally impressed how many kids totally ingnored the fact that it was cold and raining hard. They just kept running, playing frisbee and throwing balls.
We on the other hand ... tried to stay as dry as possible (did not work really) and ran over to the
Original Hot Dog Shop for a fix of their awesome french fries.


After a quick break at home to change into dry clothes and catching our breath we went for dinner and drinks with friends to Bar Marco in the Strip.

Everybody seems to be in love with this relatively new place and it's pretty clear why: Lovely location, very tasty food, great drinks and good people.
Bobby, Justin, Kevin and Michael - four highschool classmates and friends - came back to the Pittsburgh area a while ago and made their dream true:
A European Wine Bar

But
Bar Marco is much more than just another bar because the four host lots of events like special brunches on Sundays, art exhibitions at their second floor, the "Food Truck Friday" in their parking lot or "Tapped", Pittsburgh's pop up beergardens which were some of the most fun events of this summer.

We loved it at Bar Marco and it will be for sure one of our regular spots ... as much as you can have a regular place to go to when you live 4792 miles (YIKES!) away, but we'll be back as soon as possible!

All polaroids by Gabrijela Obert