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

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


Friday, October 19, 2012

Pittsburgh Day 5 - And the magic continues

Right before the trip Gabi and I had a very serious talk about our expectations for this trip. We had a magic week in spring when so many crazy awesome things happened that we could barely believe ourselves and we were very aware that you cannot consciously create this type of magic and that it is not repeating itself besides the fact .... that it does.
Of course this journey (the term fits much better than "trip") is significantly different in many aspects than the one in spring. We stay in a different place, we do different things, it is a different time of the year (fall is so beautiful here!) - and most importantly it feels differently because our relationship to the city is changing. We are involved on a different level and our knowledge about Pittsburgh grows and gets to a different level, too.
But then there is the one thing that did not change and that is the fact that again crazy awesome things happen to us e.v.e.r.y  s.i.n.g.l.e  d.a.y.

Let's talk Wednesday.

This morning Gabi and I went seperate ways. While she went to visit to the Warhol Museum I jumped off the car in downtown. When I was walking from Liberty Avenue up to the Console Energy Center I realized I was walking without map, without directions or anything. I just knew my way and that is kind of weird feeling so far away from home and I LOVE IT!

At the CEC - to be exact in front of "Le Magnifique" I met with  Stevie of High Heels & Hockey. She is one of my favorite hockey writers and when she asked me if she could interview me about how it is to be a misplaced Pittsburgh sport sfan running on 6 hours time difference, I of course said "Yes. Sure!" But before we started talking hockey I first had to snap the October 2012 version of my favorite downtown shot:

Then we went together into the Pens shop inside the CEC and spent too much money - of course. Two female Pens fans only some feeds away from all the goodness - there was zero chance that we would NOT go in there and buy things we do not really need. 
Once we had stocked up on shirts and other stuff, we dived into our discussions about the lockout (YAK!), the effect of social media on your life as a sportsfan, favorite Pens moments live and on TV, favorite games, players and scenes and so on. It was a LOT of fun and almost a relief. If there is no hockey too watch it helps a bit to at least talk about it with somebody who loves it as passionatly. We had a GREAT time and I will link here to the article once it is live. 

After lunch Stevie and I walked over to PNC Park and the view on the bridges and ballpark really never gets tired  - especially not on a sunny day like this.
I met Gabi again at the Warhol and we jumped into our car and drove back to the Strip for an really extraordinary adventure. 

This time we did not stay in the wholesale and retail area we know very well now, but drove down a couple of more blocks, where the headquarter of the Pittsburgh Opera is located. The opera company performs at the Benedum Center in the Cultural District, but has its adminstrational and rehearsal facilities at the former Westinghouse Air Brake Factory in the Strip District. Together with the Pittsburgh Ballet and the Attack Theater the opera company adds a whole new aspect to the neighborhood with featuring the performing arts. 

At the Pittsburgh Opera thanks to our friends of Neighbors in the Strip Shawn Fertitta, Director of Operations and Resident Artist Coordinator was waiting for us to show us how you turn an air brake factory into the headquarter of an opera company.
But before we focus on the building let's get to the Alice in Wonderland feeling I had enjoying the chance to sneak "backstage" and watch an opera company work off stage. Alone the costumes ....

And of course there were artists in the house. This is resident mezzo soprano Samantha Korbey rehearsing. 

You can see here also already parts of the amazing building. After the reconstruction for the opera the Westinghouse Air Brake Factory was awarded with the LEED Silver Certification and is the oldest green building in Pittsburgh

It is absolutely amazing how the existing materials and structures were used to form facilities that meet the needs of an opera company. Gabi and I were  fascinated and think it is a great
 example for the reuse of an industrial structure in a whole different context with still preserving the special character of the building. 

Gabi made a lot of very impressive photos and I cannot wait to share those pictures with you, but you will need to give us some time to work on all the material we collected here, but we are really looking forward to it because it's seriously great stuff. 

But of course while Gabi was taking pictures I took again my little Panasonic, too to give you a little preview how this wonderful building looks like. Sadly I had no chance to escape the evening sunshine for a better picture of the entrance:

Brick, steel and wood - that is what Pittsburgh is made of. 

Probably my favorite part of the building - the roof construction:

After leaving the opera company stunned and happy that we got a chance to visit, we quickly stopped by at Pavement for some shopping and finished then the long, long day off with a fantastic dinner at Las Velas (fish tacos!) with Pittsburgh's finest and funniest ladies. We had so much fun and even if there would not be one billion other reasons to come back - these girls would be reason enough!

All polaroids by Gabrijela Obert

This is Matt at Espresso A Mano. The man that made me - at least temporary - a morning coffee drinker. Who what have thought that this would ever happen?