|Looking upstream - several identical suspension bridges|
cross the he Allegheny River to connect Pittsburgh's
downtown with the riverfront park and stadiums
After writing that, I feel the desire to rant about how ridiculous these sports rivalry things are. But I'm married to a die-hard Ohio State University fan (with two degrees from there including his PhD), and my husband Jim has an unending supply of quotes by famed OSU football coach Woody Hayes about his hatred of Michigan - and not only the University, but the entire STATE of Michigan. For instance, upon learning from an assistant that they were running out of gas returning from a recruiting trip in the state of Michigan, Woody was alleged to have said the following: "We'll coast and PUSH this goddam car to the Ohio line before I give this state a nickel of my money!"
So, to my Cleveland friends re: Pittsburgh: ok OK, I GET it. I just don't share it. For many reasons I'll go into.
Pittsburgh and Cleveland have an amazing number of similarities. They're both blue-collar steel towns. In both cities you can find several great institutions of higher learning. Both cities have outstanding cultural institutions that were funded by wealthy industrial families of the American Renaissance. When I rave about Pittsburgh's cultural institutions, I could just as easily be raving about Cleveland's (and I do). And yes, both cities have die-hard major league sports fanatics.
One thing I love about Cleveland is its location on the shores of Lake Erie. Ironically this is the reason Cleveland DOESN'T have one of the things I REALLY love about Pittsburgh - the topography. Pittsburgh's intrinsic beauty lies in its location. Downtown Pittsburgh is formed by the junction of three rivers - the Ohio, the Monongahela and the Allegheny. Surrounding this three-river valley are steep hills with buildings and residential communities built right into them. It often reminds me of San Francisco. One of the things I look forward to most when visiting Pittsburgh is making my way up to the the Mount Washington area (Grandview Avenue) and looking down at "the city of bridges":
|Downtown Pittsburgh from Grandview Avenue|
|Looking up the Monongahela side of Pittsburgh|
|The junction of the three rivers|
On Thursday night, I once-again found myself in Pittsburgh, this time for a music gig - The Decemberists. My husband Jim and I decided to stay an extra day and booked a hotel downtown at the edge of what's known as the "Strip District" - the historic (and very cool) market district. Because of our location, my morning run was along the riverfront trail - the Three Rivers Heritage Trail - a route I know very well because I've run it before as part of one of my favorite races, the Pittsburgh Triathlon.
The first thing I came up with - while running - is the amount of care that has gone into revitalizing the riverfront. Pittsburgh's riverfront has undergone a revolution over the last 10-20 years. Pittsburgh's legendary double-duty Three Rivers Stadium was torn down and replaced by Heinz Field - where the Steelers play - and PNC Park - where the Pirates play. Both stadiums lie directly across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh. They sit majestically above a beautiful riverfront park along the waterfront. This park is along the trail on which I was running.
|PNC Park - the architecture is a beautiful tribute|
to the steel town's history
After my run, Jim and I spend a few hours shopping in the Strip District, grabbed a bite at our favorite Pittsburgh eating and drinking establishment, Piper's Pub, and took a stroll down to a place Jim always wanted to visit, Pittsburgh Guitars. As we were driving home, I recalled some of our past experiences in this city.
|One confusing mess of bridges & highways|
Despite the navigational difficulties, driving into Pittsburgh can be an awe-inspiring experience. Approaching the city on I-376 through the Fort Pitt Tunnel will give you one of the most stunning view ever of a city. Coming out of the tunnel always gives me the feeling that I'm descending over Pittsburgh by air - the vantage point gives a full view of downtown, all three rivers and all the bridges. I still remember the first time we drove that route - my heart almost stopped upon suddenly seeing the magnificent panorama. Do it sometime. You won't be disappointed. Unfortunately, we don't always approach Pittsburgh from I-376 - it usually depends on our specific destination and how much time we have.
|Edward Hopper's "Cape Cod Afternoon"|
at the Carnegie Museum of Art
(I bet you thought I'd post a Warhol)
And finally, I always like meeting people in Pittsburgh. We never get scorned upon revealing we're from Cleveland. Having traveled to Pittsburgh for a concert this time, it was ironic that one of the employees at Pittsburgh Guitars had the distinct impression that Cleveland "gets all the best gigs." Jim and I disagreed, but he backed it up with tales of his travels north to our fair city to see concerts at our own Beachland Ballroom (arguably the best music venue in the greater Cleveland area).
It made me think... could my whole love-of-Pittsburgh be a case of "the grass is always greener"? I don't know, but for now, I'm just glad we have more than one city to choose from.