[Part 1 of the G-20 Visitor's Guide is found here.]
There's an old saying in Pittsburgh: "You can't get there from here." In other Cities this may be a metaphorical expression, but in Pittsburgh it is true. As a visitor to Pittsburgh, you will look at a map, see two streets that intersect and assume that you can turn onto one from another. Or, you may see two roads that run parallel and assume that you can walk from one to another. Or, you may see a road and assume that you can travel its length. These are all myths perpetuated by the evil people at the Rand-McNally corporation. In fact, Pittsburgh roads may be separated by hundreds of vertical feet, an impassibly steep terrain, stairs, or (in one case) a dragon. Therefore, when a Pittsburgher says "You can't get there from here," please believe them.
However, should you be adventurous and decide to ask for directions anywhere, you will need to be aware of the location of "the Old Isaly's," "the Old Alcoa Building," and "the place in the road that goes right, but straightish, and then right again where the gas station isn't there anymore." It is vitally important that you commit these locations to memory, as they will be regularly referenced by Pittsburghers. If you make a wrong turn and get lost, you will forced to settle wherever you run out of gas. [This is actually how the town of Wilmerding was founded.]
If you are still foolish enough to persist in asking for directions, only ask *one* Pittsburgher, as different permutations in directions rise exponentially with every Pittsburgher you ask; asking three Pittsburghers will yield 27 different directions, each of which will be advertised as "fastest," "best," or "most direct." No matter which route you choose, however, it will be under construction.
GPS will not help you, no matter how hard you cry.
* By public transit
The Port Authority of Allegheny County runs a restaurant income redistribution scheme and occasionally a mass-transit service, consisting of buses, light rail, and funicular railways.
Buses run on a regular schedule, except on weekends, holidays, if there's traffic, if there are too many people waiting to board, if the bus breaks down, or if the driver doesn't feel like it. The exception to this is the 54C route, which has no regular schedule whatsoever.
Light Rail transit is quick, clean, comfortable and gets riders to exactly where they didn't really want to go, unless they didn't really want to go anywhere to begin with.
You can pick up schedules for all bus and trolley routes on the vehicles, except for the schedule for the route you're currently riding.
* Zones: Fare varies depending on the zone you are traveling to/from, your weight, height, mother's blood type, and the current phase of the moon.
o Base fare is $2.00 and may be raised without warning.There are two Funicular Railways or "Inclines" that run up the side of Mount Washington to Grandview Avenue and back down to Carson Street. That's it. It'll cost you $2 each way for that. Despite their obvious age, very few people are killed in incline accidents during any given day.
o The Free Fare Zone covers the Downtown core, offering free bus and trolley service to those that are too lazy to walk all of five blocks.
o The Downtowner Zone requires a $1.50 fare and is used by exactly no one.
* By taxi
Taxis are a convenient and reliable way of making it through the City, provided you happen to be staying in the Pittsburgh International Airport's Landside Terminal. Unlike in other cities, cabs cannot be hailed. The best way to stop a cab is to throw yourself in front of it. Licensed cab companies can still be called for rides that will never show up.
Please note that there are several unlicensed or "jitney" cab companies that also cannot be hailed.
* By car
You can't get anywhere by car. Seriously. Don't even try. You will fail.
Pittsburgh has a color coded wayfinder "Belt system" that no one uses, with the exception of High School students seeking to collect signs for elaborate scavenger hunts.
Of particular note is the so-called "Pittsburgh Left." At traffic lights, a driver wishing to turn left will do so as soon as the light turns green, regardless of whether another vehicle has the right-of-way. Drivers will indicate their intention of performing a "Pittsburgh Left" by slowly nudging up prior to the light change and slamming on the gas the instant the light changes. Visitors to Pittsburgh are invited to challenge those performing this manoeuvre at their own peril.
Fear not, however: the best and brightest minds in Pittsburgh are working on new and ingenious ways to develop the 10-way intersection in order to stymie any remaining traffic that isn't doing 15 mph through a tunnel.
* By boat
While Pittsburgh has several miles of Riverfront, nobody travels by boat unless they are hauling coal, drunk on Lite Beer, or Bruce Willis.
* By bicycle
Pittsburgh has an extensive network of biking trails, most of which run along the rivers. Unless you are a particularly suicidal biker, you will stick to the trails as roads are generally narrow and filled with gaping, man eating potholes. Cyclists are advised to weave in between traffic, dart out from parked cars suddenly, and stop without warning.
Given Pittsburgh's topography, certain hills have been known to induce cardiac arrest in bikers cycling uphill and sudden face-pavement fusion in bikers going downhill.
Additionally, be aware that Pittsburgh drivers are let off with a warning if they kill a cyclist.
* By trebuchet
There is a working medieval siege engine on the Carnegie Mellon University campus. Those who wish to make a one-way trip by trebuchet are advised to land on someone fat, which shouldn't be hard.
Things to See...
Pittsburgh is home to many museums devoted to Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh related areas, including the world renowned Pittsburgh Museum of Pittsburgh Museums.
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is noted for it's collection of old fossils, which make up the core of the local Democratic Committee. The Andy Warhol Museum contains the world's largest collection of penis drawings (non-animated) by a single artist and a stuffed dog. If you are interested in the colonial era history of Pittsburgh, be sure to visit the Fort Pitt Museum, which currently closed because of ongoing dick wagging in the State Capital.
The Zelienople Historical Society is also open for those who will be unable to cope with the thrills of The Castle Shannon Historical Museum. [Check out the exhibit on the town's founder Arthur Q. Zelienop, who established the settlement as a tax dodge.]
The Architecture in Pittsburgh is eclectic ranging from Georgian through Richardsonian Romanesque to post-modernism. All of the various forms, however, share a common element -- that of being largely torn town. Of particular note is the early 18th century architecture Downtown, which was torn down after the Great Fire of Pittsburgh and they replaced by 19th century rail yards, which also burnt down and was replaced by 20th century skyscrapers and a highway. Architecture buffs should visit the historic Syria Mosque in Oakland which was also torn down to make way for parking lot.
Particularly repugnant pieces of remaining architecture include the University of Pittsburgh's Hillman Library which looks like a furnace filter and Carnegie Mellon University's Scaife Hall which looks like a discarded potato chip. Visitors are asked to kindly ignore the obviously phallic shape of One Mellon Center. Most of the suburb of Robinson Township should be avoided at all costs.
Approximately 70 miles south of Pittsburgh is Frank Lloyd Wright's modernist masterpiece "Fallingwater," which was built on a dare after drinking three bottles of whiskey. This structure is famous for its long cantilevered terraces, as well as smelling like an old dog after it was caught out in the rain. If you visit, be sure to stay for the Amway presentation at the end of the tour, where you will be parted with any remaining money that you did not spend in the Frank Llyod Wright gift shop.
Pittsburgh was the capital of the "insul-brick" industry in the 1920s, then later the aluminum siding industry, then even later the vinyl siding industry. Remnants of these industries can be seen throughout the various residential neighborhoods.
* Parks and outdoors
Despite its reputation as a smokey City, Pittsburgh enjoys hundreds of acres of parks and green spaces that have been underfunded by either shortfalls in local sales tax allocations or the aforementioned mentioned dick wagging at the State Capital. Pittsburgh's four large city parks are excellent places to bike, jog, walk, or play with yourself in front of bikers, joggers and walkers.
At the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela is Point State Park, which is currently under construction and will be for the foreseeable future, at great cost and unimaginable inconvenience. Visitors to the park can still, however, enjoy the smell of urine along the park outskirts.
Oakland's Schenley Park is notable for being the only City Park in the United States created indirectly by statutory rape.
More Places to Go and Things to Do in the next part...