Monday, November 18, 2013

Revisiting the Cathedral of Learning and the Nationality Classrooms

A couple of Pittsburgh one-of-a-kinds which often fly under the radar of visitors to the city are the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning and the Nationality Classrooms which are housed in this gothic skyscraper.  Located on the University of Pittsburgh campus in the Oakland section of the city, the Cathedral of Learning is the tallest university structure in the world.  It houses administrative offices and classrooms, and offers wonderful views of the city from its upper floors.  The lower lobby is an architectural marvel.  Featuring a variety of study nooks, this space is reminiscent of the great room of a medieval castle.  It's truly jaw dropping, especially when you consider that it's not a museum but a campus building used everyday by Pitt students.  

The Nationality Rooms are located on the fourth floor of the Cathedral.  They have expanded over the years, as different nationalities have sponsored the elaborate classrooms which celebrate their ethnic heritages.  One of the most recent, opened in May 2012, celebrates my family's Swiss heritage, and features a kackeloeffen (a ceramic stove used for interior heat) which is a replica of one of the creations of my ancestor Hans Heinrich Graf of Winterthur, Switzerland, in the 1600's.  Here is a quick story regarding my father, Ed Graf's, contributions to the creation of the kackeloeffen.  

The Cathedral and the Nationality Classrooms are free to enter and tour, and are open to the public during most days during business hours.  Hours and days open may be found here.  

Cathedral of Learning Main Lobby from Third Floor Balcony

Nationality Rooms - Austrian Room

Nationality Rooms - Swiss Room - Kacheloeffen

Nationality Rooms - Swiss Room

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Enjoying Point State Park and the Duquesne Incline

Sometimes when you live in a place you don't necessarily pay attention to what's in front of you.  A little bit ago I took an afternoon to stroll Point State Park, at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers (which create the Ohio River), which has recently been refurbished and re-landscaped.  The Commonwealth of Pennsvlyania also fixed the iconic fountain at the Point, which now shoots up some 70 feet in the air.  A walking or bike tour of the park makes for a great way to see Pittsburgh, with the skyline of downtown to one side, Mt. Washington to the South, and the North Shore to the North.  It's a great view, which gets you right down on water level in the middle of this valley, and there's plenty to watch between the boat traffic, picnickers, and others enjoying the day.

If you are out wandering, then its worth your while to cross the Mon and take the Duquesne Incline up to Mt. Washington.  It lets you out at the far western side of Mt. Washington, near LeMont, Isabella, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, and other upscale restaurants.  There's a great bird's eye view from the Inline's viewing deck, which orients you toward the Point and downtown from that angle.  Again, it's a one of a kind view, and if you're visiting Pittsburgh or, like me, just haven't done it in a while, put a couple of hours aside and indulge yourself!  A word to the wise, the Duquesne Incline requires exact change.  Check the website for fares.