Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Bog People, or What I Did on My Christmas Break 2005

{I have all these hilarious blog posts just sitting in the Drafts folder. I think they deserve to be published!! Here's one from almost five years ago. Wow!}

Between the Christmas and New Year's holidays, Ashpenaz and I traveled with our parents up to the Pittsburgh, PA area, where Grandpa G, Aunt and Uncle SteelersFan, and the Cuz live.

Two years ago around the same time, we toured a lovely Victorian mansion and grounds, ate at Primanti's, and shopped at Station Square. This year was even more educational.

Who needs shopping when museums are available? (Oh, but museums usually have gift shops! How can Elena resist?)

Ashpenaz tried to drag me to the Andy Warhol museum. "But if you were just exposed more to his work, Elena, you would appreciate him," she enthused.

"Ash, I've had all the Andy Warhol exposure I could ever want. I heard and saw an interesting CBS Sunday Morning segment on the guy. I don't need to see rows of neon Campbell's soup cans up close to appreciate Mr. Warhol. He was odd. His art was odd. Nuff said."

Little Sister just harumphed her college-know-it-all-art-history-major harumph...and finally gave up.

In place of the Warhol whatchamathingie, we chose the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning on the campus of University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History.

First, we passed the Heinz Chapel. Yes, Heinz....the ketchup people. It was a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Too bad it was closed till after January 1. It would have been a neat tour. The quote from one of the Heinz folk, upon the dedication of the building, is actually quite moving: "If those who come under the influence of this place go out to face life with new courage and restored faith because of the peace and calm and loveliness they found here … this commemorative sanctuary will not have been built in vain."---Howard Heinz, from the Dedication Address, November 20, 1938

First stop was the Cathedral of Learning. The what of what? Yes, a cathedral. Yes, it really looks like a cathedral. Yes, "of Learning." Classrooms and administrative offices can be found on almost every floor.

Why this building? Well, supposedly, in the 1920s, the new chancellor of the school was hailing a taxi. The cabbie didn't know how to get to U of Pitt, so the chancellor decided he needed to figure out a way to put the university "on the map."

Now, not only are classes held there...and office tasks...tasked...but also you can tour the Nationality Classrooms. Various nationalities of people who live in Pennsylvania form committees and raise money to decorate and furnish a room to reflect that nationality's culture. We saw these rooms: Armenian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Greek, English, French, Irish, Scottish, German, Early American, Indian, Austrian, Swiss, Chinese, and Japanese.

Next stop was the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art. Unk SteelersFan and I were the only ones of our group to decide we'd view the "Mysterious Bog People" exhibit. Think Shrinky-dinks....made of people....with....a lot less color. Makes desert-dried denizens or your proverbial sea-salted sailor look quite healthy. Of course, the Bog People are dead. Very dead. Hundreds of years dead. The entrails of one guy are even hung out for all of creation to see. And there were little kids going through this exhibit!

Experts have some theories as to why the people were killed and why they were buried in the bog. You can read all about it for yourself.

Heh-heh... ever had Bog People Coffee? Chock full of caffeine it is. Kept me up till 3:00 a.m. Eastern one night while we stayed in Canonsburg. Yikes! I think I could have deconstructed Derrida with all that java in me.

I think this was the first time I've ever been to a true natural history museum. When they say "museum of natural history," what they really mean is "lots of dead animals...stuffed." Not the same thing as all those cool exhibits of birds, fish, and reptiles you see at any one of the aquariums around our country. The aquariums are usually working with organizations to preserve animals and their habitats. The natural history museum will take 'em when they're dead.

* Casts of famous pieces of architecture, making our beloved Parthenon's collection look puny—Mr. Carnegie had this thing with collecting casts of architecture
* The four Christmas trees decorated in themes based on four poems (The Owl and the Pussycat, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Sing a Song of Sixpence, and some other poem I can't remember)
* The Precepio—an Italian version of the Nativity scene, set in the Middle Ages and including many more pieces than what you'd find in your tabletop Nativity scene set
* The paleontology lab—you can watch workers carefully tending to dinosaur bones
* The Gems and Precious Metals exhibit—ooh, shiny stuff!


Sewconsult said...

Yeah, you are getting around to lots of things. Enjoyed the memory of the trip. Continuing education at its best. Bog coffee was sooo bad!
MOM, aka Aunt B.

Elena said...

I liked the coffee! I'm not sure -- did I bring home a bag? (Wouldn't be surprised if I discovered it still in the cabinet in the kitchen. Heh, heh!)

I need to find the rest of the photos from that trip and add them to my Flickr account.

Erin said...

I've never done any of that and how many times have I been to Pittsburgh? Pete's been hiding the good stuff...probably because he's never been either. There's more than Primanti's to Pittsburgh, PA!

Elena said...


Heh, heh...

Nate was all, "Yeah, there's not really much to do or see in Pittsburgh."

But that year (2003?) we went to The Frick. Sooo interesting!

After finding what seemed to us to be a hidden gem (Saris's [sp?] having been the highlight of previous visits, in the summertime, though), we knew two years later that there had to be more. So Aunt Janie had dug some digging. She didn't let us down. =)