Kovacevic: Sochi raises bar for Pittsburgh cool
SOCHI, Russia — A bright white sign, propped up by equally effervescent bookend towers and capped by a grand arch, pierced the night sky of Vorovskovo Street in this quaint, quiet Black Sea resort town that's about to host the Winter Olympics.
And it did so with one unmistakable message for all passers-by, global visitors and permanent population alike:
No, really. It ended with the ‘H' and everything.
Elegant replicas of our Highmark and PPG skyscrapers.
West End Bridge, of course.
And inside what turned out to be a seriously swanky underground bar/café/bistro with deep-seated couches and mellow candles lining the old brick facades?
Why, it was a wall-sized, lit-up rendition of The Point.
So, um ...
“Why Pittsburgh bar here?” the hardy young barkeep Aleksandar Pavlovic sharply replied to my combination of confused expression and a Pittsburgh credential around my neck. “I don't know. Is Russia, you know. Crazy.”
Those who know Russians can appreciate that on its face. Yet I pushed Aleksandar — his English was about as good as my Russian — and found that the bar's owner, Sergei Ashotovich, once visited Pittsburgh.
As a tourist.
“He like it,” Pavlovic said of his boss, who hasn't been around all week. “That's story. He like it.”
I love this. I mean, I'm a sap for pretty much any somebody-loves-us tale as it relates to Pittsburgh, but show me a guy who gets one glance, returns to the other hemisphere and paints us as his embodiment of cool in a way that's so much cooler than any people who have ever worn school buses on their heads can claim to be and ... yeah, that can launch into hyperdrive anyone's inner Rick Sebak.
You know, the same inner Sebak that allows you to walk over to the three Russian men Pavlovic was serving at the bar and beam, “I'm from Pittsburgh!” as if that were somehow indispensible information in their lives, only to turtle back to your table after seeing they didn't understand a syllable of it, anyway.
Whatever. It's to be forgiven.
I'd just completed the three-leg, 19 1⁄2-hour, too-much-of-that-on-Aeroflot trek Wednesday to cover the Games and, candidly, the last thing I wanted was something even lousier upon landing. So, the choice was clear: Become another chapter in the mounting horror stories of the media hotels — black-market light bulbs, missing shower curtains, two toilets to a stall, you've heard 'em all — or follow in the footsteps of Jared Wickerham. He's the Pittsburgh-based Getty Images photographer who fired up the local Instagram scene this week by stumbling upon this little oasis, and he generously tweeted me the coordinates to see for myself.
I'm delighted he did, for more reasons than one.
The Pittsburgh bar sits at street level of an apartment building in the smallish downtown of the real Sochi, the one you probably won't see much on NBC. The real Sochi is a 45-minute drive north along the coastline, nowhere near Vladimir Putin's $51 billion seed-and-water creations in the previously barren region that most locals call Adler. If you missed a couple of Olympic-ringed gardens and a video board in the town circle, you'd be hard-pressed to tell if the real Sochi was an Olympic city or just Scranton in the Cyrillic.
I got to check out some of the violent topography that's going to make for some breathtaking imagery all month, with beaches met by hills and hills met by mammoth peaks reaching into the clouds. Houses on stilts on those hillsides, especially in the less populated terrain between Sochi and Adler, had a Pittsburgh feel, too, or San Francisco.
I took a spin on some of Putin's multibillion-dollar infrastructure, as my cabbie navigated highways, tunnels and bridges so state-of-the-art and pristine it felt morally bankrupt to put tire tracks on them. Which might explain why anything vaguely resembling blight was walled off from sight. Wouldn't want anyone to see wreckage while cruising the Autobahn.
After a second serving of warm Coke at the Pittsburgh bar that failed to nullify a 25th consecutive hour without sleep, I finally relented, hoisted the bag and hailed a taxi to head back to Adler and stop putting off checking into the hotel. Even that turned out fine: The room had lights, warmth, hot water, potable water, clean sheets, no live chickens clucking around.
It went so well that the man who escorted me to the room apologized profusely that he'd been wrong about the Internet working.
It isn't quite like home, but it'll do.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 1 intruder killed, other shot and wounded in Carrick home invasion
- Transplant patients in limbo over coverage under UPMC-Highmark pact
- Board to examine use of sanitary authority vehicles
- $24M water filter project at Aspinwall treatment plant nears kickoff
- Fitzgerald stacks legislative wins as Allegheny council members struggle
- Motive remains unclear in slaying of Kennedy Township man
- Bucar grilled by City Council, likely to win approval as public safety chief
- United States proposes tougher rules for moving crude oil, ethanol by rail
- Revised anti-nepotism policy lets Allegheny County judges keep family in jobs
- Penn Hills man identified as Allentown shooting victim
- Ukrainian festival will go on in McKees Rocks despite crisis in homeland