If you have ever glanced at our Quick Facts on Pittsburgh, you may know that Pittsburgh has nearly two dozen sister cities. We are kin with well-known metropolises such as Sofia, Bulgaria, and Zagreb, Croatia, and lesser-known nooks around the globe like Karmiel, Israel, and Fernando de la Mora, Paraguay.
President Eisenhower founded the Sister City movement in 1956 to connect people around the globe, promote friendship, and increase collaboration. For instance, we are siblings with Wuhan, China, which claims to have the world’s largest bike share program. Likewise, we now have a bike share program. While all this family fraternizing may be beneficial, we think Pittsburgh has more in common with some other cities around the world than some of our official ones. As such, we’ve complied our own “Sisters List” and let’s just say our list is more like Blanche DuBois than her sister Stella–our list may leave less than a streetcar to be desired.
Yushan National Park, Taiwan: This area of Asia is known as the Landslide Capital of the World. Because of its steep slopes and torrential rains—with monsoons dropping what would be several years’ worth of rain for other cites on this area—Yushan has seen whole mountainsides collapse. In 2018, the Pittsburgh area experienced 70 landslides. Partnering with Yushan may help us to learn some tips on how to cope with the shifting soil under our feet. And perhaps their residents can tell us where we can get “Detour” signs in bulk.
Almhult, Sweden: This town is where Ikea was founded. As world famous practitioners of the Pittsburgh “parking chair,” which serves to reserve shoveled-out parking spots during snowstorms, Pittsburgh would benefit by adopting Almhult. This Swedish city could advise on using sleeker, more stylish chairs than those 40-year-old chrome and vinyl babies your Aunt Carmella gave you that you keep in the coal cellar until a blizzard hits. And lord knows, with the amount of snow they get in Sweden, the chairs would undoubtedly be weather resistant. Perhaps in exchange, we could offer the help of some techie types from CMU who could help the people in Almhult to simplify those complex Ikea assembly instructions.
Dijon, France: Pittsburgh is already the home of the world’s best ketchup, and we devote a whole summer weekend to pickles with Picklesburg. Therefore, it would only be fitting that we complement our city with a condiment city like Dijon, which is the home of mustard. Now, if we could triangulate with Frankfurt, Germany, the originator of the frankfurter, we’d have the makings for a great global sandwich.
Nagpur, India: Nagpur is the 13th most populous city in India and is known as the Orange City because of the tasty Nagpur oranges grown there. Pittsburgh should cozy up to Nagpur because of our common orange heritage. The only difference is that our orange notoriety comes from the ubiquitous orange traffic cones and barrels that sprout like weeds around our city.
Birmingham, England: Residents of Birmingham speak English with what is known as a “Brummie” accent—think Ozzy Osbourne. This dialect has been looked down upon by speakers of the King’s English. Like our Birmingham brethren, Pittsburgh’s Yinzer accent is met with derision. Also, Birmingham was once known as a steel town and like Pittsburgh their steel industry fell on hard times too. Brummies and Yinzers could bond over brews—and maybe even watch Flashdance together as a cultural exchange type of event.
It was writer Leo Tolstoy who said, “All happy families are alike: each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Pittsburgh needs to add some wacky sisters to remain unique.
By Janice Lane Palko