Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Odessa, Part I

Odessa: city of opera houses and cast iron lamp posts, massive rusted Black Sea tankers and sea breezes, marriage agencies, interpreter dates, horse-drawn carriage rides, beaches, luxury ships of the rich... and let's not forget, the third largest city in Ukraine! Odessa had long been recommended to us by many people. They all claimed there was just "something different" about the place. They all swore up and down that it was a bit fantastic and definitely worth the visit. Even the first season of холостяк capitalized on the romantic image of Odessa. Still, it always sounded so far away to me, like someplace I'd never get to visit. And D? D never wanted to visit. He always called it a city of sailors, crooks, and con artists. Despite living in nearby Crimea, his family never ventured there.
Odessa train station
Finally a chance arrived. A Canadian friend invited us to stay with him and see the city. From the start it was a fortuitous trip. I held my breath when I climbed on the train, expecting another long train ride in overheated and stuffy air. Instead, the train had noticeable air circulation and for once we didn't slowly boil to death in our bunks. The 14 hours (yes, 14 hours!) from Kharkov to Odessa passed in relative comfort. And later, on the overnight train from Odessa to Kiev, there were even electrical outlets and- it felt like- cool air coming from a vent in the ceiling. Maybe this is preparation for the Euro 2012 championship games next month? If so, thank you, soccer! Just when I thought you'd never do me any good :p

Our friend Martin lives near Derybasivska Street, one of the main streets and a major hot spot for hungry tourists. The chestnut trees outside his windows were in full bloom. In fact, there were blooming trees everywhere in Odessa and the tranquilizing scent of blossoms was carried on the breeze.

Martin met us at the train station that first morning, took us to breakfast at an Irish pub, and then played tour guide for the rest of the day under the blazing (May!) sun.

Not far from Martin's apartment we found a large and peaceful park. Children drove toy cars around a fountain, grandmothers and beer-drinkers relaxed on benches, walkers browsed through souvenir stands or studied artwork, and a beautiful church attracted others. This child's chalk drawing caught my eye... what is that thing to the left of the figure? Is it a bottle?

Then we really got going...
The famous opera house. I hope to catch a show here next time.
City Hall
Did someone mention romance?
Newlyweds put locks here to symbolize their love. Every so often city services comes through and cuts them all off.
Rule #1 of Odessa: You must wear/buy one of these sailor shirts. Bonus points: add a sailor cap!
Why yes, that is one of the new high-speed trains that Ukraine has been promising. When will it be unwrapped?
The famous Potemkin steps. They're a killer on a hot day, almost 200 steps. Count 'em!
The Port of Odessa
Note the sailor dress!
One of the many tankers in port.
Soooo hot! Time to bathe in the fountain like we're homeless and fabulous.
For some reason, this pretty much sums up Odessa for me.
Since we were leaving the next night for Kiev, we had one big night out on the town. We met up with English students Nastiya and Margarita for dinner and drinks...and more drinks! (By the way, Margarita is a local artist who does cool vintage reprints. My favorites are the maps and urban sights. Here is her website.)
At Buffalo 99 on Rishelyevskaya Street. This waiter is THE BEST! His name is Oleksandr. Ask for him!
Yeah, that's right, grog. Arr, matey.
Nastiya and Martin in cahoots.

 Then back to Mick O'Neills Irish pub...

The following day we woke up to sunshine and empty wallets, so we convinced Martin to explore public transportation (the marshrutka bus instead of taxi) and ended up at Otrada Beach. But that's another story, so read on...
More pictures of Odessa on Facebook


  1. Lovely pictures of a lovely city! The shrink-wrapped train is funny. And I loved going down to the harbour! So much going on. Did you hear the music coming from the speaker by the little statue of woman and child?

    1. Wow, you've got a good memory! Yes, we did- even took a short video of it. It sounded like early Soviet music.

    2. Haha, we did the same. I thought it was really nice!