|Holy Trinity Cathedral|
As you may have heard, Ukraine's fancy new high-speed trains have been breaking down in the recent cold weather. In fact, 2 days after we boarded the train to Odessa, passengers en route from Donetsk to Kiev performed a mocking remix of Gangnam Style, dancing down the aisles next to passengers bundled up in winter jackets and scarves. "Oooooh, sexy ladies!" became "Oooooh, очень холодно!" (English: very cold). While the cold would be a central theme of our time in Odessa, luckily we had tickets on one of the older trains and had no problems on the way there. The temperature inside, amazingly, was perfect! D and I ended up bunking with strangers, so we shed our luggage and jackets and walked two cars down to pile into a compartment with his coworkers.
Although "the rules" call for no drinking on the train, there always seem to be differing interpretations of "the rules" in Ukraine. Sellers periodically wheeled lunch carts through the cars, calling out "Sandwiches! Potato chips! Beer!" But our group had brought their own stash of something stronger. Tea with three sugars became code for a bottle of three-star cognac, tea with five sugars meant a five-star bottle. On the way back, even, the проводник stopped by our compartment several times. "Tea? Or something stronger?" he would always ask :p Also, the no-indoor-smoking rule recently went into effect and while it is being enforced in the majority of places I've been to, there was one venue where "it was just too cold to smoke outside" and so the owner opened one downstairs room to cigarette and cigar smoking.
Ah, Ukraine : )
15 hours later, we reached the port city of Odessa on the other side of the country. The owner of the company met us, threw our luggage in his truck, and took all of us out to breakfast at a local restaurant called Компот (review + photos coming soon). I'd met many of my travelling companions on the train, but that was in a dimly-lit and crowded compartment. At breakfast we got to spread out and see each other's faces in the light of day and ask each other awkward questions, haha. For some reason I felt really awkward during most of this trip. I also felt homeless and hungry, but at least in a semi-adventurous kind of way. Although the company did set us up in a cute apartment not far from Дерибасовская street, we only spent a couple of hours total there (out of almost 48 hours in the city), just enough time to sleep off the booze and revel in having access to a private bathroom. The rest of the time we were out on the cold street, aimlessly hanging around the company's downtown office, trying to warm up at a cafe, or at The Party. But you know what they say- travel is only glamorous in retrospect, so now we can all enjoy looking back at the pictures together.
For more, check out the Odessa at 21 degrees Facebook album.
The streets were decorated for the holidays:
|Holiday-decked bull and wine bottle tree on Дерибасовская street|
|More festiveness on Дерибасовская street|
|The елка (Christmas tree) on Дерибасовская street. You can't see it, but it was snowing when I snapped this pic.|
|The City Council building + елка|
|Park between the City Council building and the Potemkin Staircase|
Even had some time for Russian practice here:
Left: Computers can be harmful to pregnant women and nursing mothers
Right: Don't put your beer on the computer, especially if you're an elf? ; )
|Their office has a wonderful view of the city!|
Back on the streets:
As a group it took us a long time to make decisions. And then once we'd made them, usually 1/2 the people would change their minds and we'd start over! :p
|A clear and very cold afternoon|
|Did I mention there was a lot of walking?|
|... but it meant getting to see a lot of Odessa's amazing architecture!|
|Some would disagree, though- "the city has become ugly, it's not what it was in the USSR"|
|the room for D's coworker and his wife|
|the room we slept in + living room corner|
|L to R, clockwise: dining area, kitchen, warning sign left in info booklet, bathroom|
Next up... The Party!!!