On to Odessa

We woke up this morning in the thriving, cosmopolitan Black Sea port of Odessa.  Catherine the Great’s General Potemkin took this area from the Ottoman Turks in the end of the 18th Century. People from all over the world came to make their fortunes. Many languages were spoken and the city became a center for the arts.

Our guide Alexander started us off on our walking tour of downtown Odessa. There are lots of tributes to writers and artists who lived here, including Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Odessa had chronic water shortages in the past, which led them to build their houses around a central courtyard, with steeply pitched roofs to allow the rainwater to be collected.

Some examples of the interesting architectural styles of Odessa. The castle-looking place was said to be owned at one time by the Shah of Iran.

Strolling along towards the harbor area, we crossed the Mother-in-law footbridge–conflicting stories tell possible origins of the name. I liked this solution to the lock fad that has caused problems on bridges in some other cities. They can’t do any harm here.

One of the spots I was most looking forward to visiting on our trip was the harbor of Odessa with its famous Potemkin Steps. Fortunately for my knees, you don’t have to walk up and down the steps anymore. There’s a funicular that runs alongside them now. The steps were made famous in the 1925 silent film, Battleship Potemkin, by Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.  They played a prominent part in the story of the sailors’ mutiny of 1905 that helped spark the Russian Revolution. I stood here looking at the busy port and tried to imagine what it was like in 1903, when my great-grandparents might have come here to board a ship and cross the ocean to New York. I especially thought of my great-grandma, who would have probably been a terrified pregnant teenager (my grandmother was born on the boat!).

Odessa is a great place for strolling through parks and public squares. The bottom photo is the Archaeological Museum, which has a fabulous collection dating back to the 14th century BC.

This “walk of fame” commemorates celebrities who called Odessa home. The Opera House was unfortunately closed the day we were there. The butterfly is part of a huge display that lights up each night on a pedestrian street. We only got to see it from the bus at night so my photos were all blurry.

More strolling along the bustling downtown streets, on our way to lunch.

After lunch we explored part of the extensive network of catacombs beneath the city. The tunnels started out as quarries for cutting the limestone blocks for public buildings. They were also used as wine cellars and for smuggling. During WWII they became famous for a different purpose.  The Soviet Union had seized part of Romania, so Romania allied with Germany, hoping to win back their territory. Odessa was occupied by Romanian troops who killed 100,000 Jews as well as others. The partisans moved into the catacombs where they lived and organized the resistance from 1941-44.

Crimean Champagne

Next morning we left Ukraine to drive to Moldova. On the bus we found that Iryna bought us a gift…a bottle of Crimean champagne. She checked the label and made sure it was bottled in 2013, so none of the money would go to Putin!


One thought on “On to Odessa”

  1. Your pictures are amazing and your descriptions are so informational. I love looking at them as you tell the stories behind them. So interesting~~~~


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