Thursday, March 21st 2019

Odessa Mama or the pearl at the sea

Odessa Mama is a term used by the people of Odessa to lovingly call their city as “mother”. Though not only people from Odessa refer to Odessa as “mama”. Many people on the territory of ex-Soviet Union are familiar with this  name. Another name which comes from a song is “A pearl at the sea”. Definitely the city is a pearl. The atmosphere is very relaxed and somehow slow, at the same time cozy and simple. Odessa combines Paris-like atmosphere, European baroque & renaissance architecture with simple life style of port city. Glamour is way simpler and more stylish than in Kiev, for example. Odessa may look magnificently as its opera or almost as third world slums.

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The Italian baroque facade of the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater

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Odessa dilapidated districts

The city bears as well the traces of the communist period.

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Odessa railway station

But you will definitely see that locals love their city. At 8AM we were walking from the railway station along Pushkinskaya str. and saw people watering the sidewalks, cleaning and preparing for a new day. Small cafes and restaurants were arranging tables in front of them to welcome their first customers. Everything around looked quite well taken care of even if old sometimes.

If you walk in the center you will most probably visit most of the main attractions even without a map. You will walk the famous Pushkinsaya str, Ekaterinenskaya str. or Rishelyevskaya str. They will lead you to the city park, Duke de Richelieu monument or monument to Ekaterina II, the Empress of the Russian Empire.

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Duke de Richelieu monument

The Duke was famous for developing Odessa and building the foundation to its prosperity.  This French nobleman who became Odessa’s first governor in 1803.

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Ekaterina II monument

The city of Odessa was founded by order of Catherine the Great or Ekaterina II, Russian Empress. It was founded on the place of a Turkish fortress, Khadzibey, which was occupied by the Russian army in 1789.  In 1794 Catherine approved the founding of the new port-city and invested the first money in constructing the city.

From any of two monuments you will easily reach Potemkin stairs. The stairs are considered a formal entrance into the city from the direction of the sea and are the best known symbol of Odessa.

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Potemkin stairs

Officially known today as the Primorsky Stairs, they were originally known as the Boulevard steps, the Giant Staircase, or the Richelieu steps.

The original 200 stairs were designed in 1825 by Francesco Boffo. In 1837, the decision was made to build a “monstrous staircase”, which was constructed between 1837 and 1841.The steps were made famous in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film The Battleship Potemkin; according to the fictionalized account in that film, soldiers opened fire on the people on the stairs on June 14, 1905. According to journalist Chukovsky, who was in the city during the events, it is unknown whether the Cossacks at the top of the stairs, that were filled with people, actually opened fire on the stairs. In Eisenstein’s movie the horrific events that actually took place in various parts of the city were concentrated at the stairs.

The stairs were designed to create an optical illusion. A person looking down the stairs sees only the landings, and the steps are invisible, but a person looking up sees only steps, and the landings are invisible. A secondary illusion creates false perspective since the stairs are wider at the bottom than at the top. Looking up the stairs makes them seem longer than they are and looking down the stairs makes them seem not so long.

Once you have walked down the famous stairs you will cross a raod and a bridge and will come to the Odessa sea boat terminal. Right in front of the building you will see a monument of a baby, meaning of which escaped me ;-)

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Here you can walk around the building and see the big port of Odessa and its nice little marina. It is possible to take a 40-50min tour by boat from the end of the pier on the left from marina. One of the biggest in the Black Sea, Odessa’s busy port is a place to see some impressive ships. Odessa Sea Port is located at Black Sea coast along North – Western part of Odessa bay on the artificially created territory.

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Odessa port

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Odessa marina

After you have had enough of nice breeze and boat watching you can return to the city and explore its lively streets and parks, especially Deribasovkaya str. An attractive pedestrian street was named after José de Ribas, Spanish-born founder of Odessa and decorated Russian Navy Admiral from the Russo-Turkish War.This street is closed for pedestrians in the afternoons and evening. Both the street and the adjacent park get filled up with people by 18-19:00. Here you can choose one of the restaurants which tables occupy half of the sidewalks. This is the center of dining for locals. Once you have satisfied your appetite with delicious food you can continue enjoying the city and its magnificent architecture.

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