© PANORAMA 2005
The Odessa region is one of the few Ukrainian regions that are inseparable from the Black Sea. For centuries it has often been a crossroads for different cultures, which is why the Odessa region is rich in architecture and prominent sites that make it a wonder for travellers from all over the world. Odessa itself is known for its uniqueness, and one of its unique features is the local humor
Legend has it that the first mayor of Odessa, French Duke de Richelieu, wanted to make a city surpassing Paris in beauty. Although today we can’t compare the French capital with the pearl of the Black Sea, there is no doubt that Richelieu succeeded in making a city of unique beauty. Odessa’s official birth date is the year 1794. Historians maintain that at the beginning of the 15th century, the land that is now Odessa was occupied by the Tatar settlement of Kachibey, which was shortly thereafter decimated by the Turks and renamed Khadzhibei. During the Russian-Turkish War, Khadzhibei was seized by Russian troops under the command of Spaniard José de Ribas. This was the beginning of the history of the pearl of the Black Sea.
Odessa is one of five Ukrainian cities with a population over one million. Despite the fact that the city’s population includes Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Greeks, Bulgarians, Moldovans, Romanians and a great number of other nationalities, they all call themselves Odesites. The Odessa region borders on Romania and Moldova and includes traces of the Greek, Bulgarian and Turkish cultures. Today the 211-year-old Odessa is a city of antique baroque buildings, trendy boutiques and unique places like the famous Privoz Market.
Odessa’s Best Sights
Each city has its own architectural treasure or quarter that has become its symbol. Odessa is proud to have several such symbols. They are Derybasivska Street, the Potemkin Steps and the Monument to Duke de Richelieu. Derybasivka Street is the heart of Odessa and is named after José de Ribas, who contributed much to the development of city, including its port. The monument to Duke de Richelieu made by sculptor Ivan Matros is located on Primorskiy Boulevard. The boulevard itself is one of the best examples of classic architecture existing in Ukraine and opens to an impressive view of the Odessa port. One side of the boulevard ends at Dumska Square, and the other ends at the grand Palace of Earl Vorontsov.
The Potemkin Steps descend from the Duke monument down to the Marine Passenger Terminal. The legendary 192 steps were a gift from Earl Vorontsov to his wife Elizaveta. They got their contemporary name after the success of the Soviet movie Battleship Potemkin. The Marine Passenger Terminal (6 Primorska St., tel.: (+380 482) 22-32-11) built in 1968 looks like a huge ship with numerous decks. And the piers of the Odessa port (tel.: (+380 487) 29-34-11, www.port.odessa.ua), stretching more than one kilometre, can accommodate up to seven ocean liners at the same time.
The Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre (1 Tchaikovsky Ln, tel.: (+380 482) 22-49-04, www.opera-ballet.tm.odessa.ua) is considered one of the world’s most brilliant examples of Viennese baroque architecture. From its opening night in 1810, the theatre’s stage has welcomed people whose names are legendary today - Peter Tchaikovsky, Sergey Rachmaninov, Fedor Shalyapin and Solomiya Krushelnytska. The Russian Drama Theatre (48 Gretska St., tel.: (+380 482) 22-75-50, www.rusteatr.odessa.ua) can also boast famous names. In its time, it has hosted Maria Zankovetska, Eleonora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt!
Although Odessa is a comparatively young city by European standards, it has a rich and multifaceted history depicted in the city’s fifteen museums. For example, the building that houses the Archaeology Museum (4 Lanzheronivna St., tel.: (+380 482) 22-63-02, www.archeology.farlep.odessa.ua ) was the first private building in Odessa designed specially for use as a museum. The archaeology collection includes 160 thousand exhibits, which include such unique items as a “zlatnik” (a coin from the time of Prince Volodymir), Scythian jewellery and household items from ancient Greek colonies.
Odessa embraces things whose coexistence can seem strange at first glance. Thus, the city of refined art and architecture is also home to the famous Privoz, a huge marketplace. It was constructed in several stages: in the 1820s its first part was built on Privozna Square, then later - almost a century later - the four 2-story Pasazh buildings were constructed, to the amusement of local journalists.
Speaking of amusement, Odessan jokes have become a genre in their own right. Every year on April 1, Odessa has a merry festival called Humorina. In keeping with the Odessa style, there is a Monument to the Twelfth Chair on Deribasivska Street (from the famous novel by Ilf and Petrov called The Twelve Chairs). The Monument to an Orange at the intersection of Pushkinska and Lanzheronivska is also interesting. This fruit has been so honoured for its role in saving Odessa. When Tsar Pavlo, son of Katherine II, came to power, he wanted to stop financing the city. However, clever Odessa merchants sent a present of oranges - which were exotic at the time - to the governor. Pavlo liked them, and Odessa received financial support.
On a map, Odessa’s narrow streets resemble a huge maze. And one could not imagine the city without its picturesque patios. Odessa beaches are also legendary, with the most famous of them being Archadia. You are also invited to visit Zatoka, the famous resort area near Odessa.
Gems of the Odessa Region
The Odessa region is a real find for the curious traveller. For example, Bilgorod-Dnistrovskiy has the 14th-century Akerman Fortress built on the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Tira and a Genoese castle belonging to the same period. The Akerman Fortress is surrounded by a moat and by an estuary on two sides, but unfortunately only 20 of its 35 original towers have survived. Other local places of interest include the subterranean Church of St Ivan Suchavskiy and Armenian and Greek churches.
Founded by Bulgarians trying to escape Turkish rule, the town of Bolgrad on the border with Moldova is worth a visit. Archaeologists have unearthed remains of ancient settlements dating from the 4th through 1st centuries BC and Slavic settlements from the 10th and 11th centuries AD. Other points of interest are the Saint Mykolai Church and the Transfiguration Cathedral.
A truly unique part of the Odessa region is Vilkove, a Ukrainian Venice. Located at the mouth of the Danube on the border with Romania, it is crisscrossed with channels, and the main street is even called Bilgorodskiy Channel. Boats are the main means of transportation. During Soviet times, Vilkove belonged to the border zone and only opened in 1992. The city boasts a monument to the zero kilometre of the Danube’s journey to the Black Sea.
The next gem of the region is Izmail, a port town known for its numerous interesting places. The main one is definitely Mala Mechet (literally “little mosque”), all that remains today of the 16th-century Turkish fortress of Izmail, once considered Europe’s best. And although Olexandr Suvorov was responsible for destroying the Turkish fortress, Izmail has a museum and monument to this prominent commander.
The village of Nerubayske has the unique underground Museum of Partisan Glory. It is located in the famous catacomb network that stretches from Nerubayske to Odessa itself, comprising some 2,500km of passageways. During the Second World War, a group of partisans maintained contact with occupied Odessa via the Nerubayske catacombs. Today the museum displays partisan weapons and household items.
It is impossible to name all the treasures of the Odessa region - it would be easier for you to come and see them with your own eyes. The pearl of the Black Sea awaits you!
How to get there
Places to Stay and Relax
Near the Potemkin Steps, this 19th-century hotel has a presidential deluxe suite, deluxe rooms, semi-deluxe rooms, single and double rooms, tours, a business centre, parking and restaurant.
Address: 11 Primorskiy Blvd, Odessa; tel.: (+380 487) 38-01-03
This luxury hotel in the Arkadia resort area has deluxe rooms, semi-deluxe rooms, single and double rooms, a casino, pools, sauna, tennis courts, fitness centre and restaurant.
Address: 1 Posmitnogo St., Odessa; tel.: (+380 482) 34-18-00
Palace Del Mar Hotel
This restored palace on the water in the heart of Odessa has a penthouse, presidential deluxe suite, deluxe rooms, semi-deluxe rooms, single and double rooms, pool, park, tennis court and business centre.
Address: 1 Khrustalnyi Ln; tel.: (+380 482) 30-19-00
Déjà Vu La Mer Restaurant
Known for is unique Odessa style, the interior of this restaurant has Soviet-era decor with old gramophone plates, propellers and a motorcycle. It serves European cuisine with an accent on seafood.
Address: 50 Troitska St., Odessa; tel.: (+380 482) 37-75-74
Located in the centre of Bilgorod-Dnistrovskiy, this hotel offers semi-deluxe rooms, single and double rooms and a restaurant.
Address: 1 Chevchenka St., Bilgorod-Dnistrovskiy; tel.: (+380 4849) 25-940
This picturesque hotel built in a Bessarabian style offers single and double rooms, personalised meals in the restaurant, sauna and parking.
Address: 38 Zhovtneva St., Stara Nekrasivka, Izbailskiy District; tel.: (+380 4841) 49-434
Gostinnyi Dvir Hotel
This small hotel located in the centre of Izmail in an historic building has three rooms - a deluxe, semi-deluxe and single - and parking.
Address: 41 Benderska St., Izmail; tel.: (+ 380 4841) 20-490
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