Odessa, Ukraine on the Black Sea has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. I had previously visited Lviv, Kiev, Kharkiv, Simferapol, and Yalta, the last two in the Crimea and now run by Putin's Russia and out of bounds.
I went by 20 seater Mercedes-Benz mini bus on the very bumpy highway from Chisinau, Moldova 5 hours away for £8.00 through a Dr.Zhivago landscape. The centre of Odessa, on a high plateau above the Black Sea is now a UNESCO World Heritage site with its Opera House, Ballet Theatre, museums, civic buildings , statues, fountains, gardens and parks.. You can take an open mini train ride for a 60 minute commentary for about £6.00 or walk just like I did.
In 1905 the bulk of the Russian Imperial fleet was away fighting the Russo-Japanese War with inexperienced officers manning the remaining ships in the Black Sea. When the captain of the Battleship Potemkin tried to serve maggot riddled borch to the men one sailor was shot by the captain for protesting and the sailors mutinied, and threw the captain and many officers overboard. They docked at Odessa and theie were riots and Czar Alexander sent a telegram to the mayor to deal harshly with the people. Over 2,000 were killed and 3,000 injured. The ship sailed for Constancia, Romania and later was sunk by its crew and they sought asylum.
One engineer called Ivan Beschov moved to Dublin where he intended to emigrate to America but never made it. In 1913 he opened a cafe which is now Beschoffs Fish & Chips. www.beschoffrestaurant.com. with 5 branches, the biggest being at 6 Upper O'Connell Street opposite The Spire and the GPO. Ray, cod, lemon sole, haddock and a secret batter recipe, plus other food, wine, beer, cappuchino and more.
Ivan was the last surviving member of the Battleship Potemkin crew and died age 104 in 1987 and his family still runs the business. (his father had lived to 108 and grandfather to 112..so eat fish !). A legendary drinker who entertained the prime minister who visited him on his 100th birthday and drank him under the table.
The mutiny was the first disturbance that led to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The 1925 movie Battleship Potempkin is a Soviet silent film directed bv Sergei Eisenstein and considered a classic. The scene of the sailors rushing up the Potemkin steps and another scene where a mother lets go of a pram with her baby that bounces down the steps, are very moving.
The Potemkin Stairs, or Steps, is the entrance from the port to the city. Originally called the Boulevard Steps then The Richelieu Steps. and opened in 1841. The stair case is 142 metres but the illusion makes them look longer. I caught a funiicular down and then up again very cheap.. about 4p. From the top you can only see each of the landings.and from the bottom, only the steps, with the landings invisible.
It was a bright, sunny day and many familes strolling along the promenades and gardens. There is the statue of the Duc de Richelieu in a toga, the great-great-grandson of Cardinal Richelieu, exiled by Marie-Antionette from France in 1790 and later appointed Governor of Odessa by Tsar Alexander 1.
Lots of museums, cafes, buskers, flower sellers, restaurants and bars., and many choices of hotels. Quite a lively entertainment scene. and still outside the tourist season. I found The Churchill Pub on Sabansky Lane in time to watch Liverpool v AS Roma on a large screen. I thought it would be packed but there were only 8 customers, and I was the only one watching, from an upstairs balcony table. I ordered a beer. Despite the British theme the menu was entirely in Ukrainian and I left straight afterwards, being almost midnight central European time, and walked back to my hotel about 5 blocks away, on the streets, to avoid the ankle breaking cracked sidewalks in the shadows.
Well worth another, longer visit and I highly recommend ODESSA, PEARL OF THE BLACK SEA. www.odesstourism.org.