Odessa: some big steps for mankind...

Odessa Travel Blog

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oldschool taxi

Odessa for me was a convenient stop between Kiev and Moldova and I’d heard lots about it so decided to pass through.

 

Travelling from Kiev was delightful, so beautiful, that I actually had a sort of epiphany on the bus, admiring the countryside.

take a seat
It helped that the VIP bus I was on had the finest seats of any vehicle I’ve seen. It was like the business class seats of an aeroplane! It was superb and the bus ride was excellent.  I’m not sure why, but I had the extremely overwhelming urge to dump all my possessions and hitch hike across the former Soviet Union wearing my kilt and carrying nothing but a passport and wallet. In fact I’ve been wondering for a while if it would be possible to hitch hike from Scotland to Singapore and am very keen to give it a go. It’d make a great travel journal if nothing else…

 

Odessa was in full autumn and there was a fresh crispness in the air, tainted no doubt by the lure of the Black Sea.

Duc de Richelieu atop the stairs...
Odessa has been an important port city in recent history but is a relatively young town. I’d heard that the night life and partying in the summer is quite legendary…but it was now out of season and the beach resorts/clubs were all closed. I spent two days in Odessa which really only bolstered my desire to return in the summer. There were excellent restaurants, excellent service, beautiful streets and all for fantastic prices. I also found Ukrainian people to be very helpful, honest and friendly. It also helped that I met some particularly exceptional people who helped make my stay all the more easier and, in fact, ensured I didn’t have any problems.

 

After first arriving and dropping my bags in the hotel, I stepped straight out onto the street without a map or any clue where I was. I was immediately approached by a young couple walking along the path.

142-metre-long Potemkin Stairs
They were carrying Violins and invited me to walk with them as they gave me a brief tour and took me to a newsstand to get a map and show me where I was. They also invited me to join them at the Potemkin steps where they would be playing their music. The gigantic Potemkin staircase really is a magnificent architectural marvel. Looking up from the bottom you see only stairs, and down from the top you see only the intermediate landing platforms. Also, the steps are actually widened at the bottom so as to not diminish in size with distance, thereby they appear with more grandeur.

 

The dull rumble of ships in the harbour and their sonorous fog horns, together with the croon of sea birds provided a soothing subtle backing soundtrack to the air. As I walked through this leafy town which had been splashed liberally with the amber palette of autumn, I saw people everywhere out enjoying the pleasant evening glow. Students, young mums and the elderly sat pitter-pattered all over the place: talking, laughing, drinking beers, playing musical instruments, and even painting. Kids ran around collecting chestnuts. It was all so civil, respectful, clean and beautifully poetic.

 

I couldn’t stop thinking how fantastically romantic and cultural this was.

looking up the Potemkin Stairs
I had to sit myself down as I was quite overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. I frantically started taking notes in my Moleskine notebook as I pondered why Europeans are so damn good at enjoying life. It's a topic I consider often. I’ve narrowed it down to a few good things and I’m reminded of one of my favourite quotes, from a French woman: ‘In America, people expect life to be perfect and are angry when it’s not, in the rest of the world, people expect life to be shit, and are happy when it isnt.

 

Europeans have hundreds of years of history with wars, famine, bad weather, suffering, changing borders, changing currencies, shifts in power, governments, ideologies and basically every hardship possible in life. The eastern Europeans have had this more than others. So they don’t expect much in life. They have small apartments, crappy cars and most of their money usually goes on clothes. The sum total of their desires in life is often really just wanting a cheap bottle of wine, a pack of smokes and a park bench to sit and talk with their friends.

looking up all you see is stairs. looking down all you see is the platforms.
Everything else is superfluous. I like it when the joys of life can be so easily simplified.

 

Another poignant factor is the promotion of art which is deeply embedded in European culture. Artists arent just school drop outs who did too many drugs, like they would be in other regions. Music, painting, drama and writing are all completely respected and encouraged activities... or even professions. The average lay european person can engage in an intelligent conversation discussing art, classical music and even philosophy as if it's a normal conversation topic. That lends a level of sophistication and class that again, most other places, simply dont compare to. When I think about the interactions I have with most western travellers it usually involves talking about where you are from,  where you are going and how drunk you got the night before. When I think about the conversations I have with Europeans it's usually always some sort of challenging topic. As a traveller, it's the latter conversation style that I'm attracted to, nay, actually looking for.

 

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colours of autumn
..and so It’s for reasons like these and a few more that I continue to live and travel in Europe.

 

You simply don’t experience behaviour like this in any other region of the world…

 

hummingbird50 says:
Okay on the the kilt and stick out your thumb:) Ok kidding:) I am with the Europeans in their attitude...besides why expect something your not willing to give :) thanks for the life lesson :) Happy travels Gene
Posted on: Oct 23, 2009
poorogies says:
Fantastic photo set, Gene!!
Posted on: Oct 19, 2009
vances says:
You need to read "Round Ireland with a Fridge" by Tony Hawks...it might just inspire you to start hitching to Singapore!
Posted on: Oct 18, 2009
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oldschool taxi
oldschool taxi
take a seat
take a seat
Duc de Richelieu atop the stairs...
Duc de Richelieu atop the stairs...
142-metre-long Potemkin Stairs
142-metre-long Potemkin Stairs
looking up the Potemkin Stairs
looking up the Potemkin Stairs
looking up all you see is stairs. …
looking up all you see is stairs.…
colours of autumn
colours of autumn
cool suspension bridge
cool suspension bridge
down in the harbour...
down in the harbour...
Anrdre loves Kate...
Anrdre loves Kate...
in the park
in the park
animal print overkill
animal print overkill
Ukraine beauty
Ukraine beauty
slightly dilapidated
slightly dilapidated
apartments
apartments
Odessa
photo by: Biedjee