Day 6: Potemkin steps and looking out over the Black Sea
Odessa Travel Blog› entry 8 of 260 › view all entries
Not wanting to make the same mistake I had made in Kyiv, I was determined to find an appartment, or otherwise more central accommodation in Odessa. I had tried to book something online, but all I could find were places that rented out for a minimum of 5 days. However, at the train station there is a little agency for hotel and apartment bookings, so I decided to give them a go.
It did not come as a surprise that the lady at the desk did not speak a word of English, however, it did surprise me that this did not deter her from helping me.
As I wasn't interested in yet another Soviet style hotel, I wanted to try some other options first. There was a hostel mentioned in the Lonely Planet which I wanted to give a try first. However, their website had been off air when I tried it, so I asked the lady to phone them. The number was out of service as well, so I guess the hostel is no more.
So I took my chance with the hotel the agency had offered. At least it was central. They arranged a cab for me and even went as far as walking me to the car and explaining the directions to the driver.
I got dropped off in front of a residential building and the taxi sped off. The lady at the booking agency had explained there was a pizzeria downstairs and that the hotel was on the fourth floor. Now I could see the pizzeria, but nowhere could I see a door which would lead me to the fourth floor. I walked around, asked inside the pizzeria showing the piece of paper which the lady at the agency had given me. The guy at the pizzeria shook his head and asked me if I wanted to eat something. Surely they had had more guests for the hotel here? Apparently not!
I was beginning to think I had made a terrible mistake and should have gone for one of the hotels listed in the Lonely Planet instead.
I walked around the building into a little courtyard, perhaps the entrance was to the back? I showed the piece of paper to an elderly man I met in the courtyard and he pointed me to an open door leading to the adjacent building, number 11 instead of number 13 which it said on my ticket.
I walked in and climbed the stairs to the fourth (and top) floor, staring at 3 closed doors and no sign of this being accommodation whatsoever anywhere. I decided to play the dumb tourist and rang the bell on the first door. A lady opened and beckoned me in. “you pay now” she said. Well, I guess this was the place then. I gave her the money and she led me to my room.
Well, room, perhaps that is not the best word. It was a loft. I was staring at a large, bright loft with a seating area, a huge double bed. Now this was alright, I thought. The lady opened the door to the bathroom and motioned me in - inside there was a friggin' Jacuzzi!! A Jacuzzi! And all that for less than what I had paid in Kyiv. Actually, I was paying less than the price quoted for a bed in the dorm in the non-existing hostel! This backpacker business is none too shabby, me thinks :-)
And as it turned out I was located smack in the centre as well.
Well, if you have a jacuzzi, you have to use it, right, so I spent an hour of so bubbling away, before setting out to explore the city.
Odessa doesn't hold as many sights as Kyiv or some other cities in Ukraine. It is more a city to experience rather than for sightseeing. That said it is a lovely city to just stroll around in. Odessa came out of WWII relatively unharmed, so the architecture is mostly 19th century Russian, rather than 20th century Soviet style.
Another welcome change from Kyiv is that the centre is relatively compact, with the major sights all within walking distance from one another.
A bit further I caught my first glimpse of the Black sea, from the top of the legendary Potemkin steps. These steps were immortalized in Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, one of the most influential films of all time.
An interesting trivial fact: the Potemkin steps were actually named after the movie! After their construction in the mid-1900s they bore several different names until they were renamed to Potemkin following the success of Eisenstein's film.
From the top of the steps I caught my first glimpse of the Black Sea, which I will be sailing across to Turkey over the next few days.
I spent the rest of the day just hanging around in the park, and sitting at a sidewalk café with a beer and a sheesha - the habit of smoking waterpipes has spread across the Black Sea from Turkey, no doubt infused by the popularity of countries like Turkey and Egypt as a holiday destination for Ukrainians.