Published: July 13th 2012July 13th 2012
We have found a city where we both could imagine to live in - it's Odessa. There's something so laidback and charming in this city that it has become the only city of the trip where we started dreaming about living in it. It's not so easy to put a finger on what it is exactly that we like so much. Climate seems nice (not too hot as there is a breeze from the sea, we assume winters are mild and short), beautiful boulevards you can just stroll on and admire pretty buildings, the sea, cheap prices, not too touristic but still a relaxed "holidayish" athmosphere in general. Or maybe just because its architecture resembles Helsinki :)
Our eating habits today were quite Ukrainian. We started the day with borsch soup and after that went to a Pushkin museum. Not that we were so interested in Pushkin, but we had noticed he is an important character in this country and basically we had no real idea who is or what he has written. We thought a visit to the museum would bring some light to that. After the visit we still didn't know much about Pushkin, except that he lived
three years in Odessa in exile and wrote here parts of Evgeni Onegin, which supposedly is one of his famous works. Instead we ended up going through a photography exhibition totally unrelated to Pushkin, but still interesting. The Pushkin museum itself consisted of few rooms with pictures of him and his family as well as original scripts etc. But no explanations in English. We were the only visitors in the small museum, but there was 4 women working there, one selling tickets and few more in the actual museum. One of them always followed us through the rooms turning the lights on and off as we proceeded. This habit was actually described in our 7 year old guidebook as a means to save electricity (and money) in Ukrainian museums. If that is still valid, it is quite inefficient saving target, since they could have easily cut their personnel down by at least 50%.
After the museum we went for lunch. We had found a traditional Ukrainian theme restaurant on Tripadvisor where the Ukrainian food was supposed to be best in town. We both had borsch (Leo green variant, and me Ukrainian) and pelmenis. It was good for sure. During
lunch we tried to figure out what to do with the rest of our travel time..we are not so sure anymore we want to go to Crimea. Yalta is described often in a way that makes it sound like a tourist trap comparable to Sunny Beach in Bulgaria or something. I'm sure the landscapes at Crimea are great, but as it now seems we will instead spend more time in Kiev and then travel to Helsinki by land+boat. Also a factor here is that plane tickets are not so cheap anymore.
We had a shopping agenda too for the day but ended up finding nothing to buy. We walked to the city's central market place which was a huge area of stalls selling everything you can possibly imagine. The clothes selection seemed to be more "local style" stuff - differing from Asian similar markets where they have fake versions of Western brands. Next to the open air market was a shopping center where we also didn't see any Western stores, only ones sellings "local" clothes. By local I don't mean that they were necessarily made here, but the style and the fact that they didnt have any brand we
would recognize. For some reason I assumed those clothes would have to be quite cheap. We entered one store and I tried on one office style shirt. The price would have been 26 euros and that pretty much killed my interest in those stores. I could have gone through them more to see if I can find anything nice in the middle of those Eastern European style things, but knowing they wouldn't be any cheaper than at home, I didn't feel like it. Btw, in the city center Odessa has lots of international fashion chains, so there we certainly could have found what we wanted easily.
By now we were quite tired and walked to the apartment. Now we really had to dress up in our best clothes since we had tickets to the opera for the night. Unfortunately our best clothes means jeans..buhaha. The opera was Barber of Sevilla and tickets cost 2,5 euros each. Imagine that in Helsinki you must pay 5X that to get a cinema ticket! This time not including sparking wine and when we arrived to our seats we basically saw why they were so cheap: the seats seemed uncomfortable with tiny leg room, the worst however was the fact that the other one of our seats was more or less behind a pilar. We figured it would be more comfortable to sit on the stairway and moved there. The lady showing us our seats had already seemed a bit sorry for our bad seats, and when we where sitting on the stairs she came to talk to us. We couldn't really understand her at first, but it turned out she had better seats for us and took us to much better seats, which improved our opera experience a lot. What to say about the performance itself, it was, well opera. Luckily we had bought a leaflet where we could read the story scene by scene. Otherwise it would have been pretty impossible to follow it.
We ended the evening by having a bit nicer than normal dinner at La Veranda, and Italian restaurant, again found from Tripadvisor. Food was good quality and still reasonably priced by Finnish standards (main courses around 10-15e). On the other hand wine was very expensive, and no, we didn't buy a bottle costing 100+ euros.