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Published: October 27th 2008
Towards the Black Sea
Statue greets rich tourist who get off cruise ships and come up the stairs.
Travel tip, don't go to Odessa at end of long journey, or late October when tourist season has waned and it gets dark by six. Be prepared for power outages in some parts of the city, no one eager to speak English, and non-Western toilets. Keep sense of humour and try to impart it on the locals....or not.....
Disclaimer: Do not judge any place by my experiences. I'm floating through Eastern Europe on a pilgrimage to see lands from where my grandparents came. I purposely have changed from in-charge professional to one who is floating around, getting lost, finding what I should and musing along the way.
Odessa is a strange city; bit of a summer party town, kinda like Miami beach, only in Eastern Europe standards.
Don't fly into Odessa at night unless you have taxi waiting for you, and even then it is a scary experience. You get off the planes in these countries and on bus to be driven to the terminal. This time, the bus drops us off outside at iron gates beside the building. On the other side of those gates are taxi drivers eager to get you in their cabs. I stepped out into badly
My fav photo
This has all the elements of the Ukraine cities that I have visited.
lit parking lot and was swarmed. I didn't see my name on any sign, and realized that I didn't have my luggage and went back through the gates. A wagon came along with the bags. I rolled my suitcase back through those gates wondering if the guards would let me in the airport terminal if I needed to use the phone. Luckily, Vacilly was there with my name on his sign. What a relief!
Next morning I was late getting downtown. The second most important thing to find in any new city is the Internet Cafe, not especially for emails, but to find young people who speak English. Whenever I enter these dark, crowded rooms with video games blasting and backpackers huddled close to the screens I think 'Aaaah, MY PEOPLE'.
In Odessa, the Internet cafe in the travel books has closed down, but if you keep walking down that street, away from square, you will find another one.
I found a Ukranian cafeteria with good food and figured I had conquered the first challenges of this city. Then I went to the bathroom. Yikes, a non-Western toilet!!! (basically, a ceramic hole on the floor) I was in no mood
with jeans and the wrong time of the month. Besides, a spritely 60+ woman was waiting outside the stall and her back was probably more agile than mine. I left knowing that my top priority was finding a Western toilet.
Aiming towards the boulevard of expensive cafes I enter one. I want 'kowa (coffee) and the toilet'. Unfortunately the power was out in that part of the city. Each day there is one part of the city without power for a few hours.
Beginning to get desparate I push towards the main shopping street. I head for the most expensive restaurant with lights. I want 'kowa Irish, and the toilet'. Thank god it was a Western one.
Next on the agenda, get to the ferry terminal to book ticket for Istanbul tonight. I find the stairs to the terminal, get across the busy street and over the car dealership and find the pier. The lady in the tourist bureau could not speak English, but she pointed towards the ticket counter. Hmmmmm, where? Around and around I went, in this large building, seeking the ticket booth. Finally, a woman stopped me and asked in English if she could help. Thank you!
Book early if you want private cabin on ship. Note large cruise ship docked behind statue...filled with eager, rich tourists.
With her translation, I learned that ship was sold out except for a berth with three other women. No thanks. I am too tired to spend a couple of days sharing living space with three people who wouldn't understand my words. Maybe next time, when I feel more adventurous. I'll fly to Istanbul.
Back to wonderful Internet cafe to google flights and hostels and options. There are none, all planes for next few days to Istanbul are sold out. The plane to Athens only goes out Wednesday. The best I could do was find a plane back to Warsaw, and even so, I couldn't book it online. Claustrophobia was setting in. I want out of Odessa NOW.
The best part of my visit was speaking with an English studies night class. I was late getting to class (lost in dark streets until I found a couple of Americans who knew the neighbourhood) and had twenty minutes with the students until they decided to stay nearly two hours extra to talk with me. It was great. I was surprised that they considered themselves Russian. I nagged them that I flew to the Ukraine to meet Ukranians (they laughed) and we had
Taking an afternoon nap in the sun. Most of the dogs seemed peaceful. They walked through busy streets with ease; car drivers were careful with them.
a really good talk about life, future, politics and hope. When I left we exchanged email addresses. I'll put them in contact with Canadian students.
Odessa really is a mixture of wealth and poverty, crumbling infrastructure and brand new buildings. I liked the community dogs, free creatures who were not thin. I think many people feed them. The dogs sleep in parks or outside stores and seem peaceful. I wish the Western world would mutate with the Eastern philosophy about animals in urban space; if quality vet care and pet food merged with the freedom for these animals, then there would be cities with respectful living for all creatures. I'm agast at the foolish anti-animal culture that my city has embraced lately; tying up cats to keep them in owners yard. The laugh is really on the anti-cat people I think; the people with nice lawns who spray toxic chemicals regularly to keep grass pretty. Where do they think the poison ends up?
Back to Odessa.....No-dessa
If ever I return, I'll come when you are hyped for tourists and I have the energy to see your beach and party scene.
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