Odessa is the third largest city in Ukraine, with a population of 1,003,705. The city is a major seaport located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea and the administrative centre of the Odessa Oblast.
The site of Odessa was once occupied by an ancient Greek colony. Archaeological artifacts confirm links between the Odessa area and the eastern Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages successive rulers of the Odessa region included various nomadic tribes (Petchenegs, Cumans), the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire. Yedisan Crimean Tatars traded there in the 14th century.
During the reign of Khan Hacı I Giray of Crimea (1441–1466), the Khanate was endangered by the Golden Horde and the Ottoman Turks and, in search of allies, the khan agreed to cede the area to Lithuania. The site of present-day Odessa was then a town known as Khadjibey (named for Hacı I Giray, and also spelled Kocibey in English, Hacıbey or Hocabey in Turkish, and Hacıbey in Crimean Tatar). It was part of the Dykra region. However, most of the rest of the area remained largely uninhabited in this period.
The city of Odessa, founded by order of Catherine the Great, Russian Empress, centres on the site of the Turkish fortress Khadzhibei, which was occupied by Russian Army in 1789. De Ribas and Franz de Volan recommended the area of Khadzhibei fortress as the site for the region's basic port: it had an ice-free harbor, breakwaters could be cheaply constructed and would render the harbor safe and it would have the capacity to accommodate large fleets. The Governor General of Novorossiya, Platon Zubov (one of Catherine's favorites) supported this proposal, and in 1794 Catherine approved the founding of the new port-city and invested the first money in constructing the city.
The new city quickly became a major success. Its early growth owed much to the work of the Duc de Richelieu, who served as the city's governor between 1803 and 1814. Having fled the French Revolution, he had served in Catherine's army against the Turks. He is credited with designing the city and organizing its amenities and infrastructure, and is considered one of the founding fathers of Odessa, together with another Frenchman, Count Andrault de Langeron, who succeeded him in office. Richelieu is commemorated by a bronze statue, unveiled in 1828 to a design by Ivan Martos. His contributions to the city are mentioned by Mark Twain in his travelogue Innocents Abroad: "I mention this statue and this stairway because they have their story. Richelieu founded Odessa - watched over it with paternal care - labored with a fertile brain and a wise understanding for its best interests - spent his fortune freely to the same end - endowed it with a sound prosperity, and one which will yet make it one of the great cities of the Old World".
Odessa's growth was interrupted by the Crimean War of 1853–1856, during which it was bombarded by British and French naval forces. It soon recovered and the growth in trade made Odessa Russia's largest grain-exporting port. In 1866 the city was linked by rail with Kiev and Kharkiv as well as with Iaşi in Romania.
The city became the home of a large Jewish community during the 19th century, and by 1897 Jews were estimated to comprise some 37% of the population. They were, however, repeatedly subjected to severe persecution. Pogroms were carried out in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881 and 1905. Many Odessan Jews fled abroad, particularly to Ottoman Palestine after 1882, and the city became an important base of support for Zionism.
|Opera and Ballet Theatre|
Following the Siege of Odessa, and the Axis occupation, approximately 25,000 Odessans were murdered in the outskirts of the city and over 35,000 deported. Most of the atrocities were committed during the first six months of the occupation which officially began on 17 October 1941, when 80% of the 210,000 Jews in the region were killed. After the Nazi forces began to lose ground on the Eastern Front, the Romanian administration changed its policy, refusing to deport the remaining Jewish population to extermination camps in German occupied Poland, and allowing Jews to work as hired labourers. As a result, despite the tragic events of 1941, the survival of the Jews in this area was higher than in other areas of occupied eastern Europe.
The 'fast food' on the street is tasty and if you don't speak Russian or read Cyrillic is much more accessible as you can just point at what it is you want. Menus are usually only in Russian, but you may try to ask for an English menu for you (ask in Russian for "menu po angliyski"). If they don't have one, either have an idea of what you want before you sit down or be prepared to randomly pick something from the menu. It's possible that waitresses can also speak basic English, try to ask for recommendations.
Food from street vendors, especially at the open air markets, should be approached with the same caution as you would display anywhere. It can be fantastic, or not. There are many supermarkets in Odessa that have high quality foods that you can buy as an alternative. There are several McDonald's restaurants in the city (str. Deribasovskaya 23, Privokzalnaya square 1a).
Generally, if you're looking for a place to eat, try to pick one in the city center that looks nice but not too expensive. There are lots of places for what could be called "middle class" with enjoyable atmosphere and good food, but random picking can of course lead to bad food and bad service.
Long-lasting traditions of wine production in neighbouring Moldova and Crimea make Odessa an excellent place for wine lovers. Must taste: Negro de Purcari, Pino and famous sweet Kagor from Moldova, Massandra Portwine and Muscat from Crimea.
In the big supermarkets and in shops with alcoholic drink specialization you can find a full assortment of alcoholic drinks from beer to absinthe and from local brands to world famous brands.
In non-alcoholic drinks here is a large quantity of various brands (foreign: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Fanta, Sprite, BonAqua etc.; national: Obolon', Bon-Boisson, Prem'era, Kuyal'nik, etc.; local: Kristall, Green Star, Dana, etc.).
The nightlife of Odessa is concentrated in the 'Arkadia' district, some 8 km away from the city center. Beware of the taxi drivers who are waiting for you when you leave Arkadia at night, their tariffs are super-high and they can be rude and intimidating. Call a taxi or walk 500 metres further where you can negotiate a much lower price.
- Odessa Cathedral, aka Odessa Transfiguration Church, is the largest Orthodox Church in Odessa, laid down in 1794, consecrated in 1808, destroyed in 1936, re-consecrated after the restoration in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2010. Orthodox Cathedral is located in the center of Cathedral Square, next to the building of the temple there is a monument to Prince Vorontsov and the fountain-monument in honor of the city water supply. After the consecration of Odessa in 1794, it was decided to build a church in honor of Nicholas Miracle-man at the Cathedral Square. The first stone was laid in 1795, it was planned to spend 2 years for construction, but the consecration of the church was held only in 1808. At the same time cathedral got its name: the main altar was consecrated in the name of the Transfiguration, the right one - in the name of Saint Nicholas of Myra, and the left one - in the name of Saint Spiridon.
- The Potemkin Stairs, is a giant stairway. The stairs are considered a formal entrance into the city from the direction of the sea and are the best known symbol of Odessa. Officially known today as the Primorsky Stairs, they were originally known as the Boulevard steps, the Giant Staircase, or the Richelieu steps. The top step is 12.5 metres (41 ft) wide, and the lowest step is 21.7 metres (70.8 ft) wide. The staircase is 27 metres (88.5 ft) high, and extends for 142 metres (465.9 ft), but it gives the illusion of greater length. The stairs were designed to create an optical illusion. A person looking down the stairs sees only the landings, and the steps are invisible, but a person looking up sees only steps, and the landings are invisible. A secondary illusion creates false perspective since the stairs are wider at the bottom than at the top. Looking up the stairs makes them seem longer than they are and looking down the stairs makes them seem not so long.
- Odessa City Hall occupies the Neoclassical building on Seaside Boulevard, built to a design by Francesco Boffo and Gregorio Toricelli in 1828-34. In front of the hall is a monument of Alexander Pushkin who spent 13 months in Odessa. Every half-hour, the clock above the entrance chimes the melody "Odessa my town" (the same tune greeting incoming trains at the Odessa Train Station). This is from the operetta "White Acacia" by the Soviet composer Isaac Dunayevsky. In the building of modern Odessa City Hall was Stock exchnage in the past. Odessa City Hall is located on the cross of Primorskiy Boulevard, Chaikovskogo Lane and Pushkinskaya Street. In front of Odessa City Hall building is a small square, called “Dumaskaya” with a monument to Pushkin, canon extracted from French Fregate "Tiger" sank in battle with Russian troups during the Crimean War.
- Odessa Opera & Ballet Theatre. A grand Renaissance-era theatre finished in 1887 which still hosts a range of performances. The theatre is regarded as one of the world’s finest. The first opera house was opened in 1810 and destroyed by fire in 1873. The modern building was constructed by Fellner and Helmer in neo-baroque. Its luxurious hall follows rococo style. It is said that thanks to its unique acoustics even a whisper from the stage can be heard in any part of the hall. The most recent renovation of the theater was completed in 2007. The theatre was projected along the lines of Dresden's famous Semperoper built in 1878, with its non traditional foyer following the curvatures of the auditorium.
- Luzanovka Beach is one of the more 'genuine' beaches in Odessa in the sense that it does not offer the quality and array of services that most central Odessa beaches such as Arkadia and Lanzheron do. While this can be seen in negative light, consider that this Odessa beach is intended for the large population concentration located at an Odessa area called 'Poselek Kotovskovo'. While Luzanovka has a number of quality restaurants and nightclubs do not expect to receive Western quality service or to find many English speakers as the tourist are virtually entirely absent from this area. However, if looking for a different feel from one of Odessa's less developed beach fronts, this may just be the perfect option. Located just fifteen minutes away from the center, making it easy to get it by way of Taxi or public transportation.