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Visiting Odessa - What Can Be Achieved In A Day

Guest Solent Richard

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Guest Solent Richard

A year ago this month, while cruising The Black Sea on Azura,  we made our maiden call to Odessa and we were determined to make the most of it.


Odessa is a fairly large port and not exactly attractive to approach by sea. However, as we neared the centre with it's very conveniently cruise terminal, the first real site we spotted was the Potemkin Steps - steeped in history and scene of the infamous massacre in Sergei Eisenstein's film, 'The Battleship Potemkin'...




We were very keen to visit the famous Catacombs of Odessa and had made this our priority. Following considerable research we settled to employ a local guide from the 'Toursbylocals' organisation and felt we were very lucky to have teamed up with Yuriy.  More about Yuriy later.

We were now making a habit of being first off the ship and lo and behold, there at the bottom of the gangway to greet us was Yuriy. We headed off immediately in the direction of the Catacombs, some 30 minutes drive from the ship's berth. The route took us through the heart of Odessa and Yuriy gave an excellent commentary on the sites we passed, the culture and the history of Odessa, and an interesting resume of himself. Additionally he gave us a history of the Odessa Catacombs which are a network of some 3000 kilometres of tunnels on three levels, stretching out under the city and surrounding region. The majority of the catacombs are the result of stone mining for the local construction industry and most of the city's 19th century houses were built of sandstone mined from the region. The Catacombs reach a depth of 60 meters below sea level.




Only one small portion of the catacombs is open to the public, within the "Museum of Partisan Glory" in Nerubayskoye, north of Odessa. Even so, when one considers that these are the largest catacomb system in the world, this small portion has to be taken in perspective. Once inside any sense of depth or direction soon disappear and entry with a guide is mandatory.





Yuriy explains relative distances above and below ground...






...before we descended to the mid level where, in order to get the true perspective, Yuriy found a position that demonstrated the levels and their respective heights more than adequately...





...where the upper and mid tunnels can be viewed very clearly.
Of course the main thrust of our visit, apart from actually experiencing this amazing complex of tunnels, was to understand how they now form such a integral part in Ukrainian history and in particular the manner in which they were used by the 'Partisans' during the WWII. That is what the museum is really all about and fascinating it is too.
We wandered for some two hours through this fascinating maze of tunnels, seeing where and how the partisans operated...

Their kitchens...






Administration areas...






Sleeping facilities...





...and this emotional warning to would be invaders, near one of the entrances...






Translated it reads Blood for Blood, Death for Death.










It is only at the end of the tour that one actuallyrealises just how deep you have been when, to reach the surface,  a spiral staircase has to be climbed. The staircase exits into a more modern annex of the museum...





...which depicts the pride and struggle of the Ukrainian people during the dark days of WWII.




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Guest Solent Richard

Visiting Odessa part 2 - 411 Historical Battery


On the subject of the Pride and struggle of the Ukrainian people, no good tour of Odessa would be complete without a visit to another of their memorials to the struggle, 411 Battery.

Originally the site of land based seaward defences it has now been turned into another memorial but using not just the weaponry and ancillary equipment of WWII but a succession of military hardware from what we in the West would refer to as 'The Cold War'.








Yuriy, having given us this additional unplanned visit, was now keen that we saw the highlights of the old town of Odessa, and that is where we headed next.....

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Guest Solent Richard

Visiting Odessa - Part 3 - The Old Town



By the time we had reached what is affectionately known as 'the Old Town' we had certainly seen a considerable amount of greater Odessa. Nevertheless our guide for the day, Yuriy, was brimming with enthusiasm for what was in store for us: and he didn't disappoint.

Yuriy certainly knew Odessa as well as the best parking slots. Very conveniently we were soon with a stone's throw of Odessa's Philharmonic Society building...





Fine the visitor may think but Yuriy had another surprise in store before we moved on. Underneath the Philharmonic Society is a fascinating bar complex with, and one has to witness it to believe it, a most most amazing toilet facility. Absolutely amazing and most humorous.




There was no doubt that Odessa has some beautiful buildings and is steeped in history, so here we go on a whistle stop tour...

The Odessa Opera House...









The Archaeological Museum







The Statue to Catherine the Great




The Pushkin Statue in Primorsky Boulevard





The very ornate Bristol Hotel





...and the view looking down the Potemkin Steps with Azura as a back drop...





Yuriy certainly knew his Odessa and his knowledge on all matters was exemplary.

As an amusing interlude he took us through a number of back street to see two unusual features of Odessa's architecture. This interesting building appears to be just a facade or, as Yuriy described it, a film set piece...





While this one, locally referred to as 'The Biscuit House' gives the impression of a four storey building. Maybe from the outside but, in matter of fact, internally it boasts eight floors.






Yuriy got us back to our ship having made the most of our time in Odessa. His enthusiasm and knowledge were amazing and he achieved everything we asked and he gave us so much more.

Our comprehensive day and Yuriy's services came to £200.00 including admission fees but not gratuities.

Yuriy can be emailed on [email protected]

Thank you Yuriy, What a great guy.

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A great review bringing back some very happy memories

If you get the opportunity to go into the Opera House it is well worth the visit to see the marble and onyx - its fantastic. Better still if you can get to a show as we did from the Adonia, then don't miss the opportunity, no matter what the show is.

You dont need to climb the Ptomkin steps as there is a free cable car up the side - a good experience


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