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Welcome to Odessa: The Pearl of the Black Sea


And the city, sunny and free,
Stands with its front to the winds,
And even wars, not to mention waves,
Have no great power to shake it.
--Ivan Riadchenko


Odessa, Ukraine has always shown more color, spunk, and irreverence than other cities in the former Soviet Union. There's an excitement, an anything-is-possible feeling in the streets. The city has a reputation for its irreverent humor that is flaunt each April 1st with Odessa's most famous holiday, "humor day".

Odessa is referred to as the "Pearl of the Black Sea" is the 3rd largest city in Ukraine, the largest city along the Black Sea, and the most important city of Ukraine for trade. Odessa's mild climate, warm waters and sunlit beaches attract hundreds of thousands of people year around. Its shady lanes, beautiful lightly pastel buildings and cozy squares impart to the city a certain air of intimacy.

A kaleidoscope of colors













Odessa is simply enchanting with its marvelous architecture. Odessa's history as a thriving enterprise has left the city with some splendid architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries and a multifaceted, irrepressible spirit. Some buildings display a carious mixture of different styles, such as distinct French architecture with a distinct Russian flavor, and some are built in the Art Nouveau Style which was in vogue at the turn of the century. Its stately 19th century classical architecture is set on orderly planned streets that are surrounded with green space, giving the city an air of elegance. Strikingly ornate buildings of the late 19th and early 20th century are reminiscent of Right Bank Paris.

Most buildings in Odessa were built with white stone consisting of calcareous materials imbedded with seashells, which appears to be saturated with hot sunshine. This gives many of the city's buildings a whitewashed appearance. The extracted limestone resulted in the formation of an entire labyrinth of underground galleries.

One of the few planned cities in Ukraine, Odessa's central core is laid out in a grid. The first city plan designed by the engineer F. Devollan in the late 18th century was executed by the generations of Odessa architects that followed. As early as the first half of the 19th century, the numerous landowners who had moved to Odessa attracted by the profitable grain trade, started constructing their private residences. As a rule, they would build palace compounds: two-storied mansions with forecourts, wrought iron grilles and porticos indicating the entrance. Even today, the formal halls of these palaces are strikingly opulent. The mansions of wealthy merchants and factory-owners built to the designs of the best Odessa architects were concealed in the verdure of Frantsuzsky Boulevard.

Alexander Kuprin, the prominent Russian author, wrote of Odessa in his "Autumnal Flowers":

"Flashing on the left and on the right are enchanting glimpses
of Odessa millionaires' villas with extravagant openwork grilles,
decorated with dragons and coats-of-arms;
brightly lit terraces in the depth of the gardens adorned with Chinese lanterns,
a kaleidoscope of colors in the foregardens and on the flowerbeds;
rare plants with intoxicating aromas..."


Not simply women--but romance
With its balmy climate, seaside vistas and sandy beaches, and year round lively street life, Odessa has an ambience more Mediterranean than Slavic. Odessa is a bustling industrial hub but also an alluring holiday destination with dozens of s large sanatoriums, miles of sandy beaches, and arguably the most beautiful women in the world. Wrote one admirer of Odessa:

"The ladies of Deribasovskaya, there are beauties to suit every taste,
hats furs, diamondsSt. Petersburg women are thin, tallish, Anglicized;
no number of revolutions will suffice to beat their haughtiness out of them.
Odessa women are the Parisiennes of Russia, not simply women--but romance"


Cosmopolitan Odessa

There everything reminds of Europe:
The colors gay,
The air's like syrup;
Italian heard
Throughout the streets,
Where aproud Slav
Can a Spaniard meet;
Moldovian, French,
Albanians, Greeks,
Forget not sons of Land Egypt
--"Eugene Onegin" Pushkin

Never I say in any country so many nationalities almost opposite of manners, languages, clothes,religions, and customs on such a little territory.
--Duke Richelieu wrote in a letter to Emperor Alexander I

Over 100 nationalities reside here, and non-Ukrainian inhabitants make up more than 45% of the regional population. The city is rife with opportunism; corruption is said to permeate official circles, and bribery is an art form.

A Second Home
"I had not felt so much at home for a long time
as I did when I "raised the hill" and stood in Odessa for the first time.
It looked just like an American city.
---Mark Twain, The Innocents abroad (more on Twain's experience, click here)
Welcome to Odessa, an enchanting and unique city. We hope that by reading this guide you learn to love Odessa as much as we have, and as you leave, you feel as Pushkin did, over 150 years ago:
I'm sad to say farewell to the sea.
Your hum at night will long be with me;
Wherever I am; in woods or steppes
I close my eyes to see your grace:
Your sparking waves,
Your rocks and bays.
--"To the Sea" Pushkin

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Introduction inspired and adopted from the following:
  • Welcome to Ukraine, Airport magazine
  • Guide to the Soviet Union, Lydle Brinkle
  • Odessa, My City

  •       Official Shield of Odessa

    General particulars in this guide

    Dollars and Hryvna
    Ukrainians think and speak in US dollars and hyrvnia (Hr) interchangeably. This text reflects this view, listing both dollars and hyrvnia throughout the book.

    Although it is technically illegal to purchase products in dollars, like many Ukrainian laws this is not strictly enforced.

    At the time of this writing the exchange rate was:

    $1 US = 5.10 Hyrvnia (Hr)

    In the past three years, the Hyrvina has fluctuated to as high as 5.50 Hr. The best way to convert dollars to Hryvnia is 5 Hr = $1 US

    When you exchange money in Kiev and most other large Ukrainian cities (except in the airport, train and bus station) the exchange rate is usually better than in Odessa.

    (Click here for more on money matters and exchanging money in Ukraine)

    Throughout this site we use the word "Odessites" the English version of the Russian word "" pronounced a-de-sEt (with a hard "E").

    Compass directions and Orientation
    Throughout this book we use the directions North, South, East, West. It is important to note:

    • For simplicity, north in this book is defined as the port, or the huge Kempinski hotel. Actually North is to the left / west of the hotel. In the center the train station is to the south.
    • Another simple way to remember compass directions is in the center/old part of the city, that to the north and west is water. North is the port and Kempinski hotel, West are the beaches and Shevchenko Park ( ).
    • Also street numbers are always:
      • EVEN on the north and west sides of the street, and
      • ODD on the south and east sides of the street.
    • Ukrainians do not use the compass for directions in daily life. Most Ukrainians could not tell a person where North or South is in relation to landmarks in their city.

    Special Thanks

    I would like the following people who made this guide possible:

    • Katy Wagner For work on the restaurant guide and for significant contributions to the city guide.
    • Nadeshda for the design and layout of the map.
    • Alex Sayassov for logistics support
    • Oleksander Kanayeva For extensive translating work and moral support.
    • Sandra Tacina For consultation and significant contributions to the Survival Russian section.
    • Tanya Richardson For consultation and significant contributions to the History section.
    • Julia Zhitkova For translating and extensive work on the map.
    • My parents, Lee and Margaret Bailey for their emotional and crucial financial support; and for always believing in me, when no one else did.

      The entire English club, at Pushkinskaya 34 (). Relating to this project the club patiently answered many perplexing questions about the history, culture, and mentality of the Ukrainian people. Coming from a wide array of social and economical backgrounds they club was always a 'good control' on all parts of Ukrainian society. More importantly, the club was a source of all my many dearest friends here in Odessa. Living here almost three years I have seen so many of these beutiful people change and grow, through different tribulations and also victories, and I have to say that I have grown with them. The memories of the members of the club will always hold a very special and dear part of my heart.


    Dynamic Odessa
    In the last ten years, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Odessa has changed almost as dramatically as the first ten years of the Soviet Revolution. Many businesses move frequently, change telephone numbers, or go out of business, much more often than in more stable Western countries. In light of this, some of the information contained within this guide may quickly become inaccurate. We have tried to provide an accurate snapshot of Odessa at the time of print, but please keep in mind the rapid changes that are still taking place in this city.

    We have tried to make this book as accurate as possible, but some errors are unfortunately inevitable. The publisher takes no responsibility for errors that may occur.

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    Compiled by Travis Lee Bailey, while living in Odessa from April 2000 to August 2002