Tourist Information on the City of Odessa, Ukraine

Such eloquent sobriquets as "Pear of the Black Sea" or the "Western Gate of the (former) Soviet Riviera" have long been used to describe the Ukrainian seaside city of Odessa (population 1.1 million), the old Soviet Union's most culturally diverse city.

The inclination to wax poetic about Odessa is perhaps the legacy of a long line of writers and poets who for centuries have flocked to the distant landing on the Black Sea. Many, such as Gogo and Gorki, came of their own volition to experience the quickened place and exotic mixture of people. Others, such as Pushkin, were exiled here by a czarist regime that used the distant city (532 miles/851 km from Moscow) as a sort of sultry Siberia of the southwest. A political dissident could have been sentenced to a fate worse than Odessa.

Odessa has enchanted visitors for hundreds of years, pleasing even the crusty Mark Twain, who unexpectedly visited this port city when his steam cruiser Quaker City made a stop to reload with coal. He said the Odessa of the late 1860s looked, surprisingly, "like an American city." Indeed, Odessa is admired not for its sweeping history and its link to an ancient, fabled past, but for its energy and vitality. People visit Odessa not for its ancient architecture (the city's oldest surviving buildings were erected in the 18th and 19th centuries) but to see lovely seascapes, vibrant street scenes, and bustling markets, and to meet the city's lively inhabitants.

Odessa is at once a melting pot and mishmash of nationalities, and commercial citadel where buying low and selling high was the rule (albeit under the table) long before perestroika, and a raunchy seaport where sailors from scores of foreign ports carouse until the wee hours. The city's population is remarkable for its diversity: Russians, Jews, Bulgarians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Gypsies, Turks, Greeks, Moldavians, and Ukrainians have long made this their home.

It is for its sizable Jewish population, however, that the city is perhaps best known. Odessa was for centuries a center of Jewish life and culture. In the years before World War II, more than a half of the city's citizenry was Jewish. But the history of the Jewish people of Odessa is marred with tragedy and violence. Few have forgotten the pogroms that were inflicted on Odessa's Jews by the czarist regime in the 1880s, and again in the years preceding the Russian Revolution. Thousands of Jews also where massacred or deported during the Axis Powers' occupation of Odessa during World War II. Under the Soviet regime, the practice of Judaism (along with all other religions) was suppressed. In recent years, however, organized Jewish religious and community life in Odessa was revived under perestroika and have flourished since Ukraine's declaration of independence. Odessa today has Ukraine's largest and most cohesive Jewish community. However, as the nation's economic and political woes have mounted, bringing them the fear of resurgence in anti-Semitism, many of Odessa's Jews have emigrated to more economically stable countries. As a result, the city is facing a decrease in its Jewish community and a serious case of brain drain, as skilled workers, merchants, and professionals depart for Israel, Europe, and the U.S.A.

Though hardly traces of them remain, there have been settlements on the site that is now Odessa since the Middle Ages. First there was Kotsubievo, a Slav village that flourished due to its proximity to the Danube, Dnieper, and South Bug rivers, which brought goods from the steppes and northern regions. In the 14th century, the village was sacked by the Tatars, who rebuilt it and named it Khadzhibei. In 1764 the Tatars gave way to the Turks, who built a fortress here as a bulwark against the Poses and the more threatening, enterprising Russians to the north.

But it was only a matter of time, however, before the colossal powers flanking this region asserted their control. The Russians arrived first, taking the fortress with a detachment of soldiers and Zaporozhian Cossacks in 1789. Recognizing the site's strategic and economic importance, Alexander Suvoruv, the great Russian military officer, wasted no time in building a fortress and a naval port at the request of Catherine the Great.

The following year the city was renamed after the ancient Greek settlement of Odessos, which was thought to have been located nearby. The very existence of Odessos has been questioned; many claim it was in Bulgaria.

One name closely linked to Odessa's past is that of the Duc de Richelieu, the city's first governor, who later become Prime Minister of France. Often called Odessa's founding father, Armand Emmanuel de Plessis Richelieu (1766-1822), a descendant of the famous 17th-century cardinal, came to czarist Russia at the beginning of the French Revolution, soldiered for Catherine the Great, and commissioned many major buildings and organized institutes and schools, and under his tutelage the city expanded rapidly. Odessa's link to Richelieu only adds to the city's worldly flair. A statue of the duke, by sculptor I.P. Martos, was the first monument erected in the city (1828). It stands on the best - and perhaps most visited - spot in the city: the very top of the Potemkin Staircase.

The rapid growth of rail transportation brought even more rapid growth to Odessa. Since the city is located at the confluence of three major rivers and the Black Sea, it is ideally situated as an outlet for the export of the fruits of the Ukrainian breadbasket, and the city enjoyed free port status for most of the first half of the 19th century. In addition, Odessa's climate permits use of its port year-round; the rivers' ice is never too thick for marine transport even during a deep freeze.

By the mid-19th century Odessa was czarist Russia's third city, eclipsed in industrial importance only by Moscow and St. Petersburg. The city's vitality attracted Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), who wrote his masterpiece Dead Souls here; satirist Ilya Ilf (1897-1937), who co-authored The Twelve Chairs; and the revolutionary writer Maxim Gorky (1868)1936), who wrote on Odessa's docks as a stevedore, a period of his life later chronicled.

And then there was Pushkin. It cannot be said that the great Russian bard came to Odessa willingly, since he was banished to this southern hinterland by the czar for his controversial and contemptuous poetry. As it turned out, sending the resilient Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) to Odessa was like exiling Hemingway to Spain. Pushkin did some of his best writing here, completing The Fountain of Bakhchisaray and more than two dozen other poems. He also worked on The Gypsies, about Moldavian Gypsies (he was exiled to Moldavia too), and completed three chapters of Eugene Onegin, his epic work, which makes ample reference to his life in Odessa. Pushkin enjoyed his punitive-yet-productive stay in Odessa. And judging from the many monuments, plaques, and busts in his honor, and the fact that his former residence has been turned into a museum, Odessa was rather pleased with its prisoner.

Among the 30,000 workers of Odessa's port, railways, and burgeoning factories, the first proletarian and revolutionary organization in czarist Russia - the Union of Russian Workers of the South - was founded. This group joined with the mutineers of the Potemkin - a battleship in the czar's Black Sea fleet that was the subject of the eponymous 1925 film classic by Russian director Sergei Eisenstein - in the abortive revolution of 1905, which V. I. Lenin later called the Great Rehearsal. The pogroms followed immediately, causing nearly 13 percent of the city's then population of 600,000 to flee.

After the Russian Revolution, Odessa suffered greatly in the ensuing Civil War between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. The city changed hands several times, one-third of its houses were destroyed, and its population diminished considerably.

There followed a period of relative calm and prosperity until Odessa was forced to endure a 69-day siege by the Nazis in 1941. The city was one of the first towns to be bombed and invaded in World War II as the Germans moved quickly across the steppes toward Leningrad (now again called St. Petersburg) and Moscow. The city withstood considerable damage and after the war, it was accorded, along with three other cities (Leningrad, Sevastopol, and Volgograd), the title of Hero City by degree of the Soviet government.

Today Odessa remains one of Ukraine's most culturally colorful cities, a legacy of the writers, performers, musicians, and royalty who lived or visited here. The city is in a well-reputed wine region and is the site of a champagne distillery and the Institute of Viniculture and Wine Making. Odessa's film studio is among the best in the country, and the end-of-summer Odessa Film Festival - a sort of Cannes of Eastern Europe - is a must-attend event should you happen to be in town.

Odessa's history of thriving enterprise has left the city with some splendid architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries and a multifaceted, irrepressible spirit. A random glance at almost any street turns up a cornucopia of people - young mothers, old sailors, children, tourists, beggars, and vendors hawking foreign goods and hard-to-get fruits and vegetables. The atmosphere is raw and uninhibited, befitting a busy and spirited harbor city, and the welcome extended to visitors is forthright and unabashed.

Odessa at a Glance

Seeing the city: Everything you will want to see and do is within walking distance (or a short drive) from the picturesque working harbor, the sine qua nons of Odessa's colorful and animated street scenes. From the top of the Potemkin Staircase, where it meets Primorsky Bulvar, is a 180 degree panorama of Odessa's port, among the largest on the Black Sea. Next to the steps is a covered escalator that ascends a hill to a perch that affords a spectacular view of the seaport.

Note: The following information on sights and sites was accurate as we went to press, but it is more than possible that, given the current political situation, more statues may be toppled, streets and squares renamed, and hotels and restaurants changed hands as Ukraine adjusts to its independence. Although street names and the names of other landmarks are slowly being changed from Russian to Ukrainian, the street signs are still in Russian and the Russian names are still more commonly used by locals. Russian translation, therefore, appear throughout this chapter. Ulitsa means "street" in Russian; naberezhnaya means "avenue"; bulvar or prospect mean "boulevard"; and ploshchad means "square."

Special places: The Catacombs - No visit to Odessa is complete without a romp through the catacombs. Since sandstone was quarried from beneath the city in the early 19th century for use in many buildings, there are over 500 miles of tunnels, caves, and catacombs that have been used by smugglers, revolutionaries, and, later, as a command post for the resistance to the Nazi forces during World War II (there is a model of the command headquarters in the local History Museum). The Nazis, interestingly, never occupied these caves. At one time the caves contained an underground print shop. There are many entrances and many exits to the catacombs, and some passages (containing the remains of soldiers and their munitions) have only recently been discovered. Most of the entrances are on Mount Shevakhovo. The catacombs must be visited with a guide. Call Intourist for tour information (phone: 259383) or check with your hotel.

Potyomkinskaya Lestnitsa (Potemkin Staircase) - The city's Eiffel Tower, this is the site of the most dramatic and memorable scene in the 1925 film Potemkin, and Odessa's most visited and best-known landmark. Built between 1837 amd 1841 and originally designed to be the main gateway to the city, the Potemkin Staircase is an architectural masterpiece, a long and wide stone stairway that consists of 192 steps that sharply descend from a row of places down to the harbor. In the Eisenstein film, czarist soldiers massacred a crowd on these steps as they made their way to the mutineers of the Prince Potemkin Taurichevsky, a battleship that was part of the czar's fleet moored in the bay and that took part in the 1905 revolution (the ship's crew had joined the city's workers in the revolt). Though Eisenstein later admitted that the confrontation on the steps was purely fictional, they are still a premier tourist attraction because of the film. The steps were built narrower at the top than the bottom to give the illusion of greater length; they lead to Primorsky Bulvar, Odessa's main seaside promenade. Sitting proudly at the top of the stairs, appearing always at the ready, but actually hardly able to shoot, is a cannon used in the Crimean War that was taken from the Tiger, a sunken British frigate, when it was recovered from the bottom of the sea.

Primorsky Bulvar (Seaside Boulevard) - Lying just beyond the Potemkin Staircase, this delightful seaside promenade is a nerve center of Odessa. Some of the city's best-known landmarks are found along its path: the Duke of Richelieu Monument, Vorontsov Place, Town Hall, and the Pushkin Monument. Nearby are Kommunarov Ploshchad (Commune Square), which is surrounded by a charming cluster of buildings that were designed by Tomas de Thomon, who built the famous St. Petersburg Stock Exchange; the Arkheologicheskyj Muzei (Archaeological Museum; see Museums below); and the Sailor's Palace, the former residence of the Commandant of Odessa.

Pushkin Monument - Opposite the Town Hall on the southern end of Primorsky Bulvar this monument is dedicated to Alexander Pushkin, Russia's greatest poet. The dates 1820-1824 engraved on the monument are the years Pushkin lived on and off in Odessa, both by choice and when he was forced into exile. During this time he penned The Fountain of Bakhchisaray (in which he wrote of Odessa in rather raving prose); several chapters of his epic, Eugene Onegin; and a slew of lyric poems. The house in which he lived (13 Pushkinskaya Ulitsa) is now the headquarters of the Ukrainian Writers' Association.

Gorodskaya Meriya (Town Hall) - The seat of the Odessa City Council is a good example of the 19th-century classical architecture; it is elaborately adorned with statues depicting Mercury, the Greek messenger of the gods, and Ceres, the Greek goddess of agriculture. The large clock on the face of the building bears sculpted figures personifying night and day. Primorsky Bulvar.

Vorontsovsky Dvorets (Vorontsov Place) - Built in 1827 in classical Russian style, this palace was once the residence of Count Vorontsov, who served as Pushkin's guardian while the poet lived and worked (he was employed as a civil servant) here in exile. Pushkin considered Vorontsov to be a harsh chaperone and taskmaster, describing him as a "vandal, a cad, and a petty egoist," in letters to the writer Ivan Turgenev. The flamboyant Pushkin - known for his philandering - had an affair with Vorontsov's wife (perhaps history's most definitive case of "poetic justice"). Vorontsov was Governor of Novorossiisk (New Russia), a region that surrounded Odessa. His palace became the headquarters of the Odessa Soviet (a sort of city hall) after the Bolshevik Revolution, and later was restored to and became the Palace of Pioneers. Located at the far northeastern end of Primorsky Bulvar.

Park imeni Tarasa Shevtchenka (Taras Shevchenko Park) - Named for the beloved 19th-century Ukrainian poet, this is a lush and restful oasis in the city. On the park's 225 acres is a bathing beach (caution: within city limits the Black Sea is said to be heavily polluted); a monument to Bohdan Khmelinitsky (the Ukrainian Cossack leader who signed a union treaty with Russia in 1654); the 40,000-seat Avangard Stadium, and open-air theater; and boat rental stations with rowboats for hire. But the park's real gem is its heart-fluttering view of the Black Sea. On the extreme northeast corner of the park are the remains of the Odessa Fortress built by the Russians in 1793.

Port of Odessa - Odessa's warm-water port is both the city's pulse and its cash cow. Many of Odessa's residents make their living in some way through the sea, and ships from various countries regularly dock here, adding to the town's cosmopolitan bent. Before the advent of cranes and mechanized loading and stacking machinery, hundreds of burly men could be seen toiling from warehouse to ship. Although two new seaports northeast and south of Odessa now handle the bulk of commercial cargo, there is much activity still. One of the best vantage points from which to take in the port scene - and the semicircular bay - is from the top of the Potemkin Staircase.

Deribasovskaya Ulitsa - Odessa's main commercial district, this is arguably the city's liveliest thoroughfare. Nearly every building is a café or restaurant, store or hotel. The street's energy is due in no small part to the presence of Mechnikov State University. Also here is Richelieu College, where Pushkin studied during his exile, and where Dmitry Mendeleyev, the scientist who created the Periodic Table of Elements, taught in the 1850s. The street, laced with several gardens and parks, leads to Preobrazhenskaya Ploshchad, formerly the Square of the Soviet Army, where a bust of Count Vorontsov stands in one corner.

Uspensky Sobor (Assumption Cathedral) - This Russian Orthodox Church incorporates Russian and Byzantine styles of architecture, and it houses the reputedly miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Kasperovskaya. The five-dome cathedral was completed in 1869. Preobrazhenskaya Ulitsa.

Extra special: Odessa's most attractive feature is its close proximity to scores of resorts and other vacation havens along the Black Sea and the Crimea, a peninsula that juts out into the sea. One of the restful oases to be found in this area is Yalta, the resort town made famous by the summit meeting held here in 1945. Yalta is best reached by water; boat cruises pass by the majestic fortress at Savastopol and the quaint resorts along the southern coast of the Crimea. Crimean boat tours usually begin at Simferopol, the regional capital, which is 60 miles (96 km) from Yalta. You also can take a helicopter that seats 10 people, go by bus, or rent a car.

Sources and Resources

Tourist information: The local Intourist office is at Politzeyskaya Luksemburg Ulitsa (phone: 259383).

Note: Economic turmoil, including frequent and steep price increases on many goods and services, make it impossible to provide accurate information on prices, including the cost of basic services such as public transportation and the telephone. In addition, at press time Ukraine was set to introduce its own national currency, the hryvnia, to replace the ruble, and its value had not yet been determined.

Telephone: It is now possible to dial directly from the U.S. The country code for Ukraine is 7. The city code for Odessa is 048. To place a call from a public pay phone in Odessa, place the coin in the slot on the top of the machine, dial the number, and when you get an answer wait for the coin to drop before you begin to speak. Check locally for the correct coin denomination. Long distance calls from Odessa are best handled through your hotel's service bureau. It is advisable to check first on the rates and in which currency you are expected to pay. From a pay phone, dial 812 for a long-distance operator.

Getting around: Airport - Odessa's airport is about 10 miles (16 km) north of the center of the city. Aeroflot makes connections to many former Soviet cities. The Aeroflot office in Odessa is at 17 Yekaterininskaya Ulitsa.

Car rental - Cars, with or without a driver, may be rented at the Chorne More Hotel (59 Lenina Ulitsa; phone 242024 or 242025). Check with your hotel service bureau for the names of joint venture car rental agencies (which may have Western autos). Travel by rental car is an excellent way to visit the various resorts along the Black Sea.

Boat - Check with Intourist (phone: 259383) for details on the various cruise and boat trips up the Dnieper River or along the Black Sea. Boat tickets can be purchased at 7 Primorsky Bulvar.

Bus - Virtually every inch of pavement in Odessa is served by bus routes. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks, which are located on nearly every street corner. Just say adyen billet pazjolsta (one ticket please). Bus maps are usually available at kiosks.

Taxi - Cabstands are located at the hotels and the major intersections throughout the city. Unofficial (free enterprise) taxis will require fare negotiations prior to heading off.

Train - There are many rail connections between Odessa and various cities of the former Soviet Union. The train station is located at Privoskzanlanya Ploshchad. Train tickets can be purchased daily at 2 Shorsa Ulitsa between 9 AM and 6 PM, and must be paid for in hard currency (unless you can convince newly made friends to buy a ticket for you in local currency).

Local services: Dentist - Most hotels have special contracts with dentists to handle emergencies. Inquire at your hotel for more information.

Dry cleaning - At all major hotels. Dry cleaning can take from 6 hours to 2 or 3 days.

Limousine service - Contact the Chorne More Hotel (59 Lenina Ulitsa; phone: 242031 or 242024). A number of Western cars, including Mercedes Benz, are available.

Medical emergencies - The Peragov Medical Institute (2 Medicinski Ulitsa) handles emergencies. The medical emergency telephone number is 03.

Messenger service - Available, for a fee, from any of the majors hotels.

National/International Courier - DHL International is offered through major hotels. The local DHL office is at 47 Lenina Ulitsa (phone: 244269).

Office equipment rental - Available at the larger hotels.

Pharmacy - Call 09 for the dejourni aptheki (all-night pharmacy) or ask at your hotel for the one nearest you.

Photocopiers - Available at the Chorne More, Delphin, and Krasnaya hotels.

Post office - The main post office (10 Ssadovaya Ulitsa) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Telegrams and telex messages may be sent from here.

Tailor - Inquire at your hotel for the closest tailor.

Telex - At the main post office (see above) and at the Chorne More, Delphin, and Krasnaya hotels. The Chorne More and Delphin also have public fax facilities.

Translator - Available through major hotels and Intourist (special Intourist phone number for translation services: 249244).

Special events: April 1, April Fool's Day (Prima Aprilis in Ukrainian, Dyen Pervoho in Russian), is celebrated with a carnival and variety shows in the city's streets and concert halls. The annual Odessa Film Festival takes place toward the end of the summer.

Museum: Odessa, which is foremost a commercial city, has never been accused of having more museum curators than merchants. Most art and sculptures in this fast-paced city are mobile, moving from one owner to another in a commercial transaction. But what museums the city does have are worthwhile. The following are several of the more interesting:

Arkheologicheskyj Muzej (Archaeological Museum) - An engaging collection of objects that describe the life and culture of the people who lived on the northern shore of the Black Sea until the 13th century. There also is an excellent display of Greek and Egyptian artifacts. The "Golden Depository" is a grand permanent exhibit of ancient jewelry, medals, and coins. Open daily 10 AM to 5:30 PM at 4 Lastochkina Ulitsa.

Muzej Morskogo Flota (Marine Museum) - Artifacts, displays, and models of marine life found in and on the Black Sea and, specifically, at the port of Odessa. Open 10 AM; closed Thursdays. 6 Lastochkina Ulitsa.

Muzej Zapadnoho I Vostochnoho Iskustva (Museum of Western and Oriental Art) - This museum's 23 halls fall into three categories: antiques (mainly reproductions); Western European art, including a painting attributed to Caravaggio; and Oriental art; including Persian miniatures and handicrafts from India and the Far East. Open daily 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM; closed Wednesdays. 9 Pushkinskay Ulitsa.

Odesskij Chudozhestvennij Muzej (Odessa Art Museum) - Houses one of Ukraine's largest collections of Ukrainian and Russian art, from the 15th to 18th-century icons to contemporary painting, sculpture, and graphics. Open 10 AM to 6 PM; closed Tuesdays. 5A Korolenko Ulitsa.

Pushkinskaya Muzej (Pushkin Museum) - The great Russian poet lived in this former inn, called the Hotel du Nord, when he first was exiled to Odessa. The building dates from 1812, but was restored after war damage caused in 1941. The museum collection consists mainly of portraits of the beloved bard. Open 11 AM to 5 PM; closed Wednesdays. 13 Pushkinskaya Ulitsa.

Shopping: With Odessa's thriving black market, it's possible to finish your souvenir shopping without entering a single store. And in a country where demand consistently trounces supply, even aboveboard shopping more closely resembles the body bumping of sumo wrestling than the relatively tame sport we consider it to be in the West. Lingering too long over an item in a crowded shop without snatching it up only invites a blitz of body slams and elbow throwing from manic shoppers who rush the display case in droves. Even though customs may confiscate your beloved purchases upon exiting the country (check with Intourist before you buy antiques, art, jewelry, or anything else of cultural significance), you will nevertheless have sharpened your shopping skills.

Deribasovskaya Ulitsa is one of the main shopping thoroughfares. Podarki (33 Deribasovskaya Ulitsa) is a typical old Soviet-style souvenir shop that occasionally carries nice pieces of handmade jewelry and a variety of inexpensive Ukrainian and Russian items like ceramic mugs, woodenware, and other gift items. The Dam Knygy (Book and Music Shop; 25 Deribasovskaya Ulitsa) has an above average music department. Ceramics patterned after ancient Greek vases - perhaps the best-known Odessan souvenirs - are sold at the private stands set up in the parks along Deribasovskaya. The throngs of people you'll see at the Tsentralnyj Magazin (Central Department Store; 75 Deribasovskaya Ulitsa), however, are much more engaging than any of the merchandise found inside. The section labeled "souvenir," on the first floor, should be your main focus since it consists of a cluster of cooperative shops selling tourist-type gifts. Look for the long lines at the counters with a swarm of patrons to target things actually worth buying. But unless you speak Ukrainian or Russian or observe what is being bought, you may spend 45 minutes in line for toothpaste. The best strategy is to wander from counter to counter. Beyond Deribasovskaya, the Tsentralnyj Univermag (Central Department Store; 75 Pushkinskaya Ulitsa) has been known to yield an occasional treasure, despite its uninspired name. Art lovers may want to drop in on any one of several art galleries (cooperative and private) on Lastochkina Ulitsa, around the corner from Ukraina restaurant.

Sports and fitness: Like most of the cities along the Black Sea, physical pursuits in Odessa usually involve more fitness than sport - unless you consider sunbathing and taking medicinal baths competitive events. Odessa has a slew of beaches (though the water, so close to an industrial port, is said to be heavily polluted). One of the better spots is at Chernomorka, about 12 miles (19 km) from Odessa, which features a quartz sand beach. There is a café and a number of therapeutic treatment centers for children at this resort, which was formerly the German settlement of Lustdorf. The golden beach at Arkadiya Park, in the city's western region, is an ideal place to catch some rays. There is a summer theater there, plus a restaurant and an entrance to the catacombs.

There are more than 30 resorts (known here as rest homes), medicinal baths, and therapeutic beauty spas in the Odessa area that feature the mud and hydro treatments so popular in the countries along the Black Sea. Locals say that the secret ingredients in Odessa's water are the magnesium, lime, iodine, and bromine. The mud is rich in sulfur and purportedly is effective in the cure of rheumatic, nervous, and skin disorders. Try the Kuyalnitsky resort, located about 8 miles (13 km) from the city center, where a spa, mud baths, and lake with the most concentrated salt solution (up to 27%) of any in the Odessa area are the attractions. Also of interest is the Lemontovsky resort, located on the avenue of the same name, where there is a large park, rheumatic treatment center, and a terrace that leads down to the sea.

Theater: The Russkyj Dramatycheskyj Teatr Ivanova (Ivanov Drama Theater; 48 Karl Liebknecht Ulitsa) features Russian-language classics and some new works, with performances nightly. Next door is a musical comedy theater. The Teatr Yunogo Zritelya imeni Nikolaya Ostrovskogo (Ostrovsky Youth Theater; 12 Tchaikovsky Naberezhnaya) is named after the Russian playwright. Musicalna Comedia (3 Ezizekova Ulits) features modern operettas in Ukrainian, Italian, and other languages. Odessa is a good place to succumb to an evening at the circus; the Odessa Circus is one of the best (25 Podbelsky Ulitsa). The clowns, riders, and animals are superb.

Music: The piece de resistance is the Opera and Ballet Theater (8 Lastochkina Ulitsa), sometimes referred to as the Odessa Opera House, which was designed in the late
19th century by two Viennese architects and resembles a Vienna or Dresden court theater. The ceiling is decorated with colorful pastel scenes from the works of Shakespeare. Some of the greats, including Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, and Rubinstein, have performed here. The hall was the original building of the merchant stock exchange and is one of the most elaborate examples of the 19th-century architecture in Odessa, built in the Florentine Gothic style. As you tilt your head back, savoring the hall's sweet acoustics, notice the ceiling murals, which symbolize trade and industry.

Nightclubs and nightlife: Despite the fact that it's a port city, nightlife worth noting is hard to find in Odessa. Several hotels and restaurants offer what passes for entertainment - there are bars open until about 2 AM at the Chorne More Hotel (59 Lenina Ulitsa) and at the Londonskaya (11 Primorsky Bulvar) - and that's about it.

Eating out: Perhaps due to its status as a trader's town, Ukrainian, Central Asia, Caucasian, and Russian food are all popular here. Surprisingly (considering the level of entrepreneurship that is on display here), few cooperative restaurants have cropped up. The country's dramatically fluctuating economy makes it difficult to provide accurate prices for restaurants; we suggest that you check costs - and the operative exchange rate - immediately prior to your departure. The restaurants listed below accept only local currency (rubles at present time); none accept credit cards. Reservations are usually not required in Odessa restaurants (with prices climbing, fewer local residents can afford to go out to eat anymore). If you wish to reserve, stop by the restaurant earlier in the day. All telephone numbers are in the 048 area code unless otherwise indicated.

Café Gorsad - This intimate cooperative features local specialties such as pork shank and mushrooms baked in cream sauce. Conveniently located in the center of town. Open daily noon to 11 PM. 6 Chalturyna Ulitsa (phone: 254664).

Casino - Specialties at this Ukrainian dining establishment include soodak (roasted pike and perch pieces fried in butter and served with sour cream sauce and potatoes). There is a variety show in the evenings. Open 1 PM to 1 AM; closed Mondays. 16 Stantsia Bolshhogo Fontana (phone: 471582).

Gambrinus - A highly atmospheric beer cellar that's popular for its basturma (smoked meat) and fish dishes. Open daily 10 AM to 8PM. 31 Deribasovskaya Ulitsa (phone: 212911).

Kavkaz - A cooperative eatery serving Caucasian fare and featuring a variety show. Open daily noon to 5 PM. 10 Halturina Ulitsa (phone: 236173).

Ukraina - This large dining place serves Ukrainian and continental fare. Variety shows nightly, except Wednesdays and Thursdays. Open daily 11 AM to 11 PM. 12 Yekaterininskaya Ulitsa (phone: 257105).

U Pechesskago - Another cooperative eatery, this one serves continental fare and local Jewish specialties. There's a variety show, too. Open daily noon to 11 PM. Halturina Ulitsa (phone: 250395).

Adapted from the travel guide, Birnbaum's Eastern Europe 1993.


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