2nd Jun 2011 - Trail blazing Eastern Europe
A day in Odessa
We finally rolled into Odessa at about 5am. The bus terminal was located outside the main city and as it was dark and we were shattered we felt very disorientated and not sure what to do next!! We hadn’t got any accommodation booked and planned to spend the day in the city and get the sleeper train overnight to Kiev. We decided to take a taxi to the train station as that was central and we knew where we wanted to walk around from there! Easier said than done, nobody speaks English and the taxi driver had trouble understanding our crap Russian accents when asking for the station! All the maps are in Cyrillic so it was hard for us to get our point across! Eventually a young man who must’ve felt really sorry for us understood our Russian for ‘train station’ and told the taxi driver to take us to the station. The taxi guy was old and grumpy and I think he was just trying to be difficult and not take us!!
At the station we got some coffee and dumped our bags at a storage facility. We booked the sleeper train for Kiev that night and decided to wander… We were so tired we thought we’d find a hostel and grab a few hours sleep seeing as it was still so early in the morning and nothing was open anyway! Finding a hostel was quite hard too, the hotels we found were stupidly overpriced and for just a few hours we figured the cheaper the better! There was a hostel marked in the guide book that we went off to find, alas after an hour of trying to understand the street signs and more than a few cross words with each other we couldn’t find this dam hostel! We were in the courtyard where the hostel was supposed to be (it’s obviously a certain guide books fault and not ours)! A kindly looking old babushka (Old Russian woman) offered us a bed and shower in her dingy looking flat; by this point we were so tired we thought oh bollocks we might as well sleep here for a bit! She came back with some pillows and we went in – it was disgusting in there the bed was bare and the walls were damp and it was dark, but still that’s how tired we were that we didn’t even care! Then she said 100, so we went to give her 100 Ukrainian hryvna (about 7quid) and she looked pretty pissed off and then said 100 DOLLARS! As in 100 American dollars!! We were cracking up and then realised she was being deadly serious! So as politely as we could muster we told her to stuff her dingy hole and were still in hysterics that she seriously wanted 100 dollars for a few hours sleep here when the fancy 5* hotel down the road wanted 50dollars!!
That certainly woke us up; I suppose hats off to the old dear for the audacity! I even got bitten by bed bugs just sitting on that bed for 5 minutes so I’m glad we didn’t sleep there! I was starting to feel really itchy, it started on the bus and was getting worse; Ben said he felt the same and then on closer inspection we discovered that we both had fleas crawling on our heads and clothes! YUK!!! So the bus journey from hell gave us fleas as well! Great!! We stopped at a café and had some breakfast and another bucket load of coffee!
We decided to plough through the day and see the sights that we wanted to see in Odessa and then to go back to the train station where we had noticed a hostel above the station for a few hours sleep and a well needed shower before getting the sleeper train. So buzzing on coffee we walked round the city. We saw the infamous Potemkin steps - Odessa’s most iconic symbol, (Primorsky Stairs), is a vast staircase that conjures an illusion so that those at the top only see a series of large steps, while at the bottom all steps appear to merge into one pyramid-shaped mass. We also viewed the beautiful Vorontsov’s palace and another highlight – the Odessa Opera & Ballet Theater - a grand Renaissance-era theater finished in 1887 which still hosts a range of performances. The theater is regarded as one of the world’s finest and was certainly quite an impressive building. The port is really busy and industrial, being one of the biggest on the black sea.
We finally gave up sightseeing as the coffee wore off and went back to the station – luckily the Train Station Hostel (how originally named) had a private room free so we got some sleep and spent ages scrubbing the fleas off in the shower! It was disgusting you could even see all the tiny black dots of the fleas in the bottom of the shower as it drained so that was pretty grim! Even after 6 days at Glastonbury festival I have never felt that dirty!!
So Odessa was a pretty city, full of character and charm, yet difficult to navigate if you don’t read Cyrillic or speak Russian! It was even worth the bus journey from hell so that is saying something!