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About Odessa Ukraine - Tourism Information, City History and Facts

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Odessa Information
Odessa History

Odessa - legendary city of the former Soviet Union. City of romance, art, humor, poems, theaters and museums. Odessa is a very special city - city with its own very special culture. Our city is our life! Odessa is situated in Eastern Europe, at the Black Sea coast. It is a very important port and one of the most beautiful cities in the Republic of Ukraine and all of Europe. Odessa itself is full of historical, architectural, cultural and scientific interest, proud of its past and its traditions. With a reputation for big city adventure, sunshine, laughter and sophistication, the locals have always considered themselves Odessites first, and Russians, Soviets or Ukrainians second.

What is it that makes Odessa so unique? Some say the answer lies in the city's celebrated cosmopolitan mix of nationalities, which has historically seen large Jewish, Greek, Russian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian populations mixing freely with any number of sailors and visitors from around the world. Fashions and foreign goods have always been more plentiful in Odessa than elsewhere in the Slavic world, and this has helped foster something of an 'Odessite' identity among locals. In the nineteenth century while the rest of the Russian Empire trundled on under a backward and oppressive administration Odessa always played the role of colorful window on the world, and the city has maintained an air of freedom about it to this day. Even the town's first governor Duke de Richelieu was a Frenchman, and until the revolution Odessa attracted its fair share of European aristocrats as well as a healthy mix of playboys and international scoundrels. None are more celebrated than Grigory Potemkin, that emperor of rascals who bedded Katerine the Great as well as ruling her southern domains for her. The Russian literary giant Pushkin fell famously in love in Odessa, and the most moving and celebrated of all Soviet-era films, Sergey Eisenstein's 'Potemkin Steps' was shot on location here.

Each city has it own place of mostly pronounced originality. For Odessa, undoubtedly it would be Potemkin Stairs, a landmark entrance into the city from the direction of the sea.

Other must see landmarks of Odessa include The Opera and Ballet House, which is among Ukraine’s greatest architectural monuments. Rated as one of the finest of its kind in the world, and ranked in the same league as the Vienna Opera House and other pearls of European architecture. It is every visitor’s duty to visit this building to see its beauty for yourself.

ODESSA LIFE  

Laughter, or to be more precise sharp-wittedness, is something of an everyday obsession in self-proclaimed humor capital Odessa. The giggles reach a crescendo at the annual 'Yumorina' comedy festival, which brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to Odessa from across the old USSR every April Fools' Day. Much of this reputation for originality and wit is tied in with the port city's famous Jewish connection, and the multitude of set-piece jokes involving the ubiquitous 'Rabinovych' and thousands of more convoluted Jewish anecdotes still enjoying huge popularity.

Like everything else in Odessa, the local ladies are also considered quite exceptional and not at all like other Ukrainian women. They local lore here runs that when Odessa was first settled by an aristocrat adventurer and lover of Katherine the Great Grigory Potemkin, he personally made sure that the finest prostitutes and courtesans of the imperial court were sent down in a bid to attract immigrants. A more sober judgment would suggest that the international mix of nationalities is at the root of the local Odessa ladies’ flamboyant charms, but it is not nearly as interesting a story, and so would no doubt hold little appeal to yarn-spinning Odessites.

Odessa's mild climate, warm waters and sunlit beaches attract thousands of people year around. Its shady lanes, beautiful buildings and cozy squares impart to the city a certain air of intimacy. Odessa is simply enchanting with its marvelous architecture. The city proved itself fertile ground for various architectural styles. Some buildings display a carious mixture of different styles, and some are built in the Art Nouveau Style which was in vogue at the turn of the century. A number of other buildings were done in Renaissance or Classicist styles which again returned to flavor early this century.

Aside from its rich history, Odessa has often been labeled by many as the biggest and best party in Ukraine. Its proximity on the black sea allows easy access for tourists from the Mediterranean region as well as an International airport that is a mere ten minutes away from the city center assures the nightlife and the beaches are at a boiling point during the summer's peak months. The jewel of Odessa's Nightlife is Arkadia Beach, a nonstop party locale with restaurants, bars and clubs and, of course, a lovely stretch of sand and sea. Above the beach, the patios of dozens of theme restaurant, bars and clubs provide shady spots from which to people-watch and take in the scenery. Sample delicious local seafood or various ethnic cuisines while also enjoying ice-cold beer or cocktails. The best tables are often reserved, but good service and smiles are not uncommon here. After the sun has set the music takes over and the Arkadia strip comes alive with dancing and nightlife, becoming what some call the biggest party in Ukraine. In the wintertime, the nightlife does not let up a bit; it simply shifts downtown where there are numerous clubs, cafes and lounges awaiting its raring clientele.

GETTING HERE

Odessa is one of the few Ukrainian cities to boast regular international flights, and it is also an easy destination to reach by rail and road. More adventurous types might favor a cruise to Odessa, but you would need plenty of free time to be able to write off the seven to ten days that it would take you to sail down from Kiev.

A new visa regime, introduced in Ukraine in September 2005, allows visitors from United States and European Union to travel Visa-Free to Ukraine if their stay does not exceed 90 days.

Once you're in town getting around central Odessa is remarkably easy. The city was laid out in the late 1700s and early 1800s along the lines of the model being employed at the time by the newly-independent Americans, with streets lined up at right-angles to each other to form a grid pattern. As a result much of downtown Odessa can be easily navigated, block by block, with everything stretching out from the city's central strip, Deribasovskaya. This famous street has been featured in a thousand of books, films and songs, and remains one of the most celebrated in Ukraine. Odessites are passionate about Deribasivskaya, and a trip to town cannot be complete without at least an hour spent strolling here or people watching from one of its many outdoor and indoor cafes.

Make sure you keep an out for street names as you stroll round town, as the names of Odessa's roads reflect the city's cosmopolitan roots. You can find French boulevard, Italian boulevard, Jewish street and Greek square around the city centre, to name but three. This in turn has spawned an international outlook quite at odds with the insular attitudes fostered by the Soviets.

Portions of article by Lora Osipenko of Katamaran Tours.

Useful Facts

Climate

Odessa has a relatively warm, comparatively dry climate with long summers and temperatures averaging 22 degrees Celsius during the summer months. There are more than 290 sunny days in the year. Winters are short and mild with an average temperature of around freezing point. Falling snow and temperatures below minus 10 Celsius are rare.

Population

General population of Odessa is more than 1.2 million. In comparison with other Ukrainian regions, the Odessa region has a significantly more mixed population in terms of nationality. There are over 100 nationalities residing in Odessa. The main national groups are: Ukrainians 50%, Russians 30%, Bulgarians 6%, Moldovans 5%, Jews 4% and various others making up the remaining 5% of Odessits.

Currency

Ukraine 's currency, the "hryvnia" (abbreviation: UAH). Bills come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 hryvnias (higher values exist but are impractical as cash money), and coins exist in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 kopecks, as well as 1 hryvnia, where 100 kopecks = 1 hryvnia. Ukraine's currency has been enviably stable the past five years and is tied to the dollar. Because of the amount of US dollars and euros in circulation in Ukraine, exchange booths can be found all over any busy section of town. Rates are generally as good as or better than in banks, and the service is quicker.

NEXT: Odessa Attractions



Odessa Port


Odessa Duke


Pushkin City Hall


Potemkin Steps


Odessa Opera Theater










Odessa City Life


Odessa Ibiza Girls


Otrada Beach


Arkadia Beach


Odessa Ibiza


Odessa Girls







Odessa Train Station




Odessa French Boulevard




Deribasovskaya










Odessa Night Beach



Odessa Girls on Yumorina




Ukranian Hryvnia


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