As I roamed Odessa I was trying to work out why this city gives such a sense of well being. Is it the neat grid of streets laid out between the Black Sea and the Ukrainian Steppes, the catchment of so much wealth. Is it the human scale of the two storied classical terracing in the lesser streets that explode towards the centre into an extraordinary rich mix of Baroque and Renaissance which only wealth and 19th century historicism could so well? I don’t know but it works.

Every aspect of capitalism was encouraged. Plumbers to bankers were encouraged to come and make money. Land was given free and taken back if not used quickly. Able governors were a boon. Catherine the Great installed Richelieu and from then on it could not fail. Sustainable trees were shipped in from all over Europe sheltering the fine avenues and parks creating a garden city. Odessa thrived with know- how and wealth creation marching hand in hand with an understanding of what makes life civilized. Universities, hospitals, synagogues, churches, schools, superb opera house, botanical gardens and geographical fortune.

Don’t visit for cutting edge architecture. There is little art nouveau or obvious metal and glass. Don’t visit for the museums, although the archaeological museum (interesting gold trappings of Hunnish horse harness`) and the museum of Lore and History are worth a detour. Equally, take in the churches only at a glance to marvel at the human spirit. The Orthodox Church was blown up by the Soviets and has only recently been rebuilt. It is dull. It sits opposite a huge shopping mall full of Chinese copies. Take a tram to the beach but spend a little extra on a little private space. Go to the huge food market too. We hired a guide for the day and she was well worth her €100 which included a car and driver. By the way do bring guidebooks with you. We could only find one that was half –way decent. A Travel Guide. Odessa 2008 by Alexandr L. Grabovsky.

In spite of every horror that the 20th century threw at this remarkable city, the facades are being restored, the restaurants are as good and varied as any, as are the hotels. the passagiata in the Deribasovskaya..in the evenings complete with coaches, horses, stall holders and the most elegant women I have seen any where. From the UK it is quite difficult to get to. We happened to come via Riga and leave the city to go to Romania. At 5 a.m. our taxi asked if we wanted the private runway. I would have liked it!

Reality and Beyond are visit Yalta in late September, next year. We are offering to add on Odessa to those who wish. Let us know.


Hotel Bristol
Wonderful architecture and charming staff. The dining room over rococo-ed and a put off. The architect (whether Soviet or capitalist, it can be difficult to tell) should be dismissed with what has been done in the courtyard. The interior decorator went mad horribly mad in the dining room and lacked finesse in the bedrooms. Good hairdresser and designer clothes across the road. Smart Studio


Wonderfully sited and famous but still suffers from its 80s make over.

Well placed next the Opera. Plain simple rooms
Capital good restaurant and good rooms. All above not cheap.

Lots of good food. International or local. Service is very slow.

Airport. Taxis and getting to and from vary in cost hugely.
Guides books only one available.

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