As I stepped out of the shower this morning, I could hear music outside. There on the quayside a band had arrived and were playing songs from the shows. Just the thing for 7.30am on a Monday morning! We dressed quickly and stood on our verandah listening for a few minutes before breakfast.
Welcome to Odessa!
Gettiing off the ship and leaving the port behind, the first sight is the most memorable: The Potemkin Steps. We climbed to the top, from where we took a look around the city centre.
It’s a fine, leafy city with tree lined boulevards. The Soviet tradition of encouraging the arts with young people is alive and well and everywhere we walked in this green city, there were groups of youngsters painting very impressive images of local buildings.
Though the city is smart and bustling, the occasional hint of earlier times is evident. A small, elderly woman tended the dusty earth around the statue of Pushkin.
Quite why this woman was carrying an electric kettle shoulder high along one of the smart streets is a mystery. A new trend, perhaps?
The Opera House is a fine building. We were told later that Odessa is built on limestone, with the characteristic caves and fissures we know only too well. (Our garden contained one such cave for several years, until we “dealt with it”) The Opera House had suffered some subsidence but a nearby glass factory poured molten glass into the cave beneath it, thereby rescuing the structure and providing more secure foundations.
We loved the parks and gardens, which were full of youngsters playing in the sunshine.
We tried to practise reading cyrillic script with little joy, except for the obvious ones.
A few grand houses remain and we were able to visit them in the afternoon. This ceiling is in the Tolstoy House – a relative of the author, we understand.
The grand interiors were slightly faded, but these mansions are in regular use, for performances and symposia. There was a piano in every room and we were told that children are encouraged to come and play.
I admired the parquet/marquetry floor, looking closely to check whether those intricate patterns were stencilled or cut in. They were indeed cut in and each piece perfectly placed. Remarkable workmanship.
Having paid our respects to the city’s Godmother, Catherine, we went to one more mansion, now used as a literary museum and performance space.
I especially liked the way precious documents and books had been artfully displayed. So much more attractive than lined up in a glass case.
By this time, we were getting a little overheated and it came as a welcome relief to enter an airconditioned room, glass of champagne in hand, to listen to a group of virtuoso violinists.
Their talent was considerable, the music a fine way to end a great day in Odessa.