Odessa/Одеса/Одесса

I’m staying in Ovidiopol, Ukraine, which is about an hour’s ride away from the actual city. The house is very lovely, with a huge garden in the yard. There’s a lovely view of the sea (maybe? I also heard something about a lagoon, but I didn’t fully understand) that I’ll take a photo of tomorrow.
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Marina (the woman I’m staying with) and her family are very kind – Marina’s father, Dyadya Sasha (Uncle Sasha), drove me back from the airport, and her mother, Mama Tanya, made a delicious lunch/dinner when I got back. We had хлеб и соль (xleb i sol’, or bread and salt), which is traditional for welcoming people into a home and brings good luck for the trip. We also had borsh and kompot

They have 5 cats – this is my heaven. Two of them are brand new tiny baby cats, and they’re so cute! One of them is an orange cat, so they named it “red-haired” (which is one word and cuter in Russian – “ryzhiy”) and I couldn’t understand what the other one is named, so I just smiled and kept petting it. This morning (or, more accurately, 1pm when I woke up — oops), Marina’s (the lady I’m staying with) niece, Arina (Arisha, for short, which is the most precious diminutive I’ve heard) was there. She’s probably 6 years old or so. She brought out the little kitties, and showed them to me and petted them. We all went outside to look at the garden (SO MANY FLOWERS, so many berries) and Arina brought me a tiny bouquet – it was all very adorable.

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Marina and I took the “marshrutka” (sort of like a mix between a bus and a mini-van) to town, which takes about an hour. At first, I tried to look out the window and look at all the lovely sights, but eventually sleep took over and I napped for most of the ride. We walked around the city, looking at various “pamyatniki” (statues/monuments) to all the important people in the city’s history. Catherine the Great has a statue (as the tsarina who was in charge of the Russian Empire when the city was taken) where she stands above all the men who “helped her to get there” if you know what I mean.

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There’s another statue to a man (I don’t remember his name, unfortunately..) who is standing, facing the Black Sea. His hand is reaching out to guide those into the port, which I thought was sort of neat. Another statue, to Pushkin (the most famous Russian poet ever), which strategically places him with his back to the sea. I didn’t really understand the legend that Marina told me, but I’m sure it’s interesting.

The man who created Esperanto, L.L. Zamenhof, also has a statue. Strangely, the doors were locked, and we couldn’t get closer – but here’s his head.
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OH, and we also walked across this bridge, which was built in Soviet times, and it’s called “Tyoshin Bridge” (“Mother in law bridge”) because supposedly a Soviet officer used to have to walk very far to get down from the plateau, down to cross the street, and walk back up to the hill on the other side to see his mother-in-law. His response was to simply build a bridge across. Anyway, people started doing that thing where they put a lock with their names on it (on Valentines day, or their wedding day or something) and throw the key off the ledge as a symbol of their permanent love. Eventually, too many people were in love in Odessa, and the government had to take down some of the locks to make the bridge properly balanced again.

While walking, we also saw тонкий дом (“tonkii dom,” or “thin house”). Marina explained the joke that students who could not afford actual apartments rented rooms at the tonkii dom. The building is an optical illusion — such that from certain angles, it looks as if the building is nothing but one wall. There’s actually just a very sharp corner, but it is architecturally humorous nonetheless 🙂
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In the park, there were many men playing chess. Marina explained that they play not for fun, but for money – which explains the shouting and cursing. Unfortunately, I’m awful at chess, otherwise I might have tried to play.
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After just one day, I’m totally taken by the city. It’s so beautiful, I love the Russian and Ukrainian, and everywhere you look there is beauty and color.
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You can find some of my other photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/79897665@N04/

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