One way to do Odessa

Continuing my series of ‘One way to do…’ here is an offereing from one of the Black Sea ports we visited on our recent Azurs cruise. Hope you enjoy it, feel free to ask any questions.

On my our recent Azura Black sea Cruise we were fortunate to call at the Crimean port of Odessa. This was to be our first visit to Odessa and we were determined to make the most of it. Odessa is a fairly large port and not exactly attractive to approach by sea. However, as we neared the centre with it’s very conveniently cruise terminal, the first real site we spotted was the Potemkin Steps, steeped in history and scene of the infamous massacre in Sergei Eisenstein’s film, ‘The Battleship Potemkin’…

Azura arrival with Potemkin steps

We were very keen to visit the famous Catacombs of Odessa and had made this our priority. Following considerable research we settled to employ a local guide from the ‘Toursbylocals’ organisation and fell we were very lucky to have teamed up with Yuriy. More about Yuriy later.

We were now making a habit of being first off the ship and lo and behold, there at the bottom of the gangway to greet us was Yuriy. We headed off immediately towards the museum entrance of the Catacombs, some 30 minutes drive from the ship’s berth. The route took us through the heart of Odessa and Yuriy gave an excellent commentary on the sites we passed, the culture and the history of Odessa, and an interesting resume of himself. Additionally he gave us a history of the Odessa Catacombs which are a network of some 3000 kilometres of tunnels that consist of three levels, stretching out under the city and surrounding region. The majority of the catacombs are the result of stone mining for the construction industry and most of the city’s 19th century houses were built of sandstone mined from the region. The Catacombs reach a depth of 60 meters below sea level.

Barbara and Yuriy at Catacomb entrance

Only one small portion of the catacombs is open to the public, within the “Museum of Partisan Glory” in Nerubayskoye, north of Odessa. Even so, when one considers that these are the largest catacomb system in the world, this small portion has to be taken in perspective. Once inside any sense of depth or direction soon disappear and entry with a guide is mandatory.

Relatively broad passageways

Yuriy explains relative distances above and below ground…

Yuriy explains relative distances above and below ground

…before we descended to the mid level where, in order to get the true perspective, Yuriy found a position that demonstrated the levels and their respective heights more than adequately…

Illustrating the distance between levels one and two

…where the upper and mid tunnels can be viewed very clearly.
Of course the main thrust of our visit, apart from actually experiencing this amazing complex of tunnels, was to understand how they now form such a integral part in Ukrainian history and in particular the manner in which they were used by the ‘Partisans’ during the WWII. That is what the museum is really all about and fascinating it is too.
We wandered for some two hours through this fascinating maze of tunnels, seeing where and how the partisans operated…

Their kitchens…

Yuriy explains the kitchen areas

Administration areas…

Administration area

Sleeping arrangements…

Typical bed for up to 6 partisans

…and this emotional warning, near one of the entrances, to would be invaders…

Blood for Blood Death for Death

Translated it reads ‘Blood for Blood, Death for Death’.

Communications centre

It is only at the end of the tour that one really realises how deep you have been when a spiral staircase has to be climbed to exit the catacombs. However, the staircase exits into a more modern annex of the museum…

The modern Museum

…which depicts the pride and struggle of the Ukrainian people during the dark days of WWII.

On the subject of the Pride and struggle of the Ukrainian people, no good tour of Odessa would be complete without a visit to another of their memorials to the struggle, 411 Battery.

Originally the site of land based seaward defences it has now been turned into another memorial but using not just the weaponry and ancillary equipment of WWII but a succession of military hardware from what we in the West would refer to as ‘The Cold War’.

411 Battery image 4

411 Battery 1

411 Battery 2

411 Battery image 5

411 Battery image 6

411 Battery image 7

411 Battery image 8

Having found the 411 Battery Park most interesting we now headed for what was affectionately known as ‘The Old Town’. Once parked up this district of Odessa is very easy to navigate but, like most historical city areas, a guide that is capable of giving a full description of the pertinent buildings and historical relations is essential.

Yuriy was brimming with enthusiasm for what was in store for us: and he didn’t disappoint. He certainly knew Odessa and that included the best parking slots.  Very conveniently we were soon with a stone’s throw of Odessa’s Philharmonic Society building

An impressive building to start our tour of the ‘old city’. Fine the visitor may think but Yuriy had another surprise in store before we moved on.

For underneath the Philharmonic Society is a fascinating bar complex with, and one has to witness it to believe it, the most most amazing multi sex toilet facility.  Absolutely innovative and most humorous.

There was no doubt that Odessa has some beautiful buildings and is steeped in history, so here we go on a whistle stop tour…

Centrally this area of the city is dominated by the Odessa Opera House…

Odessa Opera House front aspect

Odessa Opera House

The Archaeological Museum

The Statue to Catherine the Great

The Pushkin Statue in Primorsky Boulevard

The very ornate Bristol Hotel

 

…and the view looking down the Potemkin Steps with Azura as a back drop…

I  can  only  repeat, Yuriy certainly knew his Odessa and his knowledge on all matters was exemplary.

Nothing was too much for him to explain, including a potted history surrounding the statue of the Duke of Richelieu…

As an amusing interlude he took us through a number of back street to see two unusual features of Odessa’s architecture. This interesting building appears to be just a facade or, as Yuriy described it, a film set piece…

While this one, locally referred to as ‘The Biscuit House’ gives the impression of a four storey building. Maybe from the outside but, in matter of fact,  internally it boasts eight floors.

Yuriy got us back to our ship having made the most of our time in Odessa. His enthusiasm and knowledge were  amazing and  he achieved  everything we  asked  and he gave us so  much more.

Our comprehensive day and Yuriy’s services came to £200.00 including admission fees but not gratuities.

Yuriy can be emailed on    odessatour@list.ru

Thank you Yuriy, What a great guy.

xxxx

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