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 P&O Azura 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, (that’s them over to the left of the picture)steeped in history and scene of the infamous massacre in Sergei Eisenstein’s film, ‘The Battleship Potemkin’…


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.

Welcome to Odessa’s Catacombs…


In reality 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 disappears and entry with a guide is mandatory.


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 point…

…that demonstrated the levels and their respective heights more than adequately 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…


The Administration areas…


Sleeping arrangements…



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


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


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.

The staircase exits into a more modern annex of the 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 and 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’…






…an armoured train…








On completion of our visit to  the 411 Battery Park, which we found most interesting we now headed for what was affectionately known as ‘The Old Town’.

Odessa is very easy to navigate however, 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


It was an impressive building to start our tour of the ‘old city’.  The design resembles the Doge’s Palace in Venice and 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 unusual and  amazing multi sex toilet facility….


Innovative and most humorous to say the least.


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…





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 streets to see two unusual somewhat ‘quirky’ features of Odessa’s architecture. This interesting building appears to be just a facade or, as Yuriy described it, a film set piece…


W…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 ensured we made the most of our time in Odessa, including our requested tour of the catacombs which were truly amazing. 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

Thank you Yuriy, What a great guy.

If you have enjoyed this review of Odessa and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews including a return to Cunard’s Queen Victoria  plus  Solent Richard’s next guide  in his ‘One way to do…’ series,  why not join over 500  followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

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Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

2 responses to “One way to do Odessa

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