Archive for March 7th, 2009

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Ukrainiana

March 7, 2009

This is probably one of the funniest and best blogs you will ever read about Ukrainian politics.

http://tap-the-talent.blogspot.com/

I’m loving this blog!!!!!

Oh and a bit of love to Condron.US while I’m at it!!!

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Odessa – Population Mix

March 7, 2009

The Ukrainian capitol, Kyiv, obviously attracts a varied bag of nationalities by reason of being……..the capitol.  Therefore Kyiv benefits from a reasonable number of national HQ’s from international companies, foreign students and a number of tourists like any other capitol.  

Fortunately for cities like Odessa, Kyiv also attracts the international “wanna-be’s”, “dead-beats”, “if only’s”, “gob-shites”, “con-artists”, “think they know-it all’s” and all the other types of foreigners which would make most normal people anally retentive if forced to be in their presence for more than 5 minutes.

Therefore, with drastically less English speaking job opportunities than Kyiv, Odessa retains far less people from “western europe” and the USA on a permanent basis than Kyiv……..which generally makes it a much better place to be if you are self-sufficient by way of work or money.

The population of Odessa Oblast (County), discounting the few permanent “western” foreigners here, is made up of approximately 26 rural districts, with 19 cities, 33 towns, and 1,139 villages. 

It has a much more mixed population in terms of nationality, compared to other regions in Ukraine. 133 nationalities reside here, and non-Ukrainian inhabitants make up more than 37% of the regional population. The main national groups are: Ukrainians (62.8%), Russians (20.7%), Bulgarians (6.1%), Moldovians (5.0%), Jews (0.6%), Gagausians (1.1%), Belorussians (0.5%), Poles (0.1%), Armenians (0.3%), Gypsies (0.2%), Tatars (0.1%), and Germans (0.1%). The greatest diversity in the national composition is observed in the South-Western part of the region between the Dniester and the Danube, where only 40.2% are Ukrainians.

These percentages obviously change significantly, especially in the City of Odessa, during the tourist season when the Russian, EU, USA and Canadian figures would increase dramatically……………….along with the chances of meeting obnoxious, over weight (in some cases), self-centred, self-opinionated, persistently complaining, socially challenged, passive/aggressive and egotistic Russian, US and EU citizens from which this city is usually devoid……..but even Kyiv deserves a break from them sometimes I suppose!

Odessa City, therefore benefits greatly from such a diverse long term population by way of the beautiful mosque, numerous ornate orthodox churches, more traditional catholic churches and…….well actually quite a boring (in comparison), if not functional looking Jewish Center intermingled with the architecture from several hundred years ago when it was a “free port” and hosted many foreigners.

In fact, credit should be given to the Odessa City Administration for keeping the City Centre as architecturally “pure” as they have……..unlike the Budaregion in Budapest which has become a disgrace in comparison to Pest on the other side of the river…………… ummmmm, no Budapest is in Hungary and not in Ukraine if you were thinking of going.

In fact it is strange, considering Odessa is a city with major ports, airport, good rail and road links, that almost all foreign companies locate in Kyiv………oh well their loss!

This is not to mention restaurants which mirror the population of the Oblast in diversity and culinary delights……Turkish, Georgian, Italian, French, Greek, Ukrainian, Polish, Armenian and Moldovan food (plus much more) can be found in Odessa.  What?……..yes…….. there is f*cking MacDonald’s, plenty of them.

The common language spoken by all in Odessa is Russian.  In fact it is quite rare to hear Ukrainian being spoken, although all official documentation produced by the “Odessa City Administration” is in Ukrainian as per the national diktat…………even though hardly anyone can read it!

Odessa also has a very popular international military academy and several international universities which adds to the cultural divergence all the year round…………not to mention cargo tankers and cruise liners from all nations calling on a regular basis.

Overall, Odessa is a very foreigner friendly place, even if hardly anyone will understand a single word you say!

 

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Man’s Best Friend

March 7, 2009

Dogs (and cats) fall into two general categories in Ukraine.  Pets and………….those roaming at large.

It cannot be denied, that in almost every residential and commercial area in Odessa you will see packs of dogs, sometimes in numbers well into into double figures roaming the streets and parks.

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For those not used to seeing packs of dogs roaming the streets, it can seem a little intimidating…….like a scene from Kojo or the cemetery scene in The Omen.

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Do not be alarmed – these dogs are streetwise animals.  You will often see them sat at traffic lights, waiting for the pedestrian crossing light to come on for them to cross the road.  Babooshka’s will feed them with scraps on a daily basis.  They are not at all likely to attack you.  

Many will sleep in shop doorways, including supermarkets, and are generally ignored by shop staff  and public alike.  Many a time I have even had to step over one to go into a shop!

Ukraine does have rabies and it would be wrong to lead you to believe that there is absolutely no threat but as yet I have not seen any attacks by these dogs or even felt threatened by them……………I have seen a pet dog attack someone here though……..but it was one of those “yappy” little rat type creatures, so hardly anything to write home about.  In fact I didn’t write home about it.

The vast majority of the dogs you see are in seemingly good health and well fed……..well if you live in a 40 square meter apartment with your family, quite often there just is not room for a dog, so you feed the ones outside your communial apartment block door……….well, you would………..wouldn’t you?

Obviously these dogs, being of a less domestic and managed nature, tend to breed more dogs………at any given opportunity…………….which have become quite hardy through the generations……..if not necessarily “pretty” to the eye.

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So to the would be tourist in Odessa, do not be alarmed, or even dismayed, by the site of  dogs in your path.  They will move when you get close enough…………….or if they are asleep, simply step over them.

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Odessa International Airport

March 7, 2009

Although, by definition it is an international airport, with flights going to and from Russia, Poland, Hungary and other EU destinations, do not be fooled by the title as to this airport being anything like a JFK or Heathrow.

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The airport is small……..very small.  On entry from the carpark, there is a small cafe in the right hand corner, a kiosk selling magazines opposite it and a door, behind which the customs officials sit and drink tea.  To the left is an open area which has a books stall and behind this, down the stairs to the public toilets.

There are several “airline operators” offices on the ground floor and up the stair are a few others.

There is no separate gates for flights, either internal or international due to the small amount of traffic coming to and leaving the airport. 

The flight gates are situated opposite you on entry to the airport, slightly to the right of the cafe.

Once going through these gates, to catch your plane…….and after the usual security checks and luggage hand-ins you enter the “duty free” area and waiting area.  This, in it’s entirety is not bigger than 120 square meters.

The duty free prices are actually more expensive than the Odessa shops………which will go some way to justify the reasoning of it being so small and holding very little “duty free items”.  “Odessa duty free” is seriously about as big as my living room.

Looking out along the airfield (or looking down when flying in) you will see abandoned military and civilian aircraft and helicopters rusting away in the grassed areas away from the concrete runways.

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When arriving in Odessa by plane, and being bused from the aircraft, you will be met by a line of four customs kiosk’s.  If you are lucky, 2 of these will have customs officers in them to process the checking of passports and immigration cards……..both of which are stamped on entry and half the immigration card kept by customs.

I have yet to meet a customs official that can speak English so fill in the immigration card on the plane and ask the flight attendants to help you complete them………..they are all written in Russian and have no English guide to help you.

You then get your bags from the collection point and go through the Xray machine…….if it is working………and if there is an official even looking at the monitor.

Due to the severe lack of English language skills, it is more likely anyone stopped by the customs officials will be Ukrainian in my experience…………although not a 100% guarantee.

Once you have accomplished this, you walk through the main hall and out into the carpark…………where you will be descended upon by a herd of local taxi drivers, driving anything from a 30 year old Lada to a new Mercedes S Class………….most of whom, again, have no English language skills.

We will discuss taxi’s in another thread.

At this point, welcome to Odessa!

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