Archive for March 16th, 2009

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Club Ibiza – Odessa

March 16, 2009

Probably the most famous……or infamous night club in Odessa is Ibiza!!

It is situated on the beach in Arcadia…….the summer season open air nightclub centre for Odessa.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIM-OpYTFlw

There are numerous other open air nightclubs around this club…….which I guess I will have to talk about in blogs of their own.  Suffice to say, Ibiza is classed as the best one for lovers of Dance and Trance music………or for those who just like to see hundreds of very attractive, semi-clad young women gyrating in front of their eyes.

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It is, without doubt, the Mecca for the young holidaying in Odessa.  After all, what do you do on a night after spending all day semi-naked laying around in the sun?…….Well, the likes of you and I would probably be applying “After-Sun” like there is no tomorrow and wondering just how we went so bloody red after only a few hours……but not these kids.

ibiza-nightclub-5-good

This place is for those who sleep until 2pm, wander down to the beach, wear as little as possible (to the point where any self respecting male will tan his back, to hide “what lays beneath” and don the darkest “shades” possible……so nobody can tell what…….or more to the point, who……he is looking at).

You would say Club Ibiza rocks!!!……..if it actually played rock music I guess.  Probably better to say it “throbs”……in more ways than one if you are a heterosexual male!!!

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Getting to Arcadia is easy.  Several buses are dedicated to finish their journey in Arcadia.  If you need to get a taxi, then just mention the name of the club, Arcadia or the Russian Consul……which is 5 minutes walk away.  Obviously the buses and taxi become scarce after a certain time……..but as Ibiza doesn’t “get going” until around midnight and “throbs” on through until the sun comes up again…..even if you can’t get a bus or taxi when you have “tranced yourself into oblivion”…….you can always sleep on the beach for a few hours and work on that tan………after all, it’s not like you were wearing much to go out in the night before!!!

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Potemkin Stairs – Odessa (aka Primorsky Stairs)

March 16, 2009

The Potemkin Stairs are probably on beaten in the “fame league” by the Odessa Opera House.  Both are situated in the same area of Odessa…….and this area of Odessa is simply stunning.

Originally the stairs were called The Boulevard Steps and are also known as The Richelieu Steps or The Giant Staircase or The Primorsky Stairs.  There is a statue of Richilieu at the top of the steps.  (He was a Frenchman and first Governor of Odessa……..even though the statue has him in a Romanesque style toga, which he obviously didn’t wear in his day….well maybe he did at some “adult theme party’s”, but not to go out in the street in). 

statue-stairs

Whatever name you use for them, they are grandiose in design and give the impression they are much bigger than they actually are.  This has been achieved by the cleverness of the original architect, Mr Buffo, back in 1825, with the capable assistance of several architects from St Petersburg called Messers Avraam, Melnikov and Pote.

Effectively, the optical illusion is created by the top step being 12.5 meters (41 feet) wide and gradually getter wider (with several plateaus in between) to a bottom step which is 21.7 meters (nearly 71 feet) wide…….quite clever when wanting to make something look “bloody impressive and disproportionately long”…….even if it is an optical illusion used by many an artist.

The illusion is helped by the fact when standing at the top and looking down, you see only the plateaus…..but when at the bottom, looking up you see steps,….. more steps……. and nothing but steps!!  (This of course leads to those who are faint of heart taking the new, well 2004, free escalator at the side).

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How many steps are there?  Originally there were 200, the staircase is 27 meters high (or 89 feet) and goes on (and on and on) for 142 meters (or 486/487 feet). 

I say 200 steps originally, in 1933, the original sandstone steps were replaced by granite due to erosion……and mysteriously there is now only 192! 

There are 10 plateaus on which to get your breath and admire the view.

another-stairs-looking-up

Anyway, as I have said, the steps were designed in 1825 but they were not actually built until 1837……..and were not completed until 1841.  The engineer in charge was a “Brit” called Mr Upton……..who had actually “done a runner” from the law in the UK at the time.  Nothing like keeping a low profile eh?

Anyway, the point of the stairs was not only to look “bloody impressive”….which they do, but as Odessa City is on a plateau some way above sea level, and therefore the harbour/port is some way below it, so they were actually put there for very practical purposes…..particularly if you were the poor sod unloading a ship a few centuries ago!

The original view must have been amazing.  It is still good today, even considering the Hotel Odessa now sits centrally in view when looking across the sea from the top.

stairs-looking-down-odessa-hotel

Alas, however, when you get to the bottom and meet the road there, opposite you is a particularly ugly car showroom.  Mind you, cross the road, go up a few steps next to the showroom and you are walking out towards the harbour, Hotel Odessa, marina and cruise liner/ferry docks…..which restores your feeling of being surrounded by beauty, both natural and man-made somewhat! 

Then, of course, you turn around to marvel at the steps once more…….. before starting your monumental climb back into the City!!

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Odessa Opera House

March 16, 2009

Where to start – Odessa Opera House  is iconic.  It is the most famous building in Odessa.  In fact it is world famous.  There is simply nothing as famous or as beautiful in Odessa as this building……..followed closely by the Potemkin Steps/Stairs I suppose………but they, in my opinion are nowhere near as awe inspiring as this building.

odessa-opera-house-outside-use

The whole of the area in which the Opera House sits has been “sculpted” (it feels a better word than designed, built, architecturally matched) to carry on the beauty and opulence of this building.  This area of the city is simply jaw-dropping and is a match for anything in Venice, Rome, Paris or any other old European city.

Sitting in on the patio of my friends hotel (The Mozart), this building is directly across the road and provides the perfect ambiance for drinking a cappuccino and smoking a nice cigar in the sun.

It is obviously a place where newly wed couples go and have their photographs taken, although the beauty of this building makes even the prettiest bride (and they are pretty here) pale by comparison………except, obviously, my wife…….on the off-chance she reads this!!

Anyway, the Opera house which stands today is not the original which was built in the early 1800’s and opened in 1810.  That was burned to the ground in 1873.

The new opera house…..I say new, it was built in 1887  and was designed by Messers Helmer and Fellner.  As a builder I must morn the day when architects such as these passed on and we were left with those who created such monstrosities as the “Two Columbus Circle” in New York  – oh well!

Anyway, Helmer and Fellner (who hailed from Venice) created the existing “Baroque” style Opera House in Odessa.  The interior is “Rococo/LouisXVI (that’s 16th)” at it’s finest with  richly decorated, gilded stucco figures and designs.  The acoustics are such that even whispers on stage can be heard throughout the hall……..eat your heart out Sydney Opera House!!!

odessa-op-2-inside-stairs

The Opera House was again damaged by fire in 1925, although this time the damage was far less extensive…..but apparently very costly to repair even then.

The building, somehow, miraculously managed to remain unscathed throughout WWII, with the exception of slight damage to one corner from an enemy shell.

The building was once again given a comprehensive (and very expensive) “face lift” during 2007-2008 due to subsidence in 1998 which caused an 18 centimeter (7 inch) crack in the eastern corner of the building.

Seating 1636 people, it is now open to the public again,  and looks like the $ millions which have been spent on it in the past few years.  This is a “must see” in Odessa…….and even better to actually go and see an Opera here (tickets at the kiosk only), even if you don’t like Opera……oh and while you’re at it, pop across the road and have a cappuccino at my friends hotel!!

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The Catacombs – Odessa

March 16, 2009

OK – This is a “must do” tour for those interested in World War II.  The Catacombs are long……very long!  Kilometers of them……many, many kilometers of them.  They run under the City of Odessa and out into the surrounding areas in a labyrinth that only the Minator would be able to navigate. 

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Why are they so long?  (They are longer than those in both Paris and Rome…..even if not so old).  Well it is because the sandstone has been used to build the majority of the City Centre buildings going back way into the 19th Century and is still used today by those who build houses………that’s a lot of sandstone people.  The best guess is about 2,500 kilometers of catacombs now exist under Odessa, of which about 1,700 kilometers has been studied and mapped.  In certain places, the catacombs drop to 50 meters below Sea Level.

The claustrophobic need not worry, the height of the tunnels range from 1.5 to 3.5 meters high and are between 2.5 and 4 meters wide………and there is much more chance of a global collapse in finance than a collapse of the catacombs.  What?…..The global finances have collapsed?……..See I was right, the catacombes are still there!!!!!

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Before a paragraph or two on the WWII use of the catacombs, they have a local history which relates to the black economy by way of smuggling of contraband, slaves and the smuggling of local women to Constantinople in centuries gone by.

During WWII, thousands (and I means thousands) of pesky partizans seeking to upset the Third Reich hid in this maze, blocking and hiding entrances and exits and smuggling in water, food, explosives and munitions.  This was not just a male affair and the thousands which hid there included women and children too.

When taking the catacomb tour (and you only see a few kilometers of it) you can see the mens and womens quarters, old typewriters, rifles, graffiti (pro-Soviet and anti Nazi obviously) for yourself.  I have yet to find an English speaking tour guide for this tour so it will be necessary to either know Russian or take along somebody who is bilingual to make the most of this tour…….unless you get lucky and find an English speaking tour guide of course.

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Yeh, I know, thousands of people living in holes under Odessa…..big deal.  Well they did live there for 2.5 years!!!!!  Odessa is devoid of forest and other places to hide so for the Partizans it was a case of live in the Catacombs (and pop out for the odd sabotage and espionage session) or be shot.

Hmmm – OK but I bet there weren’t really thousands of people…….maybe a hundred or so.

Well, wrong again…….there were 5 Partisan “organsiations” (what do you call a collection of orderly Partisans?) and 45 other groups, totalling 6,000 people that operated in these tunnels during WWII.

Since the end of the War, the catacombs have become a major tourist attraction, initially one seen by candlelight.  There was a tragic event a few decades ago, when some a*sehole filled them with gas, causing the deaths of many children on a tour (my wife remembers the incident) but these days, the tour areas are lit by electric lighting……..and are obviously gas free!!

There is a “museum” at the end of the catacomb tour (again Russian language only) with photographs of those who “resisted” from the catacombs, photographs from the time and several monuments honouring their activities.

As I said at the start of this blog, for the WWII boff’s/nerds amongst you this a is must see tour!

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Eu-Wan Chinese Restaurant – Odessa

March 16, 2009

The Eu-Wan Chinese restaurant is located on Ulitsa Koroleva near the supermarket on the roundabout with Ifra Petrova.

It does not look like much when walking down the street and the fake grass outside gives it an unnecessary tackiness.

The food is the best Chinese I have found in Odessa……….although I had a big clue………the Chinese community eat there and the Chef’s are actually Chinese and not Ukrainians with a Chinese cook book.

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The food is cheap, plentiful and very good……..but like I say, the best judge of Chinese cooking must surely be the Chinese – so when they are eating there then it can’t be too bad can it!

The restaurant is quite small and will seat no more than 30 people and is simply a restaurant.  There is no annoying live music or DJ………just good food.

There is a problem however.  For some unknown reason, the Ukrainian owners do not use the “internationally recognised” names for the dishes available.  They do traditional Chinese food like “Chow Mien” and “Fu Yung”…..but it is under a completely different name on the menu……..which caused me problems initially.  No, not because the menu is only in Russian but because I know my Chinese food by the same name the Chinese know their food…even when it is spelt in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Asking the Ukrainian waitress and owner for “Chow Mien” was a pointless exercise so they sent out one of the Chinese Chef’s who instantly recognised what I wanted……because it was the Chinese word for the food….obviously.

The menu does have photographs of the dishes available though………even if the name has no resemblance to how we name the food, so you can make a reasonably educated guess.

chow-mien

Not much else to say about this restaurant – great food, small and quiet, authentic Chinese Chef’s serving authentic Chinese food but it is let down by the tacky astroturf outside and a menu which has renamed the Chinese dishes making it somewhat of a lottery as to what you think you ordered and what you have actually ordered, unless you can speak to the Chef yourself……………not that it really matters because I adore Chinese food!!!

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