What is like to live in Odessa Ukraine

Odessa: A city comes to life

Her name sounds like a beautiful legend, like a distant myth. Seen from close up, the Black Sea metropolis proves to be a city on the move at an accelerated pace, inspired by its own past

Curiosity about the mythical city

We are only a few hours in Odessa and we already know everything about love. At least about the unhappy one between the young Pushkin and the married Countess Vorontsov: the poet Pushkin was 23 when he had to work as an archivist here in exile, Countess Vorontsov was still very young and Count Vorontsov a mature gentleman - and governor of Odessa for the greening of the city and for the drinking water supply, he brought the port to flourish and the administration to flourish. And his wife succumbed to Pushkin. "Vorontsov must also have been boring, boring and businesslike," says Natascha. She is not only our translator, but also a specialist in interpersonal relationships, which is not surprising in Odessa. Because Odessa is primarily made up of feeling. There are entire websites full of declarations of love for the city - declarations of love from homesick Odessites who dream of returning. Because Odessa is not a city, but a creed.

Curiosity about the mythical city

Odessa's shine is still very fresh, the city has resurrected in the colors of the tsar's daughters: Russian green, butterfly yellow, lilac blue. And already not only crowds of Odessites return, but also people full of curiosity a city full of classical palaces, Belle Epoque nymphs, statues with empire waists and orthodox onion domes. Odessa is a mythical creature. Not Russian, not Ukrainian and never really been real socialist, that is what is very important here. However, you only have to scratch a little, and a piece of the Soviet Union shimmers through under the glittering, freshly painted facade. For example, when the old-fashioned tram drives by or people stand in line in front of a small, yellow tanker truck serving kvass, a sour-smelling drink made from fermented yeast. Or when you stand at the ticket office of the literary museum, where the cashier lives like in a living room, with photos of her loved ones, lace doilies and a pre-war telephone.

The sea lies below us, and acacia crowns arch above us. We walk in their shadow across Primorsky Boulevard, past the Pushkin monument, past with mirrored sunglasses and small diamonds over their navel. Next to them, schoolgirls with huge tulle bows, festive sashes and women's handbags hurry to the Potemkin Stairs, where they take their photos to celebrate their last day of school. From above, the stairs look inconspicuous, gray and repaired with 60s cement - very different from the colorful rest of the city and very different from Sergej Eisenstein's film "Battleship Potemkin".

A plump woman with pink lips comes towards us on the stairs. "A typical Odessite!" Says Natascha. International! Elegant! Just like the noble patron in the picture gallery, at the sight of whom Natascha stops as if struck by lightning: a portrait of a man, smoking, with an ivory cigarette holder and eyes, in which Natascha sinks and says: "That's him. A typical man from Odessa ! " Like many Odessites, Natascha was born in southern Russia. Russian is their mother tongue, Ukrainian is rarely spoken here.

The wonders of Odessa

Sure, Odessa is officially a Ukrainian city, once it belonged to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, but that never bothered anyone. Odessa has always been myth and legend. Isaak Babel, Odessa's most famous writer, wrote: "A thrifty, selfish Polish Jew comes to us, and we turn him into a gesticulating, quickly flammable and quickly calming Odessite." We are up with the lovesick poet Pushkin and the horned governor Voronzov have already made the acquaintance of two important personalities just a few meters from Primorsky Boulevard. Not far from here begins the Ekaterininskaya, one of the most important streets in the city, named after the founder of Odessa: Catherine the Great. In 1794 she commissioned her lover, Admiral De Ribas, to build the port. Odessa's splendid boulevard bears his name: Deribasovskaya, full of street cafes and specialty restaurants where you can eat boiled pig's ears. The street is full of artists, musicians and girls hoping to be discovered.

The wonders of Odessa

Natascha drives us on to the wonders of her city, to the monument of the unknown sailor, where not young pioneers, but girls with dreadlocks and slit mini skirts keep watch. She walks with us through the Moldavanka, the former Jewish quarter, where Isaak Babel was inspired for his "Stories from Odessa"; about mafia boss Mischka Japontschik, the role model for the literary hero Benja Krik. And not so long ago Viktor Pawlowitsch Kuliwar was shot here after leaving the sauna - a marble plaque with a cross and eternal light commemorates the godfather. And isn't Arkadia also a miracle, the gateway to paradise, four kilometers outside the city, where the beaches and the luxury hotels are, where rich Russians build their villas next to rest homes from the Soviet era? And where at night the girls dance in dry ice fog, naked, for paying guests?

But then Natascha pulls us into the Elias Church, where a priest celebrates the service in the midst of scaffolding and where there are handles on the glazed icons, icons that are very cloudy with kisses. Natascha teaches us the orthodox crucifixion: first head, then stomach, seat of life, right shoulder, left. She complains that you always have to stand in Orthodox masses. Totalitarian rulers always hated Odessa's diversity of German and Jewish settlers, Russians, Georgians, Italians, French and Armenians. The Bolsheviks expelled the French and Italians, Stalin the Black Sea Germans and the Greeks, the National Socialists the Jews. 100,000 Odessa Jews fell victim to the Holocaust.

The longing for the chosen one

Today the Odessites try to give the impression that totalitarianism was just an interruption in the middle of a sentence - a sentence that one would now like to finish in peace, following on from a tradition of tolerance. This is how Avraham Wolff, chief rabbi of Odessa and the whole of southern Ukraine, a Hasidic Jew with a black beard and a slouch, as the broad-brimmed hat is called in Yiddish, sees it. When Rabbi Wolff came to Ukraine from Israel in 1992, he was 22 years old and could not find ten Jews to pray on Shabbat. Today, on the other hand, Odessa is the city with the greatest Jewish flavor in the area of ​​the former Soviet Union, with two synagogues, a Jewish school and Jewish cemeteries. Many Jews are returning to their hometown. Because they were sick with longing in Brighton Beach or Tel Aviv. One of them is Igor Fruman. He's wearing a pinstripe suit. He was returning from Detroit, where his parents had emigrated with him. In Odessa he opened the "Otrada" hotel, the most elegant in town, with a pool and an Italian chef, with English leather armchairs and Japanese flat screens in Renaissance gold frames, with a VIP beach, VIP suites and VIP halls. The longing for being chosen is rampant in Odessa like a fever.

Many great musicians of the last century

But there are more miracles in Odessa. One of them is the Privoz market, where sweet cream is spread on the back of our hands to lick off, where the sausage counters are miles long and the vendors are queens. Queens who rule over a realm of raw rinds, Napoleon cakes and lightly salted Black Sea sprats with fly wags, blackberry-red lips and pink cotton candy hair. Queens who call you "my little fish", "my little bird" or "my piece of gold". Everything edible is sold at the Privoz market - Russian caviar, pickled mushrooms and cucumbers, pork feet for cold platters. And everything that is good for your health: goat fat to rub on the chest against colds, honey against athlete's foot.

Many great musicians of the last century

Natascha recommends the "7 Kilometers" market, where you can find everything from the fake Rolex to the wedding dress to the black men's leather jacket that is ubiquitous in Ukraine. At this point, Natascha finds it necessary to clarify something: that Odessa is more than buying and bargaining. After all, many great musicians of the last century came from here - David Oistrach and Nathan Milstein, Svyatoslaw Richter and Emil Gilels. They were all graduates from Odessa's Conservatory. And when you think about that, it's even more outrageous that the opera is still closed. With the highest artistic standards, students from the conservatory at the port play the violin when the cruise ships dock. No wallet is closed to your magic. And there, in the harbor, lies the "Druzhba", the sailing training ship of the Odessa Nautical School, and is hoping for affluent lovers.

It has been tied up in the harbor for a number of years, and the pontoon to which it is chained has almost rusted away. The lesson continues anyway. The cadets climb the masts and haul in sails without the ship moving. There is not much mooring in Odessa anymore, the only regular connection is to Istanbul, where many Odessites go to shop. The military port is like a ship graveyard, and most of the city's seafarers work abroad. Captain Konstantin Kremlyansky had also been hired on a Greek container ship - until he again answered the call of the "Druzhba", perhaps his greatest love. And he's been stuck ever since. There is a smell of men and food on board. Captain Kremlyansky has returned to Odessa to convey the love of the sea to the cadets - and to find half a million euros that he needs to get the "Druzhba" afloat again. "Some gamble that away in one night in the casino!" He shouts. It must be possible to find a couple of lovers. After all, the "Druzhba" is part of the soul of Odessa. When we go ashore again, Natascha is very quiet. And then she says, "That's true Libbe." Between a man and a ship and Odessa.

Info:Phone: Dialing code for Ukraine: 00380, 48 for Odessa

Money: 1 euro = approx. 6 Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH); 10 UAH = 1.65 euros

Language: Practically everyone speaks Russian, and you can get by with English

Travel time: It is most beautiful at the end of May, when the acacias are in bloom - in midsummer it can get very hot in Odessa.

Time shift: Plus 1 hour.

Entry requirements: No visa is currently required.

Getting there: The Polish Lot flies from Berlin or Frankfurt via Warsaw to Odessa, Austrian Airlines via Vienna, Malev via Budapest. The Ukrainian Donbassaero Airlines flies to Odessa directly from Munich

On road: In the center of Odessa on foot. Otherwise a taxi is sufficient, negotiate the price beforehand, because the taximeter is often not available or is switched off.

Embassy Ukraine: Albrechtstrasse 26, 10117 Berlin, Tel. 030-28 88 72 20

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