Odessa is supposedly Ukraine’s second most international city, but you wouldn’t know it from landing at the airport. The airport is old and run down and filled with Soviet-era aircraft.
The city itself though, while still showing spots of disrepair and poverty, largely shines in its beauty (right on the Black Sea!) and diversity (most people speak Russian, not Ukrainian, for example).
We arrived Wednesday afternoon and after exiting the terminal got approached by many folks asking, “Taxi?” It felt like India. I hate getting badgered by illegal taxi people.
We walked around that evening and found a nice place to eat that was ridiciously cheap but still pretty good. So cheap, in fact, that we double checked the dollar to griva conversion rate. Ah, 1 dollar to 5 griva. Life is good. We also popped in an orthodox Christian church — women all wearing headscarves, bowing over and over again. Yoikes.
I participated and spoke at a conference on corporate social responsibility the following morning, and then hung out at the beach that afternoon. The Odessa beaches are lovely. There are several easy restaurants / cafes overlooking the beach. The Black Sea looked good from afar though I hear it’s too dirty to swim in. We smartly paid 10 griva to a young kid to go get us some white chairs to sit on in the and — made it much more comfortable
The best part of my visit to Odessa was the main reason I’m even in Ukraine/Russia to begin with: judging and partipcating in a youth entrepreneurship event, here. About 10 teams from around the world came here to compete. I’ll blog more about this on my main blog, but suffice to say that the cultural exchange and stories and dancing were awesome. It’s always fun to spend time with people from other cultures and hear about their lives.
The final thing to say about Odessa is the fashion sense of the women. Here’s my post on my main blog about this. Simply put, it’s pretty skimpy. Maybe even slutty.
If you’re going to visit Ukraine for just a day or two, go to Kiev. Any longer, and Odessa should be on the list. It’s not a world class city, but it’s accessible, friendly, and interesting in its own ways.
So long, Odessa! So long, Black Sea!