The Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet.

Odessa, sister city of Szeged

Pearl with a cosmopolitan soul

Odessa is the top tourist destination of the Black Sea and the maritime capital of Ukraine. Thanks to its network of seven ports, the city is an international logistic hub.

With a population of almost exactly a million, Odessa is famous for its cultural heritage, a sophisticated gastronomy and the sparkly nightlife, which has earned it the monicker the “Pearl of the Black Sea”. Above all, its worldwide fame is due to director Sergei Eisenstein’s cinema milestone “Battleship Potëmkin”, 1925, with the haunting scene of the massacre on the outdoor stairway, opened in 1841 and still Odessa’s main landmark. The silent film is considered a masterpiece of Soviet cinema and propaganda.

Odessa with the Potemkin Stairway.

A little of history and culture

The most intriguing characteristic of Odessa is considered to be its cosmopolitan soul, thanks to the numerous nationalities that have contributed to the building of the city: Italian, French, Greek, Turkish, German, British, Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian and Jewish.

Odessa owes its birth to a Neapolitan commander serving under Catherine the Great, who seized a Turkish fort on the Black Sea during the war against the Ottoman Empire. He scouted the harbour under the fort and decided to found a port city in 1794. He chose the name of Odessa from the Odyssey’s legend of Ulysses sailing those waters. Thanks to José De Ribas, the first leading class of the city was mainly composed by merchants and ship-owners coming from Naples, Palermo and Genoa.

Sailor’s Wife statue.

Then the city was developed by two French mayors: Duc de Richelieu (grandson of the famous Bishop of the “Three Musketeers”) and Count Langeron, who set the urban rational design and, under the artistic guidance of prestigious Italian architects, achieved a masterpiece: a sort of St. Petersburg of the south but with a French-Italian touch.

The Empress Catherine invited foreigners to settle in the new conquered province and allocated many funds to build not only the main port of the Russian Empire but also an ideal city, full of art and culture. Odessa became an industrious and tolerant melting pot of various cultures. The great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), who spent one year there, described a city where: “People read newspapers in Italian, French, German and Greek, and enjoy a political and economic freedom superior to other Russian cities.”

Kisses sign in Odessa.

After the initial immigration of Italians, the city’s business spine was completed by Greeks and Jewish (the majority of the population, at the end of the 19th century). Odessa was the easiest place in the Russian Empire to become rich, due to the status of “Porto Franco” (tax exemption on trade). For this reason, it got the nickname of “Russian California”. The famous American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910) visited Odessa in 1867 and wrote: “I stood in Odessa for the first time. It looked just like an American city.”

Five reasons to visit Odessa

  1. Beautiful architecture and ironic monuments: Potemkin Stairway, Opera Theatre and Passage (monumental arcade) are the city’s most famous jewels. There are also amazing courtyards, museums and funny monuments (Orange the Tsar, Policeman with birds, the 12th Chair, the Sailor’s wife, etc.), which create the atmosphere of a movie setting.
  2. Gastronomy: Odessa is the capital of Ukrainian-fusion cuisine. In its dishes is present the influence of Bessarabian, Jewish, French, Georgian, Genoese, Turkish and Russian cuisine. Odessa’s restaurants offer a high quality of food, with a sophisticate taste for interior design.
  3. Beaches and nightlife: Odessa beach clubs are famous as well as the city’s nightlife. The low cost compared with quality of entertainment is very competitive for summer holidays.
  4. Housing: Expatriates have the feeling of living in a city with mixed ingredients: European lifestyle, maritime atmosphere, ironic and charming people. The city broadcasts love vibes, due to the many literature references and local beauties. Many foreigners buy apartments in Odessa for personal use or investment (they are cheaper than in other European cities).
  5. Business: Odessa is the sea gateway of Ukrainian agriculture export to Middle and Far East, North Africa and Europe markets, and a logistic hub connecting trade from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea and Central Europe, through railway routes. It describes itself as an ideal market place for foreign investors in port infrastructure, logistics services, agriculture machineries and IT industry.
Odessa Passage.

For further information on Odessa, see:

This article originates from “The Odessa Journal”, an online magazine in English dedicated to Odessa’s news on culture, lifestyle and business.

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