Odessa Ornate Hotel Close-up

We set our sites on Europe in the early winter and visited Paris, Cannes, Avignon in France then Turin and Venice in Italy. None of this even remotely prepared us for our visit to Kiev and Odessa, Ukraine. Yes we wanted snow after two years in SE Asia and yes we wanted a change in the seasons. However, we arrived in Kiev to -6℉, windy and blowing snow. Big Big Change from the last two years or so of our life in SE Asia.

Kiev Church from Hostel

We checked into our Dream Hostel for a 7 day stay in Kiev to photograph some winter weather and the only thing we photographed was a church out of a window in the hostel. We had snow and temperatures never above 12℉ for our entire stay. As far as taking photos, we left with zip, nada, zilch, and continued on a little further south to the town of Odessa in the Ukraine. What a difference a few hundred kilometers can make. Still cold with a little left over ice, but every day got warmer and every day was nicer for our week in Odessa.

Odessa has been around since the 6th century BC. It has been ruled by many cultures, the most recent being the Russians until they gained their independence in the soviet breakup. Many of the Jewish residents migrated to New York City’s “Little Odessa”. The people with more financial security left for Moscow and St Petersburg  for more opportunities. Nonetheless, the city continued to prosper largely because of its seaport on the Black Sea.

We caught a cab from the airport into the center of town for about 5 Euros and were let off a block away from our hotel. The entire center part of the city is a large pedestrian mall and no cars or cabs are allowed on the streets – only foot traffic. It is a beautiful city and we soon found ourselves falling in love with this part of the Ukraine.

Turkish Restaurant on Odessa Pedestrial Mall Street

We were out for a breakfast at the local cafe the next morning and were stopped by a nice gentlemen from Turkey who owned a restaurant near the cafe. He offered to give us a sample of the meat he was cooking and it was just excellent. No other word would do it justice and we quickly told him that we would be back that evening for dinner. I am sure he is told that all of the time by tourists in the city. We surprised him by being true to our word a little later in the day. He reciprocated with Turkish Baklava for dessert, free of charge.

The day was still really cold with a steady wind but we had heard about a building in Odessa called the ”Wall House”. When photographed from the correct angle, it looks like a building that is not more than about 4 to 5 feet from front to back. It is really more than that and the photograph below is a combination of very thin building and an optical illusion. We did a quick walk further down to The Columns on the edge of the Black Sea and then went back to our room to work and wait for the next day which promised to be much warmer.

The Wall House

Today dawned much brighter outside and after a short breakfast Laurel decided she was not feeling 100% so I was going to have the day to myself with the camera. Not the best option since my hands are not nearly as steady as hers but I decided to go out and do what I could. It was such a nice day outside with no wind and nearly 50℉ which was the best we had seen in some weeks.

My day started out with a beautiful building right outside of our residence. Most cities that are part of the old Russian ruled countries, like those in Romania, are dark memories of a time with no design and little color, but not the cities in the Ukraine. They are the exact opposite with the most opulent and over the top architecture that I have ever seen. Even the great city of Rome would struggle to be as beautiful as Kiev and Odessa.

The first building I photographed was a green building with a black top just outside our residence and it was magnificent with 8 women’s heads in relief (1 on each corner at the top) that were simply amazing. There were eagles, lions or tigers and more on the lower floors and the black top was fantastic. The top had 4 huge vases on the corners, numerous wolf and tiger heads and, to top everything off, two huge clear glass globes that I caught with the sunlight shining through.

Ornate Hotel

Ornate Hotel Front at Dawn

My next stop was a well known and often photographed hotel called “The Passages” This hotel was built around the 1890’s and is just so over the top it is almost unbelievable. Only 4 stories tall and the bottom is all for retail use with different shops. It is built around a central courtyard which is featured in the images below.

The Passages

Next I moved on to the Transfiguration Cathedral. The first of which was built in the early 11th century with additions in the 17th and 18th centuries. Yet it looks as though it could have been constructed in the 21st century. While it was not one of the more unique or the most beautiful cathedrals I have photographed, it was, by far, one of the best maintained for its age.

Transfiguration Cathedral

Afterward I wandered the streets to a large park along the edge of the frozen Black Sea but nothing jumped out along this area until I reached a long walkway across to the The Colonnade. It is located near the Vorontsovsky Palace and the Teshin (the Mother-in-Law) bridge. It is a hugely popular place to visit, have coffee, and picnic during warmer weather. The colonnade was created and built by Italian architect F.K.Boffo in 1826.

Long Walkway to the The Colonnade

The Colonnade

The next stop on my walkabout would have been the Potemkin Steps but those were being renovated and I was not able to see more than a little construction that was going on though a gap in the fence.

Potemkin Steps - Maintenance

The last photographs were of the most famous building in Odessa, The Grand Opera and Ballet House. The building itself was huge covering most of a three city block area including all of its grounds. The first building was destroyed by fire in 1873. The new building, as it is today, was built in 1887 in the popular French Rococo style which in itself means “Over The Top”. The acoustics are so unique that you can stand on the stage with your hand in front of your mouth and whisper a few words. Your friends can be on the third level in the rear of the giant hall and hear you as clearly as if they were standing on the stage with you. Renovated in 2007 the building looks as though it was constructed yesterday.

The Grand Opera and Ballet House

I have touched on a few of the places that everyone visits in the city and have included photographs of the places that influenced me the most. The city itself is not only one of the best preserved cities I have visited, but also was one of the best deals for a tourist in all of Europe. For example an Up-sized Big Mac Meal in the U.S. would sell for around 8 dollars, in Romania for around 6 dollars but in Odessa only 3 dollars.

Clean, great food, great deals. Be sure to add Odessa and all of the Ukraine as a must see to your list of cities.

Leaving today was hard to do but we will be on the bus and actually visit 4 countries in the next 24 hours but that is another story.

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  1. Looks like Ukraine has so many beautiful architectures! I loved the architectures of the Passage Hotel and Transfigartion Cathedral. Also, I don’t know whether I’d be able to survive at 12 Degree Fahrenheit!

  2. very beautiful place and that gold building looks so grand!!!! Europe in general is so grand and I am familiar with Keiv Ukraine but not Odessa. I enjoyed reading this post and the building in the 3rd picture looks so narrow. I wonder if it is a residence

  3. Something so old as 6th century BC!!! Probably the oldest I am reading in any blog.
    The facades are so impressive! Loved the designs.
    Good to know it is one of the well preserved place. The tip on food is helpful.

  4. Odessa is just so …….WOW!!!!!! Your pictures bring out the beauty of this place so well. I am completely intrigued now . The wall house really had me curious. So you mean to say that the optical illusion is the thin aspect of the building? Is it painted?

  5. Love the buildings and the architecture. Thanks for sharing us a glimpse of Ukraine. Hopefully one day I’ll get to visit this beautiful country. All your photos are amazing! 🙂

  6. I definitely want to visit Odessa and the Ukraine. I have never been, though being a New Yorker I have been to Little Odessa. I love the architecture, especially the Wall House. Glad to know it’s a good deal too!

  7. Good timing on this one! One of my good friends just had a baby and named her, you guessed it – Odessa! I thought it was a lovely name before, and I know I think it’s even lovelier. I’ve added this to the bucketlist, thanks!

  8. That wall house is really cool! It’s very nice that you went back to the restaurant when you said you would. I know how excited the owners get because I do think a lot of people say they will come back but don’t. I’ve returned to places I’ve said I would before and the owners are definitely very surprised and excited.

  9. I’ve been always fascinated by Eastern Europe, especially beacuse it’s so underrated. Odessa looks lovely, I’ve been to Yalta and Sevastopol so far as well as Kiev and I loved them. During my next trip to Ukraine, I’m planning to see Lviv and Odessa. I hope the Potemkin steps will have been renovated by then 🙂

  10. The buildings are so baroque! The sculptural detailing are so stunning!!! I’ve never been to Ukraine and I dunno if future would give me a chance to! Till then, thanks for this virtual tour.

  11. I had first heard about Odessa in a book by author Irving Wallace. The book was titled “The Odessa File”. The city seems as intriguing and beautiful as I had imagined. The architecture is nothing short of grand. The Wall house looks really fascinating, your photograph has brought out the unique architecture alive. The building does look as if it is only a facade.

  12. The pictures are amazing and don’t even get me started on the AMAZING architecture!
    I’m kind of interested in the 4 countries, 24 hours story!
    Is their any story on your blog on it!?

  13. The buildings look SO cool. I am no architecture buff but this can make anyone want to visit Odessa! So pretty and if for nothing else – I would love to go to take some stellar shots like these.

  14. Your tasty meal from the Turkish gentleman sounds like a great find, and nice that you could escape some of the freezing cold from Kiev!It would be awesome if you included temps in celsius to give European readers an idea too 🙂 I think Ukraine won the Eurovision contest this year right? Would love to go for that and it seems like great value too.

    1. All of Ukraine, as well as Bulgaria and now Macedonia, are great bargains. We are in a private apartment in Skopje for $18 U.S. a night. Best wifi I have had in a year and everything right outside the door. Just can’t get meals for two in a nice restaurant in on the western side of Europe.

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