Monday, 12 November 2012

Odessa, Ukraine. Potemkin Steps. Fine Arts Museum. Uspenskaya Cathedral. Kasperova icon. Duc de Richelieu. Tomb of the Unknown Sailor. Goose Step. Passage Galleries. Opera and Ballet Theatre. Filatov Institute.

Potemkin Stairs
The Black Watch anchored in a prime spot almost opposite the Potemkin Stairs - designed as an optical illusion -  and Rambulation spent a wonderful day in Odessa. As it was a Sunday it was good to see Ukrainians at leisure, to attend a service in Uspenskaya Cathedral and schoolchildren doing a guard of honour at the Tomb of the Unknown Sailor in  Shevchenko Park. The Alley of Glory honours  the Unknown Sailor with an eternal flame in memory of the defenders of Odessa, the Hero City during World War II. On Sundays children of about 16 years old from schools in Odessa take it in turns to do a guard of honour, marching with the hint of a goose step.  They carry out their duties with great solemnity and dignity, and like the guards at Buckingham Palace have to ignore and put up with endless tourists trying to take their photographs.  Are the weapons they carry loaded?
Guard of Honour. Alley of Glory
Tomb of the Unknown Sailor 
 The Potemkin or Primorsky Stairs were built between 1837-1841 to link the port to the city and are the symbol of the city. They became famous after  Sergei Eisenstein's propaganda film The Battleship Potemkin about a workers’ mutiny and subsequent massacre in 1905. The Duc de Richelieu’s bronze statue is at the top, and it is a popular spot for Odessans and visitors.  Locals consider him lucky and like to dress up his statue on the Festival of Laughter on 1 April,  a public holiday.  There are stalls there and boys with enormous eagles, which can be photographed, for a sum of course. The eagles seemed healthy and willingly opened their wings to show their incredible wingspan but it all seemed bizarre and unnecessary.
Duc de Richelieu

Odessa is known as the Pearl of the Black Sea, with a large warm-water port, mild climate, the famous long sandy Arcadia beach, health spas and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Founded on the orders of Catherine the Great in 1794, the city is notable for its many classical buildings, monuments including Catherine’s statue, and wide tree-lined avenues. During its Golden Age in the nineteenth century Russian and European aristocracy holidayed and took spa treatments here and the city owes much to the Duc de Richelieu, its first governor from 1803-1814.

In 1991, after the collapse of Communism, the city became part of Ukraine.

Bristol Hotel
The elegant 19th century Passage Galleries lined with shops 
are reminiscent of  the Burlington Arcade in London.
Uspenskaya Cathedral
Kasperova Icon
    Uspenskaya Cathedral was rebuilt in 2005, after the Bolsheviks destroyed it in the 1930s. This huge and beautiful Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral is packed with  worshippers on Sundays, who also queue up to pay homage to the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God of Kasperova, who is reputed to have saved the city from destruction during the Crimean war in 1855 and is still credited with miracles. The Cathedral has a wonderful, inspiring choir and the congregation stands, which is normal in Orthodox services, as there are no chairs.
 Opera and  Ballet Theatre

  •       Odessa Opera & Ballet Theatre is a beautiful Italianate baroque building with one of the  world’s finest acoustics. 
  •     The vast, open-air Seventh-Kilometre Market is the biggest of its kind in Europe, with around 6,000 traders.
  •     The Filatov Institute of Eye Diseases & Tissue Therapy in Odessa is one of the world's best ophthalmology clinics.
  •       Odessa is twinned with Istanbul, Liverpool and Genoa among others.
  •      Odessa can never have an underground railway, as the city is undermined by miles of catacombs as a result of former limestone mines. Extreme tourists like to venture down, usually with guides, but over the years children and others without guides have disappeared, got lost and died. 
The Museum of Fine Arts

Odessa Fine Arts Museum is in the former palace of Count Pototsky, and still feels like a private house, with the original parquet floors, painted ceilings and icons, landscapes and portraits everywhere. The babushka in the middle largest room is commendably a terrific guard of the parquet centrepiece, where no-one must tread. All the diligent ladies were equally anti the taking of photographs, yet the Museum’s website sadly does not show all the works,  for example, Sick of the Sight of Her showing a peasant girl in tears and a bored citified boy,  by a stile. The museum seems to keep going financially on the website with some odd advertisements e.g. for an au pair in Kiev. It needs a shop to make some money and sell postcards of the lovely paintings which are wonderful examples of old Russia and Ukraine. 

 Paintings from the Fine Arts Museum Odessa website

Sudkovsky: River Boat

Z.E. Serebryakova. Harvest 1915
Christ the Gardener icon

Portrait of M Gabaevoy

Ajanta. Nicholas Roerich 1938

Ukraine has had a tragic past, with wars, famine, Jewish persecution and massacres of innocent people. Thankfully that is all behind them now.