How is life in Odessa, Ukraine?
If you arrive in Odessa coming from Moldova, you simply can’t imagine what lies at the seafront.
Moldova is considered the poorest country in Europe but Ukraine seems to be even more. Its country side at least..
The few villages we drove through were simply depressing and the road destroyed. We found the worst stretches of tarmac in Ukraine during this trip.
At some points the tarmac is bended like a nasty roller-coaster from the heavyweight camion wheels.
The western suburbs of Odessa seemed dusty and dirty but the more we approached the centre, it became better and better. But we couldn’t imagine how beautiful Odessa is downtown.
We drove directly to the iconic Opera house but couldn’t park our camper and walk around, so we crossed the centre and started looking for a safe parking or camping at the southern shore of the city.
We drove for roughly 12 kilometres following the tram road but we couldn’t see any beach because the front is reserved by new built residential blocks and high-rise resort hotels. We couldn’t imagine such a real estate development in the third largest Ukrainian city.
We spent the first night in an open parking next to the beach and the second closer to the centre, in an organised parking at the popular Otrada beach.
Sunday morning we mixed with locals with our mountain bikes in the fabulous Shevchenko park – the Central Park of Odessa. It was a splendid autumn day and everybody was out with their bikes or skates, for exercise or just a walk in the park.
We arrived with our bikes to the Potemkin stairs and took them up in the historical centre which was lively and busy. Odessa is a lively, energetic city and its people seem to enjoy their lives at full.
It’s a new-rich society with a strong wealthy class which drives premium German cars, lives in enclosed residential complexes and dine in fancy restaurants and clubs.
There is a strong coffee culture in the city and the tiny coffee trucks are a postal card of modern Odessa.
As a traveller, most people you meet are friendly and not so nordic as Russians, they actually seem more Mediterranean. Downtown Odessa is great for shopping, for strolling around and for people watching.
The centrepiece is the pedestrian Derybasivska Str., where you will find most tourists, many cafès and restaurants, a nice – Milan style – shopping gallery and different street artists.
Next to the Potemkin stairs, from where you feel you can dive directly to the Black Sea port there is a nice Hellenic Park. Don’t forget that Odessa was a Greek city during the antiquity, even if it wasn’t really Odissos.