Odessa: Ukraine’s Cultural Jewel

Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater
Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater

Odessa was once Russia’s 4th largest city and was a magnet for the Czarist elite.  During its Golden Era, the great artists of Russia gathered here.  Tchaikovsky conducted his symphonies in the Opera House, Pushkin wrote some noted works here during his political deportation in 1823 and during early Soviet rule Isadore Duncan lived with her young Russian husband on Primorsky Boulevard.  A city of over one million residents, the post-Soviet administration has worked hard to restore it to its former glory.  When we were there in 2006, the Opera House exterior was complete.  The Viennese style building is certainly the architectural icon of the city.  Today theater, dance and opera performances are offered in the restored building and many cruise lines offer evening tours that include these performances.

The cruise dock is just at the bottom of the Potemkin Steps, which has become a symbol of the struggle between the Czarist power and the early liberals.  Though the Czarist military did not attack the citizens on the steps during the 1905 revolt, Sergei Eisenstein’s film The Battleship Potemkin portrays the event at this location to dramatic effect.  At the top of the stairs is Primorsky Boulevard with its tree lined promenade and the statue of Duc de Richelieu, an exiled French nobleman who served as one of the first governors of the city.

Uspensky Cathedral Dome
Uspensky Cathedral Dome

My favorite moment during our visit was our visit to the Uspensky Cathedral, with its glittering icons, golden altar and airy domes rising mystically above the sanctuary.  When we arrived the choir was singing an unaccompanied orthodox hymn that filled the air with sounds to match the other-worldly light of the cathedral.  We did not see the Spaso-Preobrazhenskiy Cathedral which is larger and equally striking.  The other sites we visited were the Pushkin Museum (where he lived during his time in Odessa), the lovely small Art Museum, the Literary Sculpture Garden and Shevchenko Park, where high-schoolers guard the World War II memorial 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  When we saw that, my first thought was how different Ukrainian culture is from American.

Odessa is also a wonderful place to shop, so be sure to save time to wander around the commercial center, which is a short hike from the Potemkin Steps.

See our Odessa pages at:  www.cruiseportatlas.com/Ports/ODS-port

See more Odessa photos at: www.flickr.com/photos/72746900@N08/sets/72157628538399843/

At CruisePortAtlas.com we give a portion of every dollar we make to Action Against Hunger, a world charity that works to provide sustainable hunger relief to people in need around the world.

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