Odessa: Ukraine’s Cultural Jewel

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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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About cruiseportatlas

Since 1994 John has worked in the Travel Industry after several years in Higher Education and Hospitality. He was a training executive for Certified Vacations before leading Oceania Cruises training efforts beginning in 2005. In 2010, he was appointed to head Training for Prestige Cruise Holdings, owner of both Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. In 2011, John started CruisePortAtlas.com. Since 2012, John has been selling cruises for iCruise.com. John was always interested in travel, but was inspired to make it his profession by his wife, Donna. John is an Army brat who spent 3 years in Germany when he was a small brat and the rest of his brat years in the states of Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia and Pennsylvania. He studied History at the College of William and Mary. John reads voraciously, cooks and eats prodigiously, travels happily, enjoys music, art and architecture from any place or time and has finally stopped smoking.

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