The End of Days in Wonderful Ukraine – Odessa.

So, after a bizarre and restless night train experience, we arrived in Odessa at about 8am. Both of us were knackered, especially Susan who had got next to no sleep in the cave of bears, was full of cold and generally under the weather. Even a nice breakfast Sommersby from the station kiosk couldn’t get her going, and we had a good 7 hour wait until our train to Tiraspol as per the itinerary, so in light of our delicate condition (we didn’t feel in anyway up for wandering around Odessa all day as had been the plan) we decided on just getting the next train to Tiraspol, getting a couple of hours sleep on the train and hopefully wake up rejuvenated in Transnistria. Our plan was foiled as, on asking at the ticket booth we were informed that the 4.30pm train we had originally planned on getting, WAS actually the next train, and the next bus wasn’t until after 5pm! So we put our luggage in the lockers and sat having a cuppa next to a little kiosk, trying to pull ourselves round and deciding how we were going to spend the day.  “Odessa has a beach, right?” “Yeah.” “So we could just have a wander down there and find a nice little terrace and get some breakfast and some beers and just chill out until it’s time for the train?” “It’s a plan. So which way is the beach then?” |t was at this point, after a lot of frantic rummaging in her handbag, that Jill realized that she had left the Lonely Planet at Sexy Jill’s house! Merde! Luckily, Susan had her phone and with the help of our good old friend Google Maps, we set off towards the beach. It wasn’t that far from the station (but as always when you’re not sure where you’re going, it felt like ages), culminating in a lovely park full of big fluffy stray dogs basking in the sun (that Susan was quite tempted to just curl up next to for the day – “just leave me here covered in dags and wake me up when it’s time to get the train!”) and a fairground (that wasn’t open as it was only 9am or something, and we weren’t in fine enough fettle for a fairground anyway) and we soon caught a glimpse of the sea. We followed the path down to a big monument with a nice eternal flame, which was crowded by a very joyful coach load of Nigerians wearing either very smart suits or traditional African dress. We talked to a couple of them (saying how happy we were to see their smiling faces in a sea of Ukrainian dourness) and it turned out they were all students coming to the Ukraine to study Russian. They were all very charming chaps and they (along with another bottle of Sommersby) perked us up a bit and we continued down the path to the actual seafront. Unfortunately, there weren’t that many bars open on the beach front as it was still only March and most places were probably seasonal. There were still loads of families playing on the beach (wrapped up warm of course, like good Ukrainians), as despite the chilly breeze coming off the sea it was a lovely sunny day. We finally found a bar/restaurant with a nice terrace and got ourselves a beer and ordered a salad and some borscht (which was very nice, but Jill preferred the green borscht we’d had in Kiev – Susan can’t comment as the regular one had meat in it so she couldn’t try any). The waitress was lovely (if a bit over-attentive, as we were the only people in the bar at the time) and was asking us what we were doing there and “are you not scared?”. Odessa is a city that is very much divided by the recent happenings in Ukraine (At this point, Russia hadn’t annexed Crimea yet) and mainly pro-Russian. We hadn’t foreseen any problems despite it’s proximity to Crimea, although a few of Sexy Jill’s friends in Dnipro had said to us “Noooo! Please don’t go to Odessa! It’s dangerous!”, but since they were the English ones (and not her Ukrainian friends) we wrote this off as a load of hooey. And besides, we’ve been to the most dangerous ciry in the most dangerous country in the world (San Pedro Sula in Honduras) so we weren’t fazed in the least. We can’t comment on the safety of Odessa as a whole, but can definitely vouch that the bar where we spent our entire day was perfectly fine and had wonderful luxury toilets. We had a nice chilled out day updating our facebook blog over a few beers and a bottle of wine on the terrace and before we knew it, it was 3 o’clock and time to head on back to the station, via the now open funfair and Susan trying to start a fight with the giant king Kong dressed as Santa Claus. After about ten minutes of wandering around getting annoyed/confused that we couldn’t find platform 10 – it only seemed to go up to number 9, but then if you went out of the station gate, up the road an in another gate (totally non-signposted all of this) then there it was – we made it with loads of time to spare, so purchased a big bottle of our favourite Ukrainian beer (Potato!) for the journey and Jill had a nice smoke on the platform while getting wrong off the train guard for not wearing a coat (and he just gave her a blank stare when she gestured that she didn’t need one – pointing up at the sun) before we hopped onto the still a bit piss smelling train, which was made up for by the faded beauty of a fine old carriage with clouded gas style lamps and a dodgy looking half stocked bar in the corner (unfortunately though we had been too efficient at spending up all of the currency so we were unable to try out any of the dubious looking potions on display, and we had our trusty Potato anyway). Destination: the breakaway country of Transnistria. Ukraine Overview: Obviously the country was in a state of flux at the time of our visit but even despite this the people were amazingly warm and welcoming and we made a lot of great friends. We will most certainly be going back as soon as we can! Best Drink: Traffic light shots in Палата # 6 – you just can’t top getting set on fire and hit over the head with a beer barrel! Best Food: Potato pancakes and pickled mushrooms. Price: Cheap cheap t cheap cheap (Under €10 for a round of 8 drinks in Dnipro! Kiev more but still great value)

 

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