Ukraine North to South
After a long day in the exclusion zone the day before and a long good nights sleep, we were ready to leave Kyiv and explore more of the country. We picked up our car from Anna, the busy car rental lady, a VW Polo Sedan automatic, in hindsight we maybe should have opted for a 4×4, but at this moment we were not yet aware of the conditions of the road ahead!
Blazing through Kyiv with reggaeton and ukrainian hardstyle polka blowing out the windows, we hit the main highway heading south with direction Odessa at the Black Sea. The countryside was simple and beautiful, with vast fields of wheat and sunflowers, other than that not much civilization was to be seen besides broke down old Ladas in the side, beat up gas stations and people biking along the highway.
After a few hours we hit Uman, a city which is located between Kyiv and Odessa. The city is known for its park “Sofiyivska” which was a gift from a polish nobleman to his wife, with small mountains, waterfall, lakes and so forth. After walking around in the park, we decided to keep going to Odessa, however Peter managed to get us navigated into some really local areas which challenged the car a bit!
Odessa, also called Pearl of the Black Sea, is located directly at the Black Sea in the bottom of Ukraine and is a major harbor city. It is with its 200 years one of the youngest cities in Europe and is a go to location for vacating Ukrainians, especially after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
We arrived at Odessa late at night and found our way to the Hotel “Zenith” a cheap but okay rated place. However I found myself taking the economy room which was located in the basement, with no windows and only very little space, and a really old mattress.
We headed out for some food, and found a decent restaurant with a bit of everything, accompanied by a beer. After a night in the cellar room I upgraded to a suite instead, the price difference was astonishing 200 kr pr day, but being old and comfortable I decided this was fitting 🙂
Odessa is known for its beaches inside the city, so next day was beach day at the Lancheron beach. The place was completely overrun with people, be joyfully enough not many Europeans. However the water and beaches was not really that inviting, so we mostly stayed in the sun rather than the water, where local DJs played Dak-a-Dak music against each other.
In the afternoon we went for a walk downtown to see some of the city sights. Around Deribasivska street loads of people gathered around the opera house, and the big Potemkin stairs along with street musicians some more talented than others, some being a fraction.
Odessa is know for it’s great seafood, so we went to the restaurant Kotelok – Musselsbar, where we had a great meal accompanied by hydrants and local Ukrainian wine, at the price of 100 kr pr. bottle at the restaurant! The night ended at a bar at an outdoor market on Deribasivska street, where we later left after being warned by our local bar friend about a crazy azerbaijani man – which we thought was probably better left alone.
On our last day in Odessa we visited the huge Privoz market where locals where selling homemade wine and juice, ukrainian cheese, meat, fish and so forth. We bought juice from a georgian man who let us try his home made wine, and bought some food for breakfast and dined in a nearby park.
We wanted to go to the catacombs below the city measuring incredible 2500 km, but before we had an appointment with our guide, we visited the Contraband and Smuggling museum which turned out to be entirely in Ukrainian (український), except for at small english pamphlet so we didn’t get much out of that, instead we quickly rushed through and had an aperol spritz outside in the hot Odessian afternoon.
A little later our guide came around and we went to the catacombs through one of the multiple passages in the city. During the soviet times bomb and fallout shelters were established within some of the old catacombs across the city, but the shelters were hidden as it was sometimes only for specific people (All animals are equal – but some are more equal than others). The shelter was filled with old posters showing what to do if/when the nuclear war would breakout, for instance how to put on gasmasks on cattle in order to protect the states property. Deeper inside we entered the old catacombs which was originally created to get limestone to construct the city of Odessa and later served as a shelter for partisans and soldiers during world wars. Deep down inside the catacombs our guide fired up some candles in a banquet room served some cake, tea and homemade vodka, before heading out.
We spent the night dining at a Turkish restaurant Ali Baba having some good kebab and relaxing in a park overlooking the harbor with a handful of ukrainian beers. After a couple of good and relaxing days in Odessa we were ready to move on to Moldova.