The Hotel Odessa, Odessa, Ukraine
Odessa, the creation of the indefagitable Catherine the Great, is famous today for several things; neoclassical architecture, Ibizan style 24hr nightclubs, lissome girls and a rampant HIV epidemic. The lissome girls have also made it a major destination for lonely, cashed up Western and Turkish men, one of whom has just mistaken me for a Ukrainian hooker in the lift and launched himself upon me.
For the last few hours Jo and I have been luxuriating in the Turkish Hammam and pool in our hotel, our first slice of luxury in a long time. As I got into the lift up to our room on the 17th floor a lecherous looking Turk scurried in after me. I was clad only in a white bath robe and when he said something to to me I replied, in Russian, that I was English and I didn't understand what he had just said. Being Turkish, the same applied to my answer. He looked at me in an undesirable manner then said 'Sex?', which I did understand, and lunged at me, kissing me on the cheek as I swerved his advance. As the lift sped up through the floors I ducked several more advances then bolted for our room. Yuk. And he had bad breath.
Apart from that little episode, which in retrospect is quite funny, Odessa has been great. We left Bakchiserai at 8 a.m yesterday, having breakfasted under the fruit trees in our host Tanya's garden, and headed north. We had 550 km's to cover in one day so knew we were in for a long one. Moreover, our efforts to prebook a hotel in Odessa had fallen flat so we thought we might have problems at the other end and didn't want to be arriving in the dark to begin hotel hunting, our least favourite sport.
Unsure of which road to take out of Bakshiserai we pulled over and asked a man waiting for a bus. He leapt into TT before we could object and said he would show us the way, which he did for the next 30 km's. Jo was driving so I chatted to him in the back and he told me, as Redvan had, that his name was Emil and he was a Tartar, and that he had only returned from Uzbekistan the year before. Life was clearly not easy for him. He was 36, married with a child and only earns $400 a month as a mechanic. Considering petrol costs $1 a litre here that sort of salary doesn't get you far. At Simferopol he hopped out and off we went. Its funny that after 3 months of nobody except Jo, myself, Bob, my Ma, Jack and Sam being in TT, we had four alien passengers in 24 hours. Not to mention a man leaping out of his car at some traffic lights and kissing us both.
Believe it or not the Ukrainians appear to love TT more than the Russians. In the last few days she has been called a helicopter, an ant, a tractor and an apparition. When people ask where we are going and what we are doing they all say two things; 'klyass' (class I guess) and 'Malatyets!' which means 'Good girls', or something similar. They also press packets of cigarettes, fruit, veg and jams into our hands as gifts. What lovely people.
The drive here was uneventful, so I won't dwell on it, and at 7.30 pm we passed the sign announcing our arrival in Odessa. Unsure of where we were going we tukked towards the centre, past docks, train lines and autorepair shops. Then suddenly we were in the centre, with the famous Potemkin steps on our right and the towering Hotel Odessa on our left. Jo was instantly under the spell of the latter, a glitzy glass and steel affair occupying what must be the best piece of real estate in town. Although mentioned in the guide book we'd dismissed it as too expensive, but since we were tired and it looked big enough not to be full we opted to give it a try. Half an hour later TT was in her pyjamas in their parking lot and a porter was loading all our baggage. Yes the price was far too much but since we've been roughing it for a while we felt the sudden urge for white bathrobes, swimming pools and panoramic views. Thankfully the Hammam, pool, sauna and gym have made up for the fact that the room is identikit and Travelodge like and its basically a revolting rip off, but thats Odessa in the high season for you.
Jo and I had a late, luxurious breakfast this morning then set off for a potter round the city. The guide book raves about the Potemkin steps which are the location of a famous scene in Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925). Not being an expert on B&W films I am afraid I hve never heard of it, and for me they were just a hot climb that necessitated a cold drink at the top. However, Odessa is as beautiful as its lofty reputation states. Crumbling, neoclassical buildings line the streets and well-heeled Odessans sip coffee in Parsian style cafes. Its a shame we only have a single day here and that today, at 39 degrees, it was a little too hot for extensive exploring.
Tonight we're going to hit Arkadia Beach, which is 'Ukraine's Ibiza' and crammed with 24 hour clubs pumping out house, D&B et al. No doubt we will feel underdressed, given the Ukrainian proclivity for very shortskirts and very high heels. Unfortunately I haven't got my Gucci heels stashed away in the bottom of my rucksack, so Birkenstocks it'll have to be.
Two more weeks to go till Brighton, and thirteen weeks ago today we left England. It seems so long ago.
Love to all in England and hoping to see a few of you in Brighton. xx Ants
PS We keep trying to upload photos but blogger.com is being a total pain and won't oblige.
PPS Just re read my last blog and its very dull, apologies, I was super tired when I wrote it.