Part 1, originally published December 24th, 2013, on http://www.grahamwphillips.com, by Graham
I really enjoyed A.D Miller’s sophomore work Snowdrops. There were just a couple of parts which didn’t ring quite true, one being the family description of Christmas: “We had a lively exchange about the new parking restrictions in the town centre, and a ritual disagreement about whether we should watch the Queen’s Christmas message, as my father always wanted to.” It doesn’t need to be like that, so stilted, a family Christmas should be, usually is, a warm, happy time together.
About Odessa he is a little closer, describing it as “sort of a cross between Tenerife and Palermo“. But, not quite, Odessa is, you see, outside of England of course, the best city in Europe. And as families across the UK, Europe, beyond, celebrate Christmas and discuss where to go on holiday next year, Odessa should be right in that conversation. Odessa is the perfect place for a summer holiday, with its 30km-plus of bountiful beaches counting just the city itself not the numerous coastal towns nearby.
But as much as it is a ‘day city’, there is more than just something of the night about Odessa. The city’s Arcadia area, a near mile-long strip on the beach, is arguably one of the world’s hottest nightlife spots, stuffed with beach clubs, just clubs, bars, temptation, restaurants, hustlers, amusements, crumpet, excitement, caners, action. On any given summer’s night, you’ll easily find up to 75,000 partaking of everything from Moscow style ‘super clubs’, to a stall beer costing less than a Euro. Those savvy clubbers pay the European rates of entrance for the super clubs (with acts Russian-themed, and international), then nip out to fill up on stall beer. What?
Next day, head into town. Odessa, with a population of just over a million which swells to well over a million in summer, is a city with greatness in its DNA. Odessa was once occupied by an ancient Greek colony, and for centuries it passed between nomadic tribes, Crimean Tatars, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire, until their defeat by the Russian army in the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–1792, saw the city come into the Russian Empire.
Some may say it’s never really left, with armies of Russians still come to Odessa every summer, turning their back on their own coastal cities to travel hundreds of miles down South. Some of them consider Odessa a kind of irredenta, perhaps understandable given it was their very own Katya the Great who invested her very own roubles to found the city.
Odessa, as Odessa, came into being on 1794 (the city’s birthday is September 2nd, by the way). It’s believed the name Odessa traces its lineage to the ancient Greek city of Odessos, once thought to have been founded where the current Odessa stands. To come back to the current Odessa, its main street, the famous Deribasovskaya is buzzing as of a summer’s day, and you don’t need to look too far to find your typical Odessite, the city’s character taking its lineage from the rich Jewish background mixed with Russian, topped with the kind of fast-talking chutzpah the port city calls for in those who would fare most propitiously.
As for that port, one one of the biggest on the Black Sea, it’s source of wonder – near 5 miles long including even its own oil refinery, and able to handle up to 14 million tons of cargo, 24 million tons of oil products and 4 million passengers a year. And with Odessa Maritime University, among other marine-themed education establishments, you are never far from nautical.
You’ll be hard to find a city with more going on on the streets, either, where else but Odessa does a guy whip out his crocodile for a city centre shower?
And of course, snaps being taken around the city’s plethora of photo-friendly props –
That last one is on the Potemkin Steps, by the way, and not even starting on them, or the city’s architecture, means there’s more to come…
Originally published 24th December, 2013 – unedited –