Time to leave the thriving country of Transnistria and head to our last country, Ukraine. We all met in the lobby of the hotel at 9:30, packed and ready to taxi to the local bus station for our bus ride to Odessa. Remembering our last foray using separate taxis to get somewhere (Bucharest, where we lost 3 people for an hour), we got in with trepidation but it was a fairly short, direct distance so we all arrived. Dris had reserved seats for us on a public transportation bus--the good: it was bigger than the 20 passenger bus we'd used from Bucharest to Tulcea; the bad: it was a really old Soviet-era 40 passenger bus with fraying, mostly broken seats and no a/c. Since there were other people already on the bus, we ended up at the back. My window was permanently frosted over, etched on the outside so a pretty crappy view the whole way. At least the windows had small transoms on the top of each window that opened and provided some breeze.
It took about 3 hours to get to Odessa, where Dris had hired a 16 passenger bus to transport us to the hotel...thankfully, we didn't have to hike it there. We arrived at the hotel too early to check in but we were able to drop our bags and then get back on the bus which took us down to the city center for lunch.
Lunch was at a trendy place serving, what else, traditional Ukrainian food. I had pelmeni (basically tortellini) which was tasty. Jef had chicken meatball things with noodles. After lunch, our guide met us at the restaurant for a 3 hour walking tour of Odessa. Sigh. It was sunny and warm, of course. Our guide was Yarnik, a very hip young man. He was clearly excited about sharing the city with us and we were, hopefully less clearly, hot and tired.
First pic: the top one is Hotel Bolshaya Moskovskaya (“Big Moscow Hotel”), built in 1901 – 1904 and is the best well-preserved example of Art Nouveau architecture in Odessa. The famous Odessa architect Lev Vlodek had created a real masterpiece. The hotel used to be the most comfortable and beautiful in Odessa. Its ornament, the statues and especially two huge crystal balls on the roof were beyond everything in Odessa architecture then. It was supposed to be renovated starting in 2010 and to be opened in 2012 but it still sits empty.
Bottom pic is of Hotel Passage: