Odessa, Ukraine

Odessa (or Odesa) is a spirited, industrious, and attractive city in Ukraine. Its position on the Black Sea makes it a major shipping port and a popular destination for summer tourists. The Soviet-style architecture combined with the feel of a French seaside town makes Odessa a unique destination that is off the beaten path for typical Eurotrip itineraries. 

Geography And Climate Of Odessa

Odessa, Ukraine
Beautiful panoramic aerial view of the sea city Odessa and Arcadia beach on a sunny spring day.

Odessa is located in the South-west of Ukraine, about 275 miles south of the capital city, Kyiv, and about 360 miles northeast of the Romanian capital of Bucharest. The bustling port city is also situated on the North-west coast of the Black Sea.

Odessa experiences a temperate climate. The average annual temperature is about 52 degrees Fahrenheit, ranging from a low of 26 degrees up to a high of 83 degrees. The average relative humidity is 75%, and there are about 122 rainy days each year, with the wettest months being June and November. 

History Of Odessa

Odessa street
Monument to Duc de Richelieu in Odessa.

The region of modern-day Odessa was ceded to Russia by Turkey in 1792. A fortress, naval base, and other settlements were established over the next couple of years. In 1795, the city was named Odessa, after the Greek colony of Odessos (that was believed to have once settled there). 

In the second half of the 19th century, the population of Odessa blossomed, eventually becoming an important port for Russia, second only to St. Petersburg. Odessa was a significant site during the Revolution of 1905 and again in World War 2 when it was heavily demolished while fighting against Germany and Romania

Because they were forbidden from residing in St. Petersburg, Moscow, or Kyiv, a large population of Jewish people settled in Odessa before WW2. Although many of the synagogues were destroyed and the population dwindled, the culture is still irrevocably entwined with Odessa. In fact, Odessa is the birthplace of Klezmer music, which blends strings and clarinet with Middle-Eastern rhythms, creating a sound that is instantly recognizable and transporting. 

In 2014, the Maidan protests hit the streets of Odessa. Forty-eight people were killed, and over 200 people were injured in the clashes near the city center and outside the Trades Union House. This activity was part of the separatist movement that led to the rebel-controlled zone of Donbas, encompassing large parts of Luhansk and Donetsk, in Eastern Ukraine. 

Odessa generally remains a thriving seaport - evidenced by the omnipresent shipyards in the harbor horizon. However, the recent invasion by Russian forces makes the state of affairs unknown for the future of this historic Ukrainian city. 

Tourist Attractions In Odessa

Odessa opera
Odessa opera.

The Odessa International Airport is the third-largest in Ukraine. Tourists can fly in directly, leapfrog down from Kyiv, or take the train from elsewhere in Ukraine, Moldova, or Romania. Here are some highlights to aim for.

Odessa, Ukraine
Odessa Passage in Odessa. Editorial credit: Sergey Diordiev / Shutterstock.com
  • Take in the architecture. Specifically, check out the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater, the Odessa Passage, and the Potemkin Stairs. 
  • Get an overview of the city by riding the rickety, Soviet-era cable car. 
  • Head to the water to view the Port of Odessa and then kick back on one of the strings of sandy beaches. 
  • Turn from the sunny shores to the dark and mysterious catacombs. Sign up for a guided tour of the impossibly long and intricate labyrinth of underground tunnels.  

Current Events In Odessa And The Russian Invasion 

Early in the morning of February 24th, 2022, Russia's military invaded Ukraine, launching assaults by land, sea, air, and disruptive cyber attacks. As naval forces landed in the historic seaport, Odessa was not spared from this. An airstrike to a Ukrainian military base just outside the city reportedly killed 18 people. Ukraine declared a state of emergency, and President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for all citizens willing to defend the country to step forward. The widespread attacks were unprovoked and triggered immediate, harsh sanctions from the United States and other G7 nations

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