Odessa: Pearl of the Black Sea

30 Dec

A guest blog by Patrick

We awoke early on our first morning in Odessa with instructions that we were heading out to ‘meet the sun’. We piled into the car and set out with both Ira and Marta navigating with their phones. This led to our first experience of what would soon become a staple of the trip: Ira and Marta arguing over directions.

Marta: “IIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAA!!! [Insert something in Ukranian that was clearly about roads and directions and which way to turn.]”

Ira: “MMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRTTTTTTTAAAAA!!! [Insert something in Ukranian that was clearly about roads and directions and which way to turn.”

This became such music to our ears that by the time the trip ended we were all saying IIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRAAAAAA and MMMMMMAAAAARRRRRRTTTTTAAAAA during normal conversation.

We were finally guided to the ‘entrance’ to a sanitation plant, which stood between us and our destination. We gently woke up the security guard at the gate, who was comfortably catching some zzzzz’s, and explained we wanted to pass to ‘meet the sun.’ He laughed at us and waved us through. We arrived at our destination: an outlet of the Black Sea known for its ‘healing’ mud that contained incredible amounts of minerals. There were multiple hospitals in the area set up to take advantage of the powers of the black gold. While the mud was certainly an attraction, we came there because Ira and Marta had heard it was a great place to take photos. Being industrious Americans on vacation we quickly got to work.


Are those the pillars in the really good photos we saw on Instragram?



Sisterhood of the traveling red pants.



Meeting the sun.



Maaaaarrrrrrttttttaaaaaaa, you’re Ukranian, why are you smiling?



Marta is SUCH a hipster.



Ira contemplates how badly we are butchering her language.



As we returned from our adventure, another trip theme began to emerge. The three Americans in the group were keen to learn as much about the local culture as possible, especially the language. As self-declared ‘savvy’ travelers, we all appreciated the importance of trying to learn the local tongue. So, from the moment we met Ira we began to pepper her with “How do you say ‘this’? Questions.

Here’s how it would go:

Patrick/Sammi/Colleen: “How do you say ‘Thank you’?

Ira: “Дякую.”

Patrick/Sammi/Colleen: “Da-coo-you?”

Ira: “Great.”

Patrick/Sammi/Colleen: (Trying again) “Da-coo-you.”

Ira: “No. Дякую.”

Patrick/Sammi/Colleen: “But we just said the same thing we said the first time.”

Ira: “I know.”

Patrick/Sammi/Colleen: “Ja-co-you.”

Ira: “That’s worse.”

First of all, Ukrainian is very different than any language the three of us have ever spoken. Secondly, you’ve got to appreciate Ira’s willingness to humor us by pretending we were at least close. Thirdly, this exchange never got old.

How do you say ‘straight’? How do you say ‘beer’? How do you say ‘I just want to fill up the gas tank all the way and I want to pay with a credit card without having to go all the way into the store’.

It always played out the same way, with Ira pretending we got it right the first time to placate us in the hopes we would drop it and us not letting it go. Poor IIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAA.


We made it back to the city after some more direction-related arguments and headed to Cafe Moloko for breakfast. Can you say hipster lattes?


They served free carbonated water in champagne glasses. We obviously returned multiple times.


Our afternoon plan was to take a walk by the Black Sea, and wow was that gorgeous. The sun came out and we had a lovely stroll along the promenade. We stopped for refreshments: our first introduction to strings of nuts dipped repeatedly in cherry or grape juice until it forms a thick coating (that’s the best way I can describe it) and beer. We passed by beautiful old architecture and slowly descended to the beach.



These steps are famous. No one knows why.


There were quite a few people out enjoying the coast, and there were even a few crazy people swimming in the ice cold water. We took note of that for future consideration. We found a playground and immediately tried to squeeze out what little fun the rusty swings and merry-go-round had left in them. We wandered along concrete piers and celebrated with traditional sandwiches of pig fat and sauerkraut. Yum?



This is a group of Americans having fun.



This is a Ukranian having fun.



This is an American and a Ukranian having fun together.



This is a pig fat and sauerkraut sandwich.


In true Mystery Trip fashion, we had even more surprises waiting for us. THERE WAS A GONDOLA RUNNING BETWEEN THE BEACH AND THE CITY. Marta’s Our only regret was that we didn’t ride it back down so we could take photos with the light on the right side. From there we caught a crowded trolley back to the city centre and ate burgers for dinner.


Up, up, and away!!!



Possibly the best public transport in the entire world.


Following dinner, we quickly got ready and headed out to see a show! Not just any show: Romeo & Juliet at the Embassy of Humor in Ukraine. Embassy of Humor? First of all, can we get our passports stamped? Secondly, now it makes sense – all of Ukraine’s laughter is concentrated in one building.


Preparing our faces for some Ukrainian humor.



Hooray for comedy!


The show provided everyone with exactly what they needed: naps, laughter, Shakespearean drama, and childhood memories.


The Embassy of Humor!


On the way home we stopped by one of Ira’s favorite spots for some flavored liqueur and fish pate. Our favorite part was the bathroom. Until Ira pulled out all of the stops and ordered a potato pastry. Question: Will Sammi and Patrick become addicted to a dense log of sugar? Survey says, yes.



Alcohol flavors: Juniper, Horseradish, Disgusting, or Really Disgusting. That’s right: horseradish was the second best flavor.


We wrapped up another amazing day with a visit to the grocery store, where Sammi and Patrick ‘carried the fruit all the way over to the pastry counter’ to the dismay of a store employee. She weighed our bananas (“Don’t we know how to say bananas in Ukrainian?”) anyway. We responded by ordering several potato pastries…

One Response to “Odessa: Pearl of the Black Sea”

  1. deekerson February 6, 2018 at 5:16 pm #

    How do you say “I’m speechless” in Ukranian?

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