Odessa, Ukraine: Downpours & Missing Cargo Shi

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
Trip End Feb 06, 2014

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Flag of Ukraine  , Odessa Oblast,
Friday, September 13, 2013

When I quit my job there were two things I was looking forward to (1) sleeping in (2) sleeping in. Having now been on the road for a month I think I can count on one hand how many times that has happened and leaving Kiev was no exception with the alarm going off at 0545 urrrgh seriously, I thought you only had to be up at that hour if you had kids. It was, however, my decision to catch the 0730 bus so I could'nt bitch and moan too much. The bus itself was fine, only cost GBP 14 each and had plenty of much needed leg room for the 7 hour journey.

Arriving in Odessa we were greeted by flooded streets and rain, so hurridly accepted the first offer of a lift that came along and made haste to the TUI Front Page Hostel. Walking up three flights of dimly lit, cigarette smoke and urine infested stairs we arrived at our new abode which was thankfully an oasis of calm once inside the doors. The big friendly giant who ran the hostel was an Aussie guy and quite possibly the largest man I have ever seen. He informed us that it was the first time it had rained in three months. Lucky us.

Having spent the first part of our travels in major cities - London, Edinburgh, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev - we had envisaged our time in Odessa would be more relaxing than sightseeing with days spent lounging on deck chairs whilst sipping cocktails by a pool or beach rather than pounding the pavement from one historical site to another. Due to the persistent rain we were unable to do either so spent our days in numerous bars and restaurants searching for the ever evasive chicken kiev; which you'll be pleased to know we found and devoured on our last day. It wasn't the best I've ever had, certainly not up to my Mum's standard. It was more butter and dill vs butter and garlic. Sam says it was nowhere near as delicious as those from M&S but more so than the frogs legs which arrived for his entree due to a slight misunderstanding from the requested calamari. Thankfully my salmon and caviar wasn't lost in translation.

The Aussie BFG informed us that most of the beach bars and clubs that our friend from Zug, Gilly, had raved about (mostly due to the beautiful women I think!) closed at the end of August when all the Russians went home so chances are even if it had been sunny, nothing would have been opened. Still, it would have been nice to sit in the warmth by the seaside. On one of the lesser wet afternoons we made an effort to walk down for a look but with sign posts being few and far between and my mood getting less enthused/amused by the second we gave up after getting to a top of a hill overlooking a stretch of woodland laid out before the sea. On checking Google Maps it appears Sam was right, there were buildings on the other side, but whether they had been open and had life to go with who knows.

Odessa town itself was bigger and prettier than I imagined. Tree lined streets dotted with shops. Cobbled pedestrian streets lined with cafes and restaurants - French, Italian, Irish, Russian, Georgia, Ukrainian. Sushi on offer everywhere. Ever since we hit Russia the amount of places dishing up brightly coloured sushi has amazed us. We walked down to a set of steps which was meant to be a must see when in Odessa. That was the extent of our sightseeing due to my being less than enthused to go exploring further afield.

On 15 September we were due to board a cargo ship to Georgia so packing up our things and saying goodbye to BFG we jumped in a cab at 0900 and took off. Taxi - Tickets - Port. Seemed simple enough especially as BFG had booked the taxi and informed the driver of where we were going.

1. The first address entered in his SatNav took us down a bumpy puddle filled backstreet to a metal gate. As it was definitely much more residential than business we moved on.
2. Getting out at address number two Sam was greeted by a pack of dogs and some hostile officers in camouflage gear who directed him to an office. Person in the office made a few phone calls, Sam spoke to a Ukrainian guy with an American accent who said "the man will write down an address, give that to your driver".
3. Address given to driver we pulled up to a further two buildings to ask for directions before finding the place on the piece of paper which was the port who informed us that we must go to another address to get the tickets.
4. Back on the road and two hours after we had set off from the hostel we finally found what we had been looking for - a building we had passed numerous times during the course of the morning. At least our taxi driver seemed chuffed at having achieved his mission.

Entering a building we were met by a sea of men and two fellow backpackers, who we later found out were from The Netherlands and had arrived at 0830. Tickets in hand at US$165 each we were good to go... or were we. At 1330 we were told the office was closing and we needed to get out. The port was down the road so we should go there. Whilst waiting we met two further people from Germany, Micky and his girl, who were on a road trip so they kindly drove us all to the port where we spent the next six hours standing outside in the cold drinking beer and speaking to random Georgian truckers. At some stage during the day we were informed of a restaurant up the road so we headed there with the friendly Dutchies, Kim and Jasper, for some much needed food (having not had breakfast) and sit down.

On getting back to the port everyone was still outside. Around 9pm it became apparent the boat wouldn't be arriving so we were allowed to enter the office and find space on the tiled floor to sleep for the night. How joyous. At least we weren't stuck outside and hadn't thrown out our sleeping bags like we had our thermarests.

Not the best of sleeps I have to say. Hip and back felt bruised from tiles. Shoulder dead from being squashed half the night. Ears sore from having headphones in and music blaring due to some beast of man setting up camp and snoring so loudly it was like having a bunch of bikers on Harley's start up right next to your head. We later discovered the beast of man was in fact a woman but it was an easy mistake to make. We all agree she looks like a mean miserable tyrant. She scares me.

Waking up it was another day spent at the port but at least it was sunny, there was a ship docked and trucks/people were offloading. Further good news arrived at 3pm when we were allowed to check bags and clear customs. The sour faced old witch of course managed to jump queue by complaining that we were taking too much time or something of the like. Awful woman. That didn't matter though because by 4pm we had boarded the ship and found our new homes which came complete with comfy bunkbeds, powerpoints, wardrobe, desk, draws, sofa, table and bathroom. Ahhh total luxury. Oh and best of all we had an opening window that overlooked the bow of the ship.

After unpacking and settling in we ventured down to the bar to spend an evening celebrating with cold beers and home made Georgian cheese and wine which was surprisingly good. All the Georgians we have met have been very friendly and incredibly generous. They love to share.

The cost of the ticket includes three meals per day which are held in two seatings. Being in the first we dined at 8pm on salad, chicken rice and roasted tomatoes. As there is no choice in what you eat it was a good introduction - let's just hope similar things are served throughout the trip.

With not a lot of sleep being had over the past few nights we called it a night soon after. Now all that awaits is to find out whether or not we actually take to open waters during the night.
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