The morning started off cloudy with showers so we started off walking around the buildings near the Royal Street Hotel which included the ornate old Hotel Moscow which is now undergoing restoration. Near it is the Passage an old arcade and hotel, it must have been THE place to be seen last century. It now houses some souvenir and hand craft shops but if it had a good scrub up and upgrade with some good shops it could become a popular attraction. By now it was raining so we decided to go on the Happy Bus City tour as at least we would be under cover. They have a few guides around trying to get some business and one very passionate lass, who gave us an interesting run down about Odessa ,as we walked back to its starting point outside the Opera House and not the Duc de Richelieu statue as shown on their map. It is not like the HOHO buses elsewhere in that you can get off and rejoin later but it does a circuit around the main points of interest in the Odessa town area and at a couple of places you get down and the guide takes you on a guided walk. They run tours in several languages. As it is electric powered the vehicle restrictions to the pedestrian area of Deribasovskaya Street do not apply, so the first part of the tour is up to the Passage again with a walk around it then it was around past the statue to Catherine the Great, the Gogol house and then the House of the Atlanteans with its unique statue of the Atlaneans.
From here there was a walk over the Mother in Law Bridge with all its padlocks for true love, overlooking a ravine and the port on the other side to the Vorontsov Palace and the colonnade and here there is still some items dating back to the Ottoman occupation of Odessa. Close by is the House Wall where if viewed from the right angle only the front wall can be seen and it appears that the building is only a facade.
It was then down the Primorsky Boulevard to the Duc de Richelieu statue and the famed Pomtemkin Steps. As it started to rain a bit heavy now we did not get the opportunity to go down the steps. The trip finished back at the Opera House, a very ornate and impressive looking building. It was being used for a lot of wedding photographs and going by the unhappy brides there, they were not relishing the wet weather. The only way they could get to their cars was for two of their groomsmen to lift them up, one on each arm, and carry them over the overflowing drains to stop them from getting their gowns dirtied from the water.
That night we dined at the Franzol Cafe at 22a Deribasovskaya Street, part of it faces a side lane and there are a couple of entrances, and an outside dining area. It offers a range of Odessa style dishes, we tried the baked mackerel with grilled vegetables which the wife enjoyed and pork with grilled vegetables in a sauce which was a bit oily. The chocolate drink was thick and a meal in itself. A band does play there in the evenings which is a little too loud for those eating inside as they occupy one of the doorways.
The following morning we tried the Zlanchnoe cafe which shares the same building as the Franzol Cafe. It offers a more extensive menu of Ukrainian meals so we tried the buckwheat porridge with egg and onion with home made bread and egg, chicken and bread, both meals were quite tasty. We then walked to the park at the end of the street where there was a small market selling clothing, paintings and miscellaneous stuff. Next to it is the recently reconstructed Russian Orthodox Cathedral. In the surrounding streets are quite a few interesting and ornate buildings .
A stop was made for morning tea at the Lviv chocolate shop, the chocolate drink with 3 types of chocolate and the one with cinnamon were both thick and delicious and with the piece of chocolate cake, it was enough to last all day. We made our way towards the Potemkin Stairs to see what we missed out on yesterday but by the time we got to the Opera House it had started to rain again fairly heavily so we sheltered there for a while and watched today's lot of brides having their photos taken and getting drenched in the process. Again the only way the brides could get to the car without letting their wedding dress trail in the muddy water was to be carried in a rather undignified manner. I hope that the rest of their marriage goes a lot smoother.
We managed to get around to the Town Hall with its musical bells which play a tune every half hour “Odessa my town” and there is also a cannon from a British ship that was wrecked in the harbour during the Crimean war and a statue to to Alexander Pushkin who lived in Odessa for a while. As the rain was not easing we gave up after an hour and made our way back to the hotel.
The following morning we caught a taxi to the airport for the flight to Istanbul with Ukraine Airlines. The check in desk opened late, flights leaving after us were opened 15 minutes before ours were but we still took off on time. The International transit area is small and with 2 flights departing within a few minutes of each other, it was rather crowded. The flight was uneventful and the service was the same as most other airlines we experienced.
The planning for the trip started a year earlier and Trip Advisor was the first source used, a few questions were asked in the forum (thanks Cora) but I found most things in the FAQ especially for the walks around Kiev, and just a browse of the old threads. Some further information came from the Internet from the sites run by the local tourist information places. I found that both the TA Attractions and these sites were limited in what to see and do, there was far more information in Cora's replies to mine and other threads.
Language was not too much of a problem though when we were travelling with friends, that section may have been difficult for us if we had tried to do it by ourselves as it was out of the main tourist area visited by Westerners. While we were not out late and didn't visit any of the hotels at night, we did not feel unsafe at any time walking around. The train ticket to Lviv was booked through the Polrail site and they sent the tickets to the hotel we had booked in Krakow who held them for us. The bus was booked in Ukraine via the Internet and so long as you read the instructions twice as to how to do it, it all worked. Same at the bus station, just hand over the paper work and you get your tickets without any speaking. The smart phone had a translator loaded and I could use it off line if needed, handy sometimes. Back home the biggest problem is the different translations from Ukraine to English for street names and some locations, some are spelt different ways so I am not always sure what ones are correct. The Ukrainians are lovely and friendly people and many we met were quite passionate about their country, cannot repeat some of their comments about the Soviet occupation.