Odessa – Ukraine
I wasn’t really intending to go to Ukraine. Partly because of the political climate and partly because I wasn’t sure if it would be safe for a Brit. Well I’m very glad I did go, it’s a great country with warm, friendly people.
It’s a country with an internal conflict and an uncertain future. People are very cynical in Ukraine, even more so than me! If you know me then you’ll know I have a slight cynical streak in me! People take what the government says with a pinch of salt as they have been lied to many times before.
The people I met in Odessa were genuinely interested in talking and getting to know me. ‘Why did you come to Ukraine?’ they would ask. ‘Well why not?’ would be my reply. Western tourists don’t seem to visit much and I think that’s a shame as they are missing out on an interesting experience in a cultured country.
For years Ukraine has had a bad reputation for sex tourism. Usually sad, fat old men with failed lives at home who think a woman half their age will find them attractive. For most of these men it’s just a pipe dream, and a pretty pathetic one at that. This leads me neatly on to the hostel I stayed in, where there were 2 sex tourists staying.
Grand Babuska hostel
What a lovely, homely place to stay. Luba, Victor and Anya made it feel like home and I appreciate their help and kindness. Luba even moved me to another room so I could have a break from the snoring chorus in the dorm! Also she took her cats away because I was allergic and couldn’t stop sneezing. Very nice of her.
Unfortunately there were a couple of sex tourists staying there for a few nights, one of which was just sad and lonely but the other was rude to the staff and made for an uncomfortable atmosphere.
I felt very sorry for the staff at the hostel, they are hard working and just trying to make a living so they don’t deserve to be treated badly. Sometimes you just get a few bad eggs in hostels but it shouldn’t tarnish the hostel’s reputation.
I would go back there and stay in a heartbeat. I highly recommend the Grand Babushka Hostel as a safe, friendly place to stay in Odessa.
My visit to Odessa didn’t get off to the best start. On my 2nd day there I went on a walkabout, which ended up with me getting scammed by some locals who were parading around with a couple of Golden Eagles.
They approached me, then put these 2 eagles on my shoulders despite me saying no several times. Then they grabbed my camera from my hand and proceeded to take photos of me. The eagles didn’t look happy about it and their beaks were edging closer and closer to my head! ‘
I finally managed to get them to take the birds off me, then came the extortion part. ‘You have photos, you owe us $100’ they proclaimed. ‘I’m not giving you $100, I didn’t ask for photos’ I replied, trying not to get too angry. There were 3 of them after all, and only 1 of me.
We went back and forth for 10 mins or so before I managed to get free and start walking away. Then they followed me. ‘Give us money, you owe us money’ Eventually, to avoid getting taken in a dark alley, I gave in and handed over 450 UAH, about £12. They continued to follow me for a while and then gave up.
My response now when someone walks up to me is to say ‘no’ firmly and keep walking. If they persist I follow it up with a firm ‘fuck off’. It seems to be working so far!
With that disaster of a day behind me I continued to explore Odessa and very much enjoyed the city, the sea front and the funky trams! It was very picturesque place and I can imagine that it’s amazing in the summer months.
Locals told me that since the Russians annexed Crimea, Odessa has become much busier in the summer. In fact, I will be in the city to experience it myself in 2016!
Once I had finished my CELTA course in September I started thinking about where I would like to work. At the time I was focusing on maybe Spain, Russia or going back to Budapest. I’m very keen to learn a 2nd language so that was important in deciding where to go.
I started looking when I was in Bucharest, just to see what was out there. There were jobs available in Russia, Spain and in Asia.
It was at this point that I met some Aussie girls who had been to Moldova and so I decided to visit the country also and then when on to Ukraine from there.
I applied for a job with the London School of English and I think it helped that I was in the city and could come and meet the manager and do a demo lesson.
Odessa is a lovely city and I’m looking forward to working at LSE, learning Russian and enjoying a hot summer; something we don’t get in England!
Here are a few more shots from Odessa!