Its funny how you remember a place differently to how, in reality, it actually is. The first time I went to Odessa it was three in the morning, I was 18 and drunk and the city was so beautiful. Snow glossing over the pavements, people wearing fur coats as they hurried to get out of the cold and some very ornate buildings.
Its six years later, Four o’clock in the afternoon, I am 24, sober and Odessa seems like a very different place now. Polar opposite infact to the one I remember. I think a bit part of this is the lack of snow. Without it the streets seem to have this grimy phosphorescence to them.
On exiting the port we were met by a taxi driver named Yuri. As the day wore on I realized that his name had to have been Yuri for him to fit into this “new” Odessa. Everything about the city was so stereo-typically Eastern European. From the overcast grey skies. To the men with their shorn military style haircuts and cheap leather jackets, cigarettes dangling from their mouths. To the outrageously beautiful women who, despite the ever present chill in the air, dress in short skirts and heels and strut as if they were walking a catwalk in fashion week in Milan, or Paris, or London, or. Well you get my point. Even the buildings look how you would imagine. Lavish opera houses and affluent hotels bump and grind awkwardly with the communistic buildings favoring function over form. Yuri dropped us off near the centre gave us his phone number and drove off.
Not quite knowing where we were, we walked (alliteration so sorry about that) in a random direction stopping to eat in a small Italian restaurant. After eating we continued this aimless wandering until it began to rain. Luckily it was at about this time that we spotted a wax museum. Which shall henceforth be dubbed “The Worlds Worst Wax Museum” (although you must understand, dear Reader, that this is entirely opinion based). The first section in the museum was called “Fantasy hall”. This being Eastern Europe I wasn’t sure which way the museum would go with this theme. It, unfortunately went the PG13 way and the “Fantasy Hall” was filled with characters from fantasy and Sci-Fi movies.
The best was Chewbacca with a dirty blond dye job. Sort of what Chewie would have looked like if he was playing the synthesizer in a electro band from the eighties. There was also a very camp Spiderman and two Avatars from the movie Avatar (although I am not sure that these qualified to be in the wax museum as they appeared to be made of fiberglass).
The second hall was dedicated to “Famous Ukrainians” aside from Mila Kunis (who incidentally wasn’t waxed (innuendo much?)) I know of no famous Ukrainians. So I shall give the museum the benefit of doubt here and say that this was a very accurate portrayal of the famous Ukrainians of the ages.
The third hall was nameless, though if I had to give it a name it would be “The hall dedicated to the movie X-Men; First Class.” This was my favorite section. Mainly because they freaking dedicated a whole section of their museum to X-Men, but partly also for the fact that they gave Mystique very prominent nipples!
The final and worst hall (sort of like a really shitty dessert (I’m talking to you Flan!)) was the “Hollywood Hall” The wax figures all looked like gross caricatures of the celebrities they were representing. I think my top tip for the wax museum is squint!
Leaving the wax museum it had stopped raining and the grey seemed a lighter shade. As we continued our wander we talked of how we were glad that we went into the museum. Despite it being ridiculous and kind of crap it was only about the price of a venti white mocha from Starbucks and gave us far more entertainment then said coffee would have, plus it’s zero calories so you know my thighs won’t feel it! .
The other thing I remembered about Odessa was that it had a staircase that was famous for something. Not knowing where this staircase was we set about wandering through the old district randomly until we saw some steps that could be the famous ones.
Having no photo, name or map of the actual place we decided that the stairs that were semi impressive must have been the ones we were looking for. It turned out they were and later I found out the reason for them being famous. They are shaped in such a way to appear elongated when viewed from the bottom and shortened from the top. Their official name is “The Primorsky Stairs” but they are also known as the “Potemkin Steps” as the 1925 classic film “Battleship Potemkin” had a famous scene where a pram tumbled down the stairs.
At the top of the steps there were some street performers whose attraction was eagles. I’m not really into this blatant exploitation of animals. The eagles looked beat. These once majestic birds had been objectified to mere props in fat tourists photos After the eagles we kind of felt done with Odessa.
In the cold light of sobriety , I realized that the city I remembered had changed. Or perhaps I have changed. Either way……