Babes And Babushkas In Odessa, Ukraine

We thought it was an English-speaking club. My travel buddies and I had already attended one English practice meetup in Odessa and days prior another one in Transnistria, the unrecognized country that broke away from Moldova.

Departing our beach area apartment, we walked to the center of Odessa and found a semi-random guy waiting for us on a second-floor balcony. Some of us had met him a day earlier in a supermarket aisle. He let us in the building — a polished structure down the street from Odessa’s picturesque opera.

It wasn’t a bar like the last time. There were people dressed in suits and everything was very orderly. Inside a classroom there was indeed an English-speaking practice group. But it wasn’t what he had expected. During introductions, one American woman volunteered to introduce herself. She said she has 33 grandchildren. Then she named them off one by one, not missing a kid or a beat, nor pausing to think. Things started to make sense.

We were inside a Mormon church. And American missionaries were delivering the English lesson.

Luckily, travel was a welcomed subject. We discussed past trips to Petra, Jordan and the missionaries planned venture to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia. But God was not to be overlooked in the conversation. And the lesson came with a prayer session. There was no opt-out for that part.

This was a change of pace. Our experiences in Odessa thus far had mostly consisted of working beachside while beautiful women strolled by on the boardwalk and going to the eccentric Ibiza club, where we downed drinks poolside and took in the atmosphere of Odessa’s party district.

Odessa’s an eclectic city visited by missionaries and sex tourists alike. For a former Soviet city rife with poverty and corruption, Odessa has a certain charm. It has surprisingly attractive city center architecture and family friendly activities, like kids’ horseback riding on cobblestone streets. There are lots of outdoor performances too, ranging from old couples dancing to Russian music to teenagers rocking out on electronic drum sets. When the weather is warm, the city comes alive. The man devochki (girls) strolling the streets in their summer dresses is quite appealing to the male tourists and locals alike.

Everyone speaks Russian in Odessa, but there’s no war going on. There was some violence a few years back, but it’s not a separatist city.

I had to visit. It was only a matter of time before I visited Ukraine’s primary Black Sea Coast city. After all, Ukraine is one of my two favorite countries in Eastern Europe (Can you guess the other? Hint: It’s also on the Black Sea), and Odessa is known for its beautiful women, beaches and summer party scene. And I get to practice a little Ruski.

So, of course, I planned a traveling workation. Several semi-nomadic friends of mine joined me on the trip. We ventured from Chisinau, Moldova to Transnistria and then to Odessa.

Odessa is a great place for a summer workation. There are cafes and swimming pool clubs along the beach where you can sit for hours with the laptop in front of you, shade covering you if you want it or sand at your feet, if that’s what you prefer. Food and drinks are very cheap. A steak and a glass of wine go for about 10 euros — on the beach!

Over in Odessa’s party area, which is called Arcadia, the Ibiza beach club is a little more pricey. You can go there to sunbathe during the day, but most of the action is at night. Ibiza attracts some wealthy men from the Middle East and around the world, all hoping to use their status to score a sexy local lady. Who knows how many succeed?

Obviously, Odessa isn’t for everyone. But that’s the way I like it. I’ll keep coming back a few days each year in summer, just probably not to English class.

 

Stay: Odessa is a great place to AirBnB. You can get luxury villas incredibly cheap – especially if you are sharing with friends. Do not underestimate distances, though – Odessa is a big city. However, there is even Uber to drive you around.

 

Eat: Several very nice restaurants abound in Odessa. Only the best is Bernadazzi – and probably the most expensive. However, in Odessa that just means 20$ for an excellent 4-course-meal including wine. Other recommendations are Kompot, which is also nice to work in the afternoon, the Georgian restaurant Kinza and the Steak House – famous for my former vegan intern trying to get something else than meat and the waiter not understanding and believing him…

 

Drink: Odessa is notorious for its nightlife. Most of the rowdy party scene happens in Arcardia, a suburb on the beach with high rise condominiums. Ibiza Club is definitely worth a closer look, especially on weekends. But also the center of town has plenty of nice bars to hang out – and world famous gentlemen’s clubs to go with friends.

 

See: Just go at sunset in main season over the main promenade circling from the opera to the town park and see with your own eyes. What? Well, you will see what I mean…

 

Do: Just take it easy in Odessa. You can swim in the rather dirty Black Sea, relax on the super crowded beaches or rather just work in one of the street cafes along the promenade. Just be careful with the taxi drivers. When leaving Arcadia, just go 200m further. Every 20m the taxi price will reduce itself by half. Or just call an Uber instead.

 

Date: Tinder works very well and while most Ukrainians here are not as proficient in English as in Lviv for example, it is pretty doable. Obviously, there are plenty of other opportunities in Odessa. Just don’t be an annoying dick – girls are here on holiday.

 

Go there: You can fly directly from Prague, Vienna, Munich and several other cities or easily connect in Kiev. There still is a ferry going to Georgia if you like an adventure. Trains and buses also steadily arrive from all parts of the country. If you come by plane, beware again of the taxis. Normal price from town to airport is around 4$. They will quote you a ridicolous 50$ for the same way if you appear to be a clueless tourist. Do not pay more than 10$.

 

Go next: Peer into the unrecognised country to the west – Transnistria. Or go east to Crimea – however you wont be able to get in over Ukraine nor ever be able to immigrate again into the country. If you want to see the real Ukraine, consider the route Odessa-Mikolajiw-Saporischija-Kharkiv and fly to Kiev.. If you are brave enough, travel to the war zones of Donezk and Luhansk can still be easily arranged.