Monday, September 9, 2013

192 and Counting

I remember seeing Sergei Eisenstein's classic 1925 silent movie, Battleship Potemkin, which told of the great Russian Naval mutiny and resulting street demonstration which brought about a police massacre in Odessa.  It was what we all watched when I was in college. To this day there are only two scenes that I remember vividly.  One is a scene on the ship Potemkin, where the sailors are being served meat riddled with maggots.  Who could forget a scene like that?  The other scene is the 4+ minute scene of the soldiers marching forward, herding the demonstrators down the Potemkin Steps, many to their death.  You can't forget the sight of a little baby buggy starting down the steps and then slowly rolling down the steps, picking up speed as it went along.  If you haven't seen it, check that one scene on YouTube.  I watched it before we came here, knowing that we would be at those same steps today.

When the revolution took place, there were 200 steps, but in doing reconstruction, they somehow lost eight and now there are only 192 steps.

We pulled into port in Odessa this morning (another "Oh my God, I'm actually in Odessa!" moments!) the very first thing we saw was the steps.  They are right. there.

Well, not right. there. exactly.  It's a schlep to get from the boat, across the railroad tracks and the busy traffic, but other than that it's right. there.

The first order of business was a city tour, which took us through all the highlights.  This is a beautiful city, with wide pedestrian walkways, beautiful tree lined streets, and lovely European style buildings thanks to Catherine the Great, who imported architects from Italy and France to design the buildings.

This shot suffers from bus window reflection, but this is one of the grand boulevards, where pedestrians can stroll and shop.  Alla says this is a good street for jewelry.

Our first official stop was at Odessa's Tomb of the Unknowns, victims of World War II.

Fifteen to sixteen year old school volunteers, dressed in naval-themed uniforms come here to be on duty. These kids march from the guard post at the main road down the Alley of Glory to the Obelisk and then stand on duty for 15 minutes before being replaced by the next watch, when they march in formation back to the guard post.  They remain on guard every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

From there we drove to the top of the Potemkin Steps, where we could take a picture looking down at where our ship is parked.

We walked through a lovely boulevard down to city hall.  In front of City Hall is the oldest tree in Odessa, said to predate the city itself.  I was taking pictures of the tree, but then saw our new friend Bob making a new friend of his own and liked this shot better.

We walked up to the opera house and I got a nice shot of the side of it and the frou frou on the top, but I couldn't get a picture of the front of it because they are erecting scaffolding for some sort of concert that will be going on simultaneously with the opera we are seeing tomorrow night.

We returned to the ship for lunch and then Walt and Mike took off on an excursion to the Odessa Catacombs, a network of tunnels that consist of three levels, stretching out under the city and surrounding region of Odessa. During World War II, the catacombs served as hiding places for Soviet partisans.  Char and I decided that steps...tight places...sometimes dark.  We didn't need it!  
Instead, we decided to walk into town, which involved figuring out how to cross from the water to town, riding the funicular railroad to the top of the famous steps, and then deciding what to do next. First we took a picture of the Golden Baby, a statue which symbolizes the rebirth of Odessa (not, as someone has suggested, a tribute to Arnold Schwartzenegger's love child)

The funicular was fun, if cramped and only takes a minute or so to rise from the street level to the top of the steps.

We got up to the boulevard where we had been with the group earlier in the day and started trying to figure out what we wanted to do and, ultimately, what we wanted to do was sit there, in the cool breeze, watching the world go by and talking about the trip again.  If we had done something "normal," like gone shopping, we would have missed a lovely exchange between us and two Ukrainian women.  We don't speak Ukrainian, they don't speak English and I don't have a clue what they were talking about, but they were delightful, I took their picture, and they blew us kisses when we got up to leave.  Love these cultural exchanges!

I couldn't believe I suggested we walk down the steps, but I did.  And it wasn't difficult.  My cane helped tremendously. 

Of course it's not ONLY 192 steps, it's more steps down to the road that crosses under the street and then up some more steps to the building and then up 40 steps to the bridge level.

But I did it and it really wasn't all that bad, once the panting stopped.  We got back to the ship about 20 minutes before a demonstration of towel folding started.  I really wanted to go, but when I sat on the bed, what I really wanted to do was sleep, but instead I dragged myself up and went to the demonstration.  I'm glad I did.  I won't be making any of these creatures, but it was fun finding out how it is done.  I also discovered that "Harvey," whom I killed a few days ago was not a rabbit after all, but a dog. Now I feel even worse.

Now it's time for our second-to-last night here on the Viking Lomonosov.  In two days I'll be writing this from a hotel in Istanbul.  Oh my God....!


Shrimp cocktail with fruit
Pumpkin soup
Some sort of veal with shredded fried potatoes (love 'em)
Dark chocolate mousse with cherry ragout (definitely did not taste chocolatey!)

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