Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Oh Darn

I'm sitting here on the 7th floor of the Conrad Istanbul, with an amazing view at my elbow and I really want to talk about Istanbul, which is (so far) incredible.  But this is the make-up entry from yesterday, so let me finish my report on Odessa.

Our first order of business was taking the Jewish Odessa tour.  Odessa has the unique reputation of being one of the most welcoming cities in the world.  At one time the Jews made up about 40% of the population, the second largest population in Ukraine after Kiev, and they were never put into ghettos, but lived like...you know...normal people.  The streets here are named for the ethnic groups that lived together in the city.  Our first stop was the main synagogue in Odessa, at the corner of French Street and Jewish Street (really!)

We learned about the history of this synagogues and more about the history of Jews in Odessa, which led naturally to the next stop, the Holocaust memorial.  This is a small park in the center of the city.  At one end is a black marble.

The block is mounted on some cobblestones, which you don't think much about at first.

...until the guide explained that when the memorial was being planned, the planners insisted that this one particular street be torn up and the stones used, because these were the stones that the 25,000-34,000 Jews massacred in Odessa from October 22 to 24 in 1941 walked upon to their death.  A google search of "Holocaust Odessa" will show you a host of articles about this slaughter.
At the other end of the memorial is another statue dedicated to those murdered, and between the two is a little garden of trees, planted in memory of the "righteous gentiles" who helped to save some of the Jews, at the threat to their own lives. 
In this spot, thousands of mostly women and children
were locked in warehouses, which were then set on fire.
The rest of the tour was kind of a who's who in Jewish history, who lived where and that sort of thing.  Since we knew so few of the names she rattled off, it didn't mean much to us, but the holocaust stuff was very moving.

(they were singing the call to prayers now and I've opened my hotel window to listen.  The sound is floating all over the city, and is competing with the sound of motorcycles and fire engines, but I definitely know I'm not in Kansas any more!)

Back to Odessa.  Mike and Walt went on another excursion in the afternoon, while Char and I stayed on the ship and started getting our luggage organized.  

In the evening, we went to the Odessa Opera House to see Tchaikovsky's Iolanta, not, as I said, to be confused with Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe!

When we arrived at the opera house, there was a stage set up in front, with folks waiting for what looked like it was probably going to be some sort of folk music festival.

That big black rectangle is the stage and looking at the people in costume behind it, as we marched around to the side of the Opera House to enter, I could tell that it was probably folk "stuff" and part of me wanted to stay and listen!

But entry into the opera house itself literally took my breath away.

Apparently the ship had given out opera synopses to some of the people going to this event, but we didn't get one, so we were kind of lost in the first act.  Apparently Iolanta is a blind princess who doesn't know she's blind, or that she is a princess.  Kind of a secret her Dad is keeping from her.  Then there is a guy who looks like Rasputin who says he can cure her.  Not sure why Dad says no, but that's where Act 1 ends.

In Act 2, like the princes of Princess Ida, a prince and his buddies sneak into the castle and it's love at first sight for him, but obviously not for her because she can't see, but she has always dreamed of love and apparently he has a good enough voice that he Makes An Impression.  He eventually figures out that she is blind, 'cause he's a bright sort of lad and he wants to marry her.  Dad threatens to have him killed for trespassing but he really doesn't want to kill him, he wants Iolanta be in love so much that she will want to see so that she will work with Rasputin and be able to see.  Iolanta goes off with Rasputin while Dad hugs the prince and tells him that little death threat was all a joke.  In minutes, Iolanta is back, suddenly able to see and everybody lives happily after after.
I think.

I took this picture at the curtain call.  This gal was a bit long in the tooth to play the youthful Iolanta and she was weak in her lower register, but nailed those high notes.  The woman in front of me had a camera with a close up lens a mile long and she took pictures throughout the opera.  I was very angry with her because that's a real no-no...and we had all been told that many times.

When we walked back to the bus, we could hear the music from the festival and, I was right...I really wanted to stay!  But alas, that was not a possibility.

We came back to the ship for a late dinner, then finished (almost) packing and went to sleep for the last time on the Viking Lomonosov.  We slept poorly.  I think each of us was awake part of every hour.  But then came the morning and on to Istanbul...but that is a story I will write after we have come back from dinner tonight.

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