If adventure, romance and grandeur are what you look for in a city, then you have come to the right place in Odessa. Immortalised in bittersweet novel Moonlight in Odessa as “a place where the streets were lined with candy-coloured buildings, where people had conversations about classical music and art, where cooking for friends and family was the greatest way to express your love, where women wore sky-high heels with miniskirts and clattered down the street”, the city is also a bit of a pull for Alexander Pushkin fans, as the famed poet was exiled here in 1823.
Odessa’s literary legacy is not the only thing it has going for it. Wide leafy streets lined with Baroque buildings make up the city centre, while the city’s beaches are considered the pearl of the Black Sea. Unsurprisingly for a city with a cultural heritage as important as Odessa’s, art and music play a great role, and nowhere is this more deftly illustrated than in the former estates of Novikov, Tolstoy (cousin of Leo) and Gagarin.
The city was founded in the 18th century by Catherine the Great, although history records its roots as being ancient Greek. There are also vestiges of a Tsarist past, and it was under Ottoman reign from 1529 to 1792. Once part of Imperial Russia, Odessa enjoyed a heady status as a major port and was considered the fourth largest Russian city after Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw. Prior to the revolution, Odessa’s golden sands and warm waters made it a magnetic destination for Russian aristocrats.