The Budget Babe | Affordable Fashion & Style Blog

Savvy Travel: Steppin' Out in Odessa

The Budget Babe's International Shopping Advisor Fifi LaMode visits Odessa, Ukraine, one hoppin' place. —TBB


by Fifi LaMode
Most of what I knew of Odessa I learned from a very old film by Sergei Eisenstein: Potemkin (silent movie about an event during the Russian Revolution).

Most of you may know of the film inadvertently through the famous scene of the baby carriage tumbling down the steps, copied many times in films by directors such as Woody Allen and Brian DePalma. These are the famous Potemkin Steps leading to the port in Odessa. Imagine my excitement when I saw them from our ship— all 193 of them (husband counted to make sure - LOL). No tumbling baby carriages though, just a pretty boulevard lined with trees and turn of the century homes, all fixed up and pretty.

Ukraine was formerly part of the Soviet Union, a.k.a. Evil Empire. Times have changed indeed. This is a very friendly country. People speak English in restaurants and shops, and the country is in the throes of a major building boom. Old stately buildings are being refurbished, wide boulevards abound, streets are clean, the city is alive and thriving, largely due to its port and the industries connected with it. Did I mention the casinos? Another sign of the times. Most of the cleaned-up old buildings turn out to be casinos.

Another thing that really stood out—and I mean REALLY stood out—are the young women. A lot of supermodel types: super-thin, super-pretty, super-long legs. They are really strikingly beautiful. Fifi hates them. (Kidding) Their uniform is a short tight jacket with big fur trim, poured-on jeans, and very very high heeled boots, very expensive looking, and not a scuff on them.

You have to realize that the streets ain't in good shape. I kept tripping on the uneven sidewalks, even in my practical fugly walking shoes (as my bud the Budget Babe calls them). But not these Olgas and Ludmillas—they just ambled along gracefully. One had red suede knee-high boots and once again, not one scratch, not one scuff. All these super-gorgeous women had shoes that looked like they w ere never worn. My theory is they wear them once, then throw them out! No other explanation is possible.

Since most of the population makes like $100 a month, I'm tempted to think maybe these girls don't get these shoes doing honest work? Indeed prostitution is a big thing in Odessa, as is organized crime. Who knows? I just know I've never seen so many long-legged gorgeous women in my life. Hubby was perfectly happy just to sit in the park and drool. Can't say I blame him. Did I mention the guys were gorgeous too? Lots of very good-looking people in this place. Don't visit if you suffer from low self-esteem.

Now for the budget bit: Forget the shoes—you can't afford them and neither can I (European prices—nothing good under $200). Soak in some local atmosphere and some local food. Found a lovely restaurant called "Vassilisa", extra cute folk-themed; walls all painted with flowers and wait staff in native costumes. Had a huge bowl of borsch full of meat, beets, carrots, beans, served with a warm fresh chunk of garlic-covered bread, all for around $5. You also have to see the bathroom to believe it—also decorated in folksy designs and a little doll in native dress on the door. Too cute, had to take a picture.

Odessa is easy to get around, the downtown area is not large, it's a good walking town, lots of modern shops, people are friendly. My first impression of this country is a good one, even though things are not what they seem at first glance. There's a lot of stupid big money in this place. Flash is in. Outside the glitzy center, much work needs to be done; run-down buildings abound, reminders of a darker past. But Ukraine is determined to move ahead and they're doing it by leaps and bounds. Would love to visit again in around 10 years to see the progress.

the budget babe divider

Read more about Fifi LaMode's overseas adventures here. >>
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