We are in Odessa. I really am enjoying Odessa. It is a very lively town - the people seem more relaxed - it has definitely got that resort town feel. Odessa is very conscience of appearance. The buildings are marvelous and it has lots of parks.
Our driver is Vladimir. He has quite a sense of humour. He is kind of a tour guide as well - he knows everything about Odessa. He only speaks Russian which is probably fortunate because traffic here is crazy and he is very animated in his opinion of some other motorists driving habits. Some things just do not need to be translated to be understood.
We visited the Potemkin Stairs. Dad walked up them - Lera and I took the funicular. Its kind of a tram that runs up and down the stairs. She thought it was pretty cool.
We then stopped at the Mother-in-law Bridge. The story behind its name is that a soviet official staying at the Voronstov Palace on one side of the bridge built the bridge so that his mother in law had easier access to the palace or more specifically had no excuse not to return home, depending on what story you chose to believe. It has an interesting tradition attached to it. Newlyweds have their photo taken on this bridge and leave a padlock with their names attached to the bridge.
We have also visited the Opera house which is quite spectacular. I love looking at these buildings - each one is so ornate and different. I have taken a number of photos of miscellaneous cool looking buildings. The Opera House is something that they are very proud of, so I wanted to put that one on here. I am fascinated by the trees in front of it, I am told that they are covered with flowers in the spring but I just love the way the trunks grow. I wish I knew what kind they were.
Lera loves her food - particularly bananas! Keep your fingers clear if you are trying to feed her a banana. She stuffs it in her mouth so fast that I have to worry about her choking. When we go to eat she is pretty good. Surprisingly patient. When the food comes, however, the race is on. I have to keep a close watch on her so that she doesn't choke. She ate a whole lemon slice (peel and all) before I could stop her. Oh-and don't even think about putting your fingers in her mouth to pull something out - it just makes her swallow faster. When she starts to get full, she sits in her chair with a very happy, satisfied look on her face. For all the world, she looks like a queen surveying her kingdom. We get alot of great smiles if we take pictures after she eats.
The food is out of this world. I love a place called Top Sandwich and a place that I can't remember the name of but their website is http://www.steak.od.ua/ The staff was wonderful and they even had a children's menu (which is the first that I have seen) Dinner there was 200 grivnas - about $40) but it included chicken breast medallions and mashed potatoes for Lera in the shape of a clown face, pork ribs with veggies and baked potato, filet mignon with veggies and potato as well as juice and bread. Yes, I have hit the part of the trip where I am now dreaming of my favorite foods back home. We went here because it seemed to be less exotic. However, I have never eaten at a restaurant where a very well-fed cat sauntered past us and disappeared under the table.
There is an amazing toy store here, just a couple of blocks from the Hotel. It's 4 levels and has animated charactors throughout the store. A costumed Shrek was also there for the kids to meet. Lera was a little hesitant about this but when she saw other kids go up, she was game. I only have one picture of the toystore. I wish I had more. After I took the first photo, a guard came upto me and said NYET! NO Photos! Here is the one I got: