The large port city of Odessa, Ukraine, built on a cliff overlooking the Black Sea, presents a dichotomy. In part, it's an ugly, industrial, oil-refinery city, but it also has streets lined with lilac and acacia trees, outstanding classic architecture, a thriving cafe scene, vibrant nightlife at the Arkadia beach and nightclub area and relatively uncrowded beaches. It's a pleasant place to spend a day or party on the weekend. Go to one of the parks on a Sunday and watch the families out for a stroll.

You'll find many monuments in town named after the battleship Potemkin. It should be familiar to those who saw the classic silent movie of the same name by Soviet filmmaker Sergey Eisenstein. In 1905, sailors from the battleship Potemkin mutinied and joined angry residents of Odessa in an uprising against the czarist government. Although the uprising was ultimately unsuccessful, it was a precursor to the revolution of 1917. Take note of the Potemkin Steps, where Eisenstein portrayed the massacre of rebelling citizens by czarist troops.

Deribasivska Street is the main thoroughfare in Odessa. Near it are the Opera House, the Pushkin Museum and the Archaeological Museum, which has ancient Slavic and Egyptian exhibits. The Odessa symphony puts on excellent and inexpensive performances—check to see if they're playing during your visit.

During World War II, Odessa came under siege by the Nazis. It suffered major damage and after the war was named a "Hero City of the Soviet Union"—the underground tunnels used by resistance fighters can still be explored today.

Odessa is located 230 mi/370 km south of Kiev.

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