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My Odessa: a Photo Essay

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A bear in a restaurant. Photo © 2008 Joanna Gabler. (Click on image to view gallery.)
A bear in a restaurant. Photo © 2008 Joanna Gabler. (Click on image to view gallery.)

Click here or on image to view photo gallery.

My current exhibition at Papyri Books in North Adams is the fruit of a totally unexpected, but absolutely wonderful trip I was lucky to take last June to Odessa, the legendary city-port on the shore of the Black Sea. I was invited by a friend who was there on a contract to spend a week in Odessa together with his family.

After a 29-hour-long train trip from Warsaw I found myself in Odessa’s magnificent train station, full of chandeliers and marbles, with a cupola which belonged more in an art museum. After a short taxi ride, where the fare was negotiated verbally because the taxi was not a real taxi and did not have a meter, we landed in a small but comfortable rented apartment full of glitter, plastic flowers, and very high gloss furniture in the best part of the town. After a short rest we went for a walk. The magnificent, fully restored Opera and Theater was right nearby. In the next few days, Paul McCartney visited Ukraine and had a concert in Kiev, celebrating the independence of Ukraine, which was transmitted live on the big screen erected next to the theater. Crowds gathered. The first walk turned to days of walking. Every day we were exploring different parts of the city and its wonderful beaches. Some of the promenades reminded me of Coney Island with its amusements and rides going right up to the shore. The beaches were usually clean and the water surprisingly clear, considering that the big port is right there.

I became totally enchanted by this unique city and its magnificent architecture, the locals’ unique sense of humor, and its very joyful life style, where champagne, wine and beer are freely drunken out of the bottle on city streets and squares, but drunken people are not as common sight as you would expect. In the center of town, especially on major streets, a lot of the buildings were restored, some, very beautiful ones demolished to make a room for modern glass and concrete buildings. My favorite activity became visiting backyards hidden behind more or less sophisticated gates. A lot of them you will see on my pictures. The stairs from the harbor to the city are famous from Eisentein’s film, Potemkin. In reality it did not appear to be so impressive. Hundreds of homeless animals, cats as well as dogs were to be found everywhere.

Click here or on image to view photo gallery.

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