This interesting half-day tour not only showcases the city's major landmarks, but also highlights its significant Jewish history and culture. Until as recently as the 1970s, Odessa had the distinction of having the largest Jewish population of any other city in the world and was often referred to as the Jewish Capital. Such world-famous names as Jascha Heifetz, Emil Gilels, David Oistrakh, Nathan Milstein, Leon Brodsky, Isaac Babel and Vladimir Jabotinsky are closely connected with Odessa's remarkable past.
Your exploration of this fascinating city that has gained the nickname, Gateway to Zion begins with a short drive from the pier to Primorksy Boulevard where you will embark on a guided walking tour, discovering the boulevard's allure in its numerous inviting benches and magnificent, panoramic views of the harbor and sea. Stunning vistas abound along this grand promenade which is sprinkled with one remarkable attraction after another, including the City Hall, the highly cherished monument to the Duc de Richelieu and the fabulous Odessa Opera House where a photo stop is planned. One of the Boulevard's most illustrious sights is the renowned Potemkin Steps, originally known as the Boulevard Steps. Built in 1837 and extending 465 feet, the steps are arguably the very best place to view the sparkling waters of the bay and the bustling port. Interestingly enough, looking down from the top, the steps themselves become invisible, with only the landings being seen, while looking upwards, the landings disappear and only the steps become visible. The steps were made famous in the motion picture, The Battleship Potemkin, a film that commemorated the 1905 workers' uprising that was supported by the crew of the battleship. The film depicts the famous massacre taking place on the steps, but in actuality, it took place in the nearby streets a
nd not on the steps themselves. Also seen is the Pushkin Monument which honors the once-exiled famous poet.
Re-joining your coach, you'll make your way to the synagogue of Shomrei Shabbos. A visit here includes an informative narration of what present-day life is like in the Jewish community of Odessa. Next, it's on to the well known district of Moldavanka. It is here, in a small park that you will find two dark grey marble stones, one engraved in lighter shades with a menorah and the other with a Magen David. This somber monument pays tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and you will no doubt be moved by the laying of flowers that takes place here as well as a short recital performed by local Jewish children.
Traveling on, your tour continues down Miasoedovskaya Street, still known as Shalom Aleichem. It is at this location that another important landmark from the olden days is found - the Jewish Hospital. Founded in 1802, the hospital's massive yard is well-remembered for sheltering thousands of Jews during the 1905 massacre. You will also pass by the impressive Brodsky Synagogue as you proceed onward to the reddish stone edifice that is the Old Main Synagogue of Odessa. Built in 1850, it was used for other purposes during the Soviet era, but in 1996 was returned to the Judaic religious community of Odessa and is in use today as an active synagogue. A brief visit to its beautifully restored interior is afforded before you are transferred back to the ship where your tour concludes.
Please note: This tour includes approximately 45 minutes of moderate walking with some steps to be negotiated. Those with mobility concerns are cautioned to evaluate their personal level of ability and stamina. A hat and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. The order of sites visited may vary.