Odessa – The fog hung thick over the airport. I could barely see the aircraft, much less the runway. Nothing had let the ground in 24 hours, and unless this fog lifted, nothing would be leaving anytime soon. I had this idea that flying out of Odessa would be no less convenient than flying out of Iasi, Romania.
“Room 639!” he shouted in a heavy Ukrainian accent, pointing to the bottle of Vodka in his hand. About an hour earlier we found ourselves on a bus making its way along the dark streets of Odessa. Held hostage by a dense fog, like something out of a Stephen King movie, Turkish airlines had put us up in a hotel for the night.
The day had been chaotic to say the least, 4 hours in the aircaraft on the apron and another 5 hours in the terminal building before the flight was finally cancelled. Another 3 hours collecting luggage and rebooking flights, we’d finally arrived at the hotel. Amazingly spirits high and jokies about the possibility of leaving the next day.
I’d met up with two Brits, on a Ukrainian woman finding expedition, we looked at each other, exchange a few words and decided to take our fellow traveler up on his offer. Entering the room I’m greeted by the sight of a heavy set man, brandishing a rather large hunting knife and what looks like a leg of some poor swine, “Welcome.” he says. The ‘Butcher’ returns to carving up a his leg of pork and sausages, preparing a smors board of hand made cheese, smoked chicken and pork.
Pink Floyd blasting out of the small speakers on the table, my eyes survey the room, another skinnier man, is slicing a loaf of bread – the backer – and our host is already pouring the first round of Vodka. “Nostravia!” and we throw back the the first round of Vodka, the hot liquid flows down my throat and into my belly–it’s going to be one of those nights.
"They’ve managed to fuck up Dinesk." There is concern here that Russia will invade and the country will be at war. It seems a strange situation, in its simplest form the previous Ukrainian government was thrown out, the president ordered snipers to shoot civilians, the new government comes into power, no one is put on trial, Russian is removed as an official language, prompting Putin to proect Russian speaking population by invading the country.
The baker slicing some bread with the butchers rather large traveling blade, “Where else would this happen in the world? A country invades another and nothing happens. They still land their planes here.” It seems a situation that could easily tip, a game of chess being played by mad men.
Turns out the Ukranian tradition is nobody has an empty glass and with that said the Vodka starts flowing.
Our friend the candlestick maker suggest that we sample some of the wine made by his fathers hands. Having tried this in Romania, the slightly fizzy, sour juice they call wine, I politely decline. But this is Ukraine and there is no arguing. Our friend dashes out the room, returing later with a plastic bottle of light red liquid. “Finish your Vodka so you can try the wine.” he coaxes, “But just a little bit, it’s not good to mix Vodka and wine.”.
Surprisingly the wine is pretty good. A little sweat but definately an improvement on the Romanian plonk.
My two companions, one of whom I’ll be sharing digs with this evening, are in Odessa to meet local women Oliver 48 and Twist 58 (fictitious names used to protect their identities). They come in for the weekend to meet their online ladies. Swapping stories, Oliver gives his tips on the Ukranian online dating scene: make sure you check the girl can speak English first, the last thing you need is a 3rd wheel (translator) at dinner with you on the date. Aside from paying for a third meal, translating fees, it’s just impersonal.
Getting in the flight the next morning is like greating familiar friends, all with hangovers, as the fog finally lifts and we jet off to Odessa.
The lesson in this is Odessa does not have radar. Avoid it if possible.