Odessa – Russian Travel

It overhangs a wide and beautiful bay of the Black Sea, situated near two important estuaries, called the Khodjabeyskoi and the Kuialskoi estuaries, both formed by the great Kuialnek rivers. Its principal division extends along the top of a bold range of cliffs, commanding an extensive seaview, and the ever-varying clusters of the ships of all nations floating in the harbor below. Immediately on the top of this cliff is the beautiful public walk, planted with flowering shrubs and trees, whose verdure is doubly welcome in a country so completely destitute of woods. A conspicuous spot near this walk is adorned with a statue of the Duc de Richelieu, who was governor of the city; a work of such effeminate expression, that it was long before we could persuade ourselves it was not intended to represent a woman.

On either side of this statue, and parallel to the summit of the cliffs, runs a line of splendid mansions, comprising the residences of the governor and the principal inhabitants. From this terrace a street branches off at right angles, communicating with the quarter in which the opera, the exchange, and the principal hotels are situated. From the exchange run broad and regular streets in every direction, a few of them paved with broad slabs like the streets of Naples, and the rest macadamized. Some stretch along the shore, both north and south, some through a deep and rugged ravine to the southwest, and some, of great length, extend toward the country.

The houses in the best quarters are very lofty and handsome, being generally built of a light-colored stone, and roofed with- sheets of iron, or painted wood. The stone used in building is of the same composition as the rocks on which the city stands, and the many others which abound in the neighborhood. It is a kind of semi indurated limestone, containing a considerable portion of oxide of iron, and with such immense quantities of cockle-shells mixed up with the principal substance, that many of the houses have the rough appearance of an artificial grotto. The softness of this stone, which is such that it may be chipped with a hatchet, renders it very favorable for the more showy purposes of the architect.

Advantageous, however, as the site is for a shipping station, the stranger is surprised at the boldness of the idea of founding a city on a spot so bleak and barren. The surrounding country looks like a burned desert. So parching is the breeze of summer, and so cold that of winter, that not a tree will grow. The hard clay is also unfriendly to the root.

But to show that the anticipations of its sagacious founder have been completely realized, it may be stated that in 1799 Odessa already contained 4,147 inhabitants. Three years after this the Emperor Alexander appointed the Duc de Richelieu governor of the city; and so many were the advantages conferred on it during his rule, that this enlightened foreigner may be considered its greatest benefactor. The city, which he found with 8,000 inhabitants, contained, only twenty years later, not fewer than 36,000 souls.*

The villas to which the wealthy residents generally retire every evening during the summer and autumn, are called “hutors”—a name which is employed also at Warsaw to denote a suburban retreat. Nothing can be more delightful than these retreats, situated, as they generally are, among shrubs and flowers, on the seashore, at the foot of a magnificent range of cliffs, running southeast from the city. The evening at these places is spent by some of our countrymen in fishing excursions, on one of the most beautiful seas in the world. Every walk round these mansions is overhung with fine specimens of the acacia, which is almost the only tree that can be brought to thrive in the country.