I am going to Odessa and I am so excited! It will be my first time in Ukraine and by all reports Odessa is pretty awesome (even if they do get made fun of by Russians all the time for their apparently very Yiddish influenced Russian). The city was founded by Catherine the Great as a free port (I think the term was 'imperial port') and as a result developed as city vibrant both financially and culturally (loads of Jewish traders, Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians, other soviet/tsarist minorities I can't think of at the moment). The city's financial wealth meant that a lot of pretty buildings were built in the 19th c., and the fact that the city isn't quite as prosperous today means things are pretty cheap. I am also really curious because Russians always say that Brighton Beach in Brooklyn is like Odessa (because it is full of Russian Jews and Odessa used to be ?) and I want to be able to compare. This is sort of my present to myself for having finished my big research paper (on Ukrainian and Georgian politics) so I will be hanging out and being privately tutored in Russian about Ukrainian politics. Did I mention I was extremely excited? Granted it isn't the part of Ukraine where my grandmother's family is from (oh, I'll make it there don't worry), but I am getting away, I am taking a week long Russian vacation, and I get to experience a whole new city.