Walks in Odesa: Gretska Street
If you are in Odessa for the first time and just want to walk around the city, you should definitely walk through several central streets. Our first walk is on Gretsky Street.
For centuries, representatives of various peoples, including the Greeks, settled on the Black Sea coast between the Dnieper and the Dniester. They say that at the end of the 18th century there was a coffee shop of the Greek Asparidis in the Turkish fortress of Hadjibey on the central street. The establishment passed from father to son for several generations. Even in 1789, when the fortress was conquered by the troops of the Russian Empire, Asparidis, as if nothing had happened, continued to brew coffee, but for new customers. That is why the Greek Simon Asparidis is called the first restaurateur of Odessa.
When the city of Odesa began to develop on the site of the Khadzhibey fortress, an unexpected problem arose. The new city was desperately short of population. Do you remember Gogol’s character, the merchant Chichikov, buying up dead souls? Using modern terms, he wanted to receive a government grant – within the framework of the state program for the settlement of the Black Sea region. The living and the dead, but there were few souls. And then, in the name of Empress Catherine, the new city authorities began to invite foreigners to settle.
The Greeks, who were used to the hot climate and life near the sea, settled down perfectly in their new place. The street on which Asparidis’ coffee shop stood, and which was massively populated by his compatriots, became the central and brightest street of the city. During the Porto-Franco era, the richest Greek merchants of Odessa – Mavromatis, Kalifotidi, Kalpakhchi – kept their benches here. It smelled of dates and overseas spices. Local developers built profitable houses that were rented out – and the list of famous citizens who had to live on Gretskaya street takes up several pages. Here, Yuriy Olesha met the beautiful Serafima Suok, whose name he later named the brave girl in the novel “Three Fat Men”.
The famous writer Mark Twain, who visited Odessa in the middle of the 19th century, called it an American city. Indeed, then the Odesa center could give a head start to some full-time San Francisco. Beautiful houses, neat cobblestones, through which a tram line soon passed – everything showed that the city was flourishing.
Unfortunately, the twentieth century was not kind to the architecture of Old Odessa. Some of the houses were destroyed, the rest fell into disrepair. So all elegant houses – new building or recent restoration. The Odesa Drama Theater was reconstructed several times, so only memories remain of the building built in 1874. Although lovers of antiquity can find in old buildings in Greece many cute little things: patterned railings of balconies, remnants of stucco, figured porticos.
In the recent history of Odessa, Gretskaya street is also full of life. The huge shopping center of Athens is located on the former market square, which is now also called Gretska. Near it is a monument to the mayor Hryhoriy Marazli, with the signature “The Great Greek”. The city is prosperous again, and new shops and restaurants are opening on the main streets.
На окрему історію заслуговує історія назви ресторану «Бодега 2 Карла», який претендує на звання найстарішого кафе міста. Це не зовсім так, просто на жвавому кутку Грецької та Катерининської завжди існував питний заклад. Навіть у радянські часи тут працювало кафе. Вулиці тоді були перейменовані – Грецька називалася Карла Лібкнехта, а Катерининська – Карла Маркса. Не дивно, що кафе на їхньому перетині прозвали «Два Карли», або «2К». Після розпаду СРСР вулицям повернули історичні імена, а ось нові власники кафе вирішили використати його неофіційну назву. Нині тут ресторан безсарабської кухні.