A Frozen Sea

Posted on February 18, 2012

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While walking around the Odessa’s farmer’s market near the central train station, the only thing keeping my fingers alive was the scalding hot plastic cup of green tea in my hands. My friend Joey translated all of the friendly greetings and sweet concerns of the vendors, “Where are you from?…You are living in Istanbul?…He doesn’t look good…What are you doing to him?…Take him home before he freezes!” Despite the friendly warnings, I was still trying to tough it out. I purchased some big woollen socks for my wife from an older lady when I noticed her hand was bleeding all over the bag she was handing to me. Did she know she was bleeding profusely? How could she not?

Later in the day, I pulled of my glove only to see that my hand was covered in blood as well. I had no idea. My friend’s hand also had been bleeding. It was cold in Odessa.

So you can imagine, when Joey suggested we take a stroll on the beach, I jumped at the chance.

We made our way down to one of Odessa’s many beaches. In the summertime, it is reserved for those who prefer swimming au naturel. However, as many parts of the Black Sea began to actually freeze over, it was empty. I’d never been to a frozen beach before, but once I saw the Dr. Suess-like ice formations, I’ll never miss another opportunity to do so.

The ice had a milky color and gelatinous shapes that resembled jellyfish. I was captivated. It was so fascinating, it cause me to do something I had rarely attempted on my trip up to that point: take a picture. I simply couldn’t pass up these shots and fought through the pain.

Frozen jellyfish?

As the icy wind sliced into us, I though my friend and I must have been the craziest people in the city at that particular moment. I was wrong.

A couple waddled up to the water together. Shockingly, the man began to take off his clothes and hand them one by one to his lady companion. Then, naked as the day he was born, he walked into the sea and began to swim around.

It’s moments like these that make me question the theory of evolution and wonder how our species has made it this far.

In Ukraine, like in Turkey, the general populace believes in something called “the wind.” There exists an illogical fear of the wind and its dangerous consequences. Roll down a car window and you will catch a flu at best and paralyze your face at worst. Yet, these same people jump in the freezing Dnipro river every January to celebrate their forced mass conversian to Christianity in 988 AD. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism_of_Kiev

To avoid hypothermia, we decided to leave the surreal landscape. On our way out, I saw four old men make their way to nearly frozen sea. Sure enough, one of them removed his clothes and took a painful dip. “It’s good for your health,” a Ukrainian girl told us later.

If you ever find yourself in Odessa in January, don’t let the polar temperatures keep you from enjoying the friendly waters of the Black Sea. But whatever you do, keep your car windows rolled up at all times. You’ll catch your death of cold!

I’ll leave you with the melodious sounds of Odessa’s harbour frozen over. I think the Black Sea has a song similar to that of humpback whales. What do you think?

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Posted in: Odessa, Ukraine