Four times a year, Odesa is the host city for a trendy design market, “Gesheft”. Which started as a garage sale organised by friends in a flat and became big enough to occupy pretty large venues. A different venue for each event. On its stalls, you can find anything from small handmade art objects, to design furniture by the startups from all over of Ukraine. Topped with food market and classy music, it’s a great place to come for those looking to experience something different. And for a small fee, starting from 26 euro, you can sell your stuff, and test your business idea at the market with real customers. This is exactly what my friends did, and I volunteered to join them on a trip to Odesa at the end of December.
Our trip started risky, by getting on a sleeper train with a bulk of stuff just when it was about to depart. Among four people, we had about eight items of luggage. Including bags and boxes packed with goodies for the market, and one bicycle for the design of our cycling accessories stall. To a surprise of everyone, we managed to get ourselves with all of the luggage on the train just on time.
Next morning Odesa greeted us with the snow and heavy wind. Yet, our spirits were high, and within one hour, we were building our stands on the market. There was a lively buzz around the venue, with people arriving and starting to put together their tiny shops. While doing that, our eyes were checking regularly for the food stalls with the coffee machines. Once first of the machines was up and running, we had a delicious fuel for the morning.
The Gesheft was held on the weekend, 27th and 28th of December, during the holidays season before the New Year. Making it a perfect place to buy seasonal gifts. So around 11AM the holiday shoppers started to check in. On the first day of the market, I was at our stall selling cycling accessories by RoverChic. Pretty soon I got the first sale, and things started to get more interesting.
Another stall of my friends was in the food court, the Hot Soup, – selling hot spinach and pumpkin soups. So at the lunch time some hot soup was our food of choice, combined with a salmon and spinach pie sold at a stall nearby.
After the lunch, I had a chance to stroll through the market, and check the stuff of other sellers. There was lots: books & magazines, art glass, handmade postcards and accessories, personal items, quirky furniture, vintage clothes, and design pyjamas, to mention a few. But what I realised later, each time you take a walk around the market, it’s almost like peeling a delicious fruit a layer by layer, each time discovering something new and interesting.
However, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone selling alone for the whole day. I had a companion at the stall on the second day, and it was much more fun. Also, each of us had more chances to leave the stall from time to time and browse the market, and even to go out to the city.
Closer towards the evening, there is less of outsiders, but more movements among the market hosts. It felt like a small community of creative people coming here to enjoy their time together. On Sunday evening, when the market was over, the party mood has just started, with bands such as “Zapaska” (“Запаска”) entertaining the like-minded crowd with funky tunes.
After the party, we went for a delicious falafel from a local takeaway by Maestro Falafel, prepared by an Iraqi student. As they say, perhaps the best falafel in the world. At that point, I didn’t know yet that Odesa is famous for this Middle-Eastern delicacy. Apparently, the falafel alone inspires travellers from around of Ukraine to visit the city. I can totally understand why.
We finished the day over some beer in a local pub, discussing plans for our day off in Odesa tomorrow. Not knowing what adventure the weather has prepared for us.
We woke up quite late on Monday morning in our Airbnb flat. The train back to Lviv was at around 6:30PM anyway. Leaving us plenty of time to see the city. But the heavy snow and the wind wouldn’t allow us to explore the city by foot, so instead we went to see two of Odesa’s most cool venues.
The “Impact Hub Odesa”, and “Les” (the Forest), both happened to be cosy escapes from the nasty weather. Inside we found delicious coffee and fellow weather refugees to share the coffee with over a friendly chat. As well as, magazines and books for a bit of entertainment. These venues are central to local startup and art communities. Impact Hub Odesa is a “third place”, a dynamic mix of co-working, cafe, library, and vibrant community. The “Les” is a “cultural house”, combined with a community cafe. We were delighted to visit these places.
However, while enjoying Odesa indoors, outside the city got covered under a meter high layer of snow. Practically paralysing the transport and making the pavements almost impassable. The blizzard was getting only heavier while we were making our way with the luggage, and the bicycle, to the train station. Not that the bicycle was ridable in such weather.
Somewhere on the midway, we got a helping hand from generous locals, who helped us to make it to the station on time. Only to find out that our train was delayed for an unknown period due to the “technical issues”. The station was overcrowded with people, experiencing the effect of the heavy snow to the railway system.
So we listened to the announcements with the hope. Three hours later, our train was ready to depart. We used the blankets and a bottle of wine to get warm inside the sleeper carriage. We were ready to escape Odesa’s blizzard. There was only one thing I couldn’t get over with, is that we didn’t have a chance to buy some more falafel to take with us. Is this a viable reason to come back again to Odesa’s Wonderland? Definitely.