Arcadia is a popular resort area a few kilometers south of Odessa along the Black Sea where luxury buildings coexist with old Russian aristocracy houses and Soviet-era sanatoriums. The majority of Odessa’s beaches are at the foot of steep cliffs and slopes. In Arcadia, the wildly popular Arcadia Beach can be accessed via natural, gentle slopes.
Soviet sanatoriums, halfway between a spa and a clinic, were state-run institutions that provided workers with constructive rest. Hundreds of sanatoriums are still found scattered throughout Russia and the post-Soviet states.
There are two popular ways to reach Arcadia from Odessa. One is the pedestrian six-kilometer Route of Health that runs along the shore. The other is by trolley. I boarded the trolley near Odessa’s main train station for the 20 minute ride.
Mid-rise and high-rise hotels and apartment complexes, interspersed with construction cranes, dominated the Arcadia skyline. It was in sharp contrast to the low-rise, historic buildings of Odessa’s Old Town a few miles away.
I alighted at the end of the trolley line which was at the entrance to a wide promenade lined with cafes, bars, shops and modern apartment buildings. A few people were strolling on a long pier that extended from the end of the promenade. Construction workers were busily working on decks of restaurants, bars and clubs that lined the waterfront. Arcadia Beach, which was wind-swept and empty, stretched out on both sides of the pier.
I strolled the boardwalk. All the photos I had seen over the years of this famous Russian Black Sea resort with wall-to-wall people sunning themselves on the narrow stretch of sandy beach, suddenly seemed unreal. Off season certainly did paint a different, inviting picture.
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