CYCLE ARTICLE ABOUTODESSA
The Eifel Tower is rightfully considered to be the symbol of Paris, and Potemkin Stairs is the rightful symbol of Odessa. It is not just a staircase consisting of almost 200 steps; this is a true architectural phenomenon not only of Odessa but of the world-wide scale. As a matter of fact, according to the results of research carried out by one of big world companies, Potemkin stairstook the sixth place in top 10 of the most beautiful stairs in Europe.
In 1825 аrchitects Avraam Меlnikov and Franchesko Boffo prepared a ladder project. The following year, tsar Nicolay I approved the idea of grand stairs construction and by 1841 boulevard main stairs counting 200 steps and leading to the sea had been erected. This staircase was built on the place of two other stairs. The first one was cut in shell and used to lead to the Turkish fortress Yeni-Dunya. Lateron, a wooden staircase was built here which had 220 steps and led to the swimming coast.
During the period of its existence, Potemkin stairs has changed several names–Boulevard Stairs, Giant Stairs, Port Stairs, Big Stairs and Vorontsov Stairs. However, these names are not confirmed by the sources. What made this staircase world-famous is Sergey Esenstein’s film “The Battleship Potemkin”. Episodes, shot on this stair case, are not historical facts; these are just a fictitious narrative or the director’s “creative finding”, but these moments are the most suspenseful in the whole film. Since that time, “Potemkin” staircase was given such a name. Itsprevious name was “Primorskaya (Seaside)”, which is proved by the cast-iron plate that is saved till nowadays.This plate confirms the stairs status as an architectural monument.
One of the most famous Odessa writers Y.Olesha used to say: “After the film “The Battleship Potemkin”, famous Odessa staircase was memorized by the humanity as Milan Cathedral and the Eifel Tower”. A number of other authors wrote about Potemkin stairs, among them М.Тven, А.Ostrovsky, А. Pushkin, I.Nechuy-Levitsky and others.
Nowadays, Potemkin stairs consists of 192 steps (while port extension eight stairs were whelmed as a necessity, and now they are slumbering under the roadway, as old residents of Odessa say) and 10 spans.
Potemkin stairs are unique and have several peculiarities. Its length is 142 meters. Due to its special construction, the stairs doesn’t taper when you look from up to downin spite of all the laws of optics. The secret is that the upper span width (13.4 m) is less that the width of the lower one (21.7 m). Looking from top down you can notice one more peculiarity of this staircase - you can see only landings, all but the highest flight, at the same time its parapets seem to be parallel. It is also connected with gradual widening of the stairs from top to bottom. If you are looking at the stairs from bottom to top, all landings disappear and you all you can see is a cascade of steps. You get an impression that the staircase has risen. One more paradox is that the “stairs up” seems to be longer than the “stairs down”, regardless the unchanged number of steps which is192. Any doubts? You can check yourself!
When Potemkin stairs had 200 steps, it used to connect two azures which are the sea and the sky. Nowadays, there is the port territory and the whole street between the sea and the last step of the staircase. Loss of eight steps and direct passage to the sea was compensated by the ensemble of Odessa Seaport building. Reverse way from the sea to the stairs foot is interesting as well. Originally, the architects who designed this staircase prepared a surprise for spectators. Having walked up Potemkin stairs, you are met by Duke de Richelieu inperson.
The funicular is built in parallel to the stairs and connects Primorskiy boulevard with Primorskaya street. The first funicular was constructed in1902. In 2005 a new funicular was built on the place of the old one.This consisted of 2 carriages suitable for 12 people each. Travelling time is 1 minute and 10 seconds.
Annual race called “Up the Potemkin Stairs” is traditionally organized here. Record time of this contest is 22.8 sec. Every year Odessa celebrates its birthday on September, the 2nd. A concert is held on Potemkin stairs and the staircase itself turns into a huge tribune both for guests and citizens, who came here to watch the unforgettable performance involving stars of show-business.
Visiting Odessa, don’t forget to see “the eighth Wonder of the World”- the Stairway to Heaven!
Author Marina Melnichenko