Caroline Eden at Literary Hub:
Odessa is a young city by European standards, but what it lacks in historical gravitas it makes up for with its splendid architectural bones and worldliness. Cosmopolitan from its inception, its life began when Neapolitan officer General Don Jose de Ribas seized a Tatar-built fort, Hadji Bey, from the Turks in 1789. His conquest complete, de Ribas asked Catherine the Great if she liked the Grecian name Odessos. She did, but only once she’d feminized it to “Odessa.”
Subpar roads connecting Odessa to Moscow played to the city’s advantage, with the port offering easier access to Europe, the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas via the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles Strait. From the outset outward looking, Odessa refused to rely on the empire in the north, instead always looking to the sea for its fortune. This benefited its inhabitants greatly. De Ribas reveled in the world that began to open up, one that allowed small pleasures like drinking European wine and eating mastic-laced sweets.