Odessa is said to occupy the site of an ancient Miletian Greek colony which disappeared between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Established in 1794 by order of Catherine the Great, Odessa became the 3rd leading city in old Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg, and had its heydays as a brilliant cultural center. The crucial event in the trade policy was the declaration of a free port (porto franco) regime in Odessa in 1819. Today Odessa is the country’s largest commercial seaport and a busy industrial city. It remains one of Ukraine’s most important cultural and resort areas, drawing visitors to its attractive centre and sandy beaches. With the population of 1.1 m people, it is the Black Sea’s “Gateway to Ukraine” and Ukraine’s “Southern Window to Europe”. The city, referred to as the Pearl of the Black Sea, still retains its old-fashioned charm. Opera lovers will make straight for the glittering Opera House, and none will want to miss the famous 192 Potemkin Steps immortalized by Eisenstein’s film “The Battleship Potemkin”.