TOP TEN REASONS TO VISIT KALININGRAD

08/16/2016 01:00 am ET Updated Aug 27, 2016

Woody Allen, German “Gold,” and Giveaway Prices in Russia’s Pocket Enclave

A theater complex in the center of Kaliningrad may seem like an unlikely place to find a pair of bronze eyeglasses mounted in tribute to Woody Allen, but “Woody” was  born Allan Konigsberg and before the Russians seized the region, this city was Konigsberg the original capital of Prussia before Berlin. Now renamed for one of Stalin’s henchmen, Kaliningrad is the moniker of both the city and the tiny enclave or oblast  nestled between the Baltic seacoast states of  Poland and Lithuania, a mini Russian outpost rich in modern and historic lore.   

A mounted pair of bronze eyeglasses is a tribute to Woody Allen in Kaliningrad's <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attract
A mounted pair of bronze eyeglasses is a tribute to Woody Allen in Kaliningrad's Zarya cinema complex

For orientation, it is helpful to stop first in the Bunker Museum, the actual underground outpost which was Nazi headquarters during the 1944-45 Konigsberg Offensive when Russia and the allies were trying to stop the German army.  It is the location where German General Otto Lasch surrendered to the Soviet terms of surrender.  The entire historic city had been bombed almost to extinction before he gave in.  While the Russians commended his decision to avoid further casualties, he was sent back to Germany where he served ten years in prison for his failure to hold the important supply depot seaport. 

Dioramas at the Bunker Museum depict the battle of Konigsberg
Dioramas at the Bunker Museum depict the battle of Konigsberg

THE MONSTER

Destruction continued when the German region was taken over by the Soviets. Germans were forced to move out and Russians moved in.  Traces of the German past were destroyed and despite protests, in 1968 Leonid Brezhnev ordered the demolition of the historic Prussian Konigsberg Castle.  In its place was planned the “House of Soviets” office building to symbolize Soviet power, but it has never been finished and nicknamed “the Monster” it stands abandoned in the center of town. 

The unfinished abandoned &nbsp;&ldquo;Monster&rdquo; Soviet office tower is a grim reminder of the destruction of the histori
The unfinished abandoned  “Monster” Soviet office tower is a grim reminder of the destruction of the historic past

Also almost totally destroyed by bombs, the Cathedral has been rebuilt on a park which is a sculpture garden and the site of outdoor festivals and concerts. 

The Cathedral library miraculously survived the bombings
The Cathedral library miraculously survived the bombings
Organ concerts are held in the Cathedral
Organ concerts are held in the Cathedral
The tomb of the philosopher Immanuel Kant lies beside the cathedral.
The tomb of the philosopher Immanuel Kant lies beside the cathedral.
Kant memorabilia is exhibited in the Cathedral&rsquo;s museum.
Kant memorabilia is exhibited in the Cathedral’s museum.

KALININGRAD CITY SIGHTS

Besides a collection of statues on Kant Island, monuments are found throughout the city.  

A circular monument honors <a href="https://www.inyourpocket.com/kaliningrad/Compatriot-Cosmonaut-monument_137482v" target="_
A circular monument honors Kaliningrad cosmonauts
The Kaliningrad Zoo is highly acclaimed
The Kaliningrad Zoo is highly acclaimed
Fish Village houses riverside restaurants and hotels.&nbsp;
Fish Village houses riverside restaurants and hotels. 
A statue of Fighting Bulls symbolizes national tensions in the region
A statue of Fighting Bulls symbolizes national tensions in the region

One of the world’s important ocean museums lies along the banks of the city’s Pregolya River.   Visitors  can visit a scientific expedition vessel and a pre-atomic submarine.  Aquarium and ocean depth exhibits are housed within the museum headquarters. 

The World Ocean lies along the Pregolya River
The World Ocean lies along the Pregolya River
Museum visitors board ships anchored along the river
Museum visitors board ships anchored along the river
Aquarium exhibits illustrate different types of fish and sea life.&nbsp;
Aquarium exhibits illustrate different types of fish and sea life. 
A model of antique SCUBA gear and bathyspheres are exhibited within the museum&nbsp;
A model of antique SCUBA gear and bathyspheres are exhibited within the museum 

Amber is a mainstay of the Kaliningrad economy and supplies 80% percent of the world’s “German gold.”. Housed in a tower one of the Dohna Towers, the Amber Museum illustrates the processing, types, and treasures of the petrified resin. 

All types of amber are exhibited in the Amber Museum.
All types of amber are exhibited in the Amber Museum.
Vendors all over the region sell amber jewelry and souvenirs.
Vendors all over the region sell amber jewelry and souvenirs.

THE BALTIC COAST

Twenty to thirty miles outside the city of Kaliningrad, still within the oblast Kaliningrad, are seaside vacation resorts: Yantarny, Svetlogorsk, Zelenogradsk. Tourists flock to them from Germany, Moscow, Belarus, to enjoy swimming, spas, shopping.  

Yantarny&rsquo;s spa resort Schloss Hotel is in Prussian King George Friedrich&rsquo;s former hunting lodge.
Yantarny’s spa resort Schloss Hotel is in Prussian King George Friedrich’s former hunting lodge.
Yantarny&rsquo;s Amber Museum sells amber cosmetics and jewelry crafted from the nearby mine which is the country&rsquo;s pri
Yantarny’s Amber Museum sells amber cosmetics and jewelry crafted from the nearby mine which is the country’s principal source of amber
Exhibits in the Yantarny museum document the&nbsp; medieval Teutonic knights
Exhibits in the Yantarny museum document the  medieval Teutonic knights
Picturesque shops and hotels in Svetlogorsk attract tourists year round
Picturesque shops and hotels in Svetlogorsk attract tourists year round
A giant sundial decorates Svetlogorsk&rsquo;s beach promenade
A giant sundial decorates Svetlogorsk’s beach promenade
A gondola lifts visitors from Svetlogorsk beach to the city street
A gondola lifts visitors from Svetlogorsk beach to the city street
A ceramic village in Svetlogorsk portrays pre-war Konigsberg in miniature
A ceramic village in Svetlogorsk portrays pre-war Konigsberg in miniature
Farmer stalls in Zelenogradsk are typical of outdoor markets all over the country.
Farmer stalls in Zelenogradsk are typical of outdoor markets all over the country.

THE SPIT

Stretching almost 50 miles and as little as 1300 feet wide, Kurshskaya Kosa , the Curonian Spit separates the Baltic from the Curonian Lagoon.  Shared with Lithuania, it is a UNESCO Heritage Site of forests, hiking trails, museums, and endless sand beaches.  Near extinction when 19th-century settlers overcut the forests, replanting has stabilized it with such a mass of trunks that you almost can’t see the trees for the forest!!   The three major villages and parks within the Russian section are popular tourist sites.  

Wide sandy beaches line the Baltic shore of the Spit
Wide sandy beaches line the Baltic shore of the Spit
Massed woods obscure the sight of individual trees
Massed woods obscure the sight of individual trees
A diagram of the Spit is exhibited in the museum
A diagram of the Spit is exhibited in the museum
Historic housing is recreated in the Spit museum
Historic housing is recreated in the Spit museum
Trees in the Spit&rsquo;s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_Forest" target="_blank">Dancing Forest</a>&nbsp;are
Trees in the Spit’s Dancing Forest are distorted by the forces of nature. 

VALUE

The exchange is about 65 rubles to the dollar and rubles go far.  Hotels, meals, taxis, souvenirs all are good value for the money.  Bus trips within town cost a few cents and around the oblast rarely cost more than $1.  Museums charge $1-$4.  Large bottles of beer cost under $1.   

Rate for a standard room in central <a href="http://hotel.kaliningrad.ru/eng/kaliningrad/" target="_blank">Hotel Kaliningrad<
Rate for a standard room in central Hotel Kaliningrad is about $50
Meal of Konigsberg Klops meatballs, beet salad and potatoes costs under $7
Meal of Konigsberg Klops meatballs, beet salad and potatoes costs under $7

TO VISIT 

Although geographically detached, Kaliningrad is a section of Russia, and travelers must obtain a Russian visa for entry. 

Travelers can fly to Khrabrovo Airport in Kaliningrad.

Transit is easy.  Local and intercity buses are numbered, schedules are posted, and buses arrive on time.

Taxis are very inexpensive ($1-$6 anywhere within Kaliningrad and one 30 km trip on the Spit took half an hour and cost $6).   

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