Kaliningrad – Konigsberg.

The city of Kaliningrad used to be called Konigsberg, literally the King’s town in German. It was founded on the Baltic Sea by the King of Bohemia and became part of Prussia probably in the thirteenth century. Among other notables the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant was born in Konigsberg in 1724 and lived there till his death in 1804. After WWII this important seaport became and still is part of Russia. Practically the whole city was destroyed by the British Air Force bombings in 1945, lots of people perished under the rubble. Still when it was transferred to Russia as part of the peace agreements, about 90,000 civilians still existed there. They were all repatriated to Germany, and then the new settlement began. People not only moved to the region, they rebuilt the demolished towns and gradually turned them into flourishing industrial and tourist centers. During the last decades a slow long term restoration of Altstadt, the Old Town as it used to be in the Middle Ages has been an ongoing process. The fourteenth century cathedral with its beautiful exterior and interior, with the imposing organ is now fully restored. Many old buildings are brought back to life based on the paintings some of which are centuries old. There are imposing Medieval city gates. The university now is named after Kant. The half-timbered houses that line the streets in some of the popular touristy places clearly are re-built in the same tradition as one can see in many other German cities. There are lots of new streets and modern housing including the rather ugly blocks typical for the 1970’s or about. Besides the usual cafés and restaurants one can see numerous amber souvenir shops. Amber is one of the main industries in town. The State Museum of Amber is unique for the region. One can see uncut stones, jewelry, ornaments, treasure chests, smoking pipes made in various epochs by the local masters. Actually amber is not a stone but tree sap which solidified probably millions of years ago. It was swept into the sea and floated close to the shore. Kaliningrad seems to be one of the centers where it is still found in large quantities.
The whole region is variously called an enclave or an exclave due to its unique geographical position. One can get there from Moscow or St. Petersburg by plane. If one wants to travel by train a visa or a special permit is needed to pass via Poland and the Baltic states.

The people are friendly and used to tourists. The food is usually very fresh and delicious. One can enjoy shopping or sightseeing, then settle down and relax at a cafe or in a park. The local zoo is one of the best in Europe, or so the guide boasted. There are theatres and entertainment centers. One can also enjoy an organ music concert right inside the cathedral.

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