Kaliningrad and Konigsberg - one German city in Russia

February 13, 2019

by I.M.

Kaliningrad and Konigsberg. It was the former capital of East Prussia, and now it is the center of the most western region of Russia. Today a tourist can hear both names of the city, which desperately tries to return to oneself after long years of All-Union headman’s name* oblivion. This is strange, but Kaliningrad can do it little by little.

* The city was named in honor of the All-Union headman – Mikhail Kalinin in 1946 after the annexation of East Prussia to the USSR.

The Fish Village

I don’t know who called this place the Fish Village. Probably, this pier on the river Pregolya was used as a fishing site. It was the first place of  Kaliningrad’s historic area that I visited. And I decided to start the attractions of Kaliningrad oblast inspection from here.

Beautiful buildings with unusual architecture on the banks of Pregolya were having built in the middle of 2000s and now it attracts attention. People are photographed, have dinner and ride on small motor ships, which is moored right there. I felt an extraordinary inspiration when drank a cup of herbal tea with a freshly baked croissant in a local cafe. Firstly it was delicious, and secondly, the view was wonderful. And thirdly, I saw for a long time the authorities of my country could build something that should be building. I definitely decided to return to the restaurant for dinner and moved to the island of Kant.

Kant Island

I knew from the university course of philosophy fact that Immanuel Kant was born and buried in Konigsberg. I found out that Kant was born and buried in Kaliningrad only near his grave.

The island between the two arms of the river Pregolya is known for its Cathedral. Maybe it is the most famous attraction of Kaliningrad Oblast. The philosopher is buried near the walls of this building. This Cathedral impresses as well as its history. Miraculously it almost didn’t suffer during the assault on Konigsberg in 1945, undamaged it survived the times of the Soviet war with the temples*, happily, it was restored by a group of enthusiasts who collected money by every little bit helps. In 2007  the largest organ in Russia and Europe according to some reports was reestablished in it after visit and patronage of the Russian president.  Really nothing succeeds like success. Organ performance of Adagio Albertino was waiting for me this evening and I was not disappointed. Acoustic of the Cathedral was magnificent. Music was like ocean waves, that take my mind away in wild delight. It still shocked me when I went for a walk in the park of the island.

A lot of incomprehensible, unusual and avant-garde sculptures fill the park of Kant Island. It was looked more appropriate in the glades of the Moscow park “Museon”. Among it, I noticed the inconspicuous columns with some black and white photographs. I don’t like the avant-garde, and so I decided to walk along this and look at the photos that interested me. As I learned, the columns were established in the place of ruined street’s intersections of the town of Kneiphof. Kneiphof was a small town on the island, that in 1724 together with towns Lobenicht and  Altstadt united as Konigsberg. At the photos, there were pictures of the peaceful life of this place before the Second World War. Their people lived a normal life in a small beautiful town near the Royal Castle and didn’t know that Konigsberg would receive the new name in some ten years and East Prussia would burn in the greatest war’s fire. Kneiphof was destroyed by British aviation in 1944 and after dismantled on a brick by Soviet builders in 1946-1948 for recovery of Leningrad. Sadness. I was feeling it when I roamed along the last reminder of Kneiphof citizens’ life. I was thinking about the chance of Konigsberg’s recovery after the War. We could return the old image of the city. But now there are not even ruins. Only a park and the Cathedral. I was looking at it, that is standing here despite everything. A bit further I noticed panel Khrushchev’s houses** with ugly balconies and no less ugly scraps of insulation on the deaf walls. I was forgetting that I was in Russia, but reality returned me in the cruelest way.

I walked along river embankment and looked at the fishermen who boasted good take for the city center. Then I saw IT.

* About 50 000 temples and churches were destroyed in the USSR from 1918 to 1980.

** Khrushchev’s houses are soviet standard residential buildings that were constructing in 1950-1960s in USSR during the reign of Nikita Khrushchev

The Konigsberg castle and the House of Soviets

IT is located near the modern city center not so far from Kant Island. Once upon a time the beautiful castle of Konigsberg – the house of Prussian kings was in this place. Now the images of the castle can be seen only on numerous souvenir paintings decorated with amber. After the War, the royal palace for a long time was being ruined. Some intelligent people offered to restore it, or at least not to touch until good times. But there was a minority of such people in City Administration and the ruins of the castle were demolished for constructing IT – the House of Soviets. IT should have been something so big and avant-garde that the whole socialist and capitalist world had to envy. Perestroika made its own adjustments to this process and the building was not completed.  Now IT is one of the greatest monuments of human stupidity and architectural ugliness. In the park on non-existent streets of Kneiphof, I felt sadness. Now I was feeling anger. I looked at the defunct country’s miscarriage that was fenced with graffiti painted concrete. IT must be demolished – a lot of citizens want to see the restored royal castle in this place again. The present City Administration knows the desire of citizens, but cannot do anything. The city needs billions of rubles even in order to demolish IT – the Soviet Union built firmly and for a full due.

Curonian Spit

When I returned to the hotel that evening I was having a crummy mood. Dark and non-illuminated House of Soviets was the reason for this. I caught an advertisement for a travel agency which was offering to buy tickets for one-day tours around the region. I decided to take a break from the reality surrounding me and bought a tour on the Curonian Spit. Well, Kaliningrad surprised me again. It was one of the most wonderful days of my life.

An elderly ornithologist told me about the international program of bird ringing and we even caught a crossbill, which after 10 minutes was ringed and flew away in Scandinavia. I walked on the Dancing Forest and saw a lot of the most bizarre forms of such a straight thing as a trunk of a pine. I climbed to the Efa Height and saw a sandy desert in Northern Europe between the blue sea and fresh bay. I ate a smoked conger eel on the coast of my beloved Baltic Sea, inhaled the smell of salt and pine needles.

I smiled and thought that perhaps it was my most emotional and contradictory travel among all.

 

I.M.

Leave a Comment...