I always knew there was a Russian city called Kaliningrad, but I didn’t know exactly where it was located until I had to make plans to see one of the World Cup games there!! In my walk through Kaliningrad, I learned much more about this Baltic Sea city.
Kaliningrad – An Exclave of Russia
Kaliningrad, formerly known as Königsberg, is an exclave of Russia and therefore is an isolated part of Russia. An exclave is a portion of state or country that is completely geographically separated from the main part by one or more states/countries. Located on the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad is bordered on the north and east by Lithuania and the south by Poland.
History of Kaliningrad
Kaliningrad was founded in 1255. Through the next seven centuries, it became primarily German. In 1944, during World War II, it was heavily damaged by British bombing and by the Soviets marching toward Berlin. The city was known as Königsberg until 1946 when the Soviets took control of the country through the Potsdam Conference and renamed it Kaliningrad. The area was comprised mostly of Germans who were forcibly removed from the area and replaced with Soviets. During the Cold War, Kaliningrad was a strategic militarized zone and was off-limits to visitors until 1991.
Today, Kaliningrad is a city of approximately 450,000 people and is one of the 11 city hosts for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
As with any new city I visit, there is time needed to get oriented and things done, such as picking up my World Cup tickets that were not delivered in time before I left. And walk, I did during that first day!! By the end of that day in Kaliningrad, I had set a new record for the number of steps I walked in one day, 32,712!!! That’s about 14 miles of walking!! And that’s not bad for this retired guy!!
While it’s the World Cup game between Croatia and Nigeria that brought me here, I’m going to cover World Cup activities in later posts. For now, join me in some of the sights in Kaliningrad.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
You’ll find this church near the main square. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is Russian Orthodox and is the largest church in Kaliningrad. Construction of the cathedral was completed in 2006 as the orthodox church was making a resurgence in Russia after Soviet times. The cathedral is the featured image of today’s post. To the right of the main church is a smaller church that was built a few years later in the same style.
Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, so the marble façade and the golden domes shined brightly in the afternoon sun as you can see below.
The main altar of the cathedral was covered with scaffolding as they were doing work, but in the picture below you will see the quality of artwork found inside the cathedral.
Did you know that about 90% of the world’s amber reserves are buried under the Kaliningrad region? It’s been mined here for thousands of years. The Dohna Tower houses the Amber Museum. The tower, built in 1853, served as a fortress for the city. Amber jewelry and artwork is sold in the museum or the various shops outside of the museum.
The Bunker Museum
This museum is “hidden” in a garden park near the Baltic Federal University. It’s “hidden” because after all, it was a World War II bunker!
It was in this bunker complex that German General Lyash directed the German forces during the city assault by the Soviet army. It was after that bloody battle that General Lyash decided to surrender. Some of the 21 rooms in the bunker contain exhibits about the Königberg siege as well as military items from World War II.
Other rooms recreate the offices as they looked at that time. This room is where the discussions regarding surrender took place between General Lasch and Red Army leaders before his surrendering the German troops on April 9, 1945.
The Königsberg Cathedral has been a part of the history of this city for hundreds of years. It was built in the early 1300’s shortly after the Prussians conquered the city. In 1944, British RAF fighters constantly bombed the city and almost destroyed the cathedral. Rebuilt in the 1990’s after Perestroika, it houses the largest organ in Russia.
Various concerts take place in the cathedral including organ concerts. I was fortunate to be able to attend an organ concert, and it was a highlight for me! Something special about the concert was that we were allowed to record video, which doesn’t happen during too many of these types of concerts. I’ve included one of the videos in this post and picked one where you can hear the “big” sound of the organ. This recording is from the very end of the final piece of music from the concert. I hope you enjoy!