The time difference between the westernmost and the easternmost regions of Russia is nine hours. Today we are going to talk about Kaliningrad, 2018 FIFA host (one of) and the westernmost region of Russia . In 2018 Kaliningrad will host FIFA, don’t miss a chance to check out this unique city with dramatic history and bright future. You might get inspired and just as well visit Kazan, another host of 2018 FIFA in Russia.
Name of Kaliningrad, 2018 FIFA host
Kaliningrad got its name in 1946 in honor of famous soviet communistic activist Mikhail Kalinin. Second part of name “grad” means “city”. Before that Kaliningrad used to be German and was called Königsberg, which means “king’s barrow”. Today locals love to call it’s native town informally as “Kyonig”, reproducing part of it’s historical name. Old name of the city is often used in names of shops and cafes. For example name of popular cafe is “König’s bakery”, by the way highly recommended!
History of Kaliningrad, former Königsberg
As the city has two names there are two birth dates as well. Long time ago in 1255 Teutonic Knights founded Königsberg, which became the capital of East Prussia and the largest easternmost city in Germany. First time the city was annexed to Russia in 1758 after victory of Peter the Great in a seven-year war. However, the land was given back to Prussia in 1782.
In 2018 Königsberg could have been celebrating it’s 763 birthday, but history turned another way. According to decision of Potsdam Conference, Königsberg was given to USSR for its contribution into the victory over Nazi and fascism in 1945.
This will never compensate the cost of 28 million lives of the Soviet people who died during the WWII… However, Königsberg became Kaliningrad in 1945 and it’s the official date when this Russian city was born.
Geo-political location, the westernmost part of Russia
After dissolution of the Soviet Union, the city of Kaliningrad region turned into an exclave. Today it is separated from the rest territory of Russia and surrounded by Lithuania in the north, Poland in the south and Baltic sea in the west. This geo location causes both profits and inconveniences and provides a unique style of life to Kaliningraders.
Traveling to Russia from Kaliningrad
Russian passport can be used only inside the country. If a Russian want to travel to Europe they will need a Schengen visa to enter Schengen Area. Since Kaliningrad is surrounded by other European countries, to travel to Russia Kaliningraders need a Schengen visa which all city residents get at birth. Therefore, Kaliningraders travel to Europe much more often than around Russia.
Sometimes locals go to Lithuania to Poland for shopping or weekend getaway which is very uncommon for the rest of Russians. A trip to Vilnus (Lithuania) is just 6 hours by train and costs around 3000 rubles (US$54).
Transportation in Kaliningrad
Funny enough, the majority of cars in Kaliningrad are German. It’s just cheaper and easier to get a car from Germany than bring it from Russia. Just to give you an idea: it’s 570km from Kaliningrad to Berlin and twice as much – 1200 km – from Kaliningrad to Moscow.
Birthplace of Immanuel Kant
Königsberg was home to one of the most outstanding philosophers in the world – Immanuel Kant. He never travelled further than 10 miles away from his native town. He died in Königsberg and his grave near the main cathedral is one of the most visited places in the present-day Kaliningrad.
Interesting fact: Kant lived in that period when Königsberg became Russian first time in 18th century. Kant even took an oath to the Russian Empress. Immanuel Kant refused to switch back to Prussian when the city was given back to Prussia later when and died as a Russian citizen.
What Kaliningrad is famous for
Souvenir shopping in Kaliningrad is a bit different and you won’t that great variety of traditional Russian souvenirs that you saw in Moscow. Kaliningrad region is famous for its production of amber. Baltic Sea gives us great amount of this beautiful sunny stone. People here are addicted to amber. You can find a great number of souvenirs, necklaces, knick knacks and other jewelry made of amber in a numerous stalls and shops all around the city.
And, of course, an absolute must-see in Kaliningrad is a Museum of Amber, located in an old German fortification tower that was opened in 1979. If museums are not your thing take a chance to find your own small piece of amber when walking along the Baltic Sea shore.
Climate in Kaliningrad, unusual for Russia
Be prepared for really wet weather. If you’ve already been in St Petersburg, you know what we are talking about. The weather keep changing several times in one day and that’s totally fine here. Winter temperatures are in average +5 – +10C, but it’s not your Paris version of +10C. Combined with humidity and winds, the innocent-looking +10C can be cruel and is definitely not the best time for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
And if you were wondering, Kaliningrad has about 185 rainy days a year. Yes, exactly half a year. So gear up with umbrellas, boots, warm sweaters, scarfs and hats. Late summer is prime time for beer lovers and history buffs to indulge and go sightseeing in Kaliningrad.
7 Billionth Person on Planet
On 31st of October in 2011 at 00:02 the seven billionth inhabitant of planet Earth was born in Kaliningrad. It was confirmed by the United Nations. President Putin V. V. presented a flat to this legendary family. The name of a boy is Pyotr and he is the third child in the family.
Zotler Bier – Beer Pub in Kaliningrad
Unlike wine and cheese restaurants in Moscow, Kaliningrad is known for beer. Sipping a liter of beer at the Zotler Bier is a quintessential Kaliningrad experience. Every sip, no matter the grade you choose, Experience a pleasant taste with every sip – the taste of the romance of the Alpine foothills and the old Bavarian villages. After all, this beer has been brewed at the family brewery Zotler since 1447.
We recommend Zotler’s specialty – 6 varieties of beer (0,25 l each) for just 550 rubles for 1.5 litre (about US$10). You’ll also like 4 types of schnapps (Egermeister, Becherovka) for 660 rubles for 120 grams (about US$12). If you crave for something stronger – go for 6 glasses of “Siberian specialties” (460 rubles for 240 grams).
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