The close of World War II saw Russia envelop old East Prussia’s capital of Königsberg, which it christened Kaliningrad, Russia has held it to this day. Now separated from Russia by the independence of the Baltics, it is a geopolitical oddity.
I visited because it exists. The attractions are meager. Beyond the cathedral sheltering the remains of philosopher Emmanuel Kant, there are minor draws such as the Amber Museum. The windswept beauty of the Curonian Spit is a hour drive north.
My Garmin GPS Europe chip fittingly treated Kaliningrad as a black hole and I thought I was clever picking budget Hotel Berlin for its location near the train station. Wrong side of the tracks. Crossing the station required passing a two-lane chokepoint that took nearly a hour. Stop and go with variously observed traffic lanes converging on this one spot. Nothing like an electric tram barreling down on you to cause a stall in a manual car.
Much more relaxing was the riverside cathedral, shared only with a group of Germany tourists and a few locals enjoying the fall colors.
Restaurants are few and I chose a walkable option, the brightly lit Obama Pizza – ‘Yes We Eat.’
This is mostly an ‘I’ve been there,’ destination. Schengen, UK and Japan passport holders can get a 3-day Kaliningrad visa on arrival but the rest of us need Russian visas. All reports of the land border are of horrific crossings as it is a natural smuggling conduit, public transport is limited though gets a special corridor at the border, and good luck getting permission to take a rental car. Flights are limited, those coming from outside the former Soviet Union probably will find the daily flight from Riga on BalticAir the best option.
Quirky, mostly devoid of tourists, just the kind of place I fancy.