Russia’s Exclave Sliced from Germany – Kaliningrad

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.

Kaliningrad 01

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.

Kaliningrad 02

Kaliningrad 03

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.

Kaliningrad 05

Kaliningrad 04

Restaurants are few and I chose a walkable option, the brightly lit Obama Pizza – ‘Yes We Eat.’

Obama Pizza Kaliningrad 01

Obama Pizza Kaliningrad 02

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.

Rapid Travel Chai newsletter ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook ¦ Instagram

Pingbacks

  • AlohaDaveKennedy

    Send in the troops. This city wants to be a nuclear bomb armed Nato ally. Better hurry while Putin is grabbing Crimea. Turn about is fair play!

  • DL

    I’m enjoying your obscure travels. Hope you continue. I’ve seen enough glamorous hotels and spreads of fancy foods on other points blogs!

  • Kaliningrad is actually high on my list of places to go, since it was my father’s birthplace (back when it was Koenigsberg). It is also famous in topology for a problem referred to as The Seven Bridges of Koenigsberg, which was solved by Euler.

  • @Mariam – I had forgotten about the math connection. Driving around to try to get to the cathedral was a bridge problem of another kind, I passed it on various bridges and roads before eventually figuring out how to get to a nearby residential block whith walking access.

    @DL – I always forget to take pictures of hotels and not many BoardingArea readers are interested in $35 rooms, so I’ll keep on keepin’ on my wife my offbeat spots. Thanks.

    @AlohaDaveKennedy – the mischief Russia under Putin causes in its neighborhood is a scale we on the outside have trouble appreciating. Visit Eastern Europe in the winter and the issue is what is Russia doing with gas supplies, in the summer there are always other things. When I went to Moldova last year it was Russia blocking imports of Moldovan wine, about that country’s only export.

  • That pizza looks so good I ordered a takeout locally! Not OBAMA pizzeria, this is republican country. A place with a name like that wouldn’t last a day in my county.

  • Pingback: Latvia and Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses - Rapid Travel Chai()

  • CharlieP

    How did you get around the requirement of an invitation letter for the Russian visa? Also, if there is no way to get around it, do you know of any tour operators in Germany who visit Kaliningrad?

    Thanks!

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @CharlieP – those with Schengen, UK or Japan passports can get an easier Kaliningrad visa, see here. The rest of us need a regular Russia visa and no workarounds. An LOI can be obtained from various services online for a modest fee, I last used GoToRussia and they delivered immediately. Or, some hotels will agree to issue the LOI as part of a booking, but if you later cancel they will charge you for the LOI. I am not familiar with Germany tour agencies, however there was a big German tour group when I was there so clearly some do.

  • CharlieP

    Thanks for the information!