On August 2, 1945, during the Potsdam Conference, a treaty about the transfer of Koenigsberg and part of Eastern Prussia to the USSR was signed. In April 1946 the Koenigsberg Region formally became part of the USSR, and on July 4 this city got a new name of Kaliningrad. At that moment 15 thousand people lived in the city. They had come there from different parts of Russia, and the local population was totally deported within 2 years after the end of the war. The new population was mainly young people in their twenties. The city badly needed repairs after the war, and the new townspeople got to work. By 1959, about 610 thousand people lived in Kaliningrad…
For the time being the population of Koenigsberg is about half a million people, and the region is populated by about a million. The town population has always been multinational starting from 1946, and now the Kaliningrad region represents over 30 nationalities. At the moment, the region is a free economic zone. It is a unique territory of the Russian Federation which does not border with Russia. If you look at the map, the Kaliningrad region looks like a ‘Russian Island’ surrounded by other countries: Lithuania on the North-East, Poland on the South, the Baltic Sea on the North-West. There are three ice-free ports in Kaliningrad: the fishery harbor, the commercial port and the river one. There are plans to build a large port in the city of Baltiysk.
In 2005 the city celebrated its 750th anniversary. While Kaliningrad is a young town, Koenigsberg was founded in Prussia on the banks of the Pregol river back in 1255 as a knight’s castle and became the capital of Eastern Prussia later. The city witnessed many transfers between Prussia and Russia back and forth during its history. Today’s Kaliningrad combines features of a modern Russian town and a European city in an odd way. The Russian and German history have intertwined together here as a single stream and acquired new forms. Kaliningrad does its best to preserve its European heritage, although there is not much left from the Middle Ages as the second world war fire did not spare the old downtown. As any town with centuries-old history, Kaliningrad has many buildings which belong to forgotten architecture styles and genres, thus very interesting nonetheless. There are many interesting sites in Kaliningrad, and the town is trying to preserve its heritage — because one gets to know the present better and shapes a worthy future by looking at the past…
Kaliningrad’s Objects of Interest
Albertina UniversityAlbertina University did not belong to famous European universities but during its 400 years of existence it occupied a prominent position among them and played a key role in the development of Eastern Prussia. The university was founded in 1544 by Duke Albrecht during the Reformation. Originally, it was a state organization and was meant to promote educational and religious ideas. Many famous names are associated with this institution.
City FortificationsUp until its end in 1945, Koenigsberg had been regarded as a twin fortress on two banks of a river. From its foundation in 1255, the town had been developing its fortifications, routinely updating them in line with contemporary trends in warfare and engineering. Today you can see: the Lithuanian Wall, some of the city gates, towers (Wrangel and Dona), a part of a wall near the building of the Southern Train Station, forts. The fortifications played a major part during the takeover of Koenigsberg in WW II. It is no wonder that there was a special medal for those who took part in the Koenigsberg fighting.
PondsFrom the elevation where the Council is located, there opens a nice view on the castle ponds. Today it is the Upper and Lower Lakes. The Upper Lake was created in the 14th century: the monks built a dam and it formed a pond in order to have a source of water close to the castle. The ponds used to be a favorite location for the townspeople. Thousands of people would gather there during holidays.
Drama TheaterThe theater was built in the Stalin era. Significantly, it was build in 1960s where the old Koenigsberg theater used to be before the war. The old theater was built in 1912 and was called Louisa’s Theater. At first, there were only musical performances there but from 1927 (after renovation) the building could hold up 980 people as a Drama Theater. The building was destroyed during the war.
Puppet TheaterQueen Louisa’s old church had existed several centuries but was destroyed by the war. However, it was rebuilt in 1976. Who would think that it would accommodate a puppet theater. At that time there was a campaign in Kaliningrad to destroy old German cult buildings, and restoring the building as a church was out of the question. They only tried to keep the shape of Frederic Heitmann’s creation. As for the Puppet Theater, Louisa’s church was best for it: it looks like a small castle from an old fairy tale!
Old villas districtWhen you get here it is quite a different town. This district used to be called Amalienau and consisted of mansions and villas built mainly between 1900 and 1930. There are a lot of trees there, so in the spring it is a joy to walk in the chestnut lanes. The district was laid out in an unusual fashion for a Prussian town with lots of lanes, circled squares, curved streets — which was out of line with the laws of Prussian urban planning which only allowed straight streets. You can also walk on real German streets far from the midtown in the district of prestigious mansions built at the beginning of the 20th century, for example Krasnaya Street, Poogachova Street, Telmana Street, and best of all — Kutuzova Street. The best preserved buildings in the Amalienau district are in this street. It belongs to the 1900-1920s period when the Town Garden concept was implemented in Koenigsberg.
Despite all the historical metamorphoses, Kaliningrad remains the greenest Baltic town: there is 100 square meters of greenery per capita there. It is a special joy to stroll along Kutuzov street when the chestnuts blossom. This is where the favorite Kaliningrad colors can be seen more than anywhere — red and green. The red is roof tiles and wall bricks, and the green is lots of tress. One can see hornbeams, limes, red maples, sycamores, beeches, nut-trees and very old and unique trees like the ginkgo that grows at the entrance to the zoo.
Kaliningrad ZooThe Kaliningrad zoo is located on the site of the former Koenigsberg zoo which was founded by Hermann Klaass, a German entrepreneur. By the moment of the opening on May 21, 1896, his collection included 900 specimens of animals which belonged to 260 species. As a result of continued exotic exhibitions, symphonic music concerts, a brass band performances, the zoo was able to greatly improve its revenues. 2,900 townspeople had subscriptions for visiting the zoo.
The collection of animals reached its historical record of 2,161 specimens in 1910. By the end of its second decade the zoo was at its golden age. But after the beginning of WW I there was a different task. All the available buildings were used to store uniforms, and later on the zoo was closed for visitors at all until 1918. After the war, the battered zoo badly needed an overhaul and was slowly getting back to a good state, mainly at the expense of townspeople who undertook to raise 50,000 German marks yearly, feeling sorry for it… So the zoo was gradually restored nearly perfect.
But unfortunately, it did not last long either… After the storm of Koenigsberg in 1945 the buildings and open-air cages were destroyed, and only four animals survived: a fallow-deer, a badger, a donkey and a wounded hippopotamus that was dubbed Heinz. The hippopotamus was found in a ditch in a remote part of the zoo. It has seven bullet wounds! Thanks to the efforts of veterinary surgeons Heinz survived and became the first big animal of the Kaliningrad zoo. That is probably why a hippopotamus is the symbol of the zoo up to day. After the taking of Koenigsberg the new inhabitants of the city, the city of Kaliningrad, started to rebuilt destroyed buildings. On June 27, 1947, the Kaliningrad zoo was opened for visitors. Its collection that had just 50 species was growing at a fast rate thanks to the help of other zoos of the country as well as through the Zoological Association. A lot of help came from Kaliningrad seamen who gave many valuable specimens to the zoo.
In 1973 a new stage of the zoo life started. Many industrial enterprises, construction organizations, project institutes of the city were assigned construction sites in the zoo and assumed patronage of the zoo. They built and repaired over 130 buildings and open-air cages, dams and pedestrian bridges across the stream, laid water supply, sewerage and electricity networks, set up decorative benches, paved paths and laid out lawns. In 1980 the construction of open-air cages for mountain animals set up along the park stream was over. In 1982 a children’s park was open. It stands out because of the multicolor domes and roofs of its funny huts.
The years rolled by, and from a zoological garden made for amusement, it turned into a unique nature park. Its 41-acre territory features not only the inhabitants of every nook of our planet but also a splendid dendropark which features exotic trees and bushes. At the entrance guests are welcomed by a relic maidenhair tree, a ginkgo, dinosaurs’ coeval. Some objects built before the war can still be seen, for example a bear-garden, a lion-garden, an eagle-cage, a pond for pinnipeds, which help to keep the spirit of old Koenigsberg. There is a fountain in the center of the zoo which is the biggest and most beautiful one in town and has squirts up to 18 meters high.
The fountain was built years ago and restored by the 100th anniversary of the zoo. On January 1, 2004, the zoo collection represented 2,049 specimens of 320 species. 51 of them are in the international Red Book. The Kaliningrad zoo is a permanent member of the European Aquarium and Zoo Association (EARAZA) which unites zoos of the former Soviet Union. Our zoo participates in many international programs aimed at breeding and preserving rare species. Recently, some rare species were made to bred, for example snow leopards, zebras, lowland tapirs, griffons. The collection of the zoo was widened with a group of 7 Bennett's tree kangaroos, Dalmatian pelicans, white-naped cranes and a couple of young lions.
A new modern open-air cage for snow leopards has been set up as well as an open-air cage for the she-bear with the funds raised by English people. Active cooperation with Russian and European zoos opens up prospects for the zoo development. For the time being, the Kaliningrad zoo has the fifth largest collection of animals. Among eagles, pheasants and peacocks there lives a talking raven. All the tourists try to talk to him. But the raven does not answer everybody.
Kaliningrad State Art CollectionFor the time being, the museum has a collection of ten thousand exhibits of different genres and styles. Painting, graphic arts, sculptures, arts and crafts will touch even the most sophisticated connoisseur of art. The backbone of the collection is made of works of domestic and foreign artists of the second half of the 20th century. The museum also features works of art of the 17th through 20th centuries.
The following collections make up the foundation. Works of art of the official and alternative art of domestic artists of the 1950s through 1990s, modern graphic art of the artists of Russia and Baltic states; Russian glass and ceramics of 1960s through 1990s; modern vernacular arts of Russia; an art collection of Eastern Prussia; a collection of works by Kaliningrad artists.
Up to 30 exhibitions and art projects are held annually in 8 exhibition halls with the total space of over 33,000 square feet together with Russian and European museums as well artists from Russia, Kaliningrad and abroad. Kaliningrad State Art Collection organizes scientific conferences and plain-airs, implements the international art project Bienalle of the Baltic countries graphic arts Kaliningrad—Koenigsberg. Top-level museums and culture institutions of our country and from abroad act as partners, among them are: State Hermitage (Saint Petersburg), State Russian Museum (Saint Petersburg), State Tretyakov Art Gallery (Moscow), Kete Kolviz Museum (Colon), Koenigsberg House Museum (Duisburg, Germany), Institute of International Cultural Connections (Stuttgart, Germany), Goethe-Institute (Saint Petersburg), the Fund of Eastern Prussian Heritage (Bonn), Gerhard Hauptmann Fund (Dusseldorf, Germany). For the time being, Kaliningrad State Art Collection does not only keep works of art but is also an important educational center. The museum has a lecture hall of 60 seats equipped with a multimedia system, a library, a children art studio.
The Kaliningrad Region is rich in amber. There is a museum dedicated to amber there. The Kaliningrad Amber Museum is a museum featuring a single mineral. Amber is shown from the viewpoint of different sciences: paleontology, mineralogy, geology, geography, archeology, history, natural history. The museum’s goal is systemizing available knowledge of amber including science, history, culture and art. The exposition occupies three floors in 28 halls of about 10,000 square feet total and includes five sections
1. Origin of amber, its properties. 2. Historical and archeological knowledge on amber.
3. Amber in the arts of 17th and 18th century. 4. Kaliningrad amber center 5. Amber in the works of modern artists. .
The Vityaz Museum Ship
Ship Life Survey Excursion
You will walk on the ship from the main deck to the bridge, visit the saloon and hydrology lab, the cabin of the expedition head, have a look at the canteen, lantern and gyrocompass compartments, sick-bay, chief engineer and shipmaster cabins, check out the chart house and pilot house, stroll on the decks of the ship and get familiar with its arrangement.
Tracing Sea ExpeditionsYou can visit the Maritime Koenigsberg exhibition in the maritime club and see the cabins of four ‘knights’ of the Russian Fleet: great scientist N.Mikluho-Maklay, famous admiral S.Makarov, head of expedition of the museum ship and a modern ship. It is possible to visit the Coasts exhibition which is located in historical halls.
Wonderful Ocean WorldYou can visit the following laboratories of the Vityaz scientific ship: benthos, ichthyological, plankton and reefological. You can view collections of sea shells and corals, learn about deep water creatures, discover mysteries of ocean life and feel like a scientist working on a research vessel.
The Vityaz, Flagship of ScienceYou can walk through scientific laboratories of the ship. In biological laboratories, you can see collections of seashells and corals. The geology lab will introduce you to samples raised from sea depths with the legendary submersible craft of the Mir type. Annals of the Earths cast in stone are available as a result of deep-water drilling in oceans. In the sonic depth-finder laboratory you will learn how the ultimate depth of the Ocean was measured, see various shapes of sea-bottom relief and the devices used to measure depths. In the hydrology lab you can see various devices for studying temperature, salinity, flows and chemistry of the ocean.
Heart of the Ship (by prior appointment)You can visit the engine room of the ship and see the main and auxiliary engines, the work place of the engineer, the main switchboard. You can walk on the propeller shaft. You will be impressed with the power of the devices and engines which provide the movement and life of the ship.
While Waiting for an Excursion on the VityazYou can visit an exhibition hall where new exhibitions are held monthly. You can also see a lot of marine and oceanology equipment on the museum territory. Finally, our anchor collection, although not unique, is quite interesting nonetheless. Other attractions collected at the museum include the manned submersible Pisces, the towed submersible Tetis, a hydrographic motorboat, lifeboats from the Kruzenstern barque, a submarine deck-house and various artifacts found at the bottom of the Pregol river.
Regional History MuseumThe Friedland Gate is a historical architecture monument of the middle of the 19th century. It closes the ring of the second wall fortification of the defense system of Koenigsberg. It is built in the neo Gothic style and decorated with a sculpture of famous Berlin master Wilhelm Ludvig Stuermer: the outer part of the gate has a sculpture of grandmaster Sigfried vob Voihtwangen. At the present time, The Friedland Gate is the only Kaliningrad municipal museum. A permanent exposition situated right on the cobblestoned pavement of the gate is dedicated to the history of Koenigsberg wall fortifications and every day life of the townspeople. The weapon hall features a unique collection of small fire-arms of the first and second world wars. All the exhibits were found in the Kaliningrad region. Exhibitions of photographers and artists are held in special halls. Musical and literature nights are held with the candle-light and fire. The Friedland Gate museum is one of the organizers of the ‘Regiomons. Royal Mountain’ international knight festival which is held annually on the territory f the park adjacent to the museum as part of the Town Day celebrations.
A monument to baron MunchgauzenThere is a monument to literature character baron Munchgauzen in the Central Recreation and Entertainment Park of Kaliningrad next to the puppet theater. It must be the newest monument in town (set up on 18 June 2005). It was a celebration gift to Kaliningradians from the German town of Bodenweden which is believed to be the home town of the great ‘true story teller’. It is a fact that the real prototype of baron Munchgauzen, Karl Jeronim Friedrich von Munchgauzen visited Koenigsberg twice, in 1738 and 1750 while traveling to Saint Petersburg to serve in the Russian army and back. The sculpture author is German art smithery master Georg Petau. The monument looks like a steel wall with a silhouette of Munchgauzen flying on a cannon ball. The base has the inscription “Koenigsberg” on one side and “Kaliningrad” on the other to stress the connection of the German and Russian towns. Note the direction of the flight: it looks like he is flying from Kaliningrad to Koenigsberg. What does it mean?
Jubilee BridgeThis is the most wonderful gift among the ones that Kaliningradians received for the 750th anniversary of their town. The drawbridge across the Pregol river in place of the German one destroyed during the war connects the Island and the downtown as the shortest way.
The bridge was built on the footing of the Imperial Bridge (Kaiser-Brucke) built in 1905 and destroyed in 1945. Since the architecture of the new bridge is a copy of the Kaiser-Brucke, it is possible to speak about a reconstruction. The jubilee bridge is pedestrian and can draw apart.
The jubilee bridge and a beautiful granite embankment and a nice small control house is one of the most romantic sites in the town. Happy dates, walks in the moonshine, good fairy-tale environment — what else does a romantic need for happiness?
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