ARRIVAL IN KALININGRAD
My arrival in Kaliningrad marked a change in pace compared to Moscow. A quieter, calmer location, with a longer stay head of me. I was greeted warmly by Alexei, a music journalist, who is to be my ‘buddy’ for my stay here, and offered to give me an initial tour of the city.
The architecture is an interesting mixture of German and Soviet. The region has a bit of a ‘bloody’ history, and towards the end of World War 2, the allied bombing raids destroyed over 80% of the city, (when it was the German town Königsberg). The city was then taken by the Soviets in August 1945 and renamed Kaliningrad. Since then, many Soviet style housing blocks have been built, (Khrushchyovka) mingled with existing German buildings. The 14th century gothic Cathedral was re-built in the 90’s and much of the fortifications survived the war, so there are a lot of fortresses around Kaliningrad.
For the ultimate hybrid Kaliningrad building, a row of Khrushchyovka buildings that line the main avenue in Kaliningrad, Prospekt Leninsky, have been recently ‘clad’ with German style facades just prior to the world cup in 2018. Alexei showed me some before and after pictures – see example below. There were many mini ‘face-lifts’ to the city for the world cup (along with a huge new stadium). Interesting article on the Kaliningrad’s postwar cityscape here.
It was good to get a flavour of the city, and we wandered through some parks, through the old ‘Baltika’ stadium, past the amazing ‘House of the Soviets’ (more on this later), and I finished the day by going to an organ concert in the cathedral which has the largest organ in Russia. Alexei shared much of Kaliningrad’s history with me, including that the first ever space walk was by a cosmonaut from Kaliningrad, Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov. A few more pics from around Kaliningrad … (yes, pickling is popular)…