Travel tips for Kaliningrad?
June 7, 2006 7:34 AM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: Tips/recommendations for Kaliningrad?

A friend who is traveling to Poland on vacation has been considering the possibility of visiting Kaliningrad as well. It seems to be a Russian territory lodged between Poland and Lithuania, without any direct land connection to Russia. The history seems interesting enough but it sounds like it might be a bit... off the beaten track.

My friend was especially curious about two things. First, how easily a non-Russian speaker fluent in Polish, German and English could get by there. Second, whether it would be possible to travel from Kaliningrad City into some of the abandoned East Prussian towns in the countryside without renting a car.

Any intrepid European explorers have tips?
posted by huskerdont to Travel & Transportation around Kaliningrad, Russia (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"One of the few positive developments is an increase in environmental quality, but that is only because the old, polluting factories have mostly gone bankrupt.

"My first impression of the region was on the border last summer, when a group of guards barked at me to show my "ugly mug". It did not get much better from there.

"The little economic activity that exists in the rural regions looks post-apocalyptic."
Other than that it sounds quite interesting...
posted by randomination at 9:14 AM on June 7, 2006

I haven't been, but it honestly might not be worth the trouble of getting a visa, especially if it's just a short trip. The Curonian Spit should be nice, though, and I remember reading that a pizza place somewhere in Kaliningrad (the city) was voted "the best pizza in the Baltics" - by all means, let us know.
posted by xanthippe at 9:16 AM on June 7, 2006

Also, if he wants to see some dilapidated post-communist towns, he can do that without a visa in the Baltics - one option is travelling from Tallinn to Narva, at the Russian border, which is on a river with a big fortress on either side. You can watch the babushkas tottering across the bridge to the EU with shopping bags. Lots of concrete; i'm guessing the atmosphere is roughly similar to what you'd find in K-grad.

Border-crossings might be weird, too; research it beforehand, obviously, but it's possible that the land crossings are closed to foreigners, and he'd have to fly in from Moscow or so.
posted by xanthippe at 9:23 AM on June 7, 2006

Best answer: I think it says a lot that most poles are wiling to drive an extra 3-400km to avoid going to Kaliningrad on their way to Lithunia/Latvia/Estonia.

That said, I'm going to be driving around it next week.
posted by jedrek at 11:15 AM on June 7, 2006

If you want views of the Curonian Spit, better to avoid Kaliningrad and just go to Lithuania. Granted, I haven't been to Klaipeda in five years, but I liked it then, and the Spit is one of those beautifully desolate places. Plus, the local beer and seafood stews were great.
posted by RakDaddy at 12:35 PM on June 7, 2006

Best answer: I spent a few months working in Kaliningrad province. I love it, and would strongly encourage your friend to visit.

On the language front: the majority of visitors are German "nostalgia tourists" so a German-speaking tourist should do just fine. English isn't that common -- people study it in school, but in three months I only encountered one other native English speaker. All standard disclaimers about learning the Cyrillic alphabet so that you can read signs (esp. the ones on washroom doors) apply.

As for travel within the province, the roads are terrible (many of them are pre-WWII cobblestone) but the train system is wonderful. Trains run frequently, go to most towns and are really cheap. Also, the province is tiny so trips to other towns are pretty quick. Kaliningrad city is the hub for the train system.

And finally, a quick list of recommended attractions: Kant's tomb, Svetlogorsk (be sure to stock up on CHEAP amber jewellery for your female friends), the Amber musem (a bit dull if you don't like jewellery), the Kaliningrad city market (to stock up on Soviet pins and memorabilia) and the Curonian spit.

Er, if your friend is keen on this, maybe they should drop me a line -- e-mail's in my profile.
posted by kate_katya at 3:48 PM on June 7, 2006

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