Kaliningrad was previously the East Prussian city of Kรถnigsberg Through the periods of
Germanisation and colonisation over the following centuries, German culture became dominant. During World War II the city of Kรถnigsberg was largely destroyed. At the end of World War II in 1945, the city became part of the Soviet Union pending the final determination of territorial questions at the peace settlement (as part of the Russian SFSR). Kรถnigsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946. The German language was replaced by the Russian language. The city was rebuilt, and, as the westernmost territory of the USSR, the Kaliningrad Oblast became a strategically important area during the Cold War.
Kaliningrad is a seaport city and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast, the Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea. Kaliningrad is the only Russian Baltic Sea port that is ice-free all year round.
Architecture The pre-war city center (Altstadt and Kneiphof) currently consists of parks, broad avenues, a square on the site of the former Königsberg Castle, and only two buildings: the House of Soviets ("Dom Sovyetov"), roughly on the site of the former castle, and the restored Königsberg Cathedral on the Kneiphof island (now "Kant island"). Immanuel Kant's grave is situated next to the cathedral. The oldest building in Kaliningrad is the Juditten Church (built before 1288). Also worth seeing are the former Stock Exchange, the surviving churches, and the remaining city gates. In counter-clockwise order these gates are: the Sackheim Gate, King's Gate, Rossgarten Gate, Attack Gate (German: Ausfallstor, or Sally Port), Railway Gate (Eisenbahntor), Brandenburg Gate, and Friedland Gate (Friedländer Tor). Apart from the already mentioned Dohna Tower, which houses the Amber Museum, the Wrangel Tower also remains as a reminder of the former Königsberg city walls. Only the gate of the former Fort Friedrichsburg remains.
Monuments Notable monuments include the statue of Immanuel Kant in front of the Immanuel Kant State University of Russia. The statue was made by notable sculptor Christian Daniel Rauch and unveiled in 1864. The statue was destroyed in 1945, but was remoulded in 1992 on the initiative of Marion Dönhoff. Also worth seeing is the Cosmonaut monument, which honours the Kaliningrad cosmonauts Alexei Leonov, Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Viktorenko. Other statues and monuments include the statue for Duke Albert, the statue for Friedrich Schiller, the statue for Tsar Peter the Great, Vladimir Vysotsky, the "Mother Russia" monument, and the Monument for the 1200 Guardsmen, remembering the Battle of Königsberg.
The Curonian Spit is a 98 km long, thin, curved sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast. Its southern portion lies within Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia and its northern within southwestern Lithuania. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site shared by the two countries. According to Baltic mythology, the Curonian Spit was formed by a giantess, Neringa, who was playing on the seashore. This child also appears in other myths (in some of which she is shown as a young strong woman, similar to a female
The Curonian Spit is home to the highest moving (drifting) sand dunes in Europe. Their average height is 35 meters, but some attain the height of 60 meters. Several ecological communities are present on and near the Spit, from its outer beaches to dune ridges, wetlands, meadows, and forests. Its location on the East Atlantic Flyway means it is frequently visited by migratory waterfowl. Between 10 and 20 million birds fly over the feature during spring and fall migrations, and many pause to rest or breed there.
The largest town on the spit is Nida in Lithuania, a popular holiday resort, mostly frequented by Lithuanian and German tourists. The northern shoreline of Curonian Spit is the site of beaches for tourists. Both the Russian and Lithuanian parts of the spit are national parks.