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Kaliningrad, Russia

KALININGRAD, (population approx 450,000) until 1945 known by its German name Königsberg, then briefly as Kyonigsberg (Кёнигсберг), is a seaport lying between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea and the administrative center of Kaliningrad Oblast-(district) the only Russian enclave left after the rest of the Baltics finally gained their freedom from the former Soviet Union.

Under the old Prussian & then German regimes Königsberg was latterly the capital of the German province of East Prussia, the earlier Duchy of Prussia and before that of the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights, (headquartered across the present-day border with Poland at still intact & magnificent Malbork Castle) whose Grand Master, led their armies across Baltic tribal lands -aided by mercenary crusader knights from across Europe - to conquer Europes last Pagans. They would eventually lose an entire army to the victorious hero of Russia -Alexander Nevsky in an epic battle immortalized by the great Russian film director Eisenstein . The castle & Hanseatic League old town were largely destroyed by RAF bombs in 1944 and later much of the Prusso-German-built city- by the Red Army who laid siege to it in a grim and lengthy battle after Hitler ordered no surrender! All that is left today of the old town is the rubble of the traditional red-brick poking through the grassy pathways that encircle the now restored Cathedral where lies the tomb of philosopher Emile Kant. The classic & magnificent Castle (still shown towering over the city in photos as recent as 1944) was considered a sign of German militarism and not rebuilt instead what is considerd by many as the ugliest building in the world was built over it but became unstable & stands abandoned. However, the present-day city has a few classic examples of old German architecture still remaining & proudly boasts 1st cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin & some prominent athletes as former residents. It is busily imodernizing with many new houses & apartment complexes -a highly efficient transport system and flourishing still- the old market now enlarged with an abundance of new shops and cafes. The Amber Museum in the Old Fort is well worth a visit the Oblast lies on the amber coast & contains the worlds largest Amber mine. The coast itself & Curonian Spit connecting to Lithuania is home to some of Europes finest sand-dunes and pine forests and many new vacation homes are being built & prices rising. Still intact are the 1930s summer beach-homes of one or two prominent Nazis. Rail lines connect it to Poland and the airport connecting to St Petersburg, Moscow & some European cities -is increasing capacity.