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тдб2015 – день3: Калининград

join us discovering kaliningrad on our first drive-free day during TDB2015.

those only interested hard-core TWIKE action: there is a parallel universe, where one can use one’s own legs to get around town :o)

after sleeping just 3 hours, i get up quite refreshed and head down to have some breakfast. the situation in the breakfast room was thoroughly russian: dozens of people in a room devoid of any interior design, filled with small tables and worn down seats probably from the 80’s. when i finally make it to the buffet, there are no plates and no forks. half the buffet is empty – the rest is being raided by the guests as if we’re preparing for a week in a bomb shelter. 🙂

with time to spare, i just get a cup of coffee and continue to watch the spectacle until a) forks and plates are available again and b) jc joins me.

jc doesn’t show. he probably forgot to set the alarm or fell asleep again. after just 20 minutes, whilst family members shared plates between each other, forks and plates arrived and i made my way to the buffet. the choice was interesting – many sausage types, warm and cut or cold and sliced, cold fried eggs, vegetables and some bread. i dug into the warm sausages with a sauce i cannot really convey what it tasted like, combined with some cold eggs and veggies.

whilst everyone was eating, a huge screen was playing decidedly russian music videos – thanks to soundhound i can let you see one of these gems 🙂

after waiting nearly an hour, i head up to jc’s room and after knocking on his door and telling him he’s an hour late, he told me i was an hour early – i forgot to switch back to CEST yesterday whilst entering russia. since i’ve already eaten – i let jc have breakfast alone and we meet up 30 mins later in front of our hotel, ready to discover kaliningrad.

our place in kaliningrad: Гостиница «Берлин»

our place in kaliningrad: Гостиница «Берлин»

you might ask why we decided to leave TW560 at the hotel – every self-respecting TWIKE pilot loves to take his vehicle to a city centre to park it at a prominent place with information or links to more about the TWIKE.

well, then let me explain the state kaliningrad’s roads are in:

heavy cobblestone! massively deep potholes and manhole covers! tram tracks 5-10 centimeters higher than the road surface, massive bumps.

all in all, enough to shake your bones thoroughly and let the TWIKE make sounds you don’t want to hear > sometimes worse than in india! look for yourself!

all ove the city

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what's he fishing for?

what’s he fishing for?

we walk towards the city centre – taking in the sounds and sights – see old concrete-based socialist architecture merge with the newly found love for restoration or re-creation of former königsberg greatness.

königsberg cathedral

königsberg cathedral

we come across the house of soviets known to locals as ‘the monster,’ this is sort of an anti-attraction, but useful for orientation in the city center. it was constructed on the ruins of the königsberg castle, but was deemed structurally unsound and therefore never occupied. rumor has it that a mysterious owner prevents it from being demolished.

house of soviets - structurally challenged :)

house of soviets – structurally challenged 🙂

we then find kaliningrad’s main attraction: the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. it’s an impressive building overlooking a vast expanse in the middle of the city.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

hail russia!
(click the image for a high-res version)

and since we’re up-to-date with the recent developments in photography and popular methods of picture composition: our contribution below 🙂

kaliningrad selfie

kaliningrad selfie

we continue exploring the city. since russia is technically not europe – at least according to my carrier swisscom, i’m suddenly no longer in flatrate-unlimited-lala-land, and calls cost $4/minute and 10 mbytes data cost $7 – i’m forced to go cold turkey and am doing so badly. 🙂

going cold turkey :)

going cold turkey 🙂

this type of phone booth was already in use 1997 when i was in russia and attempted to transfer data via them using an acoustic coupler! (the phone itself has been upgraded slightly)

we wander further, and find a few things i came to like whilst staying in moscow nearly 20 years ago and have visibly not changed. (i have a soft spot for russia since then)

i love markets!

i love markets!

meat - as fresh as it gets - in large cuts!

meat – as fresh as it gets – in large cuts!

i lived in one of these buildings then, with a family – a truly intense experience that first and foremost gave me an understanding of the pride russians have for their country and friendship they extend to anybody that accepts them the way they are. (the second thing i learnt then was not to try to compete with them on alcohol consumption! i was young enough to try and fail miserably 🙂

russia - concrete 1960's

russia – concrete 1960’s

there is so much to be said about this kind of architecture and how russian cities were built during those days – social aspects and social cohesion were high on their agenda. if you understand this, you come to see these drab buildings and their surroundings in a completely different light. the only question remaining is how long these buildings are going to be inhabitable given the current rate of decay on the exterior.

structurally sound?

structurally sound?

house number upgrades

house number upgrades

we then touch upon the less happy times königsberg/kaliningrad endured during WW2 by visiting a war hero memorial and the bunker from which the german forces were directed until they laid down their arms in 1945.

for the glorious russian army

for the glorious russian army

entrance to the bunker

entrance to the bunker

the bunker - a very intense experience

the bunker – a very intense experience

attack plan WW2

attack plan WW2

visualisation of kaliningrad after allied bombardment

visualisation of kaliningrad after allied bombardment

photoshop magic?

photoshop magic?

after this experience we need some rest and head to kaliningrad’s canals and a zone where the city is trying to (synthetically) re-create former architecture and greatness.

a small bridge leads from old kaliningrad to this new part – as everywhere in the world, also here, lovers declare their love to each other by locking a lock together and throwing the key into the canal.

this guy was serious about his love declaration

this guy was serious about his love declaration

the new face of kaliningrad

the new face of kaliningrad

kaliningrad canals

kaliningrad canals

house of soviets: still an eye sore

house of soviets: still an eye sore

after nearly a full day wandering around, we head back to the hotel for some rest – on our way back i took a picture of a sticker, representative for so many others to be found on cars, windows etc.

proud of mother russia

proud of mother russia

later that evening we head out to one of the old city gates, one of which has been converted to an up-market restaurant serving russian cuisine only.

sun stone - our architecturally interesting restaurant

sun stone – our architecturally interesting restaurant

medieval style.

medieval style.

8.30 pm & alone - russians eat late!

8.30 pm & alone – russians eat late!

food porn: a starter - fish with vodka

food porn: a starter – fish with vodka

the food was extremely good – try it for yourself (i hope you’re planning to visit kaliningrad soon! 🙂

back at the hotel we agree to leave early since we suspect crossing the border will not be a 10 minute affair… now, how could we get that idea?

as a bonus for all of you who have read today’s interminable blog post to the very end: another russian farm-themed music video – enjoy!