FEATURE - Undiscovered Russia: Kaliningrad Region With Its Complicated History, Natural Wonders

FEATURE - Undiscovered Russia: Kaliningrad Region With its Complicated History, Natural Wonders

MOSCOW/KALININGRAD (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 11th February, 2021) OSCOW/KALININGRAD, February 11 (Sputnik), Giorgi Shengelia - A Sputnik correspondent has visited Russia's exclave Kaliningrad region, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, to see the Curonian Spit and other well-known historical and natural sites.

The history of Russia's gateway to Europe and the Baltic sea is unique and complicated. The area known as the Kaliningrad region today was inhabited by pagan tribes before it was captured by the Teutonic Order in the Medieval ages. The crusaders built castles throughout the area, including Koenigsberg, the old name of the city of Kaliningrad.

In the 18th century, the territory was part of East Prussia. Soviet troops entered the area in October 1944, and Koenigsberg surrendered in April 1945. The region was incorporated into the USSR after the Second World War and renamed Kaliningrad.

The region has the world's largest deposits of amber, and thus tourist shops are dominated by the products made from it, along with delicacies from marzipan.

Konigsberg was famous for its marzipan production for centuries, and delicacies made from it are still widely common in Kaliningrad.

Koenigsberg was the capital of the Teutonic Order, the Duchy of Prussia and East Prussia before Kaliningrad became the capital of Russia's westernmost region.

The city was heavily damaged during the bombing by allied troops in 1944 and lost most of its historical buildings, including Koenigsberg cathedral located on the Kneiphof island in the middle of the city. The cathedral was renovated in the early 1990s and now is open for tourists. Organ concerts are held daily for visitors from across Russia and the rest of the world.

German philosopher and Koenigsber-born Immanuel Kant is buried near the northeast corner of the cathedral, and his burial site is another spot that attracts many tourists.

Other notable sites in the city include the Fishing village, a modern ethnographic and trade-craft complex with shops and cafes, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the Botanical Garden, the Zoo, the Koenigsberg Stock Exchange building and several Prussia-era forts.

Koenigsberg-Kaliningrad has a rich history but many hidden gems of the region are outside the capital.

After a mere forty-minute train ride, one can reach the coastal tourist town of Zelenogradsk from Kaliningrad.

Today's Zelenogradsk was originally an Old Prussian fishing village before it was captured by the Teutonic Order. The German name Cranz derived from the Old Prussian word Krantas which means the coast. The area suffered little to no warfare during the Second World War before it was captured by the Soviet Union.

Zelenogradsk is often named as Russia's 'cat city' for its love for cats and a museum dedicated to them named Murarium. Even the traffic lights in the city feature cats instead of a walking man.

One of the most notable sites in the city is the water tower building that offers a breath-taking view of the whole Zelenogradsk and the Baltic sea.

The city also has many modern hotels and restaurants on the seashore that offer dishes from Russian, German, Polish and Lithuanian cuisine.

The Curonian Spit, which separates the Baltic Sea and freshwater lagoon, is a 60-mile sand-dune peninsula shared by Russia and Lithuania and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At its narrowest point, the spit is just 1,100 feet wide.

UNESCO described the spit as "a unique and vulnerable, sandy and wooded cultural landscape on a coastal spit which features small Curonian lagoon settlements".

It was formed by the sea, wind and human activity. The history of the spit is dramatic, as dunes have buried many settlements and villages before stabilization work begun in the 19th century.

As of now, urbanized areas, eight settlements in total, cover just six percent of the land on the spit which is dominated by forests and sands. We saw several foxes while driving across the spit, which is also home to wild boars and deers, among other animals.

UNESCO Names "unique size and general spatial structure" that showcases "the harmonious coexistence between humans and nature" as the most valuable element of the Curonian Spit.