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Kaliningrad, Russia

Formerly known as Königsberg, Kaliningrad is Russia's westernmost province separated from the rest of the country by Latvia and Lithuania. Overlooking the Baltic Sea, the Kaliningrad region boasts some striking scenery. Among the its main attractions is a vibrant city with 700 years of Prussian history, picturesque coastal towns facing the sea, and the wild Curonian spit - a narrow landmass lined with some of Europe's highest sand dunes, deserted beaches and verdant marshland. The sanctuary harbors a colorful array of wildlife hidden in the region's thick forests.

The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea is sandwiched between Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north and east. Annexed from Germany in 1945, the territory was a closed military zone throughout the Soviet period. A wave of mainly elderly German tourists in search of their heimat (homeland), noisy groups of navy seals showing off their marine connection, decayed old German houses, countless amber souvenir shops, the richest amber produce in the world and the hometown of philosopher and scientist Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) characterize Kaliningrad best.

The Bunker Museum was the headquarters of the local German command during the 1945 battle, now it is a museum of the city's German past (which lasted 689 years) and the Soviet "liberation" of the city, including several interesting dioramas of events during the days of the battle. The Museum of the World Ocean includes two museum ships, one submarine and two buildings where permanent international exhibitions are held. Victory Square is the central area with administrative buildings, banks and shops. Food of high gastronomical standards of the old German cuisine combined with the best Russian culinary traditions make Kaliningrad particularly interesting and the Fishing Village with its red-roofed buildings and colorful exteriors advocate the charms and delicacies of freshly prepared sea food.

A visit to Kaliningrad is not complete without an excursion to the Kuronian Spit. This unique sliver of land between the Baltic Sea and the Kuronian Lagoon is home to spectacular sand dunes and stretches of empty beaches. It runs for 98 km (the border with Lithuania comes at about 50 km) and its width varies from just 400 meters to almost 4 kilometers. In addition to sand dunes, this UNESCO-protected area is covered by pine forests. Millions of migrating birds pass over the spit every year, making it a birdwatcher's dream. Tourists can also visit one of the world's first ornithological stations in Rybachi.

Visiting Kaliningrad is understanding the full meaning of Immanuel Kant's famous quotation: "What can I know, what ought I to do, what can I hope for" as the city has all the potentials to become a beautiful gem in the crown of Russia.

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Kaliningrad, Russia

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Kaliningrad, Russia

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