Born in the westernmost town of Russia Baltiysk and raised in Kaliningrad, Victor Arbuzov spent his childhood years exploring deserted German forts and citadels looking for vestiges of old times when this land was a part of Eastern Prussia. He became so passionate about the history of Königsberg and Prussia that at the age of 11 got appointed the head of the local history museum at his school and was awarded for his endeavours by the the Kaliningrad town hall. Today, Victor Arbuzov works in IT and writes historical novels about Königsberg. He is one of the most prominent local historians and a co-founder of the project Live Königsberg (Zhivoy Königsberg) dedicated to the history of this exciting region. It is also a preservation project aimed to promote the rich heritage of East Prussia among locals and tourists alike.
Probably the contrast. Russia is a very diverse country which has room for palm trees on a beach by the warm sea and for harsh permafrost deserts beyond the Arctic circle. When I travel around Russia, I usually ponder on how big our country is, how diverse is its wildlife and how rich and varied is its culture and heritage. I believe that Russia is one of the few places in the world where you can easily be one with nature, and have new unforgettable experiences. Also, while travelling in Russia I often meet kind-hearted people who are always willing to help, even at their own expense.
St Petersburg is definitely my favourite city in Russia. Despite the fact that I’m not a fan of big cities, Piter (as Russians usually call St Petersburg) amazes me with its architecture and its unique vibe which is, in fact, my endless source of inspiration. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that Königsberg (former name of Kaliningrad) and St Petersburg were tightly linked in the past, and Russian tsar Peter I was inspired by the example of Königsberg when he was building St Petersburg, the new capital of the Russian Empire. Taking cities aside, one of my favourite places in Russia is the Volga River. It’s a magical river, and a superb place to muse and ponder upon my new book. Oh, and the sunsets on the Volga are unbelievable! There’s something primordially Russian about them that thrills my soul.
Right now I’d love to grab my tent, stock up on food and go deep into the wild of the Altai Mountains. I haven’t been to this part of Russia yet but heard a lot about its beauty.
It might sound boring but I love spending summers in my native Kaliningrad Region, ideally on the coast. I particularly enjoy the Curonian Spit where I often go to climb the Ef dune and see the sunrise. You have to wake up at 4am to be there on time but it’s well worth it. Anyway, the Curonian Spit is definitely one of those places that any traveller to Russia should visit in summer.
I'm more into the idea of travelling to places where you can embrace the real winter with snow and frost such as in Karelia and Murmansk regions in the North. Intense cold, lots of snow, and the Northern lights create that perfect winter vibe.
It’s a very unusual city. More than anything I like the fact that this city and its inhabitants are kind of stuck between Russia and Europe, both geographically and mentally. People here are bright and interesting, they value beauty. Since I was little this city has always fascinated me with its beautiful German architecture and amount of green spaces. No wonder that many Russians find it kind of fairytale. Besides, Kaliningrad is a very safe city and it lacks the bustle of other big Russian cities. It's also very diverse in terms of architecture embracing buildings of different eras, cultures and ideologies.
Its German heritage. Many world-famous writers and philosophers were inspired by Königsberg architecture. And although not much has been left of the old Prussian city, it still attracts and inspires people. I also find inspiration in local weather, but that's another story.
There're quite a few! But I particularly like the Upper Lake (Verkhnee Ozero) with a lovely public walk where I can spend hours. It's the place where the young, buzzy crowd makes merry, and locals come to walk with their families. I also love going to the Fishing Village Quarter and the Kant Island.
The area around Telman Street. Once it was a suburb of Königsberg known as Marienhoff. It's a quiet and leafy neighbourhood by the big lake. The World War II affected this area too but most of it was spared. I love walking around and admiring the old German mansions, each of them is unique, built in a distinct style. It's also one of the few places in town where you can find old cobbled streets which survived the war. In fact, there're many small details like an old wrought iron gate or a section of a German kerb reminding of old Königsberg in this area. But history aside, it's just a very quiet and green neighbourhood, and a perfect place for a stroll on a hot summer day.
GS Coffeeshop at 1 Galitskogo St! It's a small and cozy espresso bar with friendly baristas who know everything about coffee. It's always packed with caffeine-addicted millennials but they have a good reason to choose this place because GS makes outstanding specialty coffee. So if you have craving for a cup of good coffee while in Kaliningrad don't miss this place!
Croissant Café is a good place to start your day. They have a wide choice of breakfasts, as well as delicious pastries and cakes. They serve European food with a tilt towards French cuisine. Coffee is pretty good here too. They have a few branches in the city, and you can always tell that you're in one of them by the French radio that plays in all their cafés. For those who like to have a croissant for breakfast I'd recommend a chain of bakeries called Königsbacker. They do amazing pastries!
Again, I'd say pop into one of the branches of Königsbacker bakery and you I can guarantee that you won't leave disappointed. Apart from pastries they also do pies with various fillings, sandwiches and homemade yoghurt. It's grab-and-go kind of place but they usually have seating inside. One thing I wouldn't recommend is their coffee..
I must admit that I have a soft spot for French cuisine so I can't disregard Madame Bouché restaurant located in the Fishing Village quarter next to the Kant Island. It's a wonderful place with outstanding food, lovely French interior, and meticulous attention to detail. For example, you'll always find a small bouquet of wild flowers on your table. Besides, the restaurant is located inside a lighthouse which has excellent views over the Königsberg Cathedral. Make sure you book ahead, this place is very popular among locals.
British pub Britannica. It's one of the few places in Kaliningrad where you can find English draught beer. They also do decent and varied food. The place is usually loud and crowded as a pub should be, but it has a really good and friendly vibe.
To a German restaurant on the Victory Square called Zotler. Both food and beer are great there. And it's also popular with German tourists, which I guess is a good sign.
Sadly, there aren't that many place where you can actually feel the old Königsberg. I'd recommend checking out the cathedral on the Kant island and go to one of their organ recitals. Or if you prefer to stay outdoors, head to the neighbourhoods around Telman Street, and a former German quarter called Hufen located between Mira and Komsomolskaya streets. Although the best way to feel Königsberg is to accidentally walk into one of those old German streets which you still find around the centre of Kaliningrad. But overall, you'll probably be disappointed to find that there isn't much left of the old city.
There aren't that many tall buildngs in Kaliningrad so I'd say try ferris wheel in Youth Park. Although the best view over the city is of course from the House of Soviets in the heart of the city. It's an abandoned building but there's a security. Use your negotiation skills and better find a local guide among urban explorers. It takes a while to climb dozens of empty floors but you'll be rewarded by magnificent views over the city once you get to the top of the building.
There's a nice Russian restaurant called Khmel located on the Victory Square. They serve pretty rare stuff like deer and wild boar meat. Other than that, check out a Ukranian place called Borshch & Salo located next to it. As for Königsberg cuisine, you won't find many places serving it. The only place I know is Nautilus-Blutgericht restaurant located at 18 Leninsky Prospect.
I definitely recommend Keiserhof Hotel and Skipper Hotel located in the Fishing Village Quarter. But if you're looking for something more unusual I'd suggest checking out Vityaz museum ship which belongs to the Museum of the World Ocean. They have a few guest cabins which you can rent. It's a very special and memorable experience. Just imagine coming back to your cabin in the evening. It's dark and you walk along the big deck of this former research vessel, and there's only you, the ship and the river glistening in the moonlight..
First of all, it's the Königsberg Cathedral built in the beginning of the 14th century. It's the symbol of our city. The cathedral outlived many wars and was miraculously spared by the Soviet government. It is now restored and has a museum inside. It also holds regular organ recitals. Then, there's also the Dona Tower which houses Amber Museum today. It's played an important role in the city's history. I'd also mention the Friedrichsburg Gate which once was a part of a big fortress, where the young Russian tsar Peter I studied military and naval science. Today, it's another branch of the Museum of the World Ocean. In fact, there're quite a few places in Kaliningrad steeped in history, these are just the most remarkable.
There's a tiny shop called Modigliani located at 24 Leninsky Prospect. It sells local arts and crafts, and it's probably the best place to find something memorable to bring home.
The Herring Day is held annually in the beginning of April by the Museum of the World Ocean and is very popular with locals. There're fairs, concerts, workshops and, of course, there're plenty of fish.
The weather in Kaliningrad is particularly unpredictable. But the most comfortable weather is usually from the beginning of July until the end of September. Weather forecasts won't help you, you just need to be lucky.
My two favourite museums are the Museum of the World Ocean which I mentioned earlier, and the Friedland Gate Museum. The former has a few branches scattered around the city. One of my favourite exhibits is the submarine B-413 which is open for visitors. Vityaz, a former research vessel, has an interesting exhibition, as well as guest cabins where you can stay a night. Friedland Gate Museum is not very conveniently located for tourists but it's a constantly evolving and a very up-to-date museum with interesting exhibitions. And, of course, there's also a well-known Amber Museum.
Kaliningrad is lacking for art galleries to be honest. The only place that comes to mind is the state art gallery located at 60 Moskovsky Prospect.
Königsberg was once known for its marzipan but today it's mainly imported from Germany. Yet it's something that is definitely worth trying here if you have a sweet tooth. Kaliningrad also boasts an authentic local delicacy, a smoked eel. Your best bet would be to head to the fish pavilion at the central market. Go for the ones without a vacuum pack. Believe me, it's very tasty! Königsberg eels are very rich and fragrant.
I like jogging in a park along the Verkneye Lake.
It's not really a park but a botanical garden in Lesnaya Street. Part of the trees and plants were planted before the war by the Germans, many of them are quite rare. I love going there in spring when everything is in bloom, but it's also beautiful in summer and autumn. It's been recently renovated, they've built new paths and reconstructed the greenhouse. It's a rather small garden but I strongly recommend it nonetheless.
Locals love going to be Baltic Sea coast or to the forests which surround Kaliningrad. Personally, I love going for a picnic to Zelenogradsk but, to be honest, any beach in the region would do.
Go to one of the organ recitals at the Königsberg Cathedral. Don't miss the Museum of the World Ocean, try to see at least a couple of city gates (turned into museums), and go to the Amber Museum. Take a stroll in a park around the Upper Lake and along Telman Street. If you're keen on history of the region, go to the centre and look for vestiges of the old Königsberg. And don't miss local restaurants and cafes.
I've already mentioned the Curonian Spit above, it's a really must-go place especially in summer and the beginning of autumn. Apart from this area and the coast, there's also a couple of places which I particularly like. One of them is Ushakovo Village which is located southwest of Kaliningrad. It's a rather quiet place with a lovely restaurant in the centre called Haus Hafen. They have a huge territory, including the embankment and a small lighthouse. And the food is so delicious! There're also several historical landmarks in Ushakovo including the ruins of Brandenburg Castle and the castle church. The only part that's left of the latter is the clock tower. On top of that, there're many beautiful places in Kaliningrad region where you can find castle ruins and old villages. And there's also a magnificent Vyshtynetskoye Lake. Believe me, you won't get bored!