Sunday, October 1, 2017

Königsberg, Kaliningrad ... a complicated place to watch soccer

Seven things that you might not know about the former Königsberg:
Photo by Andreas Toerl

1.     Königsberg means ‘king’s mountain’ in German. This most eastern Prussian city was born in 1255. Known as a muli-cultural hub—it attracted Lithuanian, Polish and Prussian intellectuals. Now, it carries the distinction of being Russia's most western city. 

2.     Königsberg’s most famous citizen—philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)—is still remembered with a re-cast statue. (The original was destroyed in 1945). He even has a university named after him—Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University. Kant's beliefs included the idea that peace was possible through democracy and cooperation.  

3.     Königsberg’s German population (close to 400,000 in 1939) was either killed or expelled by the Soviets between 1945 and 1949.  Its current Russian population is at about 430,000.

4.     Königsberg was renamed, Kaliningrad, in 1946, to honor one of the original Bolsheviks, Mikhail Kalinin. During the cold war, it became a 'closed' city. No foreigners were allowed to visit. (Another part of mom's life that ceased to exist.)

5. The Kaliningrad Oblast (area) continues to have strategic military interest. With an increased American presence in Poland, the Russians have threatened to make the Kaliningrad area into a nuclear missile zone. 

On a lighter note... 


6. Königsberger klopse—a type of meatball cooked in a white sauce. My mom liked to make them but when I was a child, I was a bit leery of the capers hiding inside them. Nowadays, Kaliningrad restaurants serve them to nostalgic tourists. I'd like to go over and verify this. And yes, Kaliningrad welcomes German tourists searching for family memories. 


7.  Kaliningrad is one of the venues for the 2018 Fifa World Cup. Can't wait. I wonder if Chancellor Merkel and Putin will be sitting together and watching those games (like they did in Brazil). 

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