...like finding bones in a cemetery.
(Author Michael Wieck, a Holocaust survivor who grew up in Königsberg and returned in 1992, once wrote that: “Anyone who goes to Kaliningrad today shouldn’t expect to find Königsberg. There is a building here or there that recalls the past, but these leftovers from Königsberg’s existence are like finding bones in a cemetery.")
How much is left of the original City of Königsberg? Some people have argued that Kaliningrad is still Königsberg but now under a different name, but that would be true only for folks who reduce the meaning of a city to a specific location on a map.
However, that seems to fall a little short of how we usually talk about a city, i.e., in terms of its people, its culture and its history, as well as its place and function in a country’s socio-economic or political structure. Here, we clearly do have a tale of two cities, that - while located in the same place - they are different cities in terms of their history, culture and ethnicity, and even the country that they are located in, and that includes the official language
Some might still want to claim the two cities are one and the same since enough bricks and mortar were left standing to claim a degree of physical continuity between the two to the extent that – if you looked hard enough- you would be able to find enough of the original Königsberg to justify the claim.
But the extent to which the bombed out remains of Königsberg were violated after the Soviets took possession in 1945 - and essentially left to rot until recently, or simply bulldozed away earlier, with the useful bits shipped back to the motherland – the unique and historic City of Konigsberg ceased to exist when the last remaining ethnic German was kicked out after 1945 to find their way across the distant Oder-Neisse border, courtesy of Joseph Stalin and his ethnic cleansing program so shamefully condoned by the Allied Forces.
The restoration of the Dom on former Kneiphof island appears complete, and many other older buildings have undergone some form of restoration – replete with ersatz red roofing tiles made of metal in order to appear original in connection with the 750 year celebrations. But the introduction of typical uninspired Stalinist architecture during the 1970’s further demeaned the tragic remains of Konigsberg in the form of the usual drab Soviet-style apartment blocks, adding insult to injury in light of the many fine century old buildings and wonderful architecture that they replaced.
This includes the ultimate insult to architecture anywhere – the multi-story House of Soviets at the site of the destroyed Königsberg Castle – a concrete apparition so excruciatingly ugly, it has been frequently referred to as the ugliest building in the world. Left unfinished for over 20 years, the exterior was painted light blue and windows were installed, for a visit by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2005. However, the interior remains unfinished and unusable.
Some years ago I came across a Russian website where someone had posted a number of photographs of present day Kalinigrad that included things or glimpses of the original Königsberg. I attempted to contact the originator to see ifi could use some of these images on my site, but was unsuccessful. The site has long since disappeared, but I had saved it earlier, so am presenting these images now ...
Above right is the still very legible Kreuz Apotheke sign and a detail on the photo below showing the remains of a building that remained in its bombed out condition until as recent as 2005.
Here's another one in a similar condition ... but it is now being restored.
The building where once the cascade between the upper and lower pond was located.
Blending the Old with the (not so) New
Kings Gate - War damage has now been restored (2005)
Traces of WWII can still be found in many places.
Lonely Bear in Kaliningrad Zoo
Restored with replica metal roofing tiles
Dilapidated House in Kalinigrad
Similar House Completely Renovated
Original Statue of Fighting Bulls
Sackheimer Tor / Sackheim Gate