As I’ve finished up my summaries from my most recent trip, it is only fitting that I talk about my final thoughts. Because they only mentioned what I did rather than what I thought, I’m dedicating this post to more specific things.
- The architecture. Oh gosh, I could talk about this for a long time. Colorful and unique, the buildings transported you from Russia to Europe, and I’m happy beyond words that they’re being preserved.
- The air quality and the scenery. I just mentioned the architecture, but besides that, having a lot of green spaces and parks further bolstered the aesthetics. Trees and ponds abounded, and while yes, there are quite a few in the capital, these ones seemed attuned to the proper scale. Furthermore, I couldn’t help but notice that the air just seemed nicer, and returning back to Moscow reinforced the discrepancy between the two.
- The food and drinks. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I found that the city is home to quite a large number of quality pubs and restaurants. Consequently, my wallet took a decent hit.
- Being able to walk around everywhere was great, and it was oddly refreshing to not have to rely on things like the metro (which didn’t exist in Kaliningrad; rather, I’m referring to Moscow here). I admit that by the end, my knees and feet weren’t holding up due to the pounding they took, but at least their suffering wasn’t in vain.
- Perhaps the impending World Cup in Kaliningrad may have played a part in this, but I really liked how there were periodic signs pointing to the various interspersed sights and locations in the city. Thanks to the lack of clear signage (see below in the negatives for more), having the odd notification as well as map pointing me in the right destination for a walker like me. Honestly, I think Moscow should heed this and implement a similar system; lord knows it’d help with the confused tourists and even some expats.
- The airport. This is a minor thing, but it really felt cramped and decrepit. Be warned if you’re going to/from there.
- A confusing bus system. Now, I’ll say that I didn’t actually use the buses there, but I was warned ahead of time to get a schedule because they’re difficult to understand. In Moscow, the bus stops are clearly marked with what buses go where, which does spoil you. In Kaliningrad however, I didn’t notice that-you had to wait for the buses and see their destinations as per the signs on their sign. Would I have utilized them if it was easier to figure out? Maybe.
- The lack of clear signage for the streets. Again, Moscow has spoiled me in that I expect to be able to see what street I’m on. This may be due to it being a smaller city with far less inhabitants, but I had some snafus when it came to navigation in Kaliningrad. For example, I had to cross over to a certain street, but since there was no indication where I was, I’d have to guess, walk a bit, and then realize that I’m going either the right or wrong way. Sure, things got easier after a few days when I just knew where I was, but the first few times were very frustrating. Lost hours of navigation is worse when it’s your feet that suffer from backtracking, after all.
- Look, as much as I liked the city, it is a place that felt boring after a while. This assessment might be a bit harsh, as it is true I did go during the May holidays when everything is held back, but it seemed like I saw most of the sights. Yes, I didn’t get the chance to go to the coast due to the ever-changing Russian weather, but even only going to two or three big destinations a day meant I saw a fair bit of what the city had to offer; when looking in my maps, I maybe missed one or two things at worst. Maybe my strategy of only sticking to the center caused me to miss the forest for the trees, but I saw plenty of trees nonetheless.
Having listed those points, I would recommend Kaliningrad to visit with the caveat of recommending it for maybe four, five days maximum. Don’t get me wrong, it was an awesome place to recharge my batteries and get away from Moscow, but there was a lack of 24/7 entertainment that really made me feel like, “oh darn, I have to leave.” Though, to its everlasting credit, it has changed the way I look at Moscow. Yay for travel!