Conclusion. Did I Find Europe in Kaliningrad Region?

What really sold Kaliningrad Region as a destination to me was its complex identity as well as the beautiful scenery without the crowds typically found in the country’s South in the summertime. I wasn’t fooling myself by expecting to be able to duplicate my European trips. I’d been thinking of ways to process this trip for a few months till I decided on presenting it from the perspective of someone looking for whatever is left of Königsberg’s European past here these days. 

While Europe was still open to us, I was planning on visiting Kaliningrad to take a Goethe-Zertifikat exam in German. After a year in the U.S. I was hoping to continue my career in Europe, so I thought that improving my German (which was my second foreign language at uni) would help me. It seemed symbolic to have this exam in a city where German was spoken for centuries. Just as I was starting to design a study plan for myself, the world began shutting down. After months of the growing uncertainty, I started convincing myself I never loved German too much in the first place, so that was all probably for the better. Telling myself to give up on my European dreams has been a bit more difficult, but I must have made some progress there as well…

In 2021 a lot of us have been trying to embrace a new traveling reality. Even though I was being realistic that domestic trips are a temporary arrangement till the world returns to normality, as a linguist with an interest in identity research, I was hoping to take this opportunity to explore my own country. Instead of yearning for Europe and indulging in that „the grass is always greener“ philosophy, I was trying to appreciate what I already have available to me — without any visas or crazy medical regulations. But as I was doing that, I was still secretly hoping things would open up eventually. Even though I am still holding a grudge against Europe (at least not against those parts which are open to Russians) for denying us entry, I am waiting to be able to put that behind me and go on another European trip. I have my favorite parts of this continent, but honestly, any would do now…

Having heard lots of people (with varying travel experiences) raving about their past trips to Kaliningrad, I decided it was the best time to go explore it. Compared to three years ago when I was thinking of that German test, I have become a lot more sceptical (probably affected by the adjustments of living back in Russia) about how much Kaliningrad was capable of reminding me of Europe. But a tiny irrational part of me was still hopeful I might be inspired to start remembering German (just for fun, given the circumstances). Honestly, as early as after the first day in the region I started thinking all those amazing reviews I had heard were part of some conspiracy to attract more visitors. 

I still can’t figure out whether it was that awful old German house where we were staying that ruined the impression of the whole region for us. Throughout my week here I was trying to put that resentment behind me and simply observe. After this trip, my yearning for Europe has grown even stronger, but no attempts to work on my German have been made. What I have realized though is that my interest in the topic of identity has been helping me process my travel experiences and choose future destinations. In that respect Kaliningrad has been a perfect „object“. In the few months that have passed since that trip I have been looking through lots of „then and now“ pictures of the region on my Instagram feed. Even now that this piece is done, my memories will keep on being processed in my head. Will I return to König? At this point I don’t think I will. I’d rather wait till the world (including more of Europe) opens up more… 

REFERENCES

1.Maxim Samorukov. 06.08.21 Can Russia and Poland Ever Overcome Their Historical Differences? Carnegie Moscow Center (https://carnegiemoscow.org/commentary/85115)

2.Russia: Amber Covers Beach After Storm, BBC News, 9 January 2015 (https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-30743703)

3.German Inventions: Strandkorb. The German Embassy in Washington, DC , 18 May 2016 https://germanyinusa.tumblr.com/post/144552559452/german-inventions-strandkorb

4.Daniel McLaughlin, Kaliningrad Letter: Russia’s Baltic Outpost Grapples With Ghosts of German Past, The Irish Times, November 22, 2021 (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/kaliningrad-letter-russia-s-baltic-outpost-grapples-with-ghosts-of-german-past-1.4735521 )

5.«Ностальгия и страх»: как Калининградскую область открывали для иностранных туристов, 28.02.2020https://kgd.ru/news/society/item/87557-nostalgiya-i-strah-kak-kaliningradskuyu-oblast-otkryvali-dlya-inostrannyh-turistov

6.«Облизывание немецкого»: как калининградские СМИ боролись с «германизацией», Новый Калининград, 12.10.2017 https://www.newkaliningrad.ru/news/community/15280621-oblizyvanie-nemetskogo-kak-kaliningradskie-smi-borolis-s-germanizatsiey.html

7.Niels Schilstra. The identity perception of Kaliningrad citizens. 

Influence of the border on perceptions of identity, belonging and in-/exclusion in a Russian exclave within European Union territory. Master Thesis Human Geography, Radbound University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, 2018(https://theses.ubn.ru.nl/bitstream/handle/123456789/6955/Schilstra%2C_Niels_1.pdf?sequence=1)

8.Jack Butler. Post-Soviet Kaliningraders and Place Identity — an Autoethnographic Approach, Master of Arts thesis, Central European University, Budapest Hungary, 2019

9. Mark James Barnard The Past Becomes The Present. German National Identity and Memory Since Reunification. European Studies Research Institute, School of Languages, University of Salford, Doctor of Philosophy Thesis, 2018https://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/26564/1/10909761.pdf

10.Mary Elizabeth Malinkin and Nicole Easton. Building a Soviet City: The Transformation of Konigsberg. Wilson Center , February 8, 2016

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/building-soviet-city-the-transformation-konigsberg

11.Jamie Freeman, From German Königsberg to Soviet Kaliningrad: Appropriating Place and Constructing Identity (BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies), 2020 (p.5-55), 235p.

12. David Thomas Kronenfeld, Kaliningrad in the Twenty-First Century—Independence, Semi-Autonomy, or 

Continued Second-Class Citizenship?, 9 WASH. U. GLOBAL STUD. L. REV. 153 (2010), 

https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1043&context=law_globalstudies

13.Fred Weir, Living on Prussia’s ruins, Kaliningraders embrace Germanic past. The Christian Science Monitor, 

July 26, 2015, https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2015/0726/Living-on-Prussia-s-ruins-Kaliningraders-embrace-Germanic-past

14.Fred Weir. A Baltic province’s story, in one man’s life, The Christian Science Monitor, July 25, 2002https://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0725/p06s02-woeu.html

15.Daniel Armstrong. Kaliningrad Court Declares German-Russian House a ‘Foreign Agent’. The Moscow Times, April 27, 2016, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2016/04/27/kaliningrad-court-declares-german-russian-house-a-foreign-agent-a52705

16.Heinrich BraußDr. András Rácz RUSSIA’S STRATEGIC INTERESTS AND ACTIONS IN THE BALTIC REGION. DGAP Report, 2020 https://dgap.org/en/research/publications/russias-strategic-interests-and-actions-baltic-region , 

17.B.И.Васильев Образ современной Германии в России

https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/obraz-sovremennoy-germanii-v-rossii/viewer , 2015, 21p.

18.KÖNIGSBERGER MEATBALLS. Official Visitor Guide to Kaliningrad https://visit-kaliningrad.ru/en/charm/food.php

19. Tilsit Cheese.Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 July 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilsit_cheese

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