Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad is the centre of the region of the same name, an exclave with no land borders with other regions of Russia. The city, on the shores of the Baltic Sea is full of legends, known for its sunny amber and its volleyball. Dedicated fans support the local women's team of Lokomotiv and happily attend Champions League matches and international volleyball tournaments.

Kaliningrad is located 1,250 km to the west from Moscow, in the GMT+2 time zone. Trains on the route between Moscow and Kaliningrad cross three countries - Russia, Belarus and Lithuania. Flights from Moscow to Kaliningrad take about two hours. Khrabrovo International airport also receives direct flights from St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg, Perm, Pskov, Petrozavodsk, Minsk, Riga and Warsaw.

History and landmarks

The city was founded by the knights of the Teutonic Order, a fortress built in the middle of the 13th century and named Koenigsberg, or Royal Mountain. After Russia's victory in the Seven Years War in 1758, Koenigsberg became part of the Russian Empire, but after four years it was returned to the Prussian Kingdom. The city finally became Russian after World War II in 1946, and also received a new name - Kaliningrad - in honour of the politician Mikhail Kalinin.

Kaliningrad is located on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Small towns nearby boast many beaches, and Kaliningrad Bay is home to a large port and the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet. Coastal territories are often home to many legends - about a flooded underground city, or the daughter of the god of the seas whose tears the sea throws out in the form of amber drops. Amber is the sun stone of the Baltic Sea, the hardened resin of coniferous trees, which have been turned into pieces of jewelry.

Kaliningrad is a city of tile roofs, its narrow streets pleasant to walk along at any time of the year. In warmer months, the city is surrounded by green trees - chestnuts and maples, lindens, plane trees and even exotic ginkgoes. The picturesque quarter Fishermen Village, destroyed after the war and reconstructed several years ago, showcases the life of the German city of Koenigsberg during its blossoming period. The Cathedral, a powerful building in the Gothic style is the main cultural and historical site of the city, and the philosopher Immanuel Kant is buried under its walls. One of the world's greatest thinkers, Kant lived in the city when it first passed to the Russian Empire, so he took the oath of allegiance to Empress Elizabeth. When Koenigsberg returned to Prussia, Kant did not want to break his oath, so he remained a citizen of Russia until his death. The Royal Gate, another important historical monument of Kaliningrad, is the the only surviving of the seven city gates. The Grand Embassy exhibition tells about the origin and development of the city and guests are greeted by the keeper of the city keys, a Prussian cat, which everyone needs to stroke for good luck.

Volleyball

Volleyball in Kaliningrad is one of the most popular sports. From 2006 to 2013, the men's club of Dynamo-Yantar competed in the top division of the Russian championship. In 2009, the 7,000-seat Yantarny Sports Palace was opened in the city and has become one of the best volleyball arenas in the country.

The women's volleyball club of Lokomotiv was established in Kaliningrad in 2018. In its first season, the team won the silver medal of the Russian Superleague and the right to represent Russia in the European Champions League. At the end of 2019-20, the team repeated its success, becoming vice-champion and getting a ticket again to the Champions League. In the same season, Loko won their first big trophy - the Russian Super Cup, and also became bronze medallists in the Final Four of the Russian Cup.

International tournaments with the participation of top national teams are regularly held in Kaliningrad. The city has also hosted games of the FIVB Volleyball World League and FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix. The women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Tokyo 2020 was held in the summer of 2019 at the Yantarny Sports Palace. Inspired by the incredible support of the Kaliningrad fans, the Russian national team secured their ticket to the Olympic Games, winning three matches out of three: 3-0 over Mexico, 3-0 against Canada and 3-2 versus Korea. In January 2020, the Yantarny Sports Palace hosted the Super Finals of one of the biggest volleyball tournaments in Europe - the traditional International Youth Championship Lokovolley, in which more than 2500 children took part.