Kaliningrad Oblast (Russian: Калинингра́дская о́бласть is one of the 46 Russian oblasts (admininstrative subdivisions). Kaliningrad Oblast is geographically interesting in that is situated between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, physically separated from the rest of Russia. Historically, the region was German and the capital was known as Königsberg and it consisted of the northern half of historic East Prussia. It was briefly known as Kyonigsberg (Кёнигсберг), (a transliteration of its original German name to Russian) prior to being renamed Kaliningrad (Russian: Калининград), a few years after WWII. The Kaliningrad Oblast thus has only been part of Russia since 1945. Many towns in Kaliningrad Oblast are on the Baltic Sea coast, and have beautiful sandy beaches. It was also the heart of old Prussian kingdom of Brandenburg-Prussia with many ruins of old castles and forts dotting the landscape.
The Kaliningrad Oblast is the northern part of historic East Prussia (German: Ostpreussen), as the southern part is roughly the Warmia-Masuria region of Poland. Since 1945, it has been part of Russia. The land’s old name come from the Baltic tribes of Prussians (in English often reffered as Old Prussians), closely related to modern-day Lithuanians and Lettonians. Their land was conquered in 13th century by German Teutonic Knights Order. In 1525 the Duchy of Prussia was founded as a Polish fiefdom by the last High Master of the Knights Albrecht of Brandenburg-Ansbach who became the first duke of Prussia. From 1618 in personal union with Brandenburg, the duchy gained independence from Poland in 1658 and was elevated to a kingdom in 1701.
Though the united Kingdom of Prussia (with the capital Berlin) was a member state of the Holy Roman Empire and later the German Confederation, Prussia proper was not a part of Germany (or any other state) but an independent country until in 1871 when the German national state was established under Prussian leadership. Prussia was thereby incorporated into Germany, as its dominant and most powerful state.
After Germany's defeat in WWII, East Prussia's native German-speaking population was forcibly expelled and the area was divided among three countries. The northern part with the capital Königsberg became the area of Kaliningrad Oblast, while the southern part was incorporated into Poland and now represents Warmia-Masuria region. A third fraction, the district north of the river Nemunas (Curonian and German: Memel) with the main city Klaipėda (German: Memelburg), had previously been split from Prussia and incorporated into Lithuania after both WWI and WWII, it now represents Lithuania Minor region. In the aftermath of WWII, all three areas were ethnically cleansed of the their native German speaking populations.
Because the German speaking inhabitants were forced out and all their property was confiscated, the population of Kaliningrad Oblast consists now mostly of Russian speaking people, but there are still a lot of traces of old German culture (for example, every city in the oblast has an authentic name in German) which, along with the presence of modern Russian culture, makes it an interesting destination for travelers.
Kaliningrad Oblast produces 90% of the world's amber supply.
The Russian language is spoken by more than 95% of the local population. English is understood by many people. While German culture plays a long historical role in the region, German is spoken by few.
As Kaliningrad is an integral part of Russia, Russian immigration rules apply. See the Russia page for further details.
There are several border crossing points. From the Polish direction: Mamonovo, Bagrationovsk and Gusev. From the Lithuanian direction: Sovyetsk and Morskoye (on the Curonian Spit, near Nida).
Travelling from western Europe is easier now, the roads in Poland have greatly improved (the road 22 is the most direct route from the German border near Frankfurt am Oder to Kaliningrad). The northern route, through Gdansk is also ok, with good roads. Crossing the border may take some time (as long as 4 hours, if there is a lot of cars) but could be as short as 20 minutes during the night. Non-Russian automobiles need a green insurance card valid in Russia (can be bought 5 minutes from the border in Poland or in any insurance agency in Klaipeda or other Lithuanian city: 2 weeks minimum - 30 to 60 euros, depending on the power in kw of the engine). The car will be "temporarily imported", it is a quick procedure.
Kaliningrad Oblast has a small international airport, so you may need to fly into Lithuania (Vilnius), Poland (Gdansk or Szczytno) or Finland and take a bus or ferry to Kaliningrad. -There is no longer a direct flight from Warsaw to Kaliningrad on Polish LOT, therefore you would have to take a bus to Kaliningrad from Warsaw. SAS started offering flights to Kaliningrad from Copenhagen so far only during the summer. Aeroflot also has several daily flights from Moscow.
Beaches' A main attraction of Kaliningrad is its sandy beaches, which can overcrowd during the summer. Restaurants can be found near its front.
Buy Amber Due to Kaliningrad being the largest exporter of amber in the world, many different arrays of amber can be found and bought. If you go into the city, look out for the vendors who set up stalls near the Amber Museum in Kaliningrad. They tend to sell amber at a better price rather than in stores.