Tuesday, April 28, 2020


June 29-30, 2019

Just before we arrived at the end the Curonian Spit, we stopped for dinner at what looked like a lodge surrounded by cabins. The restaurant had a fun atmosphere created in part by the heads of a dozen or so African animals on the walls. While we were waiting for our food, the bombastic Russian owner, dressed in camouflage pants, a dark t-shirt, and black gloves, invited Bob to sit in a chair "that used to belong to Kaiser Wilhelm and then to Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe."  It was a large armchair with pretty new upholstery, and we suppose it could have been the Kaiser's and Goering's chair, but we were a little skeptical.
The owner brought us a glass of complimentary wine as we were waiting for our food, which we refused, explaining that we don't drink any alcohol. He was very insistent, but we continued to refuse it, and we were afraid we had offended him.

To start the meal, Bob ordered a really good egg, cucumber, and pickle salad . . .

. . . and I had a delicious fresh sauerkraut salad.

Bob was delighted to discover they had one large fresh eel that they would bake for us. (We discovered later that they charged us $70 for it, a huge amount given what we were paying for other things in Kaliningrad.) It was AMAZING (once I could get over its appearance)--tender, moist, and so flavorful. The spine was still in but easy to cut through for individual portions and then to remove. Unlike most regular fish, there were very few little bones.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


June 29, 2019

In an earlier post I mentioned the Curonian Spit, a geographical and geological oddity that separates the Baltic Sea from the Curonian Lagoon. This UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 2000) shared by two countries is a 61-mile-long sand dune that connects to Kaliningrad on one end and to Lithuania on the other. At its narrowest point (which is on the Russia side) it is only 437 yards across, and at its widest point (which is on the Lithuania side) it is almost 2.5 miles across. The spit is the only national park in Kaliningrad.

We spent our last afternoon of the 21st day of a very long trip driving and walking along this unique landform. We made five main stops: 1. the Baltic Sea, 2. an ornithological station, 3. the Curonian Lagoon, 4. the largest sand dunes on the spit, and 5. the Dancing Forest.

1. The Baltic Sea
Our guide Elena told us that the spit was heavily wooded until the 1500s when German invaders cut down all the trees. Wind and water swept over the spit, covering it with sand. For the last few decades, conservationists have been working to reclaim the spit from the sand, planting hundreds of thousands of pine trees (mostly) and other trees and grasses that hold the soil in place and create new land. It is a very slow, tedious process that will take a century or more to take root. (No pun intended.) The spit, in most places, looks heavily wooded, but pull away the delicate grasses and lichens, and the foundation is sand. It is really bizarre.

There are many hiking "trails" made of wooden planks on the spit. Any footsteps on the fragile growth contribute to erosion. We walked on four or five such paths, including this first one shown below that led to a beach on the Baltic Sea. 

Monday, April 20, 2020


 June 29, 2020

Remember that story about Bob's grandfather serving a mission in Konigsberg and the missionary who tragically drowned in a lake? Our guide could think of only one lake where that could have happened. It is named Verkhneye ("Top") Lake now, but it was known as the Oberteich ("Upper Pond") while part of Konigsberg until 1945. That turned out to be the name Bob's grandfather recorded in his journal. The lake was created by Teutonic knights in 1270 as a reservoir and fish pond above the castle pond. It covers 102 acres.

Oberteich in 1930 (photo from here):

Verkhneye Lake today:

On the shores of the lake is an art museum unlike any other we've been to. It is housed in a Neo-Gothic fortress built in the mid 1800s. (Photo from here.)
Башня Дер-Дона 04.jpg

Friday, April 17, 2020


June 29, 2019

We began our day with a city tour led by our guide, Irina. She had a list she wanted to get through and didn't adjust very well to our interests.

Our hotel was located in an area of the city known as the "Fisherman's Village." We probably did spend too much time getting acquainted with this rakish sailor and his clever monkey . . . 

. . . but they were so friendly.

We could tell that luck-seeking passersby had rubbed their noses a lot.

Further along the walk we saw but didn't speak to this lady of the night. Her nose has been rubbed a lot too.

We rushed right by this fellow, who had set up shop on one end of a bridge.  I had to use Google Translate to learn that his sign says "Sale of finds from excavations in Konigsberg."

Looking at the photo now, I wish we had been able to stop and take a closer look!

Monday, April 13, 2020


June 28, 2019

My husband Bob's grandfather Edwin Q. Cannon served an LDS mission in Prussia in the first decade of the 20th century. In April of 1908, he was assigned to work in Konigsberg, the capital of the Prussian Province of East Prussia. One day when EQC was out of town on an assignment, one of the other missionaries drowned in a lake in Konigsberg. The body had been recovered by the time EQC returned, and EQC, who apparently had some leadership position in the mission, was given the task of dealing with the body. In doing so it was revealed to authorities that EQC and his companion were LDS missionaries, which was not permitted, and they were summarily banished from the Kingdom of Prussia.

Because of this story and others from his grandfather's mission, Bob has always wanted to visit Konigsberg, which was annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II and renamed Kaliningrad. He decided that since we were so close in Poland, it made sense to tack on a visit to what had already been a long, intense trip through Iceland, Greenland, and Poland. 

It's not an easy visit--it requires a Russian visa, there aren't many flights in and out, and it is VERY Russian, unlike it's European neighbors where signs are written in English and many people speak English. 

As you can see in the map below, Kaliningrad (the name of the state and also of the capital city) is about 500 miles from any other part of Russia--like Alaska or Hawaii for the US. You can see why Russia would want this port on the lower end of the Baltic Sea. It's a very strategic location for them.
Map from here

West of Kaliningrad is a 60 mile long spit that has one end in Lithuania and one in Kaliningrad. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the spit is shared by the two countries.
Map from here