Kant Island (Kneiphof) and Fishing Village

Ruslan Shamukov/TASS
In 1302, work was completed on a cathedral in Altstadt. However, the new bishop did not think this building was sufficiently magnificent. On September 13, 1333, the Grand Master ordered that a plot be set aside for a new Cathedral in Kneiphof. The smaller cathedral was demolished and the bricks from it were used in the construction of the one we can see today on Kant Island. For material delivery purposes they created the Cathedral Gate (demolished in 1944) to connect Kneiphof to Altstadt via the Cathedral Bridge. This bridge was demolished after work on the cathedral was completed.

The initial construction plan envisaged the new cathedral as a fortress – although Grand Master Luther von Braunschweig had his say in the matter, claiming that it made no sense to build a new fortress an arrow's flight away from the existing castle. So the base was lightened and the walls were made thinner. Over the years the towers have suffered from subsidence; in particular, the North Tower has around a 45 centimetre (1.5 foot) lean, which has earned it the nickname of Baltic Tower of Pisa. The construction of the castle took about 50 years. Nevertheless, even after it was officially completed, the fine-tuning process continued for a few more decades.

The Königsberg Cathedral represents the tradition of Hanseatic (red-brick) Gothic style architecture originating in Germany and Poland and rarely seen in Russia. Churches and castles in this style have no sculptural decoration. Their facades are beautiful but rigid: red-bricks and the art of stonemasonry.

The Cathedral was dedicated to the sacred body of Jesus Christ, to his Blessed Mother, all the saints and Saint Adalbert. Knights prayed in the single-nave section of the church, while the rest of the congregation used the three-nave section.

The last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Albrecht of Brandenburg was fond of the ideas of Martin Luther and the Reformation, which explains how Prussia became the first protestant-dominated state in Europe. In 1523, the first ever Lutheran sermon in German was given in the Königsberg Cathedral. 

In 1544 the Duke founded Albertina University, and the cathedral became the university church. Its South Tower held a library named after its founder Martin von Wallenrod. The library contained not only books, but maps, globes and manuscripts. During World War II the library disappeared; some of the books were burnt, and the rest scattered across the world. There are still 291 volumes from the Wallenrod collection kept at Kaliningrad State University. 

At the end of the 16th century, Albertina University bought a spot near the north wall of the main nave to establish a place for its professors to be buried. One of those tombs eventually saved the Cathedral in 1945.

It was the second half of the 18th century when one of the founders of German philosophy, Immanuel Kant, gave lectures at the Königsberg University. He taught logic, ethics, metaphysics, mathematics, mechanics, natural science and geography. At the same time, Kant wrote several works and essays on his theory of knowledge, ethics, anthropology, religion and political philosophy. Besides his enlightened mind, Kant is also known for his discipline and pedantry: he was literally the man to synchronize your watch with. And he never left his home town of Königsberg. Vladimir Lenin considered Kant a forerunner of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. One of Kant's major works – his Critique of Pure Reason – was compulsory reading in the USSR's higher education system. It was the philosopher's tomb that saved the cathedral from removal by the Soviets. 

During World War II, the cathedral's interior was almost burnt out. From the 1990s to 2005, restorer Igor Odintsov took charge of renovating the cathedral and became its director. There are no services held in the Cathedral now, but you can find a Russian Orthodox and a Lutheran chapel there. The Kant Museum is also housed here with its pre-war model of the city and medieval armour and weapons on show. On Saturdays (at 6 p.m.) the Cathedral is used for organ music recitals. On Sundays, piano and symphony concerts are held here. The Cathedral organ is the largest in Europe.
Ruslan Shamukov/TASS

At the end of the 16th century, Albertina University bought a spot near the north wall of the main nave to establish a place for its professors to be buried. One of those tombs eventually saved the Cathedral in 1945. It was the second half of the 18th century when one of the founders of German philosophy, Immanuel Kant, gave lectures at the Königsberg University. He taught logic, ethics, metaphysics, mathematics, mechanics, natural science and geography. At the same time, Kant wrote several works and essays on his theory of knowledge, ethics, anthropology, religion and political philosophy. Besides his enlightened mind, Kant is also known for his discipline and pedantry: he was literally the man to synchronize your watch with. And he never left his home town of Königsberg. Vladimir Lenin considered Kant a forerunner of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. One of Kant's major works – his Critique of Pure Reason – was compulsory reading in the USSR's higher education system. It was the philosopher's tomb that saved the cathedral from removal by the Soviets.

The Soviet era saw Kant Island gain a park and open-air sculpture museum. Among the statues you will find one of Peter the Great, who visited the town several times, and Kneiphof in particular. Peter the Great first stayed here incognito accommodated by burgomaster Negelein with the Grand Embassy on his way to Western Europe. On the second occasion, he was accompanied by his wife Catherine I on an official visit. The current "Heart of the City" project to renovate Kaliningrad includes plans to demolish all unsightly Soviet-era buildings. The historic downtown of Königsberg is set to be restored and brought back to life. Meanwhile, the trees in the park on Kant Island are intended to imitate the roofs of the old town's buildings.
We move on to one final place of interest on Kant island: the Monument to the Duke of Prussia Albrecht (1490-1568), which was erected near the Cathedral in 2005. It is a replica of a monument dating from 1891 which was destroyed by bombs. Kaliningrad sculptors placed the new figure of the Duke on the base that survived the bombing. After converting from Catholicism to the Lutheran faith, Albrecht of Brandenburg gave up his title of Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and secularised Prussia. In doing so, he made it an autonomic state, while remaining a vassal of the Polish crown. The Duke of Prussia had his own library and helped to develop the study of typography. Born and raised as a noble Teutonic knight, Albrecht had gone down in history as one of the outstanding figures of the Renaissance.
Ruslan Shamukov/TASS
What is the centre of Kaliningrad going to look like after the reconstruction? To find out, feel free to visit the so-called Fishing Village – a trade, handicraft and ethnographic complex. To get there from the island you should use the Medovy (Honey) Bridge leading to the small and pre-war-style embankment. Do not miss the chance to take in an impressive view of the cathedral from the sightseeing platform.
Ruslan Shamukov/TASS

The 31-metre (102-foot) tower is the dominant structure of the Fishing Village. It is worth the trip to climb its 133 stairs to the observatory on top, overlooking the city of Kaliningrad and specially Kant Island with Königsberg Cathedral and Pregolya River. One may make a rest stop halfway through the climb to explore the little art gallery, exhibiting, among other things, archaeological artefacts such as weapons, shoes and tableware unearthed locally, when the quarter was built in 2006. There is also a café and a gift shop inside. When you get to the top, do not forget to rub the metal sculpture of a hatching seagull, which is believed to make wishes come true.