Yantarny Town

The Yantarny beach of pristine white sand, gently sloping into the sea, happens to be one of the widest beaches on the Baltic Sea coast. The beach infrastructure is modest, but growing fast. There are some paintball, beach soccer and volleyball courts. The Yantarny beach was the first in Russia to win a Blue Flag certificate of approval from the Foundation for Environmental Education in 2016, which is awarded to those beaches, marinas and boating facilities that meet the high standards of this international body. 

This park, covering an area of 13 hectares on a high terrace by the sea, is locals’ and tourists’ favourite recreation spot. The man behind the park’s name, Moritz Becker, started the firm Stantien and Becker in 1858 in partnership with Wilhelm Stantien. Becker is credited with developing the quarry a.m.er mining method. With this new technology the firm was able to net an annual income of 8 million Gold Mark. A successful industrial entrepreneur, Moritz Becker was no stranger to philanthropy. He spent his personal funds on developing and improving Palmnicken, investing in the construction of a local railway offshoot, water tower, and a new church. On 21 May 1881 he had ground broken for a park to replace the old garden on his estate. He had red-leaved beeches, lindens, oaks, sycamores, white poplars, chestnuts, elms and ash trees planted there. Becker’s son brought back some exotic plants from his travels in Japan and the Americas: katsura trees, silver spruces, Weymouth pines, and the unique North American tulip tree which is now the park’s symbol. The park’s other landmark is a European beech which is over 300 years old.   

Moritz Becker Park was granted a local cultural heritage status in 2007. Work is currently in progress to re-plant some the trees and shrubs lost over the years.  

Walking down the broad staircase from Moritz Becker Park to the sea, visitors find themselves right at the beginning of a new esplanade, of which Yantarny is rightfully proud.  At nearly two kilometres, this is the longest esplanade in the Kaliningrad Oblast. 700 metres of that distance go by a lake that has formed in place of an a.m.er mine. The Yantarny esplanade also happens to be the only boardwalk in the Oblast. This walkway by the sea and the deserted beach blends in well with the surrounding elegiac scenery.  

Built in 1920, the water tower is designated as a 20th-century architectural landmark. It still operates according to its original purpose. The redbrick tower with white decorations is 35 metres tall and 11 metres in diameter. The tower was awarded the status of a local cultural heritage landmark in 2007, when the roof and façade renovation was completed on the tower, and its unicorn weathervane was installed. 

The Amber Castle is a museum and convention centre complex inside the 14th-century Palmnicken Fortress. 

The museum introduces visitors to the history of Palmnicken with exhibits such as antique tableware collections, and 19th through 20th-century artworks and photographs. A part of the exposition is devoted to the discovery of amber deposits, amber mining and processing, leading up to a display of amber jewellery.

The Amber Castle also houses a torture museum, a museum of Eastern Prussia castles, a Russian fairy tale museum, and an art gallery, where modern painters and sculptors exhibit their works.

You can also undergo a procedure billed as “amber therapy” inside a man-size amber pyramid, which, they say, makes your wishes come true. Museum staff will tell you all about the healing properties of amber, which is a semi-precious stone formed of petrified wood tar.
Evgeniy Morozov/Welcome2018.com

The Anna mine at the current entrance to Yantarny has existed since 1872. It originally belonged to Moritz Becker’s firm, but the government bought him out to the tune of 9.7 million Mark in 1899.

The observation deck overlooks the beach and the lakes. The Death March monument nearby commemorates the Nazi concentration ca.m.p prisoners who died here. The numbered arms stretched up to the sky are carved in granite. The seven-metre monument by Frank Meisler and Arie Ovadia harks back to the tragic events of the Second World War, when the Nazis executed thousands of concentration ca.m.p prisoners here. According to one version of the events, the prisoners were pushed into an abandoned amber mine and fell to their death. There is a legend that the Amber Room, which went mysteriously missing during the war, was also buried in the same mine.  

Evgeniy Morozov/Welcome2018.com

As you leave Yantarny in the direction of Sinyavino, you may want to explore another interesting place: Amber Lake and the former German amber mine named Walter, which today is a destination beloved of alternative backpackers. Walter was the first industrial amber mining site developed by the firm of Stantien and Becker.

The mine remained active after the Second World War, but in 1972–1975, when the development of a new mine was initiated, they stopped pumping water out of Walter. The mine eventually filled up with pristine spring water. The artificial lake is as deep as 30 metres in some parts, and is nearly 2.5 square kilometres in size.  

There is a diving centre at Amber Lake. Beginners can go for a test dive three to six metres deep with an instructor. Divers get to see some amazing sights underwater: remnants of industrial machinery, a rail track disappearing deeper down, and a veritable underwater forest, like a submerged world from the past.