Kant Island (Kneiphof)

Ruslan Shamukov/TASS
Kant Island (formerly known as Kneiphof) is the perfect place to start your trip around Kaliningrad. One of the first settlements at the foot of Königsberg Castle was established here.

Two arms of the same river – the Old and New Pregolya – flow through the city from east to west, into the Baltic sea. The literal meaning of Königsberg is "the King's mountain." The fortress was built in 1255, slightly north of the point where the arms of the Pregolya River come together. The crusade against Prussian pagan tribes was conducted by the grandson of legendary emperor Frederick Barbarossa (Frederick I), the Iron and Golden King, Otakar II of Bohemia, along with Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Poppo von Osterna. The bas-relief of Otakar II is the left-most on the King's Gate. Two decades later more towns started developing in the area: Altstadt (Old town) adjoined to the castle from the south, Löbenicht – east of the castle, and finally Kneiphof, which was mostly situated on Kant Island.

Each town had its own charter, church, market rights, coat of arms, city seal, fortifications and other key features of autonomy. In the early 14th century all three towns mentioned above gained independent status. Altstadt also became member of the Hanseatic League – a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns. In the beginning of the 18th century all three towns and the Castle finally consolidated into a single city named Königsberg.

Kneiphof was for the most part a town of merchants. It was the last to get independent status from the Teutonic Order, which it received in April 1327. Walking around Kant Island today it is hard to believe that the Medieval Kneiphof had 16 streets (the narrowest of them just 64 centimetres (3 feet) wide) and two squares. Connecting the island to the shore and the other districts were no less than seven bridges. The Merchant's Bridge served as a marketplace. The Green Bridge earned its name from Kneiphof's coat of arms. In the 17th century the locals gathered there to collect their post. So as not to waste time waiting, they decided to build a commodity market on the site. In time, these two bridges were replaced by the High Bridge. The Entrails Bridge was the place for slaughterhouses. You can easily guess who worked and lived near Blacksmith's Bridge. The highest at that time – the Wooden Bridge – led from Altstadt to the town's wood warehouses on Lomse Island. It is still in use today. You can also still find the so-called Honey Bridge, which name, supposedly, comes from the barrels of honey they paid for the bridge's construction. There was an interesting mathematical challenge of the Königsberg's bridges: how to walk through the city crossing each bridge only once. Swiss mathematician Leonard Euler proved the task had no solution and through these efforts laid out the foundations of graph theory.