12-Dec-2001 -- Actually my ship is berthed in the Port of Kaliningrad/Königsberg, capital
of the Kaliningrad/Königsberg District, the Northern part of the former
of Ostpreußen (Eastern Prussia, until 1945).
After WWII German Eastern Prussia has been divided between Russia and
latter incorporated the Southern Part in it's territory.
Since the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Kaliningrad District became an
exclave of the Russian Federation, bordered by Lithuania in the North and
East and by Poland in the South.
During Soviet times Kaliningrad/Königsberg District was a special military
no foreigners were allowed there at all.
Old Königsberg, later renamed in Kaliningrad by the Soviets (according to an
early communist official, Mikhail Kalinin (Kaliningrad means
"Town of Kalinin"), was the home of the great German philosopher Immanuel
whose "Categorical Imperative'" and "Critics of Pure Reason" became immortal
I do hold Kant and his ideas in great honor, but in one point I decided not
to follow him:
Kant spent all his life, from the cradle to the grave, in Königsberg. He
never has undertaken a single voyage in his life. His grave is still
existing near the Domkirche (cathedral).
Contrary to Kant I decided to make a trip to the only one Confluence Point
in Kaliningrad/Königsberg District, in order to submit the very first point
Actually here in Kaliningrad/Königsberg my ship is discharging frozen
chicken and pork carcasses from Brazil. Due to a lack of refrigerated
railway cars, discharging operations go on quite slowly and there is a lot
of time. On 12-dec-2001 at 09:00hrs I left the ship and went to the Port
gate, where a
"Propusk", in cyrillic spelled "ПРОПУСК", has been
issued for me.
A "Propusk" is a pass, a special permit. The Propusk shown here gives me the
permission to leave the seaport and move into the District of
In the former Soviet Union as well as in today's Russia nothing works
without a Propusk. The Propusk shows any controlling authority and organ
that you have passed a certain point and delivered properly your personal
data there - and having been checked accordingly. From Kaliningrad to
Vladivostok and from the White Sea to the Caucasus, Propusks do accompany
you all the time, whenever you leave or
pass a designated area, like a seaport, a barrack, a manufactory, etc.
Without the proper Propusk you cannot go far.
Although a typical communist invention, even 12 year after nobody thinks
about to abolish this Propusk-system. It has proven to be effective and safe
and keeps authorities busy.
Arrived in Kaliningrad/Königsberg Town I checked out the possibilities to
reach the major town near the CP. It is Sovyetsk/Tilsit (I give the original
German names after the slash), on River Neman/Ragnit, on the border to
Travelling by train was not feasible, there is only one a day, in the
evening, and neither
did I have time to pass the night in Sovyetsk/Tilsit, nor did I have the
permission to stay there overnight. (Remember the Propusk, no respective
Propusk - no hotel).
Travelling by bus is easier. There are several buses during the day, but
then I met Mr. Renat, a taxi driver from Ufa (a 2,500 km away near the
Ural Mountains), having just recently moved into the Kaliningrad/Königsberg
District - and his knowledge about this province was not better than my one!
So first we purchased a map in a kiosk at the bus terminal for a 26 Rubles
(95 US cents/1,10€). Precise maps in Russia are considered to be military
secrets and are therefore strictly reserved to the army. The ones available
do not show much more than
commercial ads and a few roads. Topography zero, but I guessed the country
anyway to be flat like a pan. The topography should not bear obstacles.
Further the map had no Lat/Long grid, but only an alphanumeric one for an
easier finding of places.
I knew the point to be somewhere South of the town of Neman/Ragnit, and that
for the moment. All further investigations could be done on the scene later.
The purpose of the map was anyway rather to show the driver where I wanted
to go, and in order to negotiate the fare with him. The distance from
Kaliningrad/Königsberg to Neman/Ragnit and back seemed to be about 260 km
(160 miles) - an indiscutable distance to drive by taxi in a Western
it would cost you a fortune.
But what are 260 km in Russia?
Gasoline costs almost nothing, and this distance in such a huge country is
stone's throw. We agreed on 1,500 Rubles (50 US$, 60 €) and the driver was
happy. 50 bucks are fortunately still a fortune in Russia.
The first action was to take gasoline. Gas stations
are not common overland, only in major towns you find some. So every prudent
driver refuels his car before going on an overland trip.
Then we started at 10:30hrs and took the State Road A-229 in direction East
There we swung Northeast into the A-216.
At Bolshakovo/Groß-Skaisgirren happened exactly what I had inevitably
expected already since departure Kaliningrad/Königsberg: The driver was
permanently proceeding with excessive speed, and Russian roads are extremely
monitored. The "Militsiya" (Police) stopped us after
having measured his speed with a radar gun.
50 km/h (30 mph) were allowed, and the measurement gave 91 km/h (55 mph).
The fine was the exorbitant amount of 100 Rubles! (3 US$ / 3,50 €). As
had spent all his money for the gasoline, I had to pay, but deducted it
from the fare, as I was not the one to order him to disregard speed limits,
therefore not felt responsible for this problem.
I was only happy he at least passed the alcohol test successfully. I am
collecting experiences in Russia for almost 25 years, and one must not
automatically and necessarily think and assume a Russian taxi driver still
to be sober at noon.
Of course this was another opportunity for the authority to check my
"Propusk". Finding everything in order we were allowed to proceed.
We left the A-216 shortly before Novokolkhoznoye/Neu-Argeningken, and turned
Southeast into a provincial road. We passed Gruzdevo/Grott-Brettschneidern,
and at Kanash/Iurgaitschen-Königskirch we bent again Northeast in direction
Vetrovo/Woydehnen. The roads are not badly maintained (for Russian
relations, I mean) and mostly avenues.
One must not think that these complicated names stand for big towns or even
villages, They are tiny groups of houses, mostly there is not more than a
farm with a
two to five houses and a war memorial from time to time.
I even saw place-name signs and there were no buildings at all (e.g.
Artemovka/Argeningken-Graudschen, to name a few, seem not to exist at all,
or only on the paper.)
Even during German times Eastern Prussia was almost mere farmland. It was
scarcely populated. The farmers with their farmhands were residing in huge
farmhouses, and every one owned comparably much land. An urban population
not existing (except in Kaliningrad/Königsberg, Sovyetsk/Tilsit,
Chernykhovsk/Insterburg, Gusev/Gumbinnen, and Ozersk/Darkehmen, just to name
Of course this feudal system has been abolished immediately in 1945 by the
Communists, but the country remained mere farmland.
Abt 1 km (0,6 miles) before Vetrovo/Woydehnen we reached 55°00'
The Longitude was still a 3 km (1,8 miles) too far in the West.
So we went into the tiny village of Vetrovo/Woydehnen and turned again
Southeast in direction
We came closer and closer and then I saw a "Kolkhoz"
(Russian governmental farm) - and a dirt road covered with ice into a field,
seeming just to be constructed for me.
We went into this road and stopped exactly on Latitude 55°00' North and a
200 metres East
of the point.
And there it was:
THE FIRST CONFLUENCE POINT FROM RUSSIA!
I enclose two pictures, one towards East and one towards
West, where the Kolkhoz can be seen again.
It would have been a big surprise to me the point to
offer an exciting aspect in such an almost uninhabited country, but we
confluence hunters do know that this is not important. I was emotionally
excited, and that counts more.
Standing on this point I thought back the many many years I am now already
frequently travelling to the Soviet Union and later Russia, especially I
remembered the communist times, when nothing was possible, all was
forbidden, Militsiya and KGB and
all the other organs were real nasty people and could cause you so much
Until the early 90-ies such an excursion could never have taken place.
Driving around with a camera, making photos of "military secrets", as roads,
railway tracks, bridges, radio masts and farmhouses would have led to
immediate incarceration and quite unpleasant treatment and questions.
If they found you with a GPS, you could prepare yourself to not seeing again
your home and your beloved ones for the next 20 years in the most favorable
case, - or if ever -
what was more likely, when you ended up in a lead mine in Siberia with
Russia is certainly still today far away from that what one calls a "free
country", but at least officials are no longer so squareheaded.
It is probably worth to mention what my driver thought about that strange
excursion. Taxi drivers usually do receive clear instructions from their
passengers where to go.
Fortunately I speak Russian and 260 km on Russian roads are long enough to
To him my behavior must have appeared as the typical one for a spy. Making
pictures of objects of non-touristical interest and running around with a
strange machine, measuring something coming obviously from a "Sputnik"
(Russian satellite, literally translated: traveller).
But he did not care much, he knew he gets his money and that was it.
The only thing I could not make him believe - even with my best Russian:
That I do not get any financial remuneration for my activity!!!
That exceeded his intellectual capacity: A crazy man being able to spent a
50 Dollars just for visiting a completely boring place in nowhere land!
An invitation to all confluence hunters:
Make a crash course in Russian language, train to drink vodka in abundant
quantities and then go to Russia in your next holidays!
There are lots of CPs waiting for you - and Russia is an extremely
interesting country and you can have lots of fun with Russian people - if
you once have understood and know how to handle them.
A small Russian dictionary for CP-hunters to give commands to taxi drivers:
|let's go to the confluence point
|IDYOM IZ PUNKTA INTERSECTSIY PARALLELY I
|TYSACHA Y PYETSOT RUBLY (normal fare for 200-300 km)
|STO RUBLY (normal fine for speed limit exceed)
Who does not want to learn these few words and prefers to talk with his
hands and fingers - at least it is indispensabe to learn the Cyrillic
Alphabet. Place-name signs are entirely in this font - and you need to
decipher them. A Russian taxi driver speaking English is certainly too rare
to hope for.
Not much Germans are still alive being born in this Province. Practically
all of them fled in 1944/45 when the Russian Army occupied the territory.
of them died during their "Great Treck" towards West, in one of the coldest
winters of the century. Almost 10,000 of them died, when their rescue ship,
the German passenger liner "Wilhelm Gustloff", sank after having been
torpedoed by a Russian submarine.
To the few ones who probably may read this page, I say:
Grüße aus der "kalten Heimat", aus Ostpreußen!