Kaliningrad

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Nida, Lithuania to Zelenogradsk by bike – Zelenogradsk to Kaliningrad by train

A nice breakfast, a quick trip to the Nida lighthouse and then we were off to the Russian border for our traverse of the Kaliningrad enclave.

The passport formalities were a breeze with even the Russian border officials verging on friendly. Just past the border, after paying 150 roubles ($3) national park entry fee, we spied a moose. A female (no antlers) was standing in the middle of the road about 200m away. We managed one poor photo but were thrilled all the same.

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The rest of the Curonian Spit passed easily in cool, sunny conditions. The Russian half of the spit affords few scenic opportunities but we did get some views of the lagoon and Baltic Sea. There were plenty of mushroom pickers out with their buckets and little knives.

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Zelenogradsk, at the southern end of the spit was bustling. It must have been a splendid seaside resort in its heyday and is still popular but is looking a bit the worse for wear with abandoned apartment buildings on the seafront and failed attempts to preserve the sandy beaches. Nevertheless, it has many attractive buildings, parks and a refurbished mall.

We caught a train to Kaliningrad. The tickets cost $1 plus $0.26 for a bike but in other respects the railway system needs to lift its game.

Firstly, while the Kaliningrad is currently on Eastern European Summer Time along with the Baltic States, the Kaliningrad trains run on Moscow time (one hour later). So we went to the Zelenogradsk station at 14:45 to catch the 15:15 train but had already missed it! Fortunately, we could catch the 16:10 train at 15:10!

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Secondly, the new trains are almost impossible to board. They are schmick, fast and quiet in the Bombardier mould but are really designed for elevated platforms. Kaliningrad has ground-level platforms so the carriage floors are almost 1.5 metres up. Steep external steps have been added but they are more like ladders than steps. Able-bodied passengers can just cope but it is difficult to lift luggage up to the floor of the carriage and precarious to climb as the handrails are inconveniently placed. We struggled with our bikes and helped several old women in and out. One of them had already barked her shin before we got to her. The accessibility of these new trains is a DISGRACE. It is hard to imagine that elderly passengers will persist with them.

Kaliningrad is hectic with a mix of Germanic and Sovietsky architecture, mostly needing maintenance.

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