to the

Latvia and Kaliningrad

Unique Property Blog

Back to the Blog Index
Back to the Unique HomePage

Latvia and Kaliningrad

Latvia as a country did not make much impression on me. It was difficult to see where Estonia ended and Latvia began, or why there was a difference. In a sense it was more of the same. The land is flat, the forests spread out everywhere, and the fields are green. The main difference was the capital city, Riga.

Tallin was clearly two cities, the medieval and the new, but what impressed us was how clean, well kept, and prosperous the city appeared to be. Riga, in contrast, looked as though it was last tarted up fifty or more years ago, and now needed some serious love and affection, plus a large dose of investment funds.

The one thing that stood out for me was the vast market area just south of the central bus station. It wasnít just large, it was huge, most of it under cover in two massive warehouses, with even more stalls in the surrounding streets.

Not only was it one of the largest markets I have ever seen in Europe, the contents were for sale at bargain basement prices. If you are on the bread line, you could certainly live well from the produce available.

We stayed a couple of days, got bored, and moved on to Lithuania. However, I received a bit of a shock while I was there.

I thought I was reasonably well up with my geography. After all, I did pay attention at school, and I have visited over a hundred countries around the world, so I was rather surprised to find a country that I had not known existed in Europe. It also struck me as a strange anomaly.

I noticed there was a coach going from Riga to Kaliningrad. I knew of the place, which used to be called Konigsberg, but was a bit hazy on the history. Wasnít it part of Prussia? Was it now in Poland? I checked the place that evening in my hotel room, and got quite a shock. It isnít just a city, but a country. On the other hand, it isnít really an independent country but still part of Russia. I had another look at the map. The area was bounded to the west by the Baltic, to the south by Poland, and to the east and north by Lithuania. It was an island of Russia within the EU. I had no idea such a political curiosity existed.

Map of Kaliningrad

However I look at this I am more and more convinced that the EU has to start facing both east and west. I dont want to get too political, but I have always considered NATO to be an abomination. It is a threat. After all, Russia agreed to the withdrawal of military might in Eastern Europe in return for a similar withdrawal of NATO to the west. The Russians have withdrawn, but NATO has not. There is a clear treaty breach, which is in my opinion, very unfortunate.

Muddying the waters is the genuine dislike and distrust of Russiaís political apparatus by the peoples of this part of the world. Several centuries ago that dislike and distrust would have been towards the Swedes. But the Baltic is calm these days, and Iím sure it would be calmer if the east-west suspicions could be consigned to the past instead of stoked up. Certainly the ordinary Russian people appear to want to be friends, but political tensions arenít being helped by constant mistrust and a whole raft of sanctions.

In the long run those sanctions will hurt Europe. Already between 40% and 50% of Germanyís various energy needs have to be imported from Russia. Russia also keeps the lights burning in Finland. There need to be some serious moves towards rapprochement.

I considered going to Kaliningrad to see at first hand how this enclave functioned. I wanted to talk to the locals. However, visas sounded difficult to obtain, which didnít surprise me.

I was also intending to travel to Belarus, but visa restrictions there were even more onerous, and I wasnít in the mood for bureaucratic hassles, which was a pity because my last girlfriend came from the Belarus capital of Minsk, and Iím sure she would have shown us round. All in all, I decided to take the easy route and carry on due south to Vilnius, and re-think things from there.

I'll have a look at Lithuania next week.

Öto be continued
Vilnius, Lithuania > > >


< < < St Petersberg

Subscribe to our email alerts on the housing markets both in the UK and abroad.

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Disclaimer     Privacy Policy