Kaliningrad-Koenigsberg (S5.01)

 

Audio: Kaliningrad / Koenigsberg

We’re (finally) kicking off season five! In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Kaliningrad, formerly Koenigsberg, a city on the Pregolya River, at the head of the Vistula Lagoon on the Baltic Sea. This city has a storied history, having been originally established as a Sambian or Old Prussian settlement, before being administered by the State of the Teutonic Order, the Duchy of Prussia, the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, and Nazi Germany. Shortly after the second world war, Königsberg and the lands surrounding it were incorporated into the USSR, being renamed Kaliningrad.

City Flag of Kaliningrad

City Flag of Kaliningrad

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As a major transport hub, the city is home to the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Navy, and is one of the largest industrial centres in Russia. It is situated within the Kaliningrad Oblast, which is separated by around 400km from the next nearest Russian Oblast, bordered by Poland to the south, Lithuania to the north and east, and the Baltic Sea to the west. It is therefore impossible to travel overland between the Oblast and the rest of Russia without passing through at least two other countries. As of 2010, only a small number of ethnic Germans remain in the city, with most of residents being recent immigrants from other parts of the former Soviet Union. With a population of around 450,000, the city is similar in size to Miami, Florida, or Tallinn, Estonia, and is the 40th largest city in Russia. Kaliningrad and the lands surrounding are home to the world’s largest deposits of amber, with over 90% of the world’s supply.

Flag of Kaliningrad Oblast

Flag of Kaliningrad Oblast

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Dublin, Ireland, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Galway, Ireland. Our theme music and other stings come from Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella. We also have to give huge thanks to Professor Nicole Eaton of Boston College for her help with this episode, and for giving us a sneak preview of her upcoming book (German Blood, Slavic Soil: How Nazi Germany Became Soviet Kaliningrad (Cornell UP, Fall 2022)). 

Some further reading:

  • One of the few remaining remnants of Old Prussian culture are the so-called “babas” (or “Old Hags”) which are stone figures up to 2m tall of warriors and priests scattered around Poland. Read more about them on Atlas Obscura.
  • Read more on the Sambians and their burial traditions here.
  • The 1963 book Balts by Gimbutas, Marija is available on Archive.org
  • PrussianHistory.org also contains a Short History of Koenigsberg.
  • For more on the Order of the Teutonic Knights, see imperialteutonicorder.com.
  • The architectural history and significance of Koenigsberg Cathedral, as well as some excellent archival photographs see here.
  • For more of the Battle of Grunwald, which Mark mentions in his section, see here.
  • Brandenburg-Prussia, in all it’s glory, can be seen in the map below:
Brandenburg-Prussia within and outside of the Holy Roman Empire (1618)

Some music by composers from in and around this city include:

Exclaves in Switzerland (Minisode)

In this minisode, Joe explores, literally, the idea of an exclave after wandering into one a couple of years ago. Although we’ve covered a couple of enclaves in the past (including San Marino and The Gambia), this episode is the first time we’ve examined the opposite concept – a tiny piece of a country marooned inside another’s borders.

This is also something of a personal episode for Joe (@anbeirneach), as it marks an end to his time living in Switzerland. Luke (@thelukejkelly) and Mark (@markboyle86) also feature, and we discuss briefly our upcoming fourth season, which is due in a couple of weeks.

For the curious, you can find more on the German enclave of Büsingen am Hochrhein  here on Atlas Obscura, or read this article on BigThink. The New York Times article quoted in the episode can be found here, and further reading on Campione d’Italia can be found here and here. Photo’s from Joe’s trips to the exclaves can be found here.

Here is a summary of some data and statistics:

Name: Büsingen am Hochrhein Campione d’Italia
Population: 1,350 pop 2,190
Currency: €, official (CHF, de facto; DM, formerly) CHF, official (€, accepted)
Area: 7.62 square kilometres 1.6 square kilometres
Border 17.141 km
Country: Germany Italy
Meaning: Settlement of the People of Boso Campilonum – a Roman fort
Separation from country: Cut off by 500m Cut off by 1 km

In addition to our theme music by the talented Thomas O’Boyle, this episode featured a lot of music and sound effects, graciously made available for free by contributors at FreeSound.org, Free Music Archive and Incompatech, for use under a Creative Commons license, by attribution.

The pieces of music you heard under the text were “Swiftwind” and “How I Used to See the Stars” by Lee Rosevere, licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0. The Overture of Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” was performed by the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra (musical director Barbara Schubert), used under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Alphorn music and yodelling clips (from the Eidgenössisches Jodlerfest in Brig), as well as the Uileann pipes from the Uileann Pipers Club Schaffhausen Festival were recorded on location by Joe.

 

The side-by-side Swiss and German phone boxes in Buesingen

The side-by-side Swiss and German phone boxes in Buesingen

A beautifully Germanic house in Buesingen

A beautifully Germanic house in Buesingen

 

The shorefront at Campione d'Italia, complete with Italian flag

The shorefront at Campione d’Italia, complete with Italian flag

Italian police car passing in front of the now-shuttered casino in Campione d'Italia

Italian police car passing in front of the now-shuttered casino in Campione d’Italia

 

Liechtenstein (S2.09)

S02E09 Liechtenstein Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast,  we’ll be talking about Liechtenstein,  a tiny European principality, sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria that is still ruled by the same family since the early 18th century. In a small valley towards the beginning of the mighty Rhine river, it was frequented by the Romans and incorporated into the empire before that all went sideways and the Vandals earned their name. After passing through the infuential spheres of central Europe through the centuries they were eventually taken over by the Liechtenstein family in a bid to get more favor with the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which worked a treat as it happened.) They side-stepped the devastation of World War 2 and spent the latter half of the 20th century becoming a financial services powerhouse, while also making a surprisingly successful go of manufacturing – dentures and drills in particular. Builders drills. Not dentists drills. Though there’s a business plan in there somewhere.

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Liechtenstein – strong contender for the nicest place we’ve profiled. Apologies to Liberia…

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland/Liechtenstein. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

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In a break from our normal desktop research, we sent the intrepid Joe Byrne into the field with the savage Liechtensteiners to risk his life in doing some field research. Turns out it’s super safe and lovely. Who knew? Well you did if you listened in, as well as the chilled out nature of the locals and how normal it is to just run into some royalty if you live there.

Proof of Joe’s expedition below-

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That’s Joe there, showcasing the Liechtenstein flag like a boss.

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Above are a selection of photos from Liechtenstein, including the Roman ruins and the bronze Celtic figurines discussed in the episode. More photos can be seen here.

Here are some HOTLINKS (guitar solo here) to give you all the extra background you apparently weren’t sufficed with in our mega-bumper podcast, you info-hungry maniac:

Some music associated with Liechtenstein:

Thanks to Sarah O’Farrell and Niall O’Leary for your support on Kickstarter and Sinéad Dowling who helped our man on the ground Joe Byrne with his visit and research. Thanks too to Martin Meier for a useful conversation and Donat Büchel, curator of the Liechtensteinische Landesmuseum for some assistance. Special thanks to students Julia and Sebbi from the Liechtensteinische Gymnasium (High School) for a long and informative interview – they make videos that can be found on YouTube.

Thanks too to our sponsor Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.