Thursday, January 7, 2010

Guess Who Was The Last Person To Visit Kaliningrad Easily?

   Back in the 1930s, Hitler would catch a train from Berlin to Konigsberg. It took him 8 hours.

   Today, it takes all of 8 hours just to get from Gdansk in Poland, just 125 kilometers away. The miserably slow border isn’t the only problem. In December, Poland cancelled the overnight sleeper to Berlin. It will now take you 20 hours travel time and four trains minimum to repeat Hitler’s journey.

   Last time I looked, a regular daytime journey to Berlin took 35 hours. Er, no, I didn’t book a ticket.
   So far, Moscow hasn’t cancelled its own Kaliningrad special, the ‘Amber Train‘, but lack of interest might do it. Here’s the schedule:
   The Amber train to Kaliningrad departs from Moscow at 2 p.m with a hard day’s night ahead of every passenger.
At 2 a.m. conductors wake everyone up for a forty minute halt at Gudogai, and a papers and baggage check at the Belarussian border.
   At 3 a.m. the train arrives in Kena, Lithuania, and the same procedure is repeated at the Lithuanian border. At 4.15 a.m. the train is due at Vilnius, and there is a twenty-minute halt with random checks. At 6.30 a.m. there is a Lithuanian state border again with another round of formalities, so you won’t be able to sleep even in the morning.
   At 7.45 a.m. there is one more border, this time a Russian one (Nesterov), and you undergo another forty-minute check. Finally the train arrives in Kaliningrad at 10.45 a.m.
The progressive isolation of Kaliningrad is why residents call their unfortunate region, ‘The European Prison‘. It’s becoming as closed a closed town as it was in Soviet times. But this time, the EU is the jailer and Poland’s action amounts to throwing away the key.
  If you’re looking for someone to name and shame, it is:

Gunnar Wiegand

Acting Director Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, Central Asian Republics, Head of Unit for Relations with Russia, Northern Dimension Policy, European Commission

Kaliningrad’s ghettoisation falls under the EU’s ‘Northern Dimension Policy’. Could Hitler have thought up a more sinister sounding name?

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