Kaliningrad, Russia was once the East Prussian capital Königsberg. It only became part of Russia at the end of World War 2, when the Soviet Union expelled all Germans and remade the city as a model city of Soviet design.
On of the main landmarks of Königsberg was the castle started in 1257. This very large, square fortress was built around a courtyard and was greatly enlarged and refortified in several stages between the 16th to 18th centuries. Among the usual trapping of a castle this one contained a large church, a public museum containing 24,000 exhibits, and the Königsberg State and University Library. It was also the site where two Prussian kings were crowned.
During World War 2 many works of art stolen from Russia were stored here including the fabled Amber Room, but by the end of the war bombardment, siege, and assault by the Allies reduced the entire town to rubble, but the thick walls of the castle still stood even though the entire structure was burnt out, without a roof, and a ruin.
The remains stood until 1967 when Soviet leaders chose to destroy the 700 year old structure because “it was a reminder of Germany and was the center of fascism. Instead the 21 story House of Soviets was started as a central government building and to show Soviet might. This building was built on the remains of the castle moat and the swampy land caused problems for the structure (while the castle remains were buried under the new central square). Construction was halted in 1985 (15 years after starting) and the exterior was painted and windows installed in 2005 for Kaliningrad’s 60th, Königsberg’s 750th anniversary, and a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the interior has still not been finished and the building was never used.
As I was checking out the few castle remains visible after an excavation in 2001 (a few cellars and one wall) a young guy asked if I wanted to check out a virtual reality tour of the castle. I figured for $10 why not and I am glad I did. He took me to four different locations around the castle and had me put on the VR head piece and ear phones. What I saw was a still 360 degree photo of what the castle would look like if it stood in today’s city for each different angle, while an audio guide told about the castle. Quite fascinating and I am glad I did not just dismiss the guys offer out of hand as I almost did. It is a shame the original castle remains were not left stand or restored, but that was Soviet policy at the time.