From Russia with love

From far left: Local fans cheering on Russia during their Group A match against Egypt against the backdrop of "The Buried Robot". A woman taking a stroll through the "Dancing Forest" or the "Drunken forest", which is some 80km from Kaliningrad's city
Local fans cheering on Russia during their Group A match against Egypt against the backdrop of "The Buried Robot".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
From far left: Local fans cheering on Russia during their Group A match against Egypt against the backdrop of "The Buried Robot". A woman taking a stroll through the "Dancing Forest" or the "Drunken forest", which is some 80km from Kaliningrad's city
A woman taking a stroll through the "Dancing Forest" or the "Drunken forest", which is some 80km from Kaliningrad's city centre and is an expanse of pine trees that are curved and twisted into ring or heart shapes.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

With more than 17 million sq km of land (more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited area), Russia is huge and never ceases to amaze. But even then, it is still surprising to learn that the locals require a passport and visa to travel to one of their own cities.

Welcome to Kaliningrad, an exclave that shares no common border with mainland Russia and is sandwiched by Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea. It is 1,000km away from the more well-known St Petersburg and reachable via a 95-minute flight.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2018, with the headline 'From Russia with love'. Print Edition | Subscribe