Wednesday 2nd October 2013
Although this is a modern pub complex with a brewery that opened in November 2009, its site has a considerable history. When this was the Ratskhof district of the German city Königsberg, a restaurant was opened on the exact location of the present pub-restaurant. At the same time there was a famous international athlete, locally-born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller who was known as Eugene Sandow. This was his mother's maiden name; she was Russian.
The architect of the restaurant was also well known; Friedrich Lars Königsberg. He was impressed by the prowess of Sandow, who carried the nickname Herkules. As a result he named the restaurant after him and even designed a bas-relief statue of the athlete which was installed in 1912. Like most of the city of Königsberg it was completely destroyed during the Second World War.
The present pub is huge; we entered from the riverside and headed into the room on the right that contained the brewery, which was built in Austria.
I, and the usual suspects, took a seat and the waiter arrived. When he realised we were English he called over a younger lad, who appeared to be a trainee, who spoke the language. There were four beers in the standard range and the waiter, Daniel, gave us the list and it was as follows:
Light Lager/Светлый Лагер (4.7%) Red Ale/Красный Зль (5.5%)
Black Stout/Черный Стаут (6.0%) Light Wheat/Светлое Мшеничное
Although we weren't in a hurry, we thought we had a further three pubs yet to visit in the city, so decided to limit ourselves to just one each in this pub.
The order was evenly divided between the Light Lager and the Black Stout and this is what we thought of them. The Light was all right but a little too malty to be in the Czech or Austrian styles. The Dark Stout was thought to have the right basic taste but was a little too thin in body.
This Pub-Restaurant is located close to a river and there is a fairly large grassed area between it and the building. I would guess, in nice weather, this would be used for al fresco dining and drinking. A quite large waterfall tumbles into the river to add a little bit more of the natural world.
Inside the pub, we noticed there was a very large room to the left of the riverside entrance. It had the appearance of being the main dining area yet there were plenty of seats along its long bar.
Apparently there are rooms on the upper two levels that are for functions and can accommodate around 800 patrons! Whilst we relaxed with our beers we couldn't help notice the trams passing by above the pub. We had arrived by taxi because we wanted to avoid the city centre.
Kaliningrad's trams have suffered enormously over the last five years or so with the nine routes being reduced to just two. The traffic in the city is horrendous with jams occurring at any time of day. The trams could help, but are rarely segregated on busy streets, as we found on the journey to the city centre, so they just become part of the problem.
However all is not lost, as it is intended to keep the remaining two routes. In fact, on our journey back, we passed a modern Polish tram that was on trial. Hopefully, some of the previously closed routes will reopen, the infrastructure is still intact. As we bounced our way back into the city over some very inebriated track I couldn't help thinking that this tramway, set in cobblestones, was a very tangible and still existing remnant of old Königsberg. One surprising feature of this journey was that the 40 year old Czech-built tram had Wi-Fi, remarkable!
I would love to revisit this pub to try the other beers available. Hopefully I will be in the city again, but who knows when? However, should you visit Kaliningrad; it is well worth jumping on to a tram to get out here. Full details are given below.
Herkules/Геркулес, Prospekt Mira 105/Проспект Мира 105. Tel: (4012) 957080
Open: Sunday-Thursday 12.00-02.00; Friday-Saturday 12.00-04.00
To get to the terminus at Bassejnaya/Бассейная of the tram lines, walk in a westerly direction from the pub and you will soon see their turning circle at the end of the line. The two routes, 3 and 5, both run through the city centre at pl. Pobedy/Пл.Победы (Victory Square). Route 5 continues to the southern suburbs and route 3 terminates at the main station/Охный Вокзал. Of course, this is a great way to get to the pub.
The main station has, apart from local services within Kaliningrad province, long distance trains to Moscow and St Petersburg daily, also to other places in Russia and Belorus operating every two days. These all run via Lithuania so it is fairly easy to get to Kaunas and Vilnius. The service to Poland and Germany no longer seems to operate. There is a very good bus service to the other Baltic States and a frequent route to Gdansk in Poland.
The airport mostly serves Russian destinations but also Copenhagen and Riga.