Perm (or sometimes Permm) – things psychologically turned around for me in this stop. Having crossed the Ural Mountains, which took us out of Siberia and into the European part of the country. I’ve never been much for landscape photography so finding myself in a more urban setting really got my creative juices flowing.
From the train station we caught our transfer to our hotel, Mikos. We had read the write up of the hotel in the guidebook we had along and it had been rated a 4 star and was considered a businessman’s hotel. Not sure why they described the hotel that way. Maybe it’s because of the tray on the desk that contained a selection of tiny liquor bottles, chocolates and biscuits (for a fee of course).
The hotel wasn’t much to look at from the outside and was located on a very busy intersection. But the staff at reception were extremely friendly and patient with the 4 of us arriving and looking very much bedraggled I’m sure. Typical of many European hotels (not just the Russian ones) there was no lift but lucky for us our rooms were only up one flight of stairs.
You gotta love the décor; I swear the sheets on my bed had spaceships on them. The mattress was severely lacking in support and was a bit lopsided. But anything is an improvement over sleeping in the top bunk of a moving train.
Once we dropped off our bags and freshened up a bit we wandered back down to reception to get an idea of where we were in the city and how to get to anything interesting, i.e. the touristy bits. There is a bus stop just around the corner and down the block a bit and we’re told this will take us into town. There is a museum we’re aiming for, if we actually manage to get there or not is where the adventure of travel comes in.
Using public transport is always a most interesting experience when you don’t know the language and don’t really know where you need to get to, only a vague idea. Unlike the buses here instead of paying the money (exact change) into a box in front of the driver they have ticket conductors. We have a map that the hotel gave us and we point and say the Russian word for Museum (I think) and she shakes her head in agreement that the bus will take us there. As we travel we try to follow the route on the map to get our bearings.
This feels a very industrial city, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s more just how Russian cities look rather than have anything to do with industry. Communist architecture tends to lean towards function rather than fashion or aesthetics. Everything is dirty, dusty and in much need of repair. But this is a very busy busy city. The bus is jam-packed and there is lots of traffic on the road.
We get to what we believe is our stop and we are just about to step off when the ticket conductor is waving her hand saying ‘Нет, Нет’ (pronounced niyet) to indicate this isn’t our stop yet. By the time it is our stop we’re the last people on the bus and when we get off and look at the building we are standing in front of the Permm Museum of Contemporary Art. Not what we were aiming for but this is right up my alley so I’m excited and the bonus is for a change the admission is free and you’re allowed to take photographs!
There is an Alexander Brodsky exhibition on and I am completely in my element. Not sure what the others thought (I think they are more into the classics) but this was totally working for me.
After about an hour 2 of the girls had experienced their fill of this modern art stuff so we decided to split up.
The museum is spread over 2 floors, the Brodsky exhibition was on the main floor and upstairs was a smaller display area. There was one room that was blocked off and seemed to have an opera company practising (amazing acoustics). The upstairs bit didn’t seem to have any English signage (not a complaint, just an observation) so I couldn’t figure out who the artist or artists were but enjoyed what I saw regardless.
When we were done it was a stunning day outside with blue sky and sunshine. The museum is located on the bank of the river Kama and seems to have a pedestrian walkway following it. In the process of exploring the area we stumbled upon the other 2 that had stopped for lunch next door.
Looking at the sign I would have expected the menu to be fish & chips but in reality it was more of a kebab shack. Attempting to order a small portion ended up being a challenge involving much laughter on both sides. In the end the 2 of us ended up sharing 1 large portion and it was more than enough. No idea what it was but it kind of tasted like sausage meat with a sweet/spicy chutney and then 3 different ‘slaw’ type salads (carrot, cabbage & onion).
We eventually found the Perm State Art Gallery, which was our original destination, and it’s a nice wander in there. Not too big, the rooms are laid out chronologically. The room I most enjoyed was the one displaying Russian Icons from the 16th century (as you can see from the below photo).
Why do I always get scolded when taking photos in museums ;>p
Exploring the city in the sun it started to feel more like the Russia I wanted to find. The grand plazas with their monuments and government buildings.
Eventually we were making our way back towards our hotel but there was quite a bit of ground to cover. Ever attracted to the sight of beautiful onion domes sparkling in the sun we stopped at this cathedral.
Between the 3 of us we only had one headscarf so we were going to take turns going in. As I was waiting outside an older gentlemen attempted to strike up a conversation with me. Difficult as I knew very few Russian phrases (hello, good bye, please, thank you, vodka and most important… please may I take your photograph). This got quite the chuckle out of him and eventually I understood all his pointing was to tell me there was a smaller chapel downstairs that had a basket of scarves as you walked in that I could borrow. This was Vladimir; don’t let the stern look fool you that was just for the camera.
For dinner myself and another of the group decided to get adventurous and headed off to find a Japanese restaurant and try some sushi. Again gotta love the girl at our hotel reception she gave us 2 recommendations and hand drew a map. It was a long walk but we managed to find it and the fact that we had to wait about 15 min for a table because the place was packed seemed like a good sign.
Of course I can’t remember the name of the place, nor did I take any photos but man oh man was the food good. The only downside is we could not decipher the drinks menu to order some sake and when we attempted to ask for it the waitress had no idea what we wanted. I guess they don’t do sake in Perm.
On the walk home we stocked up at the grocery store with some bread, deli meat, cheese, water etc. When we arrived back at the hotel the guy at the hotel desk flagged us over, as apparently we needed to decide now what we wanted for breakfast. Not an easy thing to do when you’re stuffed to the gills on raw fish and rice. So we know where to go he also shows us where the breakfast room is as it is in the basement of the hotel. It looks like the bat cave complete with faux rock wall and indoor trickling waterfall, hilarious!
Tomorrow it’s back on the train to Moscow…