The cruel history of the Gulag camps.
The city of Perm is the administrative center of the Perm District. It is located on the west side of the Ural Mountains, on the banks of the Kama River.
Perm is a small & quiet city, with an estimated population of 1 million. It is a good place for the first stop of your Trans-Siberian Journey, to get down for some fresh air, soom good food and a relaxing night stay.
There are some popular sights worth visiting around the Perm District, making Perm a place worthy of a 1 or 2 night stay.
Perm's Kama River Bridge at night, during winter.
Perm's Kama River Bridge in the evening, during summer.
General Information of Perm
Official Website of Perm :
visitperm.ru/en (english accessible, highly informative)
How long should I spend in Perm :
There are much to see around the city of Perm, but if you are here just for a short transit in your Trans-Siberian Journey, 2-3 days should suffice, as there is so much to see along the way.
I would recommend such an itienary:
Day 1 : Arrival to Perm city, check in to hotel. Slow relaxing walks around the city. (Follow the walking path with the free audioguide available at the website.) Visit some local museums. Spend a romantic sunset at the Kama River banks, overlooking the bridge. Night rest at hotel.
Day 2 : Day excursion to Kungur Ice Caves or the Gulag Museum "Perm 36".
Day 3 : Depart from Perm, to the next city of your Trans-Siberian journey.
However, if you are visiting Perm to get to know the true beauty of the Ural mountains , a comfortable stay with some outdoor activities (Treking, Hiking, Fishing, and Rafting) would require a minimum of a week's stay.
Arriving in Perm along the Trans-Siberian Railway
The city of Perm lies approximately 1150 kilometers eastwards from Moscow Yaroslavski Train Station. A train ride from Moscow would take around 20-26 hours, (with various arrival times), and the cheapest ticket (3rd Class) would cost around 1700 Roubles. It would be advisable to prepare 3 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for your train ride to Perm, if you are leaving from Moscow.
While planning your trip, it would be wise to choose an appropriate arrival time to Perm. It is important to note that all train stations follow Moscow time. The time difference in Perm is +2 hours, which means if your train was scheduled to arrive in Perm at 6 AM (Moscow time), in actual fact, you will arrive at 8 AM local time in Perm.
This information is particularly important, as many tourists often arrive at the train station at the wrong time.
Perm Train Station
Upon arrival at Perm Train Station, head outside and there will be many busses and minivans heading towards the city center.
There is no Metro system in Perm city, there are only trams, busses and minivans, which runs very often. Public transportation cost approximately 12 Roubles (as of 2011).
Public transport works from 6 am until 12:30am.
Arriving in Perm Airport (Bolshoye Savino Airport - Code PEE)
It is the only airport in Perm Krai with regular scheduled passenger flights. It is located 16 KM southwest of Perm. Majority of the flights are from Moscow-Perm and vice versa.
Airlines which flies to this airport are the following
From the airport, there are frequent buses which runs to the city, for 12 roubles. The bus ride takes approximately 30-45 minutes, and it stops at the Avtovakzal of the city (main bus station).
What to do in Perm
Perm city, although being small, has one of the most organized tourism services in Russia. For starters, they have a well organized and extremely well manered tourist information service right in the heart of the city.
Tourists Information Center of Perm
Address : 58 Lenin Street, Perm (It is at the same building of Hotal Ural, which is right in the center of the city).
Phone : +7(342)2186021
Website : visitperm.ru
This is Nadia, the kind lady who speaks excellent english, and gave us information on the various interesting sites of the city, as well the day tours from Perm (Kungur ice caves and Perm 36)
Perm city walking tours
Perm city has a well organized city tour route, known as the "Green Line city tour", where you can just follow the green line drawn on the roads of the city, with information sign boards on all of the important buildings or sights of the city. This walking tour includes more than 30 landmarks of Perm, and it passes throught the main museums, parks and beautiful gardens.
You can get the maps from the tourist information center, or you can also download the map from their website.
*The green line walking route of Perm with a downloadable free audio guide , which is available on the official tourism website of Perm.
Here are some pictures of the city of Perm. The top 6 was during winter of 2009, and the bottom 6 were taken during the summer of 2011.
Kungur Ice Cave
icecave.ru (no english)
10am - 5pm
The Kungur ice cave is located in the South-eastern region of Perm city, and it is approximately 90 KM away. It is easily accessible by train or by bus. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Kungur from Perm. Known since 1703 during the reign of Peter the Great. It has been a major tourist sight since 1914.
With the advice and guidance of the Tourist information center, going there on your own is pretty much simplified (Even without knowledge of the Russian language). Do call in advance to know the entrace times to the cave.
The total distance of the ice cave is 5.6 KM, but the tour takes you through a shorter route, which is around 1.5 KM. The cave only allows groups to enter at certain times, every 2-3 hours (5-6 times a day), so you might need to wait for an hour or so if you arrived before the entrance times. The ice cave has temperatures of +5 to -1 degrees, so you MUST bring a jacket or a sweater. If you forgot your sweater, the ticket counter offers jacket rentals for 100 roubles.
The entrance price is 600 Roubles (as of 2011), half price for students. At certain times, they will have laser light shows within the ice caves for an extra 100 Roubles (Total ticket price is 700 Roubles). The prices are cheaper if you come early at the first cave opening (at 10 AM). Photography is an extra 150 Roubles.
You can get all information regarding the day tour to Kungur Ice Cave from the tourist information center in Perm. They have brochures there with detailed information on getting there, as well as the train departure times, maps and prices.
You can get there by the local suburban train (Electrichka) or by bus from the bus station (Avtovokzal). The suburban train is slightly less expensive (100 Roubles) than the bus, and more comfortable, but unfortunately, the downside is that it requires some knowledge of the Russian language to speak through the glass at the ticketing counter, and unlike the bus, it leaves at certain limited times per day. The bus however, leaves every half hour, and seats are widely available. Bus ticket costs around 170 Rouble. The first bus departs from Perm at 6:45 AM, and the last bus at 10:15 PM.
Getting back to Perm is pretty much the same way as getting there.
The scenic bus ride to Kungur
After reaching Kungur (the bus station and the train station are located next to each other), you have to take bus number 9 to reach Kungur Ice caves. Kungur ice caves is at the last stop of the route of bus number 9. From the stop, it is a 5 minutes walk up a small mountain to the ice caves.
Outside the caves, there are parks with some nice displays of wooden architecture. There is also a nice cafe to have a nice meal. You can walk around the parks if you arrived too early for the next cave opening time.
The excursion inside the cave takes approximately 1 hour, with different areas of the cave. It is cold, dark and slippery inside. Below are some photos of the ice cave.
Gulag Camp "Perm 36"
Official website : perm36.ru
For more information on the gulag camps during the soviet union, please visit gulaghistory.org . Get an information brochure from the tourist information center for the latest train and bus departure times. Within the brochure, there is also a detailed map of the Gulag museum as well as some information regarding the Gulag museum.
If you had only a day, and you have to choose between Kungur Ice caves and the Gulag museum "Perm 36", I would choose Kungur Ice caves anytime. The Gulag museum can be a little depressing and somewhat boring for a day's trip.
The Gulag Camp of Perm 36 was one of the harshest prisons of the Soviet Union. In the early 1970s, this gulag camp was used to contain the "especially dangerous criminals of the Soviet Union". The majority were charged with purely political crimes, such as the "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda". Some of the prisoners was sentenced for collaboration with the German occupation authorities during the years of the Second World War. Others were sentenced for "high treason", typically for trying to flee to the West.
Within the Gulag Camp of Perm 36, there is a "Special Treatment Area" , which was repeatedly refurbished to be ultimately used as a special treatment detention block. This area was reserved for those "Highly dangerous criminals of the Soviet Union which had repeated criminal offense". These criminals were locked inside the cell, alone in isolation, throught the years in the cold bitter winter, many of them ended up in psychotic state in a few weeks, and death in months. The detention block was, in fact, the harshest prison with the most cruel treatment in the USSR in the period of "advanced socialism"
The Museum for the History of Political Repression Perm-36 is located in Chusovskoi Region, within Kutchino village (120 km from Perm). The bus Perm-Chusovoi reaches the stop at Kuchino, and the Museum Perm 36 is another 2 KM walk from the stop.
The bus Perm-Chusovoi leaves at the following times 11:05, 13:05, 15:15, 18:25, 19:20.
Another alternative would be to take the suburban train to Chusovoi, and from there, take a bus to Kutchino.
Every day 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. Closed on Mondays. (During summer, this museum opens till 7pm)
Admission fees is 50 Roubles per person, guided excursions are 350 Roubles per group.
Translation services (English) are available for 1500 Roubles per group.
Nice Restaurants in Perm
For a nice and cheap restaurant in Perm, we absolutely recommend this restaurant called Hutorok.
The food there is cheap, nice atmostphere, pretty Russian waitresses with traditional dresses, and they serve complementary Vodka before and after your meal.
My friends and I had the best Kvas in Russia here in this restaurant.
There are many of these restaurants all over the city, and the one we went to was right in the center, a few meters away from Ural hotel, at Lenin's street, Dom 60.
Here are some of the pictures of the restaurant and the food they served.
If you were planning to visit Perm for a short transit, just for a short walk around the city and a good nights rest, the cheapest option for accommodation would be the rest rooms in the train station.
They cost around 300-500 Roubles, have clean showers and toilets, comfortable beds and are 24 hour guarded by the manager in charge. They have options from double rooms (approximately 700-1000 roubles) to male and female 10 per room dorms.
Akvarel Hotel is centrally located in Perm city, with spacious rooms and free wifi.
Akvarel Hotel has a 24 hour cafe, with breakfast available.
Price ranges from 60 Euros for a single room to 80 Euros for a double room via Booking.com
Tour Operators in Perm
Most of the tour operators charge similar prices for tours.
A day trip to Kungur Ice caves takes approximately 9 hours, cost around 100 Euros per person for a group of 3 - 5, cheaper if you have more people in the group.
A day trip to Gulag camp Perm-36 takes approximately 8 hours, cost around 90 Euros per person for a group of
3 - 5, cheaper if you have more people in the group.
A combined Kungur Ice Cave and Gulag camp Perm 36 is also possible, which cost approximately 150 Euros per person, 11 hours.
Below are a few of the tour companies which caters for foreign tourists. Some offer tours in other languages besides english.
Tour office is located right in the city center, between main street Lenina and Kirova Street.
Offers day excursions to Gulag Perm 36 and Kungur Ice Caves for 140 Euros per person for a group of 5. English guide available.