Perm lies on the banks of the Kama River, the proximity of which is a huge part of the city’s identity. A walk down the embankment is a truly local way to spend a Sunday afternoon. At some point during your stroll, you are bound to come across a sculpture that grew to be one of the symbols of Perm. The red letters read Счасте не за горами, Russian for ‘Happiness is not behind the mountains’. They are appropriately placed against the beautiful background of the river and its opposite bank.
Russians are great fans of poetry, classical music, opera and ballet. Indeed, every major city in Russia has an opera and ballet theatre. Perm’s ballet is quite remarkable, and the quality of the pieces they stage puts them in the same rank as the country’s ballet giants: Mariinsky in St Petersburg and Bolshoy in Moscow. Watching a ballet performance in Perm is most certainly a thing to tick off your list even on the shortest visit.
Quite a few internationally renowned festivals take place in Perm every year. The most prominent ones include the International Documentary Film Festival Flahertiana. Every October, the festival, inspired by the art of Robert Flaherty, draws the brightest stars of both international and Russian documentary scenes. International Diaghilev Festival is another prominent event in Perm. It is entirely devoted to classical art and theatre and occurs every year in June.
Perm-36, a forced labour camp located 100 kilometres (62.1 miles) north-east of Perm, was one of the most prominent Soviet detention centres for political prisoners. It was operating until the 1980s. In the 1990s, a group of former inmates and Memorial, an NGO dedicated to helping victims of the Soviet regime, converted the camp into a museum – the only GULAG museum in Russia on the site of an actual camp. Despite some problems with the current local administration, the museum is still operating and most certainly worth visiting.
Memorial Complex of Political Repressions, Kuchino, Permsky Krai, Russia, +7 342 212 61 29
Perm and its nearest surroundings are very rich in minerals. Throughout history, salt was the most prominent of them. Indeed, Perm appeared because people were relocating here to work in the salt mining industry, of which the legacy is a vital part of the locals’ identity. One of the most famous symbols of the region is the sculpture Permyak Salty Ears. In the early days of salt mining, the locals would carry big bags full of salt on their back. Some of the salt would then fall on their ears, making them big and red. The sculpture, located in the very city centre, consists of a frame with big ears attached to it and a figure of a photographer taking a picture of it. Putting your head in the Permyak Salty Ears frame and snapping a photo is an absolute must for every visitor to the city.
Perm is truly a city full of cultural surprises. On top of the festivals and the theatre mentioned above, it is also home to the only contemporary art museum outside of Moscow and St Petersburg. PERMM is a museum and exhibition space; it also hosts lectures, workshops and festivals. It is an extremely vibrant place and is most certainly worth a visit even on a short trip to the Urals.
The Ural Mountains are incredibly scenic and largely undiscovered. Whether you’re a fan of hiking, rafting or simply camping for days in pristine nature, Perm and its surroundings have something to offer you. If you happen to find yourself with a little bit of time while in Perm, go camping and explore. Your trip will soon turn into an adventure you will never forget.