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Destination: Perm

With a population of 1.2 million Perm is the sixth-largest city in Russia and is one of the country’s primary centres for arts and culture, especially since the city has started funding these extensively in 2008. Both geographically and culturally it lies at the threshold between Europe and Asia.

Geography

Perched on the outskirts of the Urals, Perm is the eastern-most city that is still on the European subcontinent. This location has made the city one of the major transport hubs in Russia, with the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the motorways from Moscow and Kazan and the Kama River all crossing through the city. By Russian standards Perm is extremely multicultural and is home to many ethnic groups, who have lived together in this place for centuries.

History

An informal settlement was established in the area during the 16th century, when the Russians were attracted by the area’s resources of salt and fur and Perm gained city rights in 1723. The founding is still honoured by the White Night Festival every June that features many concerts and performances, parades and fireworks. Perm has earned an important space in Russian history through being a gateway to Siberia. Not only is the city’s most famous son the Russian hero Erma, whose army marched through the Urals and eastwards, but the construction of the Trans-Siberian Highway also started in Perm. When the Russian government decided to move much of its industry and cultural artefacts to Perm for safety during the Second World War, many writers, actors and artists followed, manifesting the city’s status as a cultural centre. During the Soviet era Perm was an important military fortress due to the artillery and rocket production in the area. It was one of the Soviet Union’s many well-kept secrets and few people abroad, or even within the country, guessed that the city was actually as prosperous and large as it was.

What to do

For a city with over one million inhabitants Perm’s architecture is charmingly unusual, lacking the high-rise glass towers that have been built elsewhere in Russia. Instead the city centre is mostly made up if colourful, classic mansions. Furthermore a visit to the bazaar should be on any tourist’s to-do-list. Moscow and St. Petersburg aside, Perm is the best Russian city to enjoy theatre, the opera or ballet. The art gallery is also especially comprehensive, as is the Gorki Library. Unique to the city is the artillery museum, giving a details history of Russian military production. If you are into sports, the city also hosts some exciting sports teams and offers the opportunity to watch high-profile football, and ice hockey.

Climate

The summer is lovely in Perm, with sunny and very warm weather that invites for sunbathing and swimming on the Kama beaches. By Russian standards winters in Perm are not as cold, with temperatures averaging at -15°C. This may still be an off-putting cold compared to European winters, but the cold months in Perm also come with their perks, such as the famous Ice Sculpture Festival and delicious home-made Russian broth.

Weather in Perm

 

How to get there

Bolshoye Savino Airport is the closest airport, only 16 kilometres southwest of the city. Most flights hail from Moscow, but there are also seasonal flights from Europe, Dubai and Thailand. Its location also makes Perm one of the most important junctions on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, meaning it is well-connected into both directions. The major waterway, the Kama, also makes it possible to visit Perm on a river cruise.

Why you should visit

Perm’s effort to reinvent itself from a somewhat charming, but industrial town into one of Russia’s major cultural centres is truly impressive. No matter when you visit Perm, there is surely some festival or other cultural event going on. However, even those not interested in art will find plenty to do in a city that comes with such a rich history and culturally diverse inhabitants.