Perm is not a common stop on the Trans Siberian route. It’s not that it’s totally unaccustomed to international visitors – but most people skip it.
After a five hour train ride, we arrived in Perm. We promptly paid way too much for a taxi, but that’s what happens in Russia. We pulled up to our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn. We stayed in a lot of expensive sounding hotels, although they were honestly pretty cheap. This one had a small shopping mall next door, and a laundry that was free to use. That was all we needed! It was actually pretty far from central Perm.
We washed all of our clothes, and walked around the small shopping mall. There was a huge supermarket which was exciting. The rest of it was pretty unexciting. We ate dinner in the hotel…. again.
In the morning we were picked up by our guide, Alexander, for our Perm Gulag Tour! This was the whole reason we’d come to Perm. The gulag has been preserved, and turned into a museum. We’d read reports that the whole thing had been shut down, but actually that wasn’t true. It is now run by the government instead of a team of volunteers, but it’s basically the same as it always has been. We joined a guided tour which was all in Russian, and Alexander translated for us.
Perm 36 was part of the Soviet gulag system, and it is the only example left of a forced labour camp. It is a pretty fascinating place, and there are displays in the barracks and different parts of the prison of what it would have been like at the time. There were individual cells for political prisoners, and more open areas for the rest of the camp population. It was fascinating, and honestly an essential visit for anyone in the area.
We had a half day in Perm before our train to Moscow the next evening. We went into the city centre and once again followed a painted line tour around the city. We stopped at the Perm dinosaur museum and had a look at the displays. But in some ways we felt as though we were just killing time until the train.
And then I found a Friends themed cafe.
Would I have ever expected to find this in the middle of Russia? No. Absolutely not.
The place was of course named Central Perk, and there was plenty of Friends memorabilia on the walls of the cafe.
It was weird and wonderful.
And that was the end of our time in Perm!