Trans-Mongolian journal: Two slow days in slow Perm

Perm city center closed off for car traffic due to a race.

September 2nd – September 4th, 2017

Day 1: Park visit, pelmenny and a senior curious about my GoPro

Since we had two full days available in Perm until the next train departing for Omsk, we agreed to take it slow for once. We have a habit of hurrying around, wanting to experience as much as possible within a short period of time. Since Perm didn’t really seem to be much of an exciting town, we forced ourselves to just stroll around slowly, in order to stretch the experiences as much as possible out in time. Much of the city center was closed off for car traffic that day, as there was a marathon or some other sort of race going on. That made it a perfect day for walking around and taking a look at the city.

The strange sculpture "Permyak Salty Ears" in Perm.
The strange sculpture “Permyak Salty Ears” in Perm.

Perm is a cute little Russian town of about a million inhabitants, but there doesn’t really seem to be much going on, at least not for a tourist with a few days to kill. The number one attraction on TripAdvisor is “Permyak – the salty ears”, a sculpture in front of a hotel, which you are supposed to put your face in and have someone photograph you, and you’ll appear to have large ears. The sculpure has been awarded a prize of “the strangest attraction” in Russia by a Russian magazine. I agree.

My fiancé, the killjoy, said that I was probably too big to ride this horse.
My fiancé, the killjoy, said that I was probably too big to ride this horse.
Photogenic llama in Gorky amusement park in Perm.
Photogenic llama in Gorky amusement park in Perm.

After taking in the strangeness of the number one attraction in Perm and eating some great sushi at Kemari, we walked to Gorky amusement park. It seemed to be mostly for kids, but the arcade game room was great for us too. They had carusells, pony riding, animals to watch and maybe pet, train rides and things like that for kids.

While walking out of the park, we noticed some music coming from a large tent. It turned out to be hundreds of seniors dancing to live music. As I was filming this lovely session with my GoPro, I had a fun encounter with an older guy who was wearing what seemed to be an old military uniform.

Dancing seniors in Gorky amusement park, Perm.
Dancing seniors in Gorky amusement park, Perm.
Great sushi at Kemari sushi in Perm. Large and tasty pieces. Great service by English-speaking waitress.
Great sushi at Kemari sushi in Perm. Large and tasty pieces. Great service by English-speaking waitress.

Of course, he spoke only Russian, and I spoke only English, so we didn’t really understand each other. He spent some time staring at the camera, and then approached me, saying something to me in Russian. I first thought that he didn’t want me to film, but it rather seemed that he was really fascinated with the size of the camera. It sounded like he wanted to know if it just took photos or video as well. He walked away when I said “je nji gavarjo pa ruski” (I don’t speak Russian). Perhaps he went out and bought a GoPro for himself that day, and is filming dancing seniors right at this moment.

We later ate dinner at a place called Pelmennaya No. 2, which serves Russian cuisine. We were looking to try pelmeni, which are Russian-style dumplings with various fillings. The dish we ordered were of three different kinds, with different meat in each, in addition to a sauce on the side. The dish was served with a glass of vodka, of course. The pelmeni were good, but perhaps lacking a little bit of taste. We ordered it with cheese sauce; a tomato-based sauce would probably have been better. Drinking vodka to pelmeni actually made it taste a lot better. The Russians have figured this out. Trust them.

Pelmenny at Pelmenny No. 2 in Perm.
Pelmenny at Pelmenny No. 2 in Perm.

At Pelmennaya No. 2, we discussed something we’d noticed at every place we had eaten in Russia so far: After they have collected the plates of the last course, the servers tend not to come back to the table. I am currently not sure if that’s just how they do it, wanting to leave you alone so you can stay at the table for as long as you would like, or if they just don’t want any more interaction than necessary. Since it can sometimes be a little tricky to get the attention of the server, we now just ask for the bill when they come get the plates after the last dish.

Walking towards the hotel in the late evening, we spontanously walked into a hookah bar called Hookah Boss. Their logo looked suspiciously like the face of Walther White in Breaking Bad, which of course made it more appealing, although perhaps a little bit suspicious as it was located down some stairs and into a basement.

Hookah Bo$$ in Perm.
Hookah Bo$$ in Perm.

On the outside, they advertised with being a craft beer bar. On their bar menu, they had a selection of about 10-15 different types of beer. We drank a few refreshing beers and enjoyed a hookah for a few hours. Various people came to the booth and maintained the hookah for us. We weren’t really sure if they actually worked there, or if they were just regulars, but they did a good job anyway. The style of the place was just how I like it, with a bunch of booths, which you could make more private by pulling a curtain if you wanted to. The hookah was 600 Rubles, while the beer were about 250 Rubles each.

Day 2: Terrible room service and leaving for Novosibirsk

The next day was slow as well. We ate lunch at a place called Partizan, which seemed to specialize in various kinds of meat. We ordered stir fried Teryaki beef, spicy chicken wings and jerked duck. The duck and the beef were particularily good, and the service was excellent.

Otherwise, we spent the day walking around, exploring the town like the common tourists we are. We visited two tiny malls, where there was nothing particularily interesting, except an electronics store with a great selection of dashcams. Perhaps not really very surprising, as every dashcam video online is from Russia. Before going home to the hotel, we stopped by at the supermarket and bought various items for the train ride. Water, cookies, candy and noodles is great to have during the trip, and they are of course more expensive in the restaurant wagon.

Unimpressive room service.
Unimpressive room service.
We stayed at Amaks hotel in Perm, and it was alright except for the room service.
We stayed at Amaks hotel in Perm, and it was alright except for the room service.

Later at the hotel, we ordered some dinner via room service as we wanted something to eat just before leaving. Because I don’t speak Russian and the receptionist barely spoke English, the ordering was in person by visiting the reception rather than calling them. I can only imagine the nightmare of trying to explain what we wanted over the phone. It would probably have been a story similar to when my father tried to order a beer in South Korea and ended up getting a glass of hot milk. With some pointing on the menu and saying “dva” (two), the receptionist understood what we wanted. One hour later, the food arrived, but without any cutlery. We ate the piece of meat and the comically small salad like barbarians.

To get to the train station, we used Uber this time, since we now had WiFi access at the hotel. There were surprisingly many Uber drivers in Perm, and some of those were also traditional taxis (we saw ordinary taxis with Uber logos). We were picked up in a Lada that actually looked half decent, and arrived at the train station soon thereafter. Luckily, as the gas tank was almost empty. The price was 75 Rubles, quite a bit cheaper than the 500 Rubles taxi ride two days before. And the driver was nice too, and didn’t try to kill us like the maniac taxi driver whom drove us from the train station to the hotel. I bet the Uber driver couldn’t have killed us with speed even if he tried, though, because the engine couldn’t have been any more than 75 HP. I have used lawnmovers with more power than this car. But hey, it got us to the train station without any issues, so who am I to complain.

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