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Published: April 30th 2014
This time I had two trains, Petersburg – Moscow and Moscow – Kungur, because the direct train from Petersburg to Perm arrived late in the evening, inconvenient for me (a hotel would have to be booked). Instead, I planned the route Kungur – Perm – Izhevsk – Sarapul, with secure time margins for any mishap. I’d have three trains and three buses. I have found Kungur Ice Cave on some Russian tourism web site, and here are my findings.
I find no better companion for a 20-hour train journey than a Wodehouse book and, let’s say, a mp-3 player with Dave Clarke’s White Noise techno show. Time flies so quickly and you don’t have to count the kilometers. I should warn the readers that spring is not the best time to travel in many regions of Russia because of weather – melting snow, winds and rains, dirt in places etc.
I found out the cave’s opening times, the way to get there and the excursions in advance, and as soon as I was in Kungur (I arrived rather late – if I had arrived in the morning, I’d certainly visit the town of Kungur also),
I took bus No. 9 (it arrived not very soon, but quite in time for the 2 o’clock guided tour of the cave (individual tourists are not allowed to the cave alone, as I understood). I paid 650 Roubles (including the right to photograph), there was another woman, and a guide, that is three of us. Previous groups on the same day were much larger.
Kungur Ice Cave is a very popular and unique sight of the Urals and a monument of nature of All-Russian importance. It is situated 100 km from Perm and about 3 km from the Kungur train station. Of all the cave length, 1.5 kilometers are available for visits.
The cave was damned excellent. Though I fairly well remember the immense impressions of Novy Afon Cave in Abkhazia and Kungur’s being somewhat smaller in extent, my satisfaction was profound. Our guide told us everything about the various grottoes, lakes, stones, and geological data about the cave.
We saw beautiful ice crystals, a couple of ice sculptures, with coloured backlighting. I recalled Tom Sawyer’s account of his and Becky’s unwanted stay in the cave where they get lost,
and how he finally had found a way out. I’d never like to be lost in a cave, ALONE least of all. Even now I have goose bumps. The cave has low ceilings in several areas and slippery paths. Given the warmer season, not the whole cave was covered with ice.
A place where a man can go literally mad, I think, in a short time, was the hall where, all lights being out, we saw (and felt!) absolute darkness to which no human eye would ever get accustomed. It was black as black can be for about a minute, and then our guide turned the light back and told how the cave’s first guide, Khlebnikov, used to scare his tourists by putting out all torches, getting to the top of a hump, and, waving his own torch, crying something like ‘I am the devil’. Believe me, the grotto is impressive.
Next we proceeded to the Coral grotto – needles to describe it, because words will fail. One would never appreciate its beauty in absolute darkness, though. We also saw the geological feature called ‘organ pipes’ – something like downward round shafts reaching almost
to the surface, with water dripping from one of them.
We also saw splendid lakes (the cave has dozens of them), with a creature (I forget its name – a crawfish, I suppose) living in one of them (evolution had made it devoid of eyes), and were told that it was possible to dive in them and bathe during the Christening. Geological research is still going on in the cave – just imagine someone, of their own free will, descending below with such amounts of stone above their heads!
After the very exciting visit to the cave, I took bus from Kungur to Perm, deciding not to see Kungur’s sights because of limited time, but I actually managed to see many interesting buildings through the window. Approaching Perm, we stuck in a huge traffic jam because of an accident. I was very excited about seeing Perm, because it contained a lot of sight-worthy buildings and I watched a serial called Realnye Patsany (Cool Guys) about the life of simple people in Perm – I personally liked it so it was another factor of interest.
I left my luggage at the bus
station and went sightseeing. Basically, I spent about two hundred minutes exploring the city. I went along the central street – Komsomolsky Prospekt, saw the monument to Ears, several churches, various buildings, a large church of yellow colour with a viewing point nearby (under restoration) overlooking Kama River and several interesting wooden sculptures in the walkway in the prospect middle. I had a short break at McDonalds, ordered BigMac and hot tea because it was cold and windy, and noticed how differently aged the visitors were – from children to seniors.
As I proceeded, I noticed the Green Line (and a Red Line parallel to it) – the city’s system of marking the notable buildings. If you follow the green line (it is worn and invisible in some places), you can see the city’s best monuments and there will be information posts (a huge photo, a map, and text in Russian and English) explaining the value of the sight. The red line has something to do with the cultural aspect, I left it out.
Getting rather chilled, I cursed my map because it seemed either outdated - the names of several streets did not
match the actually marked ones. Anyhow, I visited Perm and I found it good. It was such a good impetus to my further plans for trips in Russia.
I went back to the bus station, took my things and went on foot to the train station (about 40 minutes or so), saw churches again and a finely drawn mural art, and had a bite at a café. Being not far from the train station, my body refused to walk any further, so I waited for a bus and soon sat in a metallic chair at the station.
After a good sleep, I would wake up in Izhevsk.
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