VISIBLE CITIES – INVISIBLE CITIES
AT HOME IN THE CITY
HARRY PYE’s POSTCARD FROM LONDON
Tarvo Hanno Varres
ROCK-MUSIC FROM BUDAPEST
AMSTERDAM IS A CITY
PERM. WHERE IS THIS PLACE? WHAT IS THIS PLACE?
A HAPPY MORNING
VILEN KÜNNAPU’s SHORT
INTERVIEW WITH THE POET
SCENES OF PAIDE
Jan Ping aka Brüggemeier
WHERE IS THIS PLACE? WHAT IS THIS PLACE?
This city is not the one you just start talking about. Because first you need to GET there and having this accomplished is quite a task.
Perm is a city, which used to have direct flights from Tallinn. The prices were in roubles at that time. Who were the others that took the flight together with our family, I don’t know, but there surely were not enough people, because eventually the route was cancelled. Either it was the lack of passengers or the problem was in the extreme noise from the powerful engines that echoed over Tallinn. Whatever it was, until it happened, we took the plane, and once it was not an option, we took the train – transiting either through St.Petersbourg or Moscow. If it took just 3-4 hours to get to Perm by plane, the train ride was about 48 hours. But no problem, you get used to it, because Perm is quite far and there is nothing you can do about it – if the distance between Tallinn and Moscow is 870 km, it takes another 1300 km from there in order to get to Perm.
Nevertheless the train ride had one big advantage – once it arrived to Perm, you were HAPPY to have finally arrived. Granny and grandpa were there to meet you, it was past midnight and we could take a taxi to their home. I must say that at night Perm is a fantastic and beautiful city, but I guess all cities are, especially after you have spent nearly two days in a train, spending time to find a comfortable way to sit or lay down.
Where is this place?
Roughly, Perm is situated on “this side” of the Ural Mountains, being the last European city on the border of Asia that starts on the other side of the Urals. As the people of Perm like to say, Perm is the first large European city that sees the sun of the rising day. I am sure they do see it, but calling themselves large European city seems to be too bold. Even if it is correct from the geographical perspective.
At this moment, Perm has the population of just a little more than a million people, but on the other hand it really is a BIG city, since by its area Moscow is the only largest city in Russia. The trick is that Perm is situated on the river Kama and is therefore stretched along both banks for quite a while, covering an area of 800 square kilometres. To compare: Tallinn covers an area of 158 sq/km and the area of London is 1560 sq/km. So Perm is just somewhere in between.
What is this place?
Tough question. It is such a big city that it has a bit of everything. History books say that the city was founded in 1723 together with heavy metal industry in the area. That says it – born as an industrial city, it still is one. Czarist Russia’s largest cannon is made in Perm, of course. Like many other guns and cannons. And electric welding is claimed to have been invented in a suburb of Perm called Motoviliha. In more modern times Perm produced airplane and rocket engines, the famous “foldable” bicycles and other goods. But luckily that is not all – most definitely the most valuable asset of the area is its unprecedented nature and picturesque landscapes and views. But I guess that is also a matter of time and mindset – if you go to the museum, you can enjoy fine arts – the unique wooden sculptures from 17th-18th century, icons, 15th century paintings from the Dutch, Italian and French school painters, jewels from local gems etc. Or you can go to see ballet or the opera. Or sports contest. Circus. Supermarket. Movies. Or go walk in the park.
As said, this city has a bit of everything. But as the times change, the city changes too. The 21st century Perm is growing, downtown witnesses the growth of ENORMOUS office and residential buildings. Mainly monstrous constructions which leave the impression that anything can be built and this option is well exploited by the local “biznesmen” – side by side with old decorated wooden houses you can see 15 floors high giants, whose windows’ reflection shows tens of similar buildings all around the city. It’s a big city, what can you do about it. Supposedly the other aspects of life grow as well.
Luckily the Perm I experienced was different. Since I spent there all my summers I saw a lot and visited a lot. When in Perm, I had the honor of living on the artery of the city – near the Komsomol boulevard on a peaceful alley named after a heroic female pilot Polina Ossipenko. A comfy place – from the 5th floor windows you could see the treetops around the courtyard, the sun shined right in to your room and you could hear just one sound – the herds of swallows flying and the sound of dominoes’ stones hitting the metal-coated table in the courtyard – the retired residents of the neighbouring buildings knew well, how to avoid boredom. Then there was a gigantic cage on top of one building, where some guy was breeding pidgeons. By the way Perm was full of crystal white pidgeons. Never seen one so white in Tallinn.
As I visited Perm mostly during the summer, I was always followed by the same curse of cottonwood trees – the whole city was covered with white fluff that you could find everywhere and anywhere. And if it is hot, then it is twice the horror. Usually I didn’t stay in Perm for more than three days, since I knew that more pleasant things await me – our cottage house on the river together with its pier, the diving trampoline, paddle boat and power-boat, a small sandy islet just within swimming distance, with ripe strawberry garden and fishing rods and all the nice neighbours and friends. Therefore I was always in a hurry to finish all mandatory things in the city as soon as possible in order to go to the most enjoyable summer-cottage in the world. The mandatory list included seeing all the relatives, meeting old friends, visiting uncle Dima, eating and drinking ourselves to insanity every time, because far-away guests receive special hospitality in Perm.
Therefore I have not fully discovered Perm for my-self, as I always wanted to take off from there as soon as possible, sparing time just for my favourite places – the supercool recreation-and-sports shop near the cinema, tech store on Komsomol square, the “Belotshka” souvenir shop, the deli, the wafer ice-cream, root beer sold from big yellow tanks on the street-corners, donut café, the amusement park – these are the places I miss, since it has been a long time since I last visited Perm – in summer of 1997. But that is nothing compared to my longing for getting out of Perm, taking the electric train to Ljovshino port and continue from there with a three-hour boat trip along Kama and Chussovaya rivers up to the Talitsa village to our cottage house. Unfortunately I am quite sure that by now I will find neither the old friends nor the nice neighbours there, and I also do not know the new owners of our cottage house there. But the memories are still very much alive and I am very sure that I want to see those views of the nature and down the valley once again. Who wants to join me, just let me know – the more the merrier and more fun travelling, I guess.
Kaarel Mikkin works at the advertising company “Division”