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Solikamsk and the Salt Mines

Rated as the third-largest city in Russia’s Perm Krai, Solikamsk is most likely best known for its production of salt. In fact Solikamsk literally means “Salts of Kama” – a reference to the Kama River that flows nearby. Solikamsk was established in 1430 upon the discovery of rich salt deposits in the area. A merchant family from Russia by the name of Kalinnikov set up a salt processing plant, providing employment for the majority of the inhabitants of the rapidly developing town. The town grew into a city, and the mining and processing of salt and its related products continues to be the backbone of the economy of Solikamsk.

During the development of the town, many impressive buildings were constructed, reflecting the architectural styles of the time. Among these were a number of churches, some of which suffered damage during the Soviet-era when religion was suppressed, but many survived or were restored, giving an old-world atmosphere to this modern city which is home to around 110,000 people. Many of these ancient architectural masterpieces are located within easy walking distance of the main Market Square, which is an attraction in its own right. Among the historic religious buildings in Solikamsk is the Trinity Cathedral, which was built in the late 17th century, with a 60 meter tall bell-tower and spire being added in 1713. Located nearby is the Epiphany Church, distinguished by its colorful ceramic tiles and its richly decorated early 19th century iconostasis (icon screen). Other noteworthy religious sites include the Monastery of the Ascension (late 16th century); the Transfiguration Convent (17th century); the Cathedral of the Elevation of the Cross (consecrated in 1709); and the Church of John the Baptist (early 18th century).

While religious architecture is prominent in Solikamsk, there are other fascinating attractions to explore. Detailing the history and developments relating to the main industry of the city, the Salts of Prikamye Museum is well worth visiting, and a trip to Solikamsk would not be complete without going on a guided tour of the salt mines. In the interests of safety, visitors are kitted out with a helmet, lamp and oxygen supply. The tour guide instructs the group on safety measures before everyone is transported by elevator to one of the levels of the mine. From there the tour group is transported by a special bus through the labyrinth of tunnels where the extraction of salt can be observed. Having moved ahead with the times and technology, these days the salt is removed with modern excavators, before being transported on conveyor belts to the processing plant. Fresh air is constantly being blown through the tunnels, and although the air appears dusty, it is said to be healthy because of being rich in salts and minerals. Certainly, a trip down the salt mines of Solikamsk would be a memorable experience.

 



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