This weekend I went to Harbin. It had been recommended to me as a "must do" before I left for China because if it's Snow and Ice Festival. Harbin is in the northernmost province of China, and it used to be the Russian headquarters when the Russians invaded China. It is very cold with a lot of Russian influence in the architecture. When I arrived it was flurrying and a warm -11 degrees Celsius (12 Fahrenheit - I had heard of temperatures as low as -33 degrees). After I got settled at the hotel, I headed off to make my way to the festival.
|The blur in this picture is a snowplow on the airport tarmac.|
|The frozen Songua River|
|If you look closely, you can see frozen snowflakes|
|US submission to snow sculpture competition|
|One of China's submissions to snow sculpture competition|
There's a third section to the festival - ice sculptures in Zhaolin Park. However, it opened at 3:00pm, so I was at the snow sculptures the first day and had to catch a cab to the airport at that time the second day. Something very amusing is how no one actually knew very much about the festival - you ask what time it opens, and you are given evening hours when it opens in the afternoon; prices are slightly off; and the information from the Internet was wrong. It was an experience.
I spent the second day looking around the area by the hotel. I went to the Church of St. Sophia - the largest Russian Orthodox Church in East Asia and apparently the surrounding area was a Jewish area at some point. It's a very dark building compared to all the light colors of the rest of the buildings in Harbin, but it was gorgeous. It also had a museum inside with photographs of the history of Harbin. Then I walked to Zhongyang Street, a pedestrian street and open outdoor architectural museum. I liked seeing all the different styles of buildings.
Then I took a cab from the hotel back to the airport. My cab driver was wonderful - he pointed out sights, stopped for me to take pictures, and spoke very slowly so I could sometimes figure out what he was saying. And I made it back to Nanjing with all my fingers and toes.