So the main reason we decided to travel to Harbin in this frigid season was the annual Ice Festival. After a lot of drama about whether it was open for visitors, we went to see and it turned out to be open and relatively empty! The ice sculptures were magnificent; buildings, castles, slides, pagodas, etc. We were able to walk around on many of the structures and slide down several of the luges.
It was also pretty neat to see the workers in construction-mode; the official opening isn't until this week, so a few of the buildings were incomplete and being worked on while we were there.
Our strategy for the cold was a cycle of walking around and taking coffee breaks to thaw.
|Adam kept warm by shaking is booty to random hip hop music!|
Thus, we were at the Ice Festival for a while and witnessed a gorgeous sunset
AND the spectacularly lit ice structures:
This was about the time that people flooded in, so we decided to meet Alberta (a Fogarty in Nanjing) and her boyfriend Daniel at the hotel and head to dinner. We ate a delicious Chinese-version-of-Korean-BBQ restaurant and crashed at the hotel in preparation for Day 2: Snow Festival!
For those of you who have never been in -20 degree weather, here's a quick glance at the dressing process:
(tights, 2 pairs of long underwear pants, jeans, 3 long-sleeved shirts, 1 T-shirt, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, hat, earmuffs, jacket, hood, scarf, AND hand and foot warmers).
The Snow Festival is similar to the Ice Festival in that it's basically structures made out of snow; however, these were more sculptures and fewer buildings. We passed everything from the Mona Lisa (under construction):
to David (Goliath was across the street),
to the characters from Shrek
to The Birth of Venus (made from dyed ice put into a frame of snow)!
I was surprised by how "western" the Snow Festival seemed, particularly in contrast to the Ice Festival; Marco Polo was the only "eastern" figure, and there were 3 of him! They apparently love him here because of the Silk Road.
(every time we saw Marco Polo, Adam mistook him for Jesus!)
After encountering a small parade, we came upon another slide, but this time you rode down on a tube! We couldn't resist :)
By this point, we were beyond frozen. You know you're cold when...
your breath freezes on your scarf, hat,
We went into the city center for lunch and to find the St. Sophia Cathedral. We ran out of time, but managed to catch a glimpse as we searched for a cab to take us to the train station.
The bottom line of this trip? A fantastic experience, but never again will we go willingly to such cold weather!