In January 2011, we went with new friends to Harbin (Ha’erbin), China for the annual ice and snow spectacles. This is a four hour train ride north, into the tundra and the sub-Siberian plains. To put this in perspective for you, Harbin is at about 45 degrees north latitude, on par with Green Bay. Thankfully, we just missed a bitterly cold weekend, and arrived instead when it was a balmy -4F and a wind chill of -20. When I asked Tim what he was going to wear for the trip, he said, “Everything.”
Harbin is on the Songhua River (now frozen in a gorgeous Rockwellian vision, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGqx4Er68t4) and is linked by rail to Vladivostok and the Chinese port city of Dalian. The Russian influence is obvious, including architecture that resembles any European walking street rather than a Chinese city. The Church of St. Sofia was built in 1907 in the Byzantine style complete with onion domes and clay bricks.
Specifically, we went to Harbin for the Ice and Snow Festivals, and they did not disappoint. Artisans from all over the world start in October to create these amazing structures. The snow sculptures were peaceful and huge. The ice palaces were like a Siberian Vegas, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3RJ75b6f2U. We also visited the Tiger Park, where they are saving Siberian tigers through preservation and breeding programs.
Through the weekend, we saw many amazing sites and people, ate some great food, and survived the cold wearing everything plus an extra pair of socks.