Heilongjiang Winter is No Joke
I wore fleece socks over my regular socks, long underwear (heavy duty for the pants), a mask hat, and thermal fleece gloves. And still there were times my fingers and toes felt awful. And then some of the indoors places are overheated! Your camera will use batteries faster than usual. And in between pictures, you should keep it close to your skin or it might stop working. It is all rather awkward, but where else will you see such sights?
The Russian Cafe
The Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and other guidebooks suggest that the Huamei is the only Russian restaurant in town. This is absurd as we saw many of them, but our favourite was The Russian Café close to the northern end of Zhongyang Lu. It is actually behind the KFC right at the top of the street.
The Russian Café is small, with just ten tables, and always crowded, but its warmth and atmosphere made it a real hit with everyone. The walls are covered in photographs of old Harbin, including alarming photographs of the flood of 1932. Glass bookcases hold all manner of old cameras and clocks, porcelain, glassware, jugs and nick-nacks galore. Some of these old items are for sale.
By each table is a huge wooden basket for putting all your scarves, hats and gloves – a nice touch.
The menu is not exhaustive, but there is a good selection of Russian fare, and far more authentic and rustic than the dreadful Huamei further up Zhongyang Lu. Great bortsch, oxtail soup, and cabbage and meat rolls with mashed potato. All served the Russian way. The staff are dressed in 1920s dresses and were keen to talk about the photographs and memorabilia, a far cry from the Stalinist danwei lot at “another” restaurant. (The waitresses do not speak any English. When in doubt, get your 10-year old daughter to embarrass you by speaking fluent Beijinghua Chinese to them. Jaws hit the floor all round. Sorry. It’s our party trick to get free ice cream).
The coffee is not great, but a damn sight better than KFC round the corner.
Of note is that the Russian Café promotes local photographers and the photos of “Shenjingyi” through the 1970s and 1980s are excellent: we bought one print as our souvenir of China. The cabbage and meat rolls!
The Birthplace of Ice Sculpture
Situated in the central area of t he city and covering an area of 6.5 hectares, Zhaolin Park
faces the beautiful Songhua River. Built in 1906, this park was named after LiZhaolin, a famous general of the Allied Ant i-Japanese Army. Owing to the unique climatic conditions, two distinct categories of natural beauties can be found in Zhaolin Park.
In summer, the green plants and colorful flowers make the park the countryside of the city. The
tourists can not only do sightseeing by boat but also get a panorama on the 42-meter-high
In winter, the park will become an icy world and a sea of lanterns. The world famous Festival of Ice Lanterns has been held here 26 times already.
Zhaolin Park is the original location of the annual Ice Sculpture. To-date, the park still sports a mini Ice Sculpture compared the the current larger one across the SongHua River.
While most of the Russian architecture may be lost (the sign said, iirc, 'we've preserved sixteen buildings...') the ice festival still merits the trip. Not only for larger than life artistic expressions of the ice variety, but for the sheer fun of layering so deeply as to recreate that childhood chaos of having to turn one's entire body in order to see in any direction other than straight ahead.
A Few Interesting and Extraordinary Things
Central Ave. is the longest cobble-stone street in Asia. Even the new buildings are reminiscent of Russian-style. The small part of red-and-white tent you can see is the first KFC in Harbin.
My nephews and I were just wild on a walking-only street.
Central Ave. again. The hotel behind us is where Madame Sun Yet-Sen and other most well-known Chinese once stayed. Together with me was a best friend at that time. Even when I was unfriendly to a lot of people, she said she saw tenderness within me. She was the only person who could criticize me in a way that makes me feel I was loved. She was the only person who once told me how happy it is to be married.
The Monument to the People's Victory over Floods right on the bank of the Songhua River. The 20-column structure behind it is Roman-style.
Stalin Park along Songhua River. I was graduating from Senior High School.
A relatively new 'community' where my brother and his family live (a 'community' means a group of buildings which are similar and has some community facilities). My grandma is enjoying herself.