Harbin


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Asia » China » Dongbei » Harbin
June 11th 2006
Published: June 23rd 2006
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Harbin, normally best known for its Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival which takes place in January, appeared on television sets around the world last November as the water supply of the city's 3.8 million inhabitants was cut off for several days. An accident at a chemical plant in a city upstream from Harbin had polluted the city's main water source, the Songhua river, with a 80-km long benzene slick. Since then, with the water supply back to normal, the city has once again retreated from the world stage, and it will probably remain largely forgotten in Europe until the next Ice Festival...

We arrived in Harbin on Friday morning from Beijing. Perhaps it was not one of the most logical places to visit. Except for the winter months, the city's sights are largely restricted to some churches & parks, an infamous Japanese WWII germ warfare research center, as well as a breeding center for Siberian tigers. However, after many weeks in southeast Asia and China, we were interested in experiencing something a bit different: Given its proxemity to Russia, Harbin's architecture, food and people are all deeply influenced by its neighour. Also, the weather seemed quite attractive. It gets bitterly cold in Harbin in winter but we were told that we could escape Beijing's heat and be comfortable there in summer.

While in Harbin, we did surprisingly little, while just trying to recharge our batteries for our impending visit to Beijing. We walked around the cobblestoned streets of the city center and along the wide promenade next to the Songhua River, and visited the Church of St Sophia with its photographic exhibition on Harbin's past. The city's Russian and European-influenced architecture was impressive and seemed a bit out of place in China. When not out exploring, we enjoyed the food markets with their cheap local beer, and Cafe Russia, where we tasted some delicious Russian dishes. Also, it was nice to have to wear a jumper in the evening, having gotten used to southeast Asia's hot and humid weather. All in all, our stay in the city was relaxing and very enjoyable. I hope to return some time in winter to check out its ice sculptures. This time, Beijing was waiting for us though, and on Saturday evening we got on an overnight train to Beijing. It was to be our last train journey in China, having covered over 7000km by train in China by the time we got in to Beijing on Sunday morning...

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19th June 2006

tell me more
what a great trip I wish I could do this with real friends on day

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