Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ice Festival



















The temperature in Harbin reaches forty below zero, both Fahrenheit and centigrade, and stays below freezing nearly half the year. The city is actually further north than notoriously cold Vladivostok , Russia , just 300 miles away. So what does one do here every winter? Hold an outdoor festival, of course! Rather than suffer the cold, the residents of Harbin celebrate it, with an annual festival of snow and ice sculptures and competitions.


The ice festival, a few miles away from the snow festival, is anything but dull and colorless. Crowds flocking to the entrance are greeted by dance music booming in the distance, as if at an outdoor pop concert. And bright neon colors shine everywhere, buried within huge blocks of ice forming structures as high as thirty meters, such as this huge structure beyond the entryway. You can just make out people standing atop its blue and red stairway.


The Great Wall doubles as a long ice slide; just sit and go. You can pick up some serious speed and wipe out spectacularly at the bottom if you're wearing a slick coat, but you won't go anywhere if you're wearing corduroy pants.


A view from atop that structure, looking back on a Russian-styled building and a mock Great Wall, both constructed out of ice. Making it to the top of this structure is an accomplishment in itself - imagine walking up a stairway of solid ice for two floors with no handrails. The yellow block wall on the right and the balconywork on the lower left are all ice, with no internal support structure - just lights.


An overview of the ice festival from atop the Great Wall of ice. It's like a Disney theme park, with multiple attractions and food hawkers and kids running around and people lined up for bathrooms. The only differences are that the temperature is about a hundred degrees colder than the typical Disney park, and all the structures are made out of ice rather than plastic - and slipping and falling here doesn't result in tremendous lawsuits.


An entire ship constructed of ice, with passengers onboard. Though it might not be seaworthy, the ship would certainly float - after all, it's made of ice. Hundreds of years ago during the Manchu days of ice lantern art, the sculptures were lit only by candles.


Thanks Norma K.

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