The second day in Harbin we were still trying to decide why anyone would willingly live somewhere that cold all the time. We were unable to think of a single viable reason. However, I did find the best thing ever in the park along the frozen river...this vendor:
Yes that's right. That woman is standing alonside a frozen river, selling cotton candy, and unabashadly blowing cigarette smoke into the candy. Needless to say we declined to partake in the treat but I do think that is my favorite picture from Harbin.
Despite the freezing cold, Harbin does have some nice pedestrian areas. The pictures from the previous post are part of a pedestrian area filled with shops, dubious restauarants, a movie theater, WalMart, and about a dozen (seriously) KFCs. Running perpendicular to that street and along the river is another pedestrian area flanked by docs on one side and a park on the other. If I lived in Harbin I would probably spend October through May huddled in my house wrapped in multiple electric blankets. Natives however, don't seem to mind the cold. Lots of people, mostly old people, were out and about exercising, socializing (which seemed pretty much the same thing), participating in some sort of televised run the point of which we couldn't figure out, etc. I particularly liked these gentlemen.
This park also included a lot of adult playground equipment! I'd heard that adult playgrounds were starting in Europe with people sized versions of kids toys; the one here was more like actual gym equipment but built to withstand the elements and painted in bright happy colors. There were parallel bars, mock elypticals, and some other things I don't remember. Lauren had fun trying out one of the elyptical contraptions. Also along the park were I think the best street lamps I've ever seen.
Some interesting topiary
And nifty boats
One of the (few) sights to see in Harbin is the Saint Sophia Russian Orthodox Church...which is no longer a church. Many of the Christian churches and the one synagog are now museums of some sort. The Saint Sophia is sadly crumbling on both the outside and inside...but for all its faded glory it is still beautiful. It took us for bloody ever to find it and like pretty much everywhere else I had a hard time taking pictures because my fingers, even inside my gloves, were so frozen.
Inside the church is a museum featuring a brief history of Harbin consisting of pictoral timelines. Annd a ridiculously expensive gift shop.