Harbin Ice Festival 

It’s -20C with the wind blowing from the East. We are hiking through the icy wastelands of China’s most northern Province Capital. Across the frozen river, we reach the Snow Park on a small island where only the name reminds of summer, “sun island”.

What we discover is an amazing world of Ice and Snow; a snow church, 40 meters high, and an entire scenery carved out of snow and frozen ice. As we watch the sunset, the ice becomes illuminated and shows a very colorful side. Hand and foot warmers and warm ginger tea helped to keep us warm.

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To avoid freezing, we took the cable car back across the river. Only to discover that we had seen only the smaller of two ice worlds. After dinner, we wrapped ourselves in anything we could find and braces against the cold. Unfortunately, we had to discover that access was no longer possible this evening (the taxi driver took us to two travel agencies who told us that no more tickets would be sold after 7:30). However, we assume that tickets can be bought on site but we never figured it out.

Instead, we visited Zhaolin Park. Amazing ice sculptures and old pavilions above.

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Next morning we slept in (both still a bit sick) and continued our quest for the elusive ice world. Taxi driver, again, took us to a travel agency. Next obstacle, they told us, tickets are only available from 3pm (tickets are actually available at other times, but it seems that the friendly Chinese ladies just thought that it is not pretty, earlier). But nothing could stop us then, so we rescheduled our flight and got the tickets.

We went to visit the beautiful Russian St. Sophie Church.

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At 14:30, we took a taxi and finally made it passed the travel agencies and to the ice world. There, we were presented with a final challenge: to convert our ticket slips into actual tickets. Asterix and Obelix fans will remember the “Passierschein A38”. We are sent around the main entrance hall and are greeted at each station with a friendly “mei you. Go there”. Finally, we realized that the ticket office had sold us a group ticket. Only problem was that the lady at the group ticket booth thought that two persons without a guide do not make a group. A friendly staff finally brought us to the tour guide staff building and a guide simply added us to a group. We finally made it.

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Was it worth it? Yes it was. Even bigger than yesterday’s snow world, the ice world featured among others a large ice towers, a ice replica of Hagia Sophia, and a snow Chinese wall. Again, our timing was perfect. Around sunset, we could first explore the ice world at dawn and later see it illuminated. Both ways are very pretty.

Happy and content, we went to the airport. Our flight arrived in Shanghai at midnight. As I had to take a flight the next day at 7am, we handled it consulting style and stayed at the airport instead of going home, to get at least 3h sleep.
Bonus: Here is a picture of the sculpture to make the 25th place in the snow sculpture competition  

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