Monday, January 14, 2013

The Songhua River and New Year's Eve in Haerbin

After lunch, we went to the Songhua River.  It is frozen solid--they even claim that an elephant can walk across it safely, and there are statues of elephants around town to support the claim.  But they have created a "fun park" with all kinds of things to do, so we were off to slide down the ice slide!

Sliding on the Songhua River 

Once was not enough, so we took several turns.  Pretty much fun!  They had a little pad of straw for you to sit on as you slid, not like the Ice & Snow World where we had to slide on our pants.

There were other attractions here, not all were in operation.  We thought this sled would have been great with the grandkids!  Cool dragon head!

Although there was not enough wind to go alone, that didn't stop Kirk from trying the sled sailboat.  With help from the workers, he had a fun ride.

We were hoping to catch someone jumping into the pool for the 'polar bear plunge'.  This pool is just cut out of the river!  No bottom or sides to it.  I can't imagine jumping in there! 

 No one swimming today.  Can't imagine why?

It was interesting how all the boats were just frozen up in the river--what a sight!
Next stop was St. Sophia's Church.  This Russian Orthodox Church, built in the Byzantine style, was the only surviving church in Haerbin from the Cultural Revolution.  It was made from bricks which were harder for the Red Guards to knock down.  It is a major stop in touring the city.  Inside is a display of Haerbin historical photos, but the walls have been stripped.  A couple of beautiful chandeliers are still there.

We were so very cold again--no heat in the church!  We decided to go to a Russian Restaurant for New Year's Eve dinner.  First we went in the wrong place, but came across this absolutely gorgeous restaurant with wood carvings--Kirk met the owner who had done them all IN PLACE by hand!  Amazing!

We found the right restaurant with the rest of our BYU group and enjoyed a lovely dinner, good company and some piano and flute music.  They even played "Home on the Range" and we obliged them by singing along!

I had borscht, but it was tomato-based, not beet.  Also had salmon, but not as good as the Pacific Northwest!  After dinner, we had our guide book us a show at the Moscow Theater.  It looked like we were in for a fun entertainment!

Moscow Theater

After this music, there were acrobats, kung fu artists (who could bend steel with their chest and lay on a bed of nails), magicians, a calligrapher (whose work was auctioned off), and more musical numbers.  We used our clappers to applaud with (as did all the patrons) and enjoyed a fruit plate, popcorn, peanuts, sunflower seeds and corn nuts as snacks.

More music followed and some of it was sung in Russian.  Maybe Brian & Mark can understand the words?

Russian Singer

Hmm, those costumes were a bit skimpy.  Is this Las Vegas?

More songs and some slides showing the history of Harbin.  It was mostly entertaining, but then some of the numbers were on the 'erotic' side (like a strip tease to "Santa Baby")!  At first we were just shocked, but soon I got up and left, and the rest of the BYU group followed.  Hope we don't hear about it in the Daily Universe!  Our tour guide said, "Is the show over?"  We said no, but that we didn't like the racy numbers.  He assured us that there were "only a few of them".  Isn't that just like the reasoning of the world?

We went back to the hotel, and I was just TOO COLD to go out again.  Kirk and Don went down to Zhao Lin Park, where the Ice & Snow Festival originated, and down to Center Street where they saw the Flood Control Monument and watched people setting off sky lanterns.  I wish I would have gone to see that!

The Flood Control Monument; remembering the floods of 1957 and 1998.

More pretty ice sculptures in the park.

Look closely to see 3 sky lanterns floating up Mulan-style--cool!

110-yr-old Central Street--Russian architecture, cobblestones and shopping for a mile long.
What a beautiful place to spend the last day of 2012.  Happy New Year!

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