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Are We in China, or Russia?

The next morning, CCC offered us a choice between skiing the local slopes or visiting a war museum documenting horrible Japanese experiments on Chinese POWs during World War II.

We passed on both, choosing to laze around the hotel until it was time to meet our group for lunch at a traditional Russian restaurant.

The restaurant was amazingly authentic, complete with gilded ceilings, gorgeous candeliers, indifferent food, and surly waiters. Were we in 2005 China, or 1975 Soviet Union?

After lunch, we strolled down Harbin’s main shopping street, a pedestrian walking area lined with Russian-style buildings.

Department stores, bakeries and souvenir shops were punctuated by more ice sculptures, many sporting advertisements for nearby shops.

Some of the ice sculptures actually were shops themselves!

Sami and Miranda had fun posing in the “eyes” of this “king.”

Despite the cold, many other pedestrians walked the street. Regiments of soldiers and ubiquitous street sweepers completed the lively scene:

By far the girls’ favorite sight was the cake-decorator working in the window of a large bakery. The window’s glare prevented me from getting a good shot of her work, but the girls spent half an hour standing still in the cold watching her create fancy decorations, until their cheeks were as rosy as the flowers she put on her cakes.

Our final stop was the St. Sophia church, the center of Harbin’s old town and formerly the heart of the Russian community.

Before entering the church, we paid “tuppence” for bird seed for the resident pigeons:

The inside of the church was unremarkable, as was the underground mall we discovered that led us back almost to our hotel. But it was warm!

We met up with the group again in the lobby, where the girls goofed around with Rex, one of our guides.
A final bus ride took us back to the Harbin railway station, where we thanked our CCC friends, Feng Cheng, Rex and Crystal, and boarded our train back to Beijing.

The next morning, on the platform of the Beijing station, Miranda exulted, “We did it! We survived Harbin!” She meant, we had endured the freezing weather.

To me and to Tom, it meant that another one of our dreams had come true.

Harbin chapter shortcuts: Intro Train Wonders Sculptures Tigers Ice Dreams Sunday Stroll

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