Spring is knocking on our doors, and also this year the Harbin Ice Festival is coming to an end.
The mild temperatures of the new season will soon completely melt the sculptures that for two months have made this town a unique place in the Asian world.
Now in its thirtieth edition, the festival has its roots in ancient traditions and has been able to transform the environmental difficulties of this place in a real cultural and tourist resource.
Capital of Heilongjiang Chinese province, in the center of Manchuria and close to Siberia, Harbin has a long tradition of ice manufacturing thanks to its arctic climate: already in 1600, in fact, local fishermen used to build ice lanterns that, during the winter nights, made the landscape particularly striking. When, in 1896, a rail link was built with neighboring Russia , the Harbin community was enriched by people, incentives and trade that grew over the decades.
At the same time grew also culture, architecture and tourism, culminating in what is now one of the most prestigious festivals in the world: 180 thousand cubic meters of ice, 7000 workers, 750 thousand square meters to build from scratch a large temporary village made of snow, colors and lights, thanks to external temperatures that from December to February remains stable at around 20 degrees below zero.
A combination of art and science, which every year brings in Harbin 800,000 visitors, most of them Chinese, interested in traditional winter sports and in the spectacular experience of the Ice Festival.
Harbin in the past was a merely rural center linked to the Songhua River and then, after the Second World War, an industrial center with a lively Russian community, to become today "The City of Joy" or "The Paris of the East" due to the its artistic importance.
The Ice Festival boasts attractions such as Zhaolin Park and the Ice & Snow World (to be visited at night) or the Snow Sculpture Art Expo. It begins every year on 5 January with a famous fireworks show and closes between late February and early March when temperature rises.
But Harbin has more to offer: the Siberian Tiger Park, the Central Avenue and its 77 decorated buildings, the Church of St. Sophia, Stalin Park with its 42 kilometers of promenade along the river.
The Festival Tour Operator offers several travel proposals to tourists: there holiday packages that include a swim in the icy river, a climb at high altitude, an insights dedicated to Russian culture, excursions with sled dogs or overnight stays in rural villages.
An interesting destination for lovers of the Far East and border communities.