With a scenery and strong East European flavor, Harbin has long been known as “the Oriental Moscow.”Its buildings have striking features are in combination of eastern and western architecture style. With a long history, it’s not only the place where cultures of northern ethnic minorities infuse with one another, but also a famous city that absorbs both Chinese and western cultures. The solemn and majestic Sancta Cathedral, mysterious Nicolas Cathedral, the Russian wooden houses in unique shape, the exquisite Gothic buildings, the Central Street with European buildings and the bright and elegant architecture style all reflect the unique charm of “the Oriental Moscow.”
As its geographic location and culture exert an influence on Harbin, Russian cuisine has been popular here for hundreds of years. On June 9, 1898, the first railway cafeteria owned by Russians was run in Tianjia Shaoguo Yard in Harbin. The cook ingeniously blended potatoes with beef, leading to the widespread famous Russian delicacy, which is braised beef with potatoes. It remains popular today. Later, as Harbin developed more Russian, Polish and Jewish merchants came flooding into Harbin, bringing on the boom of the local catering business.
37 western restaurants scatter along sides of the Central Street in Harbin with their cranky names. For example, Miniang Jiu’er (today’s Harbin Photographing Studio) offers Moscow loaves, local flavor fruits and coffee; Zhazhu Aowei (today’s Central Street Barbershop) offer western food and tea, among which the buns are famous in Harbin; Ta Tousi (today’s corner of the Central Street and the Hongxia Street) mainly offers Caucasian chickens, sauces, roasted muttons and smoked salmon; Yi Rili offers Caucasian mutton kebabs, fish kebabs and roasted meat; Yadao Gulubu (today’s Tiejiang Shang Club) offers famous dish such as as the char-grilled suckling pigs, along with various cold dishes; Mar Sixi (today’s Huameixi Restaurant) offers famous dishes such as as paper-wrapped beef, paper-wrapped prawns and braised oxtail in casserole.
Of course, no restaurant can be famous than Modern Restaurant. Additionally, English and French meals as well as western food, it has traditional Russian dishes such as mandarin fish in milk, shredded meat in milk, creamed chicken breasts, char-grilled muttons, char-grilled fillet, apple pie and borsch. They have excellent taste and have reasonable prices.
Today, you taste the Russian dishes in Harbin that does not only satisfy your stomach, but more allows you to experience the exotic flavor that Russian dishes have.
The Culture of Ice and Snow
Harbin has long been known as the city of ice. Its culture of ice lanterns and ice sculptures can be dated back to the beginning of 1960s and stemmed from the folk culture of ice and snow. Its landscape art and mainly represented by architectures and sculptures, it gradually developed into the representative culture of ice and snow in Harbin at the second half of the last century. The annual Ice and Snow Festival and the ice lantern garden party offer opportunities for you to appreciate the splendid ice lanterns and ice sculptures.
The Han people are most dominant residents in Harbin and most of them are the immigrants from Shandong and Hebei provinces. In the past, there were many foreign emigrants in Harbin, among whom Russian emigrants were dominant. The foreign emigrants’ way of life and their customs exerted had an influence on culture and the eating habits of Harbin people. Then, the staple food of the Harbin people was large pancake (fried corn bread). Today, eating habits such as having gruels, steamed millet and stewed dishes remain as they were. Influenced by the culture of the ethnic minorities, the local people are fond of rice cakes, steamed sticky-rice buns, loaves and sausages.
Going Outing and Having Picnics
Influenced by the northern nomads, the Harbin people have formed the habit of going outing as early as in 1990s. After its liberation, this habit started to prevail among people. As people’s lives have upgraded, seasonal outings started to involve activities such as having picnics, hunting and riding horses in Yuqua and Pingshan Mountain. Surrounded by verdant hills and green waters, you can drink beers and have barbecues while enjoying what nature has to offer.
The various European buildings and traditional Chinese buildings both contribute to the uniqueness of the architecture style of Harbin. In recent years, a myriad of newly constructed modern buildings make the city rich in both western and Chinese architecture styles. Anyone who visits Harbin for the first time will have the feeling of being inside a museum of architectures.