While this year's excessive cold snap is a nuisance for most people who live in the Northern Hemisphere, it is probably being welcomed with open arms by the residents of Harbin, one of China's coldest cities and host to the world's largest and most spectacular Ice and Snow Festival.
Now in its 27th season, this year's event that cost $900,000 USD, is expected to attract over a million people, despite the arctic-like temperatures, which can dip as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius). While the official start date for the month-long event is January 5th, visitors can get a sneak peak at the sculptures much before that and often after the closing date of February 5th, provided the weather co-operates.
All the amazing life-size sculptures are hand carved using compressed snow and blocks of ice sawn off from the surface of the nearby Songhua River. They are then enhanced with decorations that range from traditional lanterns to high technology laser beams. The result is a magical winter wonderland that mesmerizes all visitors.
The sculptures range from giant castles, churches and cathedrals to ancient Chinese pagodas and large Buddha figures. Each year, they become increasingly intricate and sophisticated, as the artists try to outdo each other. This year is no exception - Among the 2,000 plus masterpieces is a full-size Disney castle and the great Sphinx of Giza.
Besides admiring the sparkling sculptures, visitors can even participate in a range of activities that include hot-air ballooning, ice sculpture competitions, ice swimming, as well as, other winter-related sports and . . . . . . . get married. For it seems that the festival has become a favorite spot for couples all over the world, to tie the knot.
sources: chinadaily.com, cnn.com, wikipedia.com,huffingtonpost.com