Monday, February 2, 2009

Harbin--The Russian Influence--Part III

The next day the International Workshop for AIDS/HIV Prevention in Heilongjiang Province begins.

Here is Judith beginning her talk.

After the workshop we go to our customary banquet, but this time it is at a special place. We ate in a building with a long Russian past. Construction of the building began in 1903 and at various times it was used by the railroad construction engineers and later Russian officers after the Japanese-Russian war (which the Russians lost).

We were given a booklet of pictorial history of the building, but it is not in English and efforts to find out its history in the Internet were futile.

Black bread is a specialty in the area due to the Russian influence and it was served at our dinner as an appetizer. No where in China have I ever seen a piece of bread unless it was set out in one of the western hotel breakfast buffets. So, as Chinese cities go, Harbin is very unique. Also this is the first time we didn’t eat at a round table. All the top health officials were present, including the president of the local hospital research center. Since a round table was missing there was a lot more movement to the toasting procedure. As is the custom the host gives the first toast, then priority of status dictates the following toasts. At some point there seems to a slight loll in the toasts so the guests can join in, which is only the polite thing to do.

On the way back to our hotel we stop and see the magnificent Russian Orthodox Church, St. Sophia. The loudspeakers were playing balalaika music.

We briefly walked down the famous Zhongyang Street. It is the longest business street in the country and is the main shopping district. There are ice sculptures spaced throughout the street. Below is a cello player and in the background, the Modern Hotel can be seen. The Modern Hotel was first built in 1906 and is of typical architecture during the French King Louis XIV period in the renaissance.

Here is another European building along the street.

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