Winter Getaways in Greenland – a must do!

 

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I am telling you – the Christmas season in Greenland simply does not get any cosier! There are orange Christmas stars in every house and office window, the days are getting shorter each day, there are always candles lit, and there are a ton of Christmas trees all over town. Oh yeah, and there is a ton of snow and northern lights!

I have personally been in the absolute highest of holiday spirits this year – baking up a storm nearly every other day with warm fruit compotes or cranberry something-or-others, and decorating the house with festive candles and a Greenlandic mobile. Cultivating cosy has been such an enjoyment!

Here are three ways and places you, too, can get filled with the winter spirit in Greenland!

Celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in Nuuk

Bid the sun welcome back in Ilulissat in mid-January

Have fun in the snow in Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq

Arctic Circle Race 2014 – Cross Country Skiing in Greenland

(See all official participant results here.)

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Ready… steady… GO!

This morning (12:00 GMT on Friday 4 April 2014), 150+ sportsmen and sportswomen from 16 nations pushed off the starting line in Sisimiut, Greenland to start Arctic Circle Race 2014! For the next 3 days /2 nights, competitors complete 160 km / 99 miles of physically and mentally challenging marathon cross country skiing through Sisimiut’s backcountry.

Though a few Olympians fresh from Sochi and other world class athletes are present in Sisimiut, the Arctic Circle Race is much more than just a high profile sports event. It is something that brings true pride, happiness, and unity to the entire community of Sisimiut! Here, the Hotel Manager of Hotel Sisimiut describes what the Arctic Circle Race means to Sisimiut residents (translated from Danish):

“ACR is a state of mind!

Over the years, many Sisimiut residents have been involved in the race, either as runners or as volunteers, some for a few years other from the very start, and all deserve a huge thank you. Some have become tired in voluntary work and others are still as enthusiastic and loving it – but all feel something very special today.

It is ACR Day.

ACR is a kind of glue. Such a … glue that binds us together as citizens of Sisimiut. ACR represents the way we want to see ourselves and our fellow citizens. It’s about volunteering, pride, resilience, organization, international standing, but most of all, it is about UNITY. Together we can lift a major project that none of us could do alone.
There is a lot of money put into ACR from sponsors and the municipality, and it is a good investment. But, the community’s ACR spirit and unity is unique and can not be bought with money.

Sisimiut and the Arctic Circle Race, YOU did it ….. AGAIN!”

As testament to the unity and camaraderie the Arctic Circle Race creates, yesterday the competitors, volunteers, and Sisimiut residents all paraded to an opening ceremony & service together at the church in Sisimiut:

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Here’s the starting line today:

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Think their adrenaline is pumping hard enough?

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And they’re off! The first few meters / feet of the next 160 km / 99 miles:

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And at the end of the day, when all the competitors want is a warm shower and bed, this is the camp where they will sleep and get ready to do it all again tomorrow!

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The latest updates from Arctic Circle Race base camp (18:00 GMT):

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For more information & photos and to follow all the action in real time, see the official ACR website or Facebook page.

All photos credit: Arctic Circle Race – ACR Facebook page

PHOTO GALLERY: Signs, Menus, and More Around Towns

A picture lasts forever! That is why I started snapping photos of signs around town, tourist information boards, restaurant menus, etc. Originally I did this for my own personal use, but I think it can be very helpful to anyone dreaming of or planning a trip to Greenland. It is hit or miss whether you can find this same information on the Internet, so I decided to share it here in one single place.

The menus can give you a great idea about average food pricing (all prices listed in Danish Kroner). And I think the photos give an accurate picture of what you can expect to find in terms of posted information when you arrive to Greenland, and in what language(s). Sometimes signs are posted in English, but oftentimes they are only written in Greenlandic and Danish.

DISCLAIMER 1: This is not a comprehensive gallery of every sign, menu, etc. in the given town. Nor is it a comprehensive gallery of every town.

DISCLAIMER 2: There is no guarantee that the information in the photograph will be valid forever. I indicate the season I took the photo so you will know if it is very recent or a bit older. By default, no picture is older than summer 2012.

DISCLAIMER 3: Sorry for the poor quality of some of the photos. As I said, I originally took the photos for my own personal use!

Signs in Ilulissat

Signs in Kangerlussuaq

Signs in Nuuk

Signs in Sisimiut

Signs in Tasiilaq

Signs in Uummannaq

PHOTO GALLERY: Signs/Menus Around Sisimiut

Extremely important information regarding which animal products may leave the country freely, which animal products require a CITES permit, and which animal products may not leave the country at all. This is posted in the Sisimiut Craft Workshop, pictured below. (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4640IMG_4639

Opening Hours for Sisimiut Museum (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4578

Wireless Internet Pricing at Nord Cafe & Art (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4586

Wireless Internet Pricing at Hotel Sisimiut (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4608

Opening Hours at Sisimiut Sport (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4615

Opening Hours at the Grocery Store (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4832

This is the meat & fish market, Qimatulivik (literal translation: “Storage Place”). See below if you happen to be interested in the going rates for Greenlandic specialties like Halibut, Reindeer, Muskox, Seal, Snowhare, etc. (Taken Summer 2013)

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Below – Pricing for Greenlandic specialities (the first word is the animal and the second, third, etc. words describe the cut of meat, the part of the body, whether it is dried or not, and so on).

I will keep it simple and give a small Greenlandic-to-English dictionary of the animals (in order of appearance) 🙂

Also, the second column tells the unit. “Kg-mut” = “per kilo” (2.2 lb). “Ataaseq” = “for one” or “each”.

Tuttu – Reindeer /// Umimmak – Muskox /// Qipoqqaq – Humpback Whale /// Ukaleq – Snowhare /// Arfivik – Bowhead Whale (a.k.a. Greenland Whale) /// Paarnat – Crowberries /// Saarullik – Cod /// Qeeraq – Catfish /// Nataarnaq – Greenlandic Halibut /// Eqaluk – Trout /// Kapisillik – Salmon /// Qaleralik – Halibut /// Ammassat – Capelins /// Puisi – Seal /// Niisa – Porpoise /// Aaveq (Aarrup) – Walrus /// Tikaagullik – Minke Whale /// Qilalugaq (Qilalukkap) – Narwhal /// Aarluarsuk (Aarluarsuup) – Dolphin /// Appa – Auk /// Miteq – Eider Duck /// Taateraaq – Seagull /// Serfaq – Guillemot /// Alleq – Long-tailed duck /// Apparluk – Auk /// Aqisseq – Grouse

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Opening Hours for Flower & Gift Shop (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4657

Storefront of Panigiit, a Gift Shop behind Taseralik (Taken Summer 2013)

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Practical Information in the Welcome Booklet at Seamen’s Home – Sisimiut (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4855 IMG_4856 IMG_4857 IMG_4858

Opening Hours at Cafeteria at Seamen’s Home – Sisimiut (Taken Summer 2013) IMG_4677

Example Weekly Cafeteria Menu at Seamen’s Home – Sisimiut (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4579

Opening Hours & Storefront for the Bakery, uphill from the large Cemetery (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4744 IMG_4745

Delicious sweet things at the Bakery (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4742

Food Menu at the Bakery (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4806

Storefront of the Pizza Place (Taken Summer 2013) IMG_4628

Menu at the Pizza Place (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4629

Opening Hours for Taseralik (Culture House) (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4598

Cafe Menus at Taseralik (Culture House) (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4603 IMG_4604

Opening Hours for Nord Cafe & Art (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4636

Menu at Nord Cafe & Art (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4830

Advertisement for Nord Cafe & Art (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4610

Dinner and Wine Menus at Restaurant Nasaasaaq at Hotel Sisimiut (Taken Summer 2013)IMG_4693 IMG_4694 IMG_4695

PHOTO GALLERY: Signs/Menus around Kangerlussuaq

Basic Information posted at World of Greenland – Arctic Circle’s Old Camp Accommodation (Taken Spring 2013)IMG_2042

Basic Information in the Welcome Booklet at World of Greenland – Arctic Circle’s Polar Lodge accommodation (Taken Spring 2013)IMG_2019

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Business Hours for World of Greenland – Arctic Circle’s Restaurant Roklubben (Taken Spring 2013)IMG_2048

Dinner Menu for World of Greenland – Arctic Circle’s Restaurant Roklubben (Taken Spring 2013) IMG_2030

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Thai Food and Pizza Menus at [this cafe], south of the runway (Taken Spring 2013)IMG_2089

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Business Hours at the bar on the 2nd floor of Hotel Kangerlussuaq/Kangerlussuaq Airport (Taken Spring 2013)IMG_2124

60-second Tourism Evaluation of Sisimiut! (66*N 53*W)

I have just spent 10 lovely nights in Sisimiut! In my opinion, Sisimiut is quite an easy town to be a tourist in. It is easy to get to/from, and it is easy to find information once you arrive. You can get to/from Sisimiut by Air Greenland flights, by the 160 km Arctic Circle Trail, and by the Arctic Umiaq Line ferry, Sarfaq Ittuk. It seems that most tourists take advantage of these opportunities to be quite mobile. In Sisimiut, there are choices for accommodations, excursions, shopping, and local hangouts, but not so many that you feel like you are missing something perhaps. Information about excursions is readily available at all of the accommodations, and arrangements can be made on the spot.

Sisimiut is commonly the end point for trekkers who do the Arctic Circle Trail, so tourists and locals both help create the relaxed and quiet atmosphere. For those who want to relax in town, there are a number of nice cafés and shops to discover as well as the culture house, called Taseralik, the Arctic Technical Centre, and the Museum. For those who are looking for more activity, there are daytime sailing tours, helicopter flights, and two mountains close by to hike (551 – 775 meters / 1,808 – 2,543 feet). Finally, for those with a special interest in fishing, Sirius Greenland has two field camps where you can fish for all the Arctic Char your little heart desires! They can even help you with SCUBA diving! And of course, for those who want to get away from it all and enjoy the sounds of silence, the backcountry of Sisimiut is your oyster!

PHOTO GALLERY: Greenland Towns & Settlements

Here is a one stop shop for town photos of every town and settlement I have visited, plus some quick facts! The order is clockwise, starting with East Greenland and finishing with North Greenland.

Sources: Wikipedia for coordinates… bank.stat.gl for population statistics 

Greenland // 2012 Population: 56,749 (Combined Greenland-born and other)

Greenland // 2022 Projected Population: 56,755 (Combined Greenland-born and other) // 2032 Projected Population: 56,184 (” “) // 2040 Projected Population: 55,386 (” “)

Tasiilaq // 65*N 37*W // 2012 Population: 2,004 (Town) // Photos date: 24-26 April 2013

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Kulusuk // 65*N 37*W // 2012 Population: 280 (Settlement) // Photo date: 28 April 2013

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Qaqortoq // 60*N 46*W // 2012 Population: 3,297 (Town) // Photo date: No Photo

Narsaq // 60*N 46*W // 2012 Population: 1,581 (Town) // Photo date: 15 August 2012

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Arsuk // 61*N 48*W // 2012 Population: 128 (Settlement) // Photo date: 15-16 August 2012

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Paamiut // 61*N 49*W // 2012 Population: 1,568 (Town) // Photo date: 16 August 2012

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Qeqertarsuatsiaat // 63*N 50*W // 2012 Population: 196 (Settlement) // Photo date: 14-17 August 2012

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Kangeq // 64*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 0 (Ruins) // Photo date: 21 April 2013

See here for summer pictures and a fun story about my friend’s afternoon in Kangeq. Her summer trip there was considerably more pleasant than mine!

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Nuuk // 64*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 16,181 (Town) // Photo date: 1 June-12 August 2012, 11 June 2013

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Qoornoq // 64*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 0 (Summer settlement) // Photo date: 3 July 2012

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Maniitsoq // 65*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 2,715 (Town) // Photo date: 18 August 2012

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Kangaamiut // 65*N 53*W // 2012 Population: 351 (Settlement) // Photo date: 20 August 2012

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Sisimiut // 66*N 53*W // 2012 Population: 5,571 (Town) // Photo date: 18 August 2012

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Kangerlussuaq // 67*N 50*W // 2012 Population: 513 (Settlement) // Photo date: 8-13 March 2013

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Aasiaat // 68*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 3,146 (Town) // Photo date: 19 August 2012

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Ilimanaq // 69*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 61 (Settlement) // Photo date: 8 April 2013, 11 June 2013

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Ilulissat // 69*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 4,621 (Town) // Photo date: 27 June 2012, 26 March-10 April 2013

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Oqaatsut // 69*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 50 (Settlement) // Photo date: 30 June 2012, 11 June 2013

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Qullissat // 70*N 53*W // 2012 Population: 0 (Abandoned) // Photo date: 24 June 2012

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Qaarsut // 70*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 171 (Settlement) // Photo date: No Photo

Uummannaq // 70*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 1,280 (Town) // Photo date: 22 June 2012, 5-6 June 2013

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60-Second Tourism Evaluation of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (67*N 50*W)

Kangerlussuaq is more than just the busiest airport in Greenland; it is a great winter bang-for-buck destination where you can experience 4 of the Big Arctic Five attractions – the Inland Ice, the Pioneering People of Greenland, Northern Lights, and Sled Dogs! There are also a few restaurants where you can dine on traditional Greenlandic specialties served in a modern gastronomic fashion. And, if you are the wandering type, just step out your back door and take your pick of walks along the mountains. The panoramic views from the fjord to the Inland Ice are truly one of a kind on Greenland’s west coast!

With a good book to pass the time between the day’s activities and dinner or Northern Lights watching, one could easily spend 5-6 nights here. But, if you like being on the go from one activity to the next, you could make Kangerlussuaq your next long weekend destination!

As for me, after 17 nights here, I am ready to move along to my next destination – Ilulissat!

Takuss, Kangerlussuaq!

Tour of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (67*N 50*W)

Kangerlussuaq is a small airport-centric town. The runway bisects the town into a northern part and a southern part, and you can only get around it by way of one main road. The airport terminal is on the north side of town and inside the terminal there are a few souvenir shops, a bar, a cafeteria, and a nice dining room. The nicest lodging in the town, Hotel Kangerlussuaq, is connected to the terminal, as is the Conference space. These Greenland airports are nothing like in the States. There are no security personnel, and the doors are not locked during off hours; people are free to walk in and out as they please since the building houses so many other facilities. It is really just like a community space once all the incoming and outgoing flights have occurred for the day. It is one large room; you walk in and are directly in the passenger waiting area. There are just two gates! Then off to the left are the shops and a sitting area, which doubles as the hotel reception area, and past that are the cafeteria and dining room.

Just a stone’s throw away from the airport is the World of Greenland Arctic Circle (WOGAC) Polar Lodge and Souvenir Shop, where I am staying. This tour operator sort of runs the town in that it owns many of the lodgings and souvenir shops and even restaurants!

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The Polar Lodge is a self-service hostel-style accommodation with 11 locked individual rooms, Wi-Fi for purchase ($8 / 90 kr per hour that can be turned off and on to conserve time), one communal full kitchen, one communal gathering/dining room with a TV, stereo, and desktop computer, and about 5 communal restrooms – some of which are both a WC and a shower room, others of which are either one or the other. It is a totally fine place to stay, but you do need to be self-sufficient. They serve breakfast in the morning, and somebody mans the souvenir shop until the early afternoon, but after around 3:00 PM there are no staff members to be found.

Most tourists eat the lunch provided on their day tours (if it is provided), and then go out to eat at the various dining places around town for dinner. So far, I have just bought groceries to keep in the communal fridge to make my own lunches and dinners. Clearly I cannot eat out at restaurants for every meal for almost two months! But on some occasions I do plan to eat at the nice dining room in the airport and also at Roklubben. Roklubben is a nice place about 3 miles / 5 km outside of town that serves dinner most nights as well as a special Greenlandic buffet on Sundays that I definitely want to try.

Thinking about the meal situation, the format of this trip to Greenland is much, much different than in the summer, and especially here in Kangerlussuaq. In the summer, I was stationed in one place, living a very residential life with a family to come home to every night. But during this trip, I am functioning much more like a tourist because I am staying at hotels most of the time and do not have my own place to “get away”. And while all the other tourists go out for dinner every night since they have such limited time in Greenland, I have to settle in and make Polar Lodge a home for almost three weeks. So in some respects it is a little bit weird to straddle the line between tourist and resident, and some of the tourists do not really get it. But Kangerlussuaq is the place where this situation will be the most extreme. In Ilulissat I will be staying in a private flat away from the touristy locations, and in Nuuk I will be staying with my family. In Kulusuk, I will again be in the hotel with tourists, but only for one week.

But back to the virtual tour! Also a stone’s throw from the airport is a small market (that is not open in the winter)…

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… police station, the grocery store called Pilersuisoq, the Post Office, a Canada Goose clothing store…

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… two tour operators called Arctic Adventures and Greenland Travel…

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… and Air Greenland housing as well as private housing.

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WOGAC’s main location/booking center is located all by itself about 1.4 miles / 2.3 km northwest of the town at Old Camp (another self-service, hostel-style accommodation / souvenir shop that WOGAC owns. It is much larger than Polar Lodge but not as renovated).

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Also on the northwest part of town, about 6.3 miles / 10.1 km from the airport, there is the Kangerlussuaq Harbor where container ships deliver everything to the town and also where cruise ships come in during the summer months.

On the northeast part of town is where the roads to the Inland Ice and to Russell Glacier begin. There is also evidently a golf course that way, too!

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Then on the southeastern side of town, about 1.4 miles / 2.3 km there are a few shops and dining places…

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… private residences, a research center, a school …

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… a couple of hotels (I have not seen a single soul in the places, though. it is a little The Shining-esque, so I do not go in there anymore, haha!)…

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… a museum that is open by request only, a church, a bowling alley, and a sports center with gym equipment and a basketball court. The (frozen) water and a bridge bound the southern part of town….

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The bridge actually collapsed last summer (because of excessive flowing water from a rapidly melting Inland Ice), and Sharon, the other intern at Visit Greenland with me, was here when it happened and got photos (Photo Credit: Sharon Testor). The only thing south of the bridge for tourists is Roklubben, the restaurant I mentioned earlier that has the nice dinners and Greenlandic buffet. It is about 3 miles / 5 km from town, and essentially, it is the southernmost extent of Kangerlussuaq other than mountains to explore.

Finally, the only other real attraction is where the sledge dogs are housed, 2.5 miles / 4 km southwest town. It is accessible by foot via the one main road, but usually when tourists do the dogsledge tours, their tour operator picks them up and drives them to the place. It is quite isolated, but I suppose it is strategically located close to the water so that the dogs can get right out onto the frozen water as quickly as possible!

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For me, I know what to expect in these Greenlandic towns as far as infrastructure and all, but to a brand new tourist, I could see how they might look around and say, “This is it?” However, tourism activities in this town are heavily focused on being out in the nature – driving to the Inland Ice and glaciers, hiking along the mountains, looking for wildlife, dogsledding, gazing at Northern Lights, and ice-fishing. So for the evenings and nights when tourists are back in the town, there are enough dining places and walking paths to entertain them for the few nights they are here.

Despite being such a small place, it does take a bit of planning and flexibility to go where you want because the shops and eateries all have their own hours and it is not a 100% guarantee that they will uphold them. Also, the tour operators’ activities frequently fill up completely, so tourists who come without having booked activities beforehand may not necessarily have the opportunity to do the activities they want to do… or at least not be able to do them when they want to. The town bus (which is essentially a 20-person charter van) is reliable and runs during the daytime, but as with any public transportation, you have to know its schedule and plan accordingly. It costs $1.75 / 10 kr to ride, and a ticket is valid for one hour anywhere in town; you just have to show the driver your ticket stub when you get back on. The bus gets all the way out to Old Camp once an hour, but to most every other place in town twice an hour. It does not go to the far extents of town, like to Roklubben or to the sledge dogs or to the Harbor, so to get to those places, you must either walk from the closest bus stop or take a taxi. Or, as I mentioned previously, the tour operators typically provide transportation for their customers.

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So, that is my “Kangerlussuaq In a Nutshell” tour! Hopefully the interactive map and the descriptions help create a decent picture of where I will be living for these 17 nights before moving on to the next town 🙂 I had intended to upload a number of pictures along with this post (as you can see from my notations), but the internet was running very slowly, and when you pay per time, every minute counts 🙂 I hope to soon edit the post and insert the photos.

Takuss’

First Impressions of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (67*N 50*W)

(Post from Monday, 11 March 2013)

Hello from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!  I had intended to write on the first night I arrived to describe my first impressions and all.  But to my dismay, I had a number of school assignment deadlines to meet over the first few days.  Friday was the last day before Spring Break started, so naturally my professors made a concerted effort to keep us fully ‘engaged’ right to the last minute!

Well first, the Air Greenland experience from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq was just lovely, and I distinctly remember thinking the same thing last summer when I flew from Reykjavik to Nuuk.  It is a 4.5-hour flight, but they give so much in-flight service; it is fantastic!  I have never experienced anything like it on a domestic American flight, nor on Icelandair.  Now, I have never flown first-class or even business class in the States, so perhaps that is why I am missing out, but this is what I imagine it to be like!  We got complimentary juice, then a complimentary beverage and hot meal of scrambled eggs, hash brown, bread with butter and jam, and a muffin, then complimentary coffee or tea, then a small Toblerone chocolate, and endless water and tea refills!  I made friends with the woman sitting next to me.  Somehow between my limited Danish, her limited English, our mutual knowledge of Ilulissat, and much hand gesturing, we were able to keep the conversation going!

It was brilliant to fly in over the Ice Sheet / Inland Ice on a fairly clear day!

You can see down to the ripples and crevices in the ice and to the mountain peaks, and you can really get a sense of the scale of this island.  I have seen this view a few times, but it is never any less spectacular!  It is fascinating to know that there are people (tourists) that cross the Ice Cap from one coast to the other on foot or with dogsledge!  It is just so vast and so bare, with nothing but snow and frozen water to sustain human life.  I am sure this sounds so clichéd, and in fact, tourists have said this very thing to me – but when you see the Inland Ice, you get a sense of how tiny one human being is.  And when you know that some of that ice has existed for millions of years, you get a sense of how the human life span of 80 years or so is just a millisecond compared to the history of the Earth!

Anyhow, when we came through the clouds to land in Kangerlussuaq, there was less snow than I imagined there would be.  There is some snow, perhaps 6” or so, but there are a lot of exposed rocks on the mountains.  Either way, it still looked quite different from summertime!

Once we stopped, everybody started dressing for the cold weather.  I have never really experienced temperatures any colder than about -8*C / 18*F, so I really did not know what to expect.  The temperature was about -18*C / 0*F when we landed around 10 AM, but it truthfully did not feel cold.  I was bracing myself to basically freeze mid-stride, but that was not the case.  The only thing that was a new experience was that the moisture in my nose froze instantaneously!  Imagine taking a deep breath in through your nose and feeling small ice crystals on your nose hairs!  Quite ticklish, really!

Having now been here for a few days, I can say that as long as you have the proper clothing, you can stand to be outside for quite an extended period of time.  The other day I did a 3-mile / 5-km walk from the airport out to one of the lodgings called Old Camp and back.  In total, I was outside for an hour, and everything that was covered was just fine!  My cheeks were the only things that were exposed, and they did get quite cold and rosy.  In fact, when I got inside to the warmth I had to do a few mouth exercises to get the blood flowing again!  I did bring a full-coverage ski mask, and I use that if I plan to be outside for a long time after the sun has gone down – like to watch the Northern Lights.  When I go outside, all I wear is: wool hat, gloves with glove liners, two thermal shirts, long underwear/running pants, sweatpants or jeans, windproof pants, puffy down coat, wool socks, and lined winter boots.  You know, that’s all J But this week it is supposed to be extremely warm – up to 7*C / 45*F the forecast says!