Author Archives: lgermany

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Mosaic walking tour – Bishkek

Having explored an obscure but interesting part of the history of Kyrgyzstan’s capital on the Interhelpo: The making of industrial Bishkek walking tour with Bishkek Walks, I immediately signed up for Rahat’s Mosaics of Bishkek: Soviet Street Art exploration. I have a particular fascination for street art wherever I go so was very keen to see what Bishkek had to offer.

Detail of one of the mosaics on the Bishkek mosaic walking tour

An added interest for this particular tour was that all of these artworks were created between the 1960s and 1980s to highlight the positive elements of the Soviet system and “inspire citizens with beautiful everyday surroundings”. I was curious to see what this looked like.

Sunny Fish Fountain

We met less than 100m from where I’m staying in central Bishkek (literally around the nearest corner) at a large fountain that I must have walked past at least 10 times but never noticed! 😳

Rahat talking about the Sunny Fish Fountain
How did I manage to miss this?

The Sunny Fish Fountain was built in 1982 by Russian designer Vladimir Krugman as Soviet limitations on artistic freedom were relaxing. It is pretty easy to see how it got its name 🙂

Sun and fish of the Sunny Fish Fountain - Bishkek
Fish and sun anyone?

The tiles are made from melted glass stained with different compounds, some of which had to be transported all the way from Belarus. The artists involved in the project had to travel, create each tile, transport it back to Bishkek and erect the statue themselves – quite an undertaking for a fountain as large as this!

The whole and details of the Sunny Fish Fountain - Bishkek
Sunny Fish Fountain seen in its entirety and in detail

Ala-Too Movie Theatre

Our next stop was a few blocks away at the avant-garde Ala-Too movie theatre. This is the oldest cinema in Bishkek and is recognised as a cultural monument of the Kyrgyz people. Rahat explained a little about the history of social change in Kyrgyzstan during the life of the theatre, before focusing in on the artwork that decorates the upper part of the building.

Walking tour group in front of Ala-Too movie theatre - Bishkek

It turns out, this is not the original decoration! In 1963, to mark the 100th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan joining Russia, the original horses were replaced by panels showing the achievements of the Soviet Union, including a man with a dove to symbolise peace, a cosmonaut to represent scientific achievements, and people reading books to symbolise education.

Artwork panels on Ala-Too movie theatre - Bishkek
A cosmonaut, the Soviet star, education alongside agriculture, the hammer and sickle, and a symbol of peace now adorn the Ala-Too movie theatre

Labor mosaic

After a stop at the Monument of Friendship (another creation to mark 100 years of Kyrgyzstan joining Russia) and a discussion of the Women mosaic and others that visitors are now not able to see because they are located in a privately owned buildings, we walked about 1km west to find our next artwork.

The Labor mosaic by Mihail Bochkarev and Altymysh Usubaliev was created in 1964 and was one of the first mosaics in Krygyzstan. The panel depicts some of the working class of the Soviet Union (farmers and factory workers) and also some of the more intellectual achievements (scientists sending rockets to outer space).

Walking tour group in front of the Labor mosiac - Bishkek
Note how the mural is located on the side of a pretty standard Soviet building

They used river pebbles as a cheap and convenient material to create the artwork, and it is an example of how artists attempted to beautify empty space on the walls of otherwise boring Soviet buildings.

An unusual thing about this mosaic is that it includes a panel with the names of the artists. Since artwork was supposed to be created for the enjoyment of all people, the artists themselves were generally not deemed important and very few include this acknowledgement.

The Path to Enlightenment mosaic

Another kilometre further west (yes, there is a fair bit of walking in this tour), we arrived at one of the campuses of the Kyrgyz National University whose back entrance sports an amazing mosaic called The Path to Enlightenment.

Walking tour group in front of the Path to Enlightenment mosaic - Bishkek
The front entrance is not nearly as beautiful

Created in 1974 by Satar Aitiev, it remains a mystery how this particular mosaic was even allowed! During this period, the Kyrgyz Union of Artists dictated that all artwork had to be accessible and easily understandable to the common person without explanation or interpretation. They had a lot of control over what an artist could create and would intervene in the design of artworks if they did not adhere to their guidelines

The Path of Enlightenment mosaic in Bishkek

Its modernist, painting-like feel was completely at odds with anything that had ever been done in before Kyrgyzstan and definitely requires some interpretation! The passive figures are in stark contrast to the strong and active figures typical of Soviet style art, and although religion was not part of the Soviet era in Kyrgyzstan, the central figure is almost spiritual in nature.

Radio and Nowadays mosaic

Our next stop was Bishkek’s telecommunications office and its very relevant mural of a giant sending out radio waves. Science was a favourite topic for artists during the Soviet time (we’ve already seen scientists depicted in the murals above), and this science-related mosaic was again made from cheap, local pebbles.

Radio and Nowadays mosaic - Bishkek
Note the use of pebbles to make up the mosaic

The Lenin is with us mosaic

The final artwork we visited on the tour, Lenin is with us, turned out to be another vast mural canvas. Created in 1978 by Lidia Ilyina (a rare female artist), it depicts the whole of Soviet society, including soldiers of the Red Army, female and male working class citizens, students, pioneers and, of course, Lenin.

Walking group in front of part of the Lenin is with us mosaic - Bishkek

Interestingly, all of the men are depicted with some kind of profession while the women play a support role. As a female artist, whether this was her artistic impression of the realities of society at the time and she wanted to send a message within the constraints of the Artist’s Union guidelines, or whether it was simply an order from the state – nobody knows.

Lenin is with us mosaic - Bishkek

We also don’t know whether the fact that Lenin (depicted in his classic posture showing the way to communism) occupies a significant portion of the mural perhaps indicates the artist felt that Lenin was being forgotten. Unfortunately, records were not kept about any of the artworks created at the time and so many remain open to historical interpretation.

Lenin figure in the Lenin is with us mosaic - Bishkek

Recommendation

If you are interested in the history of a location told through artwork, the Bishkek Mosaics Walking Tour is fantastic.

Rahat had a lot of information about each of the mosaics and wove them together with the story of the Kyrgyzstan’s Soviet era history in a really amazing tour. She covered a lot more than what I’ve summarised above so definitely do the tour to learn more!

Time: 2hrs. Note: it is about 4km of walking and you end in a different place from where you start. Rahat can offer advice on how to get back to where you need to go.

Cost: About USD$10 – $22 depending on number of people.

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Interhelpo and the making of industrial Bishkek – walking tour

When I was in Kyrgyzstan 2 years ago, I really wanted to participate in the walking tours offered by Bishkek Walks. Dennis from Walking Almaty (the Green Bazaar and Golden Quarter tours are two of the best walking tours I’ve ever done) recommended them to me, but unfortunately I did not have enough time, given our small delay in mud of the Tamgaly Petroglyphs in Kazakhstan.

I was therefore very excited to see that the day after I arrived for my second trip to Bishkek, the Interhelpo and the making of industrial Bishkek walking tour was scheduled. Yes – it is a bit of a random theme for a walking tour. But this is what I love about about tours offered by Bishkek Walks and Walking Almaty! They go beyond the standard history spiel and tour of obvious buildings to showcase something different and unusual about these cities.

Selfies of me, Rahat and David
David (right) joined myself and Rahat (centre; the guide) on the Interhelpo walking tour. Thanks for the photo Rahat!

The story of Interhelpo

Rahat began by explaining the origin of Interhelpo – a cooperative of industrial workers and farmers who came to Bishkek in the 1920s from Žilina, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). Their goal: to build a socialist economy within Soviet Kyrgyzstan and introduce modern industrial and agricultural practices to the country. As Rahat explains in her blurb about the tour:

More than one thousand workers including their family members arrived in Kyrgyzstan – a pure land that was free from capitalism, and where they could build a new, equal socialist society.

As we walked down a seemingly non-descript street lined by the houses built by Interhelpo members, Rahat painted a detailed picture of the hardships and challenges faced by these intrepid souls when they first arrived in Bishkek.

Scenes from the street with Rahat showing us before photos of the area and the way people lived
Rahat had many historical photos to illustrate her descriptions of Interhelpo and how the people lived
Photos of the exteriors of different houses built by Interhelpo - Bishkek
Some of the different houses built by Interhelpo. The man in the main panel invited us into his home. Here he is explaining that the original Czech exterior is the green layer and the grey “shell” decoration was added as a “beautification” in the 1970s. You can also see some whales/dolphins (bottom-left) and a rocket (bottom-centre) that were also added as part of this beautification process.

Even now, families living in the apartments that were built during that time do not have a lot of luxuries. We were lucky enough to meet a man who invited us into his small and crowded home for a short visit. There was very limited light and the walls were so thick (at least 30cm!) the lady of the house complained that there was no way you could make modifications even if you wanted to.

I guess buildings were constructed in this “brute force” manner as the Interhelpo cooperative did not include any architects or engineers in their midst!

Scenes from inside one of the Interhelpo apartment buildings - Bishkek
Inside the dark hallways of one of the Interhelpo apartment buildings

The achievements of Interhelpo

Despite this difficult start, the members of Interhelpo went on to achieve a great deal in a very short time through sheer determination and hard work.

At the centre of their endeavours were the all-important factories they originally envisaged. Unfortunately, we were not able to enter (it is now a modern industrial complex) but you can clearly see it is the same gate in the image below.

Modern day and historic images of the gate to the factories of Interhelpo
Modern day (top) and historic (bottom) photo of the main gate to the factories. You can see it is the same gate if you look for the 3 doors that are now hidden behind the blue gate

They also built a vibrant community that operated under Socialist ideals. This included a Community House – complete with theatre and meeting rooms.

The theatre inside the Interhelpo community centre - Bishkek
The theatre inside the old Interhelpo Community Centre. Note the old-fashioned chairs.

An impressive stadium that you are still able to rent out for 900 Kyrgyzstani Som (about USD$13) per hour. I love the old board showing matches between the different factories (vertical) for the different sporting events (horizontal).

Images from outside and inside the stadium built by Interhelpo - Bishkek
Outside and inside the stadium built by Interhelpo. Bottom-left is the old match fixtures board.

A swimming complex. I’m not sure I would want to swim there myself, but the kids were having fun and I thought the diving platforms (now into an empty diving pool) were awesome.

Images of the swimming complex built by Interhelpo - Bishkek
The main pool (top) was filled with water but I wouldn’t want to jump off the impressive diving platforms (bottom) at the minute!

And amazingly large parks that have been revived in recent years by the descendants of Interhelpo members and funding from the Czech government.

Rahat and David walking in one of the parks built by Interhelpo
Part of the large park established by Interhelpo and recently revived.

Interhelpo also built many more buildings and a lot of the basic infrastructure of Bishkek before dissolving in 1943 and having its assets transferred into the hands of the State. An ironic end to this interesting experiment in socialism.

Recommendation

If you are interested in history and want to learn about a different aspect of the development of Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan, the Interhelpo and the making of industrial Bishkek walking tour is a great option.

It was a fascinating 2hr stroll through an area of Bishkek that tourists don’t generally visit, learning about a history that few people are even aware of. Rahat has loads of stories and details that I haven’t gone into here – you actually have to do the tour to learn more 😉

Time: 2hrs

Cost: About USD$10 – $22 depending on number of people.

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Nuuk Multi Kulti Festival 2019

Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, has many festivals that are spaced throughout the year. One of the key events during Winter is Nuuk Multi Kulti – a 4 day celebration of cultural diversity in this small and remote city.

During my 2 months in Nuuk, I’d met people from Greenland and Denmark (OK, no surprises there), Mexico, Spain, Argentina (yes, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to practice my Spanish), Lithuania, Japan, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Philippines, Canada, USA, Scotland, Australia … and that’s just off the top of my head. There is a huge diversity of nationalities who have made Nuuk their home, at least for a few years.

The aim of Nuuk Multi Kulti is to celebrate this diversity and showcase both Greenlandic and other cultures. I was keen to head out and attend as much of it as possible – especially with the promise of food at many events 😀

Representing multiculturalism through an artist-designed flag

It kicked off with an event by the Nuuk Art Museum – the raising of a flag at the flagpole outside Holms Hus near the centre of Nuuk.  Artist Gudrun Hasle had invited other artists from different countries to design a flag to represent the idea of Nuuk Multi Kulti, and the first to be hoisted was that of Greenlandic artist: Miki Jacobsen.

When I arrived, there was a small cluster of people at the end a narrow path that had been shoveled through the 1-metre deep snow to the flagpole. Miki (yes, the artist himself) was putting the finishing touches on it, carving a wider circle to accommodate more people.

Miki shoveling snow around the flagpole - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Miki shoveling snow

As with all events in Nuuk, tea, coffee and cake was in plentiful supply

Coffee and Cake at Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
A staple at any event in Greenland

before Miki unfurled his flag and raised it high over the snowy landscape.

Montage of the hoisting of Miki's flag - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Hoisting the flag

It was a mixture of the Greenlandic and Canadian flags, with a ½-red, ½-write maple leaf replacing the equivalent circle in the Greenlandic Flag.  He explained that the flag represented the fact that he was born in and currently lives in Greenland, but was educated as an artist in Canada. He also has a son who lives in Canada, and to whom the flag was dedicated. The design was to symbolize this mix between the two cultures.

Artist flag flying high  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland

Cultural Showcase

The next event I made it to was held the following afternoon at the public library in downtown Nuuk. Weeks in advance, a call was put out (I saw it through the Internationals in Nuuk Facebook Group) looking for people from other parts of the world to showcase their country of origin in whatever way they deemed appropriate.

On the day, there were several “booths” set up amidst the books on the second floor of the library. Norway, Finland, Spain, Hungary, France, Philippines, Russia, Dominican Republic, USA, amongst many others were represented,

Silvia from Canary Islands at  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Silvia from the Canary Islands also talking about Spain

and most chose to focus on the food of their country – an easy sell to be sure!

Finnish food  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Finnish food!

Some went even further and dressed up in national costume, this lady from Russia even had other outfits from her homeland that you could try on!

Russian stall  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Russian booth

A special mention to my friends Fruzsina and Miki who put together a quiz about their homeland of Hungary. I daren’t post my results here …  clearly I need to visit and learn about the country from a local!

Where do we come from?

The next day I headed to Illorput – a local Community Centre that was hosting several different events. An ongoing activity there throughout the whole of Nuuk Multi Kulti involved a map of the world made from sealskin. The idea was to draw a connection with a piece of string from your place of origin to Nuuk.

Map of where we come from  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Map of where we come from. This was very early on in the festival – there were many more pins by the end

I was attending the first event they were hosting so it was early days, and you can probably pick the string that I placed 😊

Greenlandic Food Tasting

The main reason I was at Illorput, however, was to experience the Greenlandic Food Tasting. I ran into a friend and his daughter the instant I walked in the door, and the three of us loaded up on local cuisine and sat down to chat.

The spread was amazing! And all of it really delicious.

Table full of Greenlandic tasters  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Greenlandic tasters

I took one of the biodegradable bamboo boats of halibut and smoked salmon with pesto (actually, I might have gone back for a second); one of the boats of dried cod, dried capelin, and salted whale blubber; and a boat that contained a halibut “meatball” with remoulade. But there were also boats containing Greenlandic Prawns and mayonnaise, and a large pot of Greenlandic lamb soup.

Greenlandic food tasters  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Greenlandic food tasters – yum!

Oh, how I love Greenlandic food!

Parallels between Greenlandic and Icelandic visual art

Once I’d finished my lunch, I walked the rest of the way into town to the Nuuk Art Museum. One of my friends, Lorenzo, was studying in Iceland but doing an internship in Nuuk for several months. He was giving a tour talking about the similarities and differences in Greenlandic and Icelandic visual art from the late 1800s through to more modern times.

We started in the Emmanuel A. Pederson (1894 – 1948) room where Lorenzo explained a little about how this famous Danish artist depicted a romanticized Greenland in his paintings.

Lorenzo talking about Emmanuel Pederson at Nuuk Art Museum as part of  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Lorenzo talking about Emmanuel Pederson at Nuuk Art Museum

Blue skies or dramatically colourful sunsets (there is obviously no bad weather in Greenland), kayaks, sled dogs, and generic figures who are more avatars within the image rather than individual people, characterize his paintings. As does the feeling of distance from the scene. Of looking in from the outside. Something that perhaps reflects his own feelings of coming from outside (Denmark) to observe Greenland.

Surprisingly, this view of their own country, though far from reality, was adopted by Greenlanders – perhaps due to the emergence of nationalist feelings around this time and the desire to develop their own national identity.

Emmanuel Pederson room at Nuuk Art Museum

This painting style was compared and contrasted with that of the Icelandic artist, Þórarinn Þorláksson (1867 – 1924), who also painted in the romantic style. Those of you who have visited Iceland know how unpredictable its weather is, but Þórarinn mostly painted good weather in his artworks, which are more representations of Icelandic landscapes than actual depictions. Also similar to Pederson, there is a feeling of distance from nature when viewing the work. That you are outside looking in. But in this case, there are no people depicted at all, not even avatars.

Later in the tour, Lorenzo contrasted the more contemporary art of Frederik Kristensen, otherwise known as Kunngi (1952 – present), to that of Icelandic Finnur Jónsson (1892 – 1993). 

Lorenzo talking about Greenlandic and Icelandic art parallels  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland

Kunngi was the first Greenlandic artist to create non-figurative images. The absence of typical Greenlandic iconography caused some to question whether his works could really be called “Greenlandic”, despite the fact that was born, lives, and creates his art in Greenland.

Kuungi art work- Nuuk Art Museum
Kuungi artwork

A few decades earlier over in Iceland, Finnur was having his own issues in having his expressionist/cubist artworks accepted. While these art styles were well established in mainland Europe, and particularly in Germany where he studied for a while, they were new to Iceland. In contrast to Kunngi, the criticism was not directed at the “Icelandicness” or otherwise of the pieces, but stemmed more from general theories of art in Iceland and what the definition of good Icelandic art should be. There was also a concern that the works would have a negative influence of Icelandic culture as they thought that such artistic expressions were manifestations of a sick and unbalanced mind, isolated from reality and nature.  Not surprisingly, these were not characteristics they wanted to promote.

Lorenzo also examined two other sets of artists in this short tour of the similarities and differences in the development of Greenlandic and Icelandic art, and I was so glad this talk was in English 😀 It was fascinating!

Cultural Masks

After Lorenzo had finished his talk, I raced from the Nuuk Art Museum down to the Katuaq Cultural Centre, where they had already starting packing up the exhibition of cultural masks made by school children aged 12-14 years.

Cultural masks as part of  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Masks inspired by different world cultures

The idea was for them to create their own mask using inspiration from Sri Lanka, Alaska and Nigeria/Congo.  I was a little surprised that Greenlandic masks were not part of this activity (at least the people packing up the exhibition didn’t think so), but none-the-less there were some very impressive efforts! I loved this one in particular whose caption reads “This mask is for those who are feeling under pressure”.

Under pressure mask  - Nuuk Multi Kulti - West Greenland
Under pressure

I ran out of time at Nuuk Multi Kulti!

Unfortunately, that’s where my experiences of Nuuk Multi Kulti 2019 finished. There were many more activities on the schedule that I didn’t manage to make it to – some simply because of timing, some because they were only held in Greenlandic or Danish (I’m learning, but very slowly).

It was an awesome festival though and I had great fun exploring the events I did attend. I’m looking forward to next year’s event already!

Discover more about Greenland

If you are planning a trip to Nuuk and are interested in catching one of the Festivals that happen throughout the year, check out the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk which provides a complete list. It also has loads of practical information on how to get to Nuuk, how to get around, where to stay, where to eat, and what are the things to do once you arrive.

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog or on my Greenland-specific blog at Guide to Greenland.

For more information about Greenland, the best websites are Guide to Greenland (which is also a one-stop-shop for many of the tours available), and Visit Greenland, the Government tourism site.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
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Nuuk Snow Festival – 2019

After an 11 year hiatus, the Nuuk Snow Festival was back in 2019. I was lucky enough to be in town to enjoy this snow sculpting showcase by both local and international teams.

It was -25 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. Perfect conditions for polar bears and to prevent snow from melting, but positively painful for a human venturing out into it. You have to be quite hardy (and slightly insane) if you are going to participate in a snow festival!

Sign for a competitor at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Signs announcing the sponsors, the team and what they would be making at the Nuuk Snow Festival

Day 1 – the sculpting begins

On the Thursday morning, several 3m x 3m x 3m blocks of hard packed snow stood at the ready at Sikuki – Nuuk Harbour to be sculpted into … well, we had to wait and see. Several teams got underway immediately, making sure to use as much of their 3-day sculpting window as possible. Armed with ladders, ice saws, shovels, picks and an arsenal of other tools, they had made various levels of progress by the end of day 1.

Montage of people working on their sculptures at the end of day 1 of the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Progress at the end of Day 1

Other blocks had yet to be touched (their teams delayed in Copenhagen due to bad weather), and there were even a few spares available for late registrations.

Lasse and I visited after work to see the progress and ran into Lasse’s friend David there. On the spur of the moment, the two of them decided to enter the festival. Team “Arctic Penguin” chose their block and brainstormed what they would sculpt as they dropped me home. Although they invited me to be part of it, I wasn’t sure my Australian fingers and toes would survive the bitterly cold temperatures, and decided to leave the Greenlanders to it.

Sign for Arctic Penguin's sculpture - Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Arctic Penguin’s sculpture sign. After throwing around a few different ideas, they decided on a “drop”

Day 2 – Silent Disco and Light Show

Saturday evening it was time to head back in and check on progress. The bonus was a “light show and silent disco” at the sculpture site and slightly less frigid temperatures!

It was amazing to see how much progress had been made and most of the sculptures were heading rapidly towards their final touches! Some teams were even working through it!

Artists working during the night on their sculptures at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
There were still some keen ones!

The “disco” was more like “relaxation music” (at least while I was there, apparently it picked up a bit later), so I decided to just wander through and admire the sculptures without accompaniment.

Montage of the different sculptures lit up at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland

It was a pretty good turnout with people coming and going throughout the evening.

The "igloo" where you picked up your headphones for the silent disco at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
This “igloo” was where you picked up your headphones for the silent disco

Day 3 – Before and after at the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival

It was tools down at 11am the next morning, so I did one last visit around midday to see the final products. They had each started out as a solid 3m x 3m x 3m cube of snow

Untouched block of compacted snow - the starting point for all artists at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Untouched block of compacted snow – the starting point for all artists

But what they had been transformed into was incredible!

Montage of finished sculptures at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Some of the final sculptures from the festival

There was one interactive sculpture that the kids were having a ball playing on

Kids playing on an interactive sculpture at the Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
This was fun – but I watched several kids get clobbered by others coming down the slide 🙂

and I thought team “Arctic Penguin” did an amazing job on the perfect symmetry of their “Drop”.

The finished "drop" by Arctic Penguin at the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
A perfect drop! Well done guys!

Winners of the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival

In the end, Team Qinngorput won the non-figurative category with their Northern Lights sculpture “Light in Depth”

Winner of figurative category of the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland

and Team Sisamaqqat the figurative category with “Transformation” (the walrus, seal, bear intermixed figures). This is perhaps not surprising when you look at the day-to-day carving work by one of the team members Kim Kleist-Eriksen.

Winner of the non-figurative category of the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Just wow!

But all of the sculptures were incredible, including the one done by the volunteers for the festival (which included several of my friends) – even though they somehow managed to leave Canada off their world map…

Embrace the world sculpture at the 2019 Nuuk Snow Festival - West Greenland
Embrace the world!

Recommendation

The Nuuk Snow Festival is a very cool idea (literally and figuratively) and I really hope they run it again next year. If they do (and if I’m in town), I may even brave the cold (Lasse assures me that it is actually quite hot work carving the snow) and enter next time! Better start thinking about what I might be able to carve!

Discover more about Greenland

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk provides a complete list of festivals that take place throughout the year in Greenland’s capital. It also has loads of practical information on how to get to Nuuk, how to get around, where to stay, where to eat, and what to do once you arrive.

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog or on my Greenland-specific blog at Guide to Greenland.

For more information about Greenland, the best websites are Guide to Greenland (which is also a one-stop-shop for many of the tours available), and Visit Greenland, the Government tourism site.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
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Sermitsiaq from half-way up Lille Malene

“I think I’ll hike up Lille Malene to catch the sunset. Want to join?”

How could I say “no” to that invite from my friend Lasse. It had been a glorious day, and even though I was still very much in the grip of a mystery illness I’d bought with me from Australia, off I went.

Given we were a little late in setting out, we took the most direct route up the mountain. Straight up Nuuk’s ski piste.

Looking down the main run of Nuuk's downhill skiing centre with a view over the city and the fjord - Nuuk - West Greenland
Looking down the main run of Nuuk’s ski centre

There is a reason they have ski lifts up these things!

I was quickly gasping for breath and my eyes were streaming with tears from the cold air as I tried desperately to keep up with my long-legged friend. Being a Greenlander, he was much more accustomed to the cold and walking in snow than this Australian body! Plus, he is half my age and in full health… what was I thinking?!

A little over half-way up the mountain, Lasse stopped at the first clear viewpoint of the iconic Sermitsiaq mountain. I love this mountain so much!

Hiker at a viewpoint of Sermitsiaq mountain which is glowing in the late afternoon sun - Nuuk - West Greenland
Lasse heading towards an incredible view of Sermitsiaq, which is glowing in the late afternoon sun

We spent several minutes there watching the last of the Sun’s rays illuminate the top of the mountain, before Lasse asked if I wanted to keep going to the top. I suggested that he should go on without me and I’d wait for him to come back.

Me taking photographs of a glowing Sermitsiaq mountain from the viewpoint half way up Lille Malene - Nuuk - West Greenland
Taking a breather! Thanks for the image Lasse 🙂

As he headed off, I perched myself on one of the rocks to watch the light changing on the scene before me. Sunsets in Greenland are some of the most beautiful in the world – a kaleidoscope of pastel colours that fade to darkness rapidly during the Winter months, and not at all during Summer.

Move your mouse over the image to see the full panorama

When it became too cold to sit still, I made my way over to a tall cairn I could see a few hundred metres away.  By the time I had reached it – the blue hour had already begun. So short are the twilights in Nuuk in early February.

Blue hour on Sermitsiaq with pink sunset - Nuuk - West Greenland
Pastel sunsets during blue hour

Lasse reappeared to collect me, and back down the ski slope we plunged – much faster and easier than going up!

And although this little excursion had me hacking my lungs up for the next couple of weeks – I thank Lasse for the invite and will never forget the beauty of that sunset on Sermitsiaq.

Discover more about Greenland

If you enjoy the outdoors and are thinking about visiting Greenland’s capital, check out the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk, which contains practical information for planning your stay, and the Nature Lovers’ Guide to Nuuk, which focuses on outdoor adventures.

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog.

Or, if this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland in general, learn more about this amazing country by:

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
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Hinnarik Kammanilu – Greenlandic music

“Hinnarik Kammanilu” are the most popular children’s performers in Greenland. Celebrating their 15th anniversary this year, it shows that buck teeth, a melodica (one of those small keyboards you play with your mouth), an acoustic guitar, and fun songs specifically written for children will forever make you a hit with the kids.

In Australia, we have “The Wiggles”. In Greenland, we have “Hinnarik Kammanilu”.

Poster for the free concert at Nuuk Centre

Translated as “Hinnarik and Friend”, this singing comedic duo have been entertaining the kids of Greenland for 15 years. As part of their anniversary celebration, they were playing free 20-minute concerts in the Nuuk Centre (Nuuk’s shopping mall – the only one in Greenland), so of course I had to go along. Partially this was to experience the Hinnarik phenomenon for myself. And partially because the “friend” is Frederik Elsner – one of the songwriters and lead singers of my favourite band in all the world – Nanook.

I arrived to an absolutely packed house.  Standing room only, and even then, only at the back.

Standing room only!

So, I loitered at the end of their 20-minute performance while they signed CDs, hoping they would play again and I could get myself into a much better position.

Success!

Prime position for the second of the free Hinnarik Kammanilu shows

There were songs I actually recognized!

Hinnarik Kammanilu – Kamaleruit

And others that I didn’t but were truly addictive.

Hinnarik Kammanilu – Diisaq
Hinnarik Kammanilu – Kaakkukkakkit

It was a fun show 😊 and the 20 minutes flew by very quickly!

Afterwards, they met this latest audience of kids and signed more autographs.  And judging by the way the CDs were flying off the table, there will be a lot of “Hinnarik Kammanilu” playing all over Nuuk during the next little while!

Hinnarik signing autographs at the end of the free concert at the Nuuk Centre, West Greenland
Meeting the fans

I only wish I could understand what they were singing!

Hinnarik Kammanilu have a Facebook page if you want to follow along, and you can order their latest CD from the Atlantic Music Store in Nuuk.

Discover more about Greenland

Greenlandic music is a vibrant part of modern culture on the world’s largest island. You can learn more in Guide to Greenland’s Culture Lovers’ Guide to Nuuk, which also highlights how you can explore visual arts, performance arts, architecture, and amazing gastronomy experiences while visiting Greenland’s capital city.

There is also the highly practical Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk with everything you need to know to plan your trip to Nuuk, and the Nature Lovers Guide to Nuuk, if the outdoors is more your thing.

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Greenlandic Music – Ole Kristiansen at Katuaq Cultural Centre

Greenlandic music is some of the best music you’ve never heard of. There is a surprising number of amazing musicians in Greenland, and Ole Kristiansen – a favourite amongst locals – has been around for years. What better way to experience his music for the first time than at the Katuaq Cultural Centre in Nuuk.

I was determined to see a concert during my extended stay in Nuuk this year. While I had desperately hoped that my absolute favourite band, Nanook, would be playing – it was not to be … again 🙁

I did, however, get to see one of Greenland’s perennial favourites play – Ole Kristiansen.

I knew of his work because of the duet he sings on Frederik Elsner’s solo album – “F”. But I’d never listened to it specifically. I pre-purchased my ticket for 250DKK (about AUD$50), and decided I would just turn up and see what it was all about.

Ticket and wristband for Ole Kristiansen concert at Katuaq Cultural Center
Ticket and wristband for the concert

Support act – Jaaku Sørensen

The support act was scheduled to appear at 9pm, so I headed out into the snow storm (boy it was hard to get off the couch!) and caught the bus to arrive at 8:55pm. Uuuuummmmmmm… where was everyone? There were maybe 20 of us in the foyer of Katuaq – and an even larger number of staff, who were preparing the plastic cups of beer that would ultimately lubricate what they anticipated would be a good crowd.

Small number of people turned up to see Jaaku Sørensen - the support act for Ole Kristiansen
Where is everybody?

I felt incredibly sorry for Jaaku Sørensen who had his family, friends and a handful of us who didn’t know him making up a very small crowd in a very large space.

Jaaku Sørensen singing at Katuaq Cultural Centre in Nuuk, West Greenland
Jaaku Sørensen – solo performer

And, to be honest, he was really quite good! His primarily folk-style songs sung mostly in English deserved a much bigger audience. It seems that opening for one of Greenland’s biggest performers, doesn’t actually guarantee you the audience you might expect or deserve in Greenland. Tough crowd!

He played for about 45 minutes in total and people started to arrive during the 30-minute break before the main performance. By the time Ole took the stage – the scene was more like what I was expecting from the outset.

Ole Kristiansen on stage at Katuaq Cultural Centre in front of a large audience
This audience was more what I was expecting

Main act – Ole Kristiansen

I had an awesome position up on a ledge towards the front of the foyer with a clear view of the stage

Ole Kristiansen performing at Katuaq Cultural Centre
I had a great vantage point for the concert. A ledge provided the perfect spot for a short person like me

and the most common sight at concerts around the world these days.

Mobile phone recording Ole Kristiansen at his concert at Katuaq Cultural Centre, Nuuk
This is pretty typical at concerts these days.

From the first note, the crowd went wild. And I was very surprised by how “heavy” his music was. It was definitely within the genre of rock music, not heavy metal music, but I was expecting something lighter.

The music was really good!  Not as good as Nanook 😉, but I could see why it had everyone else in the crowd singing their heart and lungs out. I’d definitely go see him play again.

Despite really enjoying the concert, I ended up leaving at the mid-way break. I’m a big fan of Nuuk’s bus system with the exception of one point – the last bus is waaaaaay too early on a Friday and Saturday night.  Given the storm outside, it was either catch this last bus or hope to be able to get a taxi home ($$$) once the concert had finished. I was happy with the experience I’d had so ended up taking the bus. 

Ole Kristiansen and band playing the Katuaq Cultural Centre in Nuuk, West Greenland

I look forward to my next concert in Greenland! Hopefully it will be Nanook!

Discover more about Greenland

Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, is the hub for modern culture in Greenland. There is everything from music, to visual arts, to performance arts, to architecture, to amazing gastronomy experiences. Read more in Guide to Greenland’s Culture Lover’s Guide to Nuuk.

The best resource on the web if you are planning a trip to Nuuk is the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk, and there is also a Nature Lovers Guide to Nuuk, if the outdoors is more your thing.

Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfalik Restaurant Tasting Menu – Nuuk

The Tasting Menu at Sarfalik Restaurant in Nuuk offers a fine-dining experience that allows you to enjoy a wide variety of Greenlandic produce in the one sitting. Professional chefs take the abundances of the season and prepare innovative dishes using a variety of modern techniques for a truly unique taste of Greenland.

In the 2.5 months I’ve been based in Nuuk, I’ve not once been out to a restaurant or café to eat. Cooking for myself is so ingrained (it has to be after more than 3 years of traveling and watching every cent) that I usually forget that going out for a meal is even an option!

However, having written the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk where I relied on restaurant reviews and the recommendations of my friends and colleagues in order to write the “Where to Eat” section, I decided that I had to go out and try one of these places before leaving. I chose to head to the top of the Hotel Hans Egede and indulge in the “Greenlandic Tasting Menu” at Sarfalik Restaurant.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while now know how much I love eating and trying new foods. For example, the Traditional Greenlandic Buffet at the Hotel Sisimiut and the Foodie Tour with Your Friend in Reykjavik were two of my travel highlights for 2018. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to the experience as Nicolai (from Denmark) seated me at a table by the window with a view to one of the well-known mountains near Nuuk – Store Malene.

Sunset over Store Malene from Sarfalik Restaurant - Nuuk- West Greenland
Sunset on Store Malene (the tallest of the peaks) as seen from Sarfalik Restaurant

Before the Tasting Menu begins

As I unwrapped the napkin from its strip of binding sealskin, Nicolai placed a “snack” down in front of me. Humpback whale with soy marinade and mustard mayo, and seaweed with a little onion mayo.

Humpback whale snack at Sarfalik Restaurant - Nuuk - West Greenland
Humpback whale with soy marinade and mustard mayo, and seaweed with a little onion mayo

Although many people would balk at eating whale, it is very much a part of life in Greenland. Mattak (the raw skin of certain types of whale) used to provide the Inuit with several important nutrients, and is still a delicacy that is served at Kaffemiks (celebrations) in modern times.

I’ve tried whale meat on a few occasions in both Greenland and Iceland and have always really enjoyed it.  This was no exception. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender with a subtle soy flavor. It was a great start to what I expected to be an amazing experience.

Next to appear on the table was a basket of warm bread. The white rolls had a wonderfully crusty exterior, and the malt rolls had a more cake-like texture with a rich taste that was enhanced by the salt crystals sprinkled on top. When loaded up with chive butter, keeping my hand out the bread basket was very difficult, even though I knew I had to.

Two types of bread at Sarfalik Restaurant - Nuuk - West Greenland
How to resist?!

Now for the Tasting Menu

The first real course of the Tasting Menu (no, we hadn’t even started yet!) was delivered by Åsmund from Norway. It was an Italian-inspired musk ox empanada with rosemary mayo. There had been an “Italian Takeover” of Sarfalik Restaurant during the previous two weeks by visiting chefs, and this dish was created based on what they showcased during their stay.

Musk-ox empanada as part of the Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk - West Greenland
Musk ox empanada with rosemary mayo

One of the interesting things about the Tasting Menu is that it changes several times per year according to the produce that is in season. However, because it is made up of several small portions, there is also the flexibility to mix it up when an interesting opportunity arises.  

Åsmund (who has a touch of an Australian accent despite never having worked in Australia?!) also presented me with the next dish – reindeer tenderloin with celeriac. The tenderloin was cured with sage and the half-ring of celeriac underneath it was pickled in red wine vinegar and hibiscus. Celeriac cream, crunchy sage “chips” and sprinkled dried Angelica topped off the dish. Åsmund explained that normally the celeriac cream would also have had fresh sage in it, but they were having supply issues. One example of the challenges faced by even a high-end restaurant in Greenland.

reindeer tenderloin with celeriac  on the tasting menu at Sarfalik Restaurant - Nuuk - West Greenland
Reindeer tenderloin with celeriac

The reindeer was very smooth and tender with a mild taste of jerky. Delicious! I was less a fan of the celeriac, but that’s just because I don’t enjoy the taste of wine. The cream gave me a hint of what celeriac tastes like (I’d not eaten it before) and I look forward to another opportunity to try it in its more natural state.

Next up was cold smoked humpback whale with turnip presented in 3 ways.

Cold smoked humpback whale - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk -West Greenland
Cold smoked humpback whale with turnip

The whale was smoked in-house and had a texture more like that of raw fish than what I would normally associate with meat. Its colour was also very dark and Åsmund went on to explain that while this is a general characteristic of humpback whale meat, the cold smoking process (and lack of exposure to heat) actually makes it darker.

The turnips offered 3 completely different experiences of this root vegetable. The fermented turnips (triangles) were quite acidic and sharp, the pickled turnip (julienne) was also quite sharp but somehow had a sweetness to it too. The roasted turnip puree was very creamy and, for me, had the strongest and most recognizable turnip flavor.

My next course was bought out by Matthias from Argentina. Nicolai had told me that Matthias usually doesn’t get to do front-of-house because he is not very confident with his English. But given I speak Spanish…

The plate that Matthias put in front of me was burnt cod with Greenlandic herbs and roasted tomato sauce. Matthias introduced it to me in Spanish, wished me pleasant eating, and disappeared quickly back into the kitchen.

Burnt Cod - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk Greenland
Burnt cod with Greenlandic herbs

The cod was perfectly cooked and the roasted tomato sauce very creamy. Like everything that had come before, it was delicious, though I was starting to worry about the fact that portion sizes seemed to be growing! I crossed my fingers I would be able to fit everything in.  And yes. I was still managing to resist the lure of the bread.

Meeting the head chef – Simon

The next person to appear at my table with an orange granatine palette cleanser turned out to be the head chef, Simon. He is originally from Sweden (the kitchen is very multicultural) and had been working at Sarfalik for 2.5 years, 1.5 of those as head chef. He was much younger than I expected and I was looking forward to chatting with him about the inspiration for and challenges of putting together a Tasting Menu such as this in Greenland.

Orange Granitine - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk - West Greenland
Orange granatine

He returned with my main dish – musk ox with grilled sweet potato, musk ox souffle and musk ox glace – and said he’d be happy to chat after I’d enjoyed my meal.

This dish was fantastic! The musk ox was like a fine steak cooked to perfection. The glace, beautifully rich. And the elements on the plate aligned with the Greenlandic tradition of not wasting anything.  The glace was made using the bones of the musk ox. The puree and chips were made from the castoffs of the grilled sweet potato. I love this approach.

Main dish – Spring Tasting Menu

Musk Ox with Grilled Sweet Potato - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - Nuuk Greenland
Musk ox with grilled sweet potato

Once I’d finished eating, Simon joined me at my table while we waited for the dessert to be ready. He explained the idea behind the Tasting Menu – to create high quality food that works with the abundances and limitations of the current season in Greenland and neighboring countries.

For example, February is musk ox hunting season in Greenland, so the main today was a musk ox plate. Later in the year during reindeer hunting season, the Tasting Menu would instead feature a reindeer-based main dish. Right now, root vegetables (the staples of Nordic countries) support whatever meat is available (though this, too, will change as the seasons change), and locally sourced herbs that grow wild in the backcountry around Nuuk (like Angelica) are used whenever possible.

“The goal is to tell a story with the Tasting Menu”, Simon tells me.

A story that is dictated by the season.  A story that features local produce sourced directly from the fishermen and hunters while acknowledging Nordic influences on Greenland. A story that showcases the multicultural nature of Nuuk through the use of different cooking techniques drawn from the countries of origin and experiences of the kitchen staff of Sarfalik Restaurant.

I was very much looking forward to how the last chapter of today’s story would unfold!

Spring Tasting Menu dessert

When Simon returned, he came bearing a magnificent Chervil-based dessert. The menu describes it as the following: “Chervil and cream cheese ice cream with yoghurt crisps, liquorice sprinkles, and chervil grass”, but I prefer the story that Simon told me about it.

Nuuk Spring - Sarfalik Tasting Menu - West Greenland
Nuuk Spring

It symbolizes Spring in Nuuk. The green represents plants starting to grow and the brown (burnt white chocolate), the dirt that is slowly revealed by the melting snow. However, just like the Spring we have been experiencing during my stay, a period of warmer weather is abruptly interrupted by a cold snap, and fresh snow (the white fluff) once again covers the landscape.

Brilliant!

And delicious!

The chervil cream cheese ice cream was silky smooth and creamy with a mild flavor that was offset by the much stronger chervil syrup. The yoghurt chips were crisp and almost toffee-like, and the thyme snow (it was meant to be chervil snow, but again, supply problems) was lighter and fluffier than sherbet and disintegrated immediately upon contact with my tongue. I didn’t think anything could dissolve more readily than sherbet, but I have been proven wrong!

It was a spectacular end to an amazing meal that was further enhanced as the setting sun momentarily peaked out from underneath the cloud layer to bathe the restaurant in incredible golden light. Moments like this are truly magical.

Golden sunset through Sarfalik Restaurant on top of the Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk - West Greenland
Golden sunset through Sarfalik Restaurant on top of the Hotel Hans Egede

Recommendation

The Tasting Menu at Sarfalik Restaurant in Nuuk is a wonderful way to try local Greenlandic ingredients prepared in innovative ways. The small portion sizes and large number of courses mean you get to taste a wide range of produce, all prepared with the imagination and ingenuity of top professional chefs. There is also the option to pair the menu with a carefully chosen wine selection.

A million thanks to Simon, Åsmund, Nicolai and Matthias for looking after me and a wonderful experience. I look forward to returning again in September to try to the Autumn version of the Tasting Menu!

Discover more about Greenland

For recommendations on where to eat in Nuuk, check out the Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk – the best resource on the web for those planning a trip to Greenland’s capital. It also has loads of practical information on how to get to Nuuk, how to get around, where to stay, and all the things to do once you arrive.

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog.

Or, if this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland in general, learn more about this amazing country by:

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
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Australian victory in Greenland’s Arctic Circle Race

Video: Mads Fridolin Vejlby

The Australian National Anthem playing in Greenland.

Wait, what?!

Yes. Much to everyone’s surprise, Phillip Bellingham (a fellow Aussie from Victoria) beat local legend Martin Møller to the finish line of the 2019 Arctic Circle Race by a mere 3 minutes and 18 seconds.

This 160km, 3-day event near Sisimiut is widely renowned as the toughest ski race in the world. Greenlander Martin Møller has won it for the past several years and it was a very close race to be beaten by such a short margin over this distance!

Phillip explains his strategy for the race at breakfast on Day 2.

Video: Mads Fridolin Vejlby

And it proved to be a good plan, as the deciding factor ended up being a sprint to the finish line between Phillip and Martin.

Video: Mads Fridolin Vejlby

One of the reasons the Arctic Circle Race is so tough is because Sisimiut is surrounded by very mountainous terrain. Another is because participants have to camp out with minimal equipment for 2 nights, preparing their own food and taking care of themselves. You need a strong mental attitude to be able to cope with this on top of a grueling day on skis in cold temperatures!

Unfortunately I wasn’t in Sisimiut to see the race for myself. However, I do know the terrain around Greenland’s second largest city as I spent over a week there last year hiking and exploring the area during the Summer. It is a spectacularly beautiful part of the world as the following drone footage courtesy of Mads Fridolin Vejlby shows.

Video: Mads Fridolin Vejlby
Music: Nanook

Congratulations Phillip!

Are you coming back next year to defend your title?

Discover more about Greenland

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog.

Or, if this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland in general, learn more about this amazing country by:

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!



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Greenlandic Beer Tasting at Godthaab Bryghus

Yes, there is such a thing as Greenlandic Beer. Godthaab Bryghus is the largest brewery in Greenland and it is possible to do a tour of their facility if you are visiting Nuuk. Even if you are not a beer drinker, it is a fascinating insight into the logistics and workings of a small brewery in a remote part of the world.

Beer label - Godthaab Bryghus brewery in Nuuk - West Greenland

I have tried beer once in my life. After just one sip, I screwed my nose up and chased what was supposedly the best beer in Bolivia down with some Fanta. How on Earth could anyone actually enjoy drinking this stuff?!

Given this history it might seem like an odd decision for me to arrange a tour of the Godthaab Bryghus (Greenland’s largest brewery) while I was in Nuuk. The lengths I go to in my research to create The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk for Guide to Greenland! That being said, I did round up some friends to share the experience with me, figuring that they could give me their impressions of the beer so I didn’t have to try it for myself.

We were met by Jörg – a master brewer from Germany – who promptly poured us each a glass of “Classic”. After all, what is a brewery tour without a beer in your hand!

First beer tasting on the Godthaab Bryghus brewery tour - Nuuk - West Greenland

Loaded up, Jörg started to tell the story of how beer is made and the differences between the various types.

Brewmaster at Gothaab Bryghus explaining the process of beer making - Nuuk - West Greenland
Talking hops and grains

How to brew beer

It is a fascinating and complex process which makes for an interesting and time-critical job when your brewery is not automated.  That’s right. Jörg must monitor temperatures and keep track of timing manually to ensure the brew doesn’t “over-cook” and become a bad experience. Given it is just him and one other person involved in the production of the beer – it is a good thing he loves his job!

Brewmaster at Gothaab Bryghus explaining how beer is made - Nuuk - West Greenland

We very quickly realized just how small the brewery is when Jörg led us in to the “old cellar” with the fermentation tanks. We’d now seen ¾ of the operation!

Here he explained the process of fermentation and how holding the beer in the fermentation tanks for a longer period delivers a better taste. At Godthaab Bryghus, they hold the beer in the tanks for up to 3 weeks, compared with the more standard 1 week at larger breweries.

Fermentation tanks at the Gothaab Bryghus brewery in Nuuk - West Greenland

After 2 weeks, he removes the yeast from the tank and tests to see if it is still good to use for the next brew. In a large brewery, this would be done by sending it off to a lab. But here – it comes down to Jörg’s discerning tongue. He simply tastes a sample of it.

From the fermentation tanks the brew is piped through a filtering system before it is ready for distribution. It is here that the brewery calculates the tax owing using a mechanism attached to the inflow to the filter.

Tax calculation and filtering system at Godthaab Bryghus brewery in Nuuk - West Greenland
The dial surrounded in blue calculates the tax owed by Godthaab Bryghus on their beer. It is based on quantity produced

The other feature of this particular room was the impressive distribution system that delivers beer directly to the tap in the many bars and restaurants attached to the brewery.  3.5km of tubing must be cleaned every 2 weeks. You can probably guess who does that as well!

On tap distribution system for beer at the Godthaab Bryghus - Nuuk - West Greenland
All the tubing in this distribution system needs to be cleaned regularly

By this time, we were about 20 minutes into the tour and it was time for a new beer. This next beer was the “Classic” flavoured with Angelica – a herb that grows and is widely used in Greenland. Given my motivation to try anything local … how could I not try this?!

Trying my second beer ever

I asked for the smallest amount possible, held my breath, and took a sip.

me trying my second-ever beer at Godthaab Bryghus in Nuuk - West Greenland
I’m not grimacing too much… Thanks for the photo Mark!

Huh! You know what? It wasn’t actually too bad!

No, I wouldn’t choose to order it. And the dryness of it was strange to me, but I certainly made it past the first sip this time around!

Experimental Beers at Godthaab Bryghus

From there we headed into the “new cellar” where Jörg explained the portable, rapid cooling system they use to keep beer up to the masses at large events. We also we got to pour our own Pilsner directly from the tanks!

Pouring our own beer from the fermentation tanks at the Godthaab Bryghus in Nuuk - West Greenland
Nola has the action down pat

He also talked about their experimental beers – small brews that are initially tasted internally within the company. If the experimental brew passes the taste test and there is the general feeling that it might sell well, they will make a small run of it to see how it goes. This is how the Angelica Beer started out. But they have also experimented with lemongrass, blackberry and other flavours as well.

The current experiment was ginger-spiced beer, and of course we had to try this!

Beer spiced with ginger - an experimental beer at the Godthaab Bryghus in Nuuk - West Greenland
That is a piece of ginger floating in the beer

The Verdict on Godthaab Bryghus Beers

In the end we tried 4 beers on the brewery tour. Here are the verdicts:

Classic

Mark: Classic is just that – smooth, easily drinkable and tasty

Nola: as the name says – the classic beer as we know it. However, I think this one was milder

Angelica

Mark: unique, like Greenland. A round, robust flavour with I think would go really nicely with a robust meat and mashed potatoes.

Nola: it was heavier, dark and had an aftertaste. The hops were not so obvious

Pilsner

Mark: sharp and snappy with a long crisp aftertaste

Nola: light and tasty, and I think you could call it a lady beer

Ginger

Mark: fabulous gingery smell and a light taste. More of a beer with ginger than a ginger beer – refreshing

Nola: modern with little taste confusion, because you don’t expect ginger in a beer

Mark Favourite: Angelica
Nola Favourite: Pilsner

Round 4 at the brewery

And my verdict? Well, to be honest, they all kind of tasted the same. The ginger-spiced one was a little sweeter to my mind but didn’t taste much of ginger (Jörg did say it had only brewed 3 days and needed another week or so) and if I had to pick a favourite – it would probably be the Angelica. But there wasn’t much in it.

Recommendation

Even if you don’t drink beer, the tour of the Godthaab Bryghus in Nuuk is a fascinating look behind the scenes of a small brewery and offers a quick introduction to the beer brewing process. Jörg does a great job of explaining everything and clearly loves talking about beer and his brewery.

Make sure you ask him about why they don’t generally export their beer and the challenges the Danish breweries Tuborg and Carlsberg have in preparing their beers for sale in Greenland. The logistics of living in Greenland will always fascinate me.

Time: ~1 – 1.5 hours

Cost: 125DKK (~USD19) per person including 3 beer tastings

How to book: ask in Daddy’s Bar whether it would be possible to arrange a tour

Discover more about Greenland

If you are planning to visit Nuuk, the best resource on the web is the The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk. Along with practical information on how to Greenland’s capital, how to get around, where to stay and where to eat, it also offers a complete rundown on things to do in this small but fascinating city – including this Brewery Tour.

I have a large number of blog posts about Greenland, so feel free to read more about my experiences here on my blog.

Or, if this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland in general, learn more about this amazing country by:

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
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