Tag Archives: Greenland

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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 5 – Sisimiut – Ilulissat

On the final day on board Sarfaq Ittuk, I awoke to the ship pulling into Aasiaat (population = 3164). Greenland’s 5th largest town is located on an archipelago of low islands and is the only place I’ve been in Greenland that doesn’t have a mountain standing over it!

Approaching Aasiaat - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Colourful houses but no mountain near Aasiaat

Given I would be returning to Aasiaat later in my trip, I decided to stay on board and take photos of the very photogenic abandoned fish factory in the harbour during our 30 minute stopover.

Abandoned fish factory in Aasiaat harbour  - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
An abandoned fish factory in Aasiaat harbour

We departed Aasiaat under gorgeous blue skies for our crossing of Disko Bay to Ilulissat. Everybody was out on deck soaking in the Sun – though it was still a bit chilly so we were all rugged up. Some even wrapped themselves in sleeping bags 😀

Everybody out on deck for Disko Bay crossing  - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Everybody was out on deck for our crossing of Disko Bay. Gorgeous weather!

We sailed past many giant icebergs that would have originated quite close to our destination – in the Ilulissat Icefjord

Huge icebergs in Disko Bay - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Disko Bay is home to huge icebergs

and were eventually rewarded in our lookout for whales.

Disko Bay home to whales in the summer  - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Disko Bay is also home to many many whales during Summer. Especially Humpbacks

Final destination of Sarfaq Ittuk – Ilulissat

The approach to Ilulissat (population = 4632) was spectacular as we sailed across the mouth of the Icefjord.

Unfortunately there was not a huge amount of ice outside of the Icefjord itself on this trip. Clearly the large icebergs were keeping all the smaller ice trapped behind them.

Enormous icebergs block the mount of the Ilulissat Icefjord  - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Enormous icebergs block the mouth of the Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat is the northernmost town on the epic journey of the Sarfaq Ittuk along the West coast of Greenland. Here I had to bid adieu to my home for the past several days and all the wonderful people I met aboard her, but I very much look forward to my next voyage with Arctic Umiaq Line.

Summary

The Sarfaq Ittuk passenger ferry from Qaqortoq (South Greenland) to Ilulissat (North Greenland) is one of the best ways to experience the world’s largest island. Travelling by sea (as the Inuit did) offers a true perspective of the enormous size of Greenland, and encourages you to slow down, relax, enjoy nature, and really appreciate where you are.

For a more practical look at the journey, I encourage you to read the Go-to Guide to the Sarfaq Ittuk journey that I wrote for Visit Greenland (soon to be published).

And if you have the time – I highly recommend that you include at least a part of this journey in your itinerary for Greenland.

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

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 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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 4 – Maniitsoq to Sisimiut

On the day I desperately hoped would be clear, I was greeted once more with grey skies, low clouds and drizzle. This was definitely not what I wanted as we approached Maniitsoq and what is supposed to be an incredible hiking area just beyond it.

Low cloud over Maniitsoq - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Noooooooo! Low fog obscuring the mountains around Maniitsoq

Even our welcoming committee was not quite enough to lift the disappointment I felt, as I had been hoping to get a good look at the terrain.

Welcoming party at Maniitsoq - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
So cute!

The access from the port to the town of Maniitsoq is quite long, but an estimate by Maps.Me indicated that an hour should be enough to do a quick loop through downtown and past the church, and still make it back to the ship before it set sail. So off I set with Eric – a young Kiwi I had been talking to quite a bit.

Eric descending to Maniitsoq - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Eric leading the way

It is VERY quiet at 7am on a Saturday morning in Maniitsoq!

Various views of Maniitsoq - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Views of Maniitsoq

Around Hamborgerland on Sarfaq Ittuk

The next couple of hours were spent sailing through the inner fjord North of Maniitsoq and around Hamborgerland (no, it doesn’t mean what you think). There were glaciers everywhere and impressive-looking, half-hidden mountains. Oh, what I would have given to see this in amazing light!

Hamborgerland near Maniitsoq - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
I sooooooo want to come back here and hike!

Actually – I did end up “seeing” it in amazing light when my good friend and fellow photographer Miki did the trip about 6 weeks later. OMG!

Hamborgerland panorama taken by Miklos Varga from Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland

Photo: Miklós Varga (@0miklos_varga0). Move cursor over image to see full panorama

2020 hiking/kayaking expedition anyone?

Kangaamiut via Sarfaq Ittuk

Our next port was Kangaamiut – population 287. This small settlement is the gateway to the Eternity Fjord – apparently one of the most picturesque fjords in Greenland (that’s really saying something!) and part of my plan for my hiking/kayaking expedition sometime soon.

Approaching Kangaamiut - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Approaching Kangaamiut

Kangaamiut itself was actually a really picturesque place – with its brightly coloured houses and racks for drying fish greeting us as we approached.

Kangaamiut - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland

As with Arsuk, the harbour in Kangaamiut is too small for Sarfaq Ittuk to dock – so the whole procedure with offloading the zodiac etc was repeated.

Transfer at Kangaamiut - - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Transfer at Kangaamiut

After lunch I went to see if I could have a peek in the bridge. 2nd officer Tuperna was on duty and did a wonderful job of explaining how the radar and all the other instrumentation worked.

Tuperna on the bridge of Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Tuperna on the bridge of Sarfaq Ittuk with plenty of screens and maps, and the best view on the ship

When I asked her what were the spots of colour I could see on the radar – she explained they were waves. And here I was worried if they would be able to see the icebergs on my first night on board!

We spent about 2 hours chatting about sailing, navigation, working on ships, travel, music and life in general.   At one point, I tried to guess how long it would take for an approaching ship to reach us (failing dismally), and asked her what was the most amazing thing she’d ever seen from the bridge. Her answer: rainbows and whales playing. And the most boring? Fog. If it is foggy you can’t see anything and you have to watch the radar very closely.

view from the bridge - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
View from the bridge of Sarfaq Ittuk. Not much out there at the minute…

Community atmosphere on board Sarfaq Ittuk

When Tuperna went off on her break, I wandered back down to the Café Sarfaq to discover that a local musician from Paamiut – Pevia Geisler – had set up a keyboard and was cranking out tunes.

musician playing an impromptu concert in Cafe Sarfaq - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Pevia entertaining the passengers

He sang a mix of popular Greenlandic and international (have you ever heard “Julie, if you love me truly” sung in Greenlandic?) classics, and the Café was full of local Greenlanders knitting, chatting and encouraging him with every song to keep going.

This wasn’t scheduled as part of the trip. It was just an impromptu performance. But it is these random experiences and the community feeling on board that make the trip so special.

Sisimiut in 2 hours – Sarfaq Ittuk

The skies were almost clear when we arrived in the second-largest town in Greenland (and one of my favourites) – Sisimiut.

approaching Sisimiut harbour - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Sisimiut, with Nasaasaaq mountain in the background

5477 people call this home, and a good crowd turned out to greet us when we docked at the harbour.

Welcome at Sisimiut harbour - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Sisimiut welcome

We had 2 hours in Sisimiut so I went to take a photograph I had forgotten last year when I was here

Fisherman sculpture in Sisimiut
Fisherman sculpture in Sisimiut

and then wandered over to the large church, which was actually open! I had not seen it open in the 9 days I spent here last year after hiking the Arctic Circle Trail.

Sisimiut church
Zion Church – Sisimiut

OMG! This is the most beautiful interior of a church I have ever seen! The wooden panelling. The chandeliers. The artwork made of sealskin. I stayed there for about 20 minutes just marvelling at its beauty.

Inside Zion Church - Sisimiut
Inside Zion Church. The image in bottom right is made out of coloured bits of sealskin

Two hours later, everyone was out on deck in the beautiful light to farewell Sisimiut and the impressive Nasaasaaq Mountain that dominates over it,

leaving Sisimiut - Sarfaq Ittuk - West Greenland
Farewell Sisimiut – until next time

and to watch yet another impressive Greenlandic sunset.

Sunset from Sarfaq Ittuk near Sisimiut - West Greenland

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

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 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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 3 – Nuuk

When I went to bed, we were sailing just north of Qeqertarsuatsiaat. When I woke up – We were arriving in Nuuk.

Sailing into Nuuk on Sarfaq Ittuk
Sailing into Nuuk

On the northbound journey, the Sarfaq Ittuk spends 14 hours in the capital city of Greenland. This is the longest stop it has anywhere during its week-long circuit – I imagine so that it can be cleaned thoroughly and any repairs can be made.

There is a large turnover of passengers here, but for those of us staying on board – there was plenty of time for one of the many day-trips available from Nuuk – either sailing up the incredible Nuuk Fjord, hiking Lille or Store Malene or simply exploring the city and its many attractions.

As for me – well I just hung out with friends the whole day, eating far too much food and catching up on all that had happened since I left at the end of April 🙂

At 21:00, once the ticketing booth had been reloaded, we continued on our journey north, heading towards Maniitsoq.

Departing Nuuk on board Sarfaq Ittuk
Until next time Nuuk!

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

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 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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 2 – Sailing along the south-west coast

I woke up to grey skies, low clouds, and a not insignificant ocean swell. Fortunately, it takes quite a lot to make me seasick!

Arsuk with Sarfaq Ittuk

Our first port for the day was the small settlement of Arsuk – population 77 (1 Jul 2019).

Approaching Arsuk settlement in South Greenland
Approaching Arsuk settlement in South Greenland

Our scheduled docking time here was 15 minutes, and it says a lot about the efficiency of the staff on Sarfaq Ittuk that they can normally complete the transfer of passengers in this amount of time. The harbour is too small for the ferry to enter so they must:

  1. Crane a zodiac off the top of the ship
  2. Load the passengers and gear that needs to be transported to the settlement
  3. Run the transfer to the harbour
  4. Offload the departing passengers etc and collect those who will join the ferry
  5. Run the return transfer
  6. Offload the passengers and gear to Sarfaq Ittuk
  7. Crane the zodiac back to the top of the ship and secure it

All in 15 minutes!

The passenger transfer at Arsuk requires the use of zodiacs
The passenger transfer at Arsuk requires the use of zodiacs

Ours was a very special port call as we had a large group of Danish ex-Navy on board who were in Greenland to visit the old bases they used to work at after more than 30 years.

It took 3 full shuttles and 45 minutes to complete the transfer, during which time I had plenty of opportunity to take in the surroundings.

Landscapes around Arsuk
Landscapes around Arsuk

Once we hoisted anchor again – my daily routine of rotating between my cabin, Café Sarfaq, the aft lounge, and hanging out on one of the outside decks to enjoy the scenery began.

Interior public spaces of Sarfaq Ittuk passenger Ferry
Interior public spaces of Sarfaq Ittuk: Cafe Sarfaq (top), aft lounge (bottom left), cinema (bottom right). Lars (bottom middle) was the Chief Purser for our voyage – a wonderful and helpful guy

Others chose to take a book up on deck to help pass the time – returning to the warm comfort of the ship when the cold became too much.

Person reading a book on the top deck of Sarfaq Ittuk, rugged up against the cold
A great spot for reading if you have enough clothes on!

Stopping in Paamiut on Sarfaq Ittuk

Despite leaving Arsuk 30 minutes late, we reached the next port of Paamiut right on time at 14:00. There is a significant amount of slack built into the schedule for the Sarfaq Ittuk ferry to accommodate the possibility of bad weather and other unexpected events.

The weather had cleared up significantly by the time we arrived, sailing into the harbour past the wreck of an old fishing trawler.

Wreck of fishing trawler on the way into Paamiut harbour
Wreck of fishing trawler on the way into Paamiut harbour

We had a 30 minute stop in Paamiut – population 1326. A small crowd was there to greet the ferry

Welcome crowd at Paamiut dock - South Greenland
Our welcome at Paamiut

and I calculated that I had just enough time for a quick sprint to see its ornate church and duck into the supermarket for a packet of chips, before I had to be back on board or be left behind.

The church at Paamiut is very ornate
The wonderfully ornate church in Paamiut

Fortunately, my calculation proved correct 😀

North to Qeqertarsuatsiaat on Sarfaq Ittuk

It was a long stretch between Paamiut and our next settlement: Qeqertarsuatsiaat, which we would reach at 22:15pm. I had studied the maps in the corridors of the ship (and on Maps.Me) and discovered that we would pass an area where the great Greenland Ice Sheet reached almost to the ocean.

I was super-keen to see that, so I hung out up on deck chatting with whoever I could find. Most of the passengers on this part of the Sarfaq Ittuk journey (South of Sisimiut) were local Greenlanders. I tried out my conversation skills in Greenlandic (yes, I can say a few things – much to their surprise) before switching to English for the rest of the conversation. It never ceases to amaze me how many Greenlanders (particularly on the West coast) speak excellent English. For many of them, it is their third language behind Greenlandic and Danish.

Unfortunately, we were quite a long way out from shore and the light was not great when we finally sailed past the Ice Sheet (Frederikshabs Glacier). Indeed, it did almost reach the ocean and I would have *loved* to have been closer in to see it more clearly.

Distant view of the Greenland Icesheet stretching down to the water
Distant view of the great Greenland Ice Sheet (Frederikshabs Glacier) stretching down to the ocean

Determined not to miss a single call at port, I was out on the upper deck at 22:15pm for our arrival into Qeqertarsuatsiaat – another 15-minute stop. It was surprising to see the number of people who turned out to greet the ferry in the dark and the cold from this settlement of only 185 people!

Welcome at Qeqertarsuatsiaat
Welcome at Qeqertarsuatsiaat late at night

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

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 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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Sarfaq Ittuk – Day 1 – Welcome Aboard in Qaqortoq!

The Sarfaq Ittuk passenger ferry operates between April and January each year on a weekly schedule that takes it along the west coast of Greenland. I love ferry journeys. And I’d been looking forward to making my way from Qaqortoq in the South to Ilulissat in the North by sea ever since I found out it was an option. Read on to discover more about this alternate and relaxing way to travel in Greenland that allows you to interact with local people and the time to truly appreciate where you are.

I had already spent a week in Qaqortoq, South Greenland, before sighting the Sarfaq Ittuk passenger ferry for the first time. I managed to spy it just as it was coming into dock, where it would spend 3 hours being cleaned and turned over before heading back the way it came on its north-bound journey to Ilulissat.

Sarfaq Ittuk docking at Qaqortoq harbour. The cruise ship in the background is much, much larger!

I had a ticket for the entire length of its voyage – a journey of ~4 days.

Although my ticket said that check-in was 30 minutes prior to departure, ever the early bird, I was down at the harbour with all my luggage an hour ahead of time. A portable cabin had been lowered from the top deck of the ferry and placed on the dock as a check-in booth, and with minimal fuss, boarding passes were handed out to the small queue of people as we boarded our home for the next few days.

The crane from onboard the Sarfaq Ittuk reloading the check-in booth after all passengers aboard  - Nuuk - West Greenland
OK – I cheat. This is actually in Nuuk – but you get the idea

Although I usually stay in dormitory accommodation and the ferry has plenty of that available (Sarfaq Ittuk calls them “Couchettes”), I was going up-market on this trip with a private cabin. On top of having my own space, this meant I had my own private bathroom, and tea and coffee making facilities available to me. Luxury when you enjoy several cups of tea every day.

My cabin on board the Sarfaq Ittuk Passenger Ferry - West Greenland
My cabin on board Sarfaq Ittuk. I had the whole thing to myself, even though it can sleep up to 4 people!

Heading North from Qaqortoq on Sarfaq Ittuk

It was a gloriously sunny evening as as we pulled away from the dock in Qaqortoq, locals waving to their loved ones until we were well beyond their ability to see.

Locals waving goodbye to loved ones from the top deck of Sarfaq Ittuk as we leave Qaqortoq
Locals waving goodbye to loved ones from the top deck of Sarfaq Ittuk as we leave Qaqortoq

Once we were well underway, I set about exploring the ship. It is not a large ferry (especially in comparison to some of the cruise ships we saw), so this didn’t take all that long. I then headed up on deck to enjoy the setting sun as we made our way towards the first port call on the northbound journey – Narsaq.

Sunset from the top deck of Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry - West Greenland
A beautiful sunset

Narsaq from Sarfaq Ittuk

I had visited Narsaq on my first trip to Greenland in 2017. In fact, it was the very first place I spent time on my exploration of this remarkable island. This time around – it was quite dark by the time we arrived at 9pm. In addition, our stop there was only 30 minutes, so I contented myself with simply watching from the decks as we docked and transferred passengers.

Approaching Narsaq on board the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry
Approaching Narsaq. I love the mountains that stand behind the town

The thing about Sarfaq Ittuk is that it is a passenger ferry, not a cruise. Time spent in most ports is usually between 15 and 30 minutes – just enough time to offload/onload passengers and mail. That’s it. It is not about giving passengers the chance to explore each port. It is about transporting them from one place to another as an alternative to flying. Therefore I often found myself up on deck simply watching the greetings take place as families welcomed their loved ones off the ship.

Unloading passengers at the dock in Narsaq - Sarfaq Ittuk ferry - West Greenland
Welcoming people off the Sarfaq Ittuk ferry in Narsaq

I was really hoping to have the opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights) from the ship. I figured it would be wonderful to experience this magical spectacle far from all sources of light pollution. But unfortunately I’d timed my journey to coincide with the full moon – one of the biggest sources of light “pollution” there is! No matter. Moon-rise was absolutely spectacular on our first night as we made our way north.

Moonrise surrounded by clouds
Dramatic moonrise from Sarfaq Ittuk

The (albeit small) icebergs that were barely visible in the water gave me a moment of pause

Passing small icebergs on the Sarfaq Ittuk ferry as the moon rises
We sailed past a lot of these small icebergs in the moonlight

but I decided to just enjoy and hope that they had good radar and other instrumentation up on the bridge to keep us safe!

Read more about the Sarfaq Ituuk journey

If this post has piqued your curiosity about travelling with Sarfaq Ittuk in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure:

I also wrote the Sarfaq Ittuk Ferry – All you need to know page for Visit Greenland. Check it out for more of the logistical details.

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 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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Helicopter Summit Flight – Sermitsiaq – Nuuk

Sitting in a helicopter flying towards the iconic Sermitsiaq Mountain at sunset is by far one of the most amazing things you can do in Nuuk. The only thing that could make it better – actually land near the summit and have time to explore!

An interesting fact about Greenland is that flying in a helicopter is a relatively common way of getting around. Greenland has no roads between its towns, which means that the only year-round option to get from place to place is by air (you can’t sail in winter).

Although helicopters provide a vital cog in the transportation infrastructure for Greenland, it is also possible to take some tourism-oriented flights. The main options are in Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Qaqortoq and Nuuk – with the HelicopterSummit Flight being the pinnacle in Greenland’s capital city.

Safety briefing

My 4 fellow passengers and I met our pilot at Nuuk’s small airport at 5pm. Geir led us out to the helicopter, gave us a safety briefing and asked who wanted the front seat. While everyone else was being nice and pausing before putting their hand up – I just jumped right in 🙂

pilot giving safety briefing before we board the helicopter for the Nuuk Summit flight to Sermitsiaq - West Greenland
Geir pointing out all the important bits

With the others squeezed into the back of the helicopter (there’s not much space when you get 4 adults in there) and our headsets on, we took off in the direction of Sermitsiaq.

Taking off in the helicopter for the Nuuk Summit Flight. The runway at Nuuk airport and Sermitsiaq - West Greenland
Taking off towards Sermitsiaq

Flying around Sermitisaq

It is a short flight from Nuuk to Sermitsiaq mountain – but absolutely stunning!

Aerial view as we approach Sermitisiaq on the helicopter summit flight from Nuuk - West Greenland
Love the different perspective on this mountain when seen from the air

On a day like this – the views go on forever – and you really can appreciate the spectacular beauty of the Nuuk Fjord.

Looking beyond Sermitsiaq's peak further into the Nuuk Fjord - West Greenland
Looking over the top of the peak of Sermitsiaq further into the Nuuk Fjord
Other peaks in the Nuuk Fjord that are very close to the city - West Greenland
The Nuuk Fjord is stunningly beautiful. This is the doorstop of Greenland’s capital city

I had actually done this helicopter summit flight earlier in the year during Winter.  Back then, the entire mountain was covered in snow and you couldn’t see any of the details. Those of you who have been following for a while know how much I am in love with rocks in Greenland – and being able to see the rock coming through the dusting of snow on the peak was a highlight for me.

Rock detail of sermitisiaq mountain - Nuuk - West Greenland

As was discovering unexpectedly that there is a large lake between the ridge and the summit!  I had absolutely no idea that was there as it was completely covered in snow and ice the last time I visited.

Hidden lake between the ridge and the peak of Sermitsiaq mountain - Nuuk - West Greenland
I had no idea this was here!

To ensure that everyone ended up with a fantastic view of the mountain, Geir took us on 2 circuits of the summit – first one direction and then the other. Both the amazing views and the slightly disorienting feeling of manoeuvring in a circle in a helicopter brought a massive smile to my face.

Summit landing on Sermitsiaq

After we’d all taken about a million photos of the mountain, Geir bought us in to land on the ridge below the peak of Sermitsiaq.

Really – it doesn’t get any better than this!

helicopter and people on the ridge in front of the summit of Sermitsiaq - Nuuk - West Greenland
Our landing spot. You can see the actual summit of Sermitsiaq in the background

There was not a breath of wind (the wind was coming from directly behind the peak so we were sheltered) and we had the next 25 minutes to explore our incredible surroundings and try to take in where we were and what we were experiencing.

Contemplating the experience on top of Sermitsiaq - Nuuk - West Greenland
Contemplating the experience

I couldn’t get over the existence of the hidden lake! And the fact that there was an almost perfect reflection of the golden peak in its waters was just the icing on the cake.

panorama from the landing site on Sermitsiaq including the hidden lake - West Greenland - Nuuk

move mouse over image to see full panorama

The light was spectacular, and becoming more so by the minute as the sun headed towards the horizon. 

Glimpse of Nuuk Fjord and mountains- West Greenland
The Nuuk Fjord is amazing

It didn’t matter which direction I looked – the view in front of me was one of the most beautiful I’d ever seen.

sun setting behind the helicopter on the summit flight - nuuk - West Greenland
Sun setting behind the helicopter – Nuuk is down below

Yes – I know there are a lot of superlatives in this post – but it really was beyond incredible!

me standing on Sermitsiaq mountain with the Nuuk fjord behind - West Greenland
So happy!

Flight back to Nuuk

I used every second of my 25 minutes exploring the ridge and taking photos in all directions. But eventually we had to leave.  This time I sat in the back of the helicopter – which still offers awesome views as you fly.

looking out the front window between the pilot and passenger on Nuuk helicopter summit flight - West Greenland
Even from the middle-back seat the views are amazing
pastel light view looking out the side window of the helicopter summit flight - Nuuk - West Greenland
Looking out the side window

Our return flight took us past the airport

view of airport and store malene from helicopter summit flight - Nuuk - West Greenland
Nuuk airport with Store Malene in the background

and over the city of Nuuk itself

Passenger taking photo as we circle over Nuuk center on helicopter summit flight - West Greenland

before circling around

view of private harbour, airport and sermitsiaq from helicopter - Nuuk - West Greenland

to land back at Nuuk airport.

Nuuk airport terminal from the tarmac - West Greenland
Nuuk airport terminal

A must-do helicopter scenic flight

If you are looking for something really special to round out your trip to Nuuk, doing a remote helicopter landing on an iconic mountain peak has to be right up there. I highly recommend the Helicopter Summit Flight from Nuuk – and it is even more spectacular if you time it for about an hour before sunset.  You won’t be disappointed!

Discover more about Greenland

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Nuuk is the most comprehensive online guide for planning your vacation to Greenland’s capital. Definitely a must-read for anyone thinking of visiting.

You can read more about my experiences in Greenland both here and 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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Sletten//Narsarsuaq – Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival 2019

Sletten//Narsarsuaq is the most powerful piece of theatre I have ever seen. The highlight of the Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival in 2019 for me, I am still deeply affected by these stories and the remarkable performances I experienced.

The Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival (also known as Nuuk Nordisk) is a biannual week-long festival that brings together artists from throughout Nordic countries.  As soon as the early-bird tickets were released back in April, I bought mine – allowing me unlimited access to almost everything that would happen during the festival week.

I had no idea what to expect. But when the program came out several months later, my eyes were immediately drawn to a series of performances that would be held in the “Blocks” – old, run-down apartment buildings that still occupy prime real-estate in central Nuuk.

The official poster for Narsarsuaq // Sletten

Nuuk’s Apartment Blocks

I have a strange fascination with the Blocks. Particularly Block P, which was the largest and has become the most famous of them. It was demolished in 2012, 5 years before I visited Greenland for the first time. But that has not stopped me from seeking out information and pouring over the display about it in Nuutoqaq – the Nuuk Local Museum, which features photographs and other items rescued during the demolition. I even found and bought a book about Block P in the Nuuk Art Museum during the week of the festival!

Part of the exhibition about Block P in Nuutoqaq - Nuuk's local museum
Part of the exhibition about Block P in Nuutoqaq

The Blocks were built in the 1960s/70s as part of the Danish Government’s G60 program to urbanize Greenland and move people from the small settlements into larger towns and cities. The aim was to give the Greenlanders the same standard of living as that which existed in Denmark – an admirable aim to be sure. However, having to transition from an Inuit hunter to an apartment-dwelling city worker essentially overnight was too much for many of the displaced locals, and the social ramifications are still felt throughout Greenland.

Some of the Blocks in downtown Nuuk
Some of the Blocks in downtown Nuuk.

Narsarsuaq//Sletten

This is exactly what the Narsarsuaq//Sletten multi-performance theatre was about. The description of this large production was essentially as follows:

Narsarsuaq//Sletten. The Blocks 1-10. This area tells the newer story of Nuuk, and of Greenland.

In the 70’s the urbanization of Greenland took place and many small settlements were forced to close. Fishermen and hunters came with their families from beautiful areas along the coast, and were suddenly put into small apartments. What happened? How was it. How is it?

Some were happy (they had all the modern conveniences) and were able to build good strong families. Others lost themselves and their identities.

The Narsarsuaq//Sletten today is full of memories and stories – beautiful, hard, fulfilled, unfulfilled, warm and devastating stories. Stories of the lives that have been lived over the past 30 years and continue to be lived.

Nuuk Nordisk Program 2019

Pink handprints adorn one of the walls of an apartment in Block 1 - currently being demolished in Nuuk
Pink hand-prints adorn one of the walls of an apartment in Block 1. This Block is currently being torn down – erasing more stories of the lives that have been lived there.

The 5 performances making up this epic show each touched on different aspects of this urbanization project. A production by Teater FreezeProductions, directed by Hanne Trap Friis and featuring some of Greenland’s best actors, dancers, writers and storytellers, I couldn’t wait until they played in English during the last 3 days of the festival (they were in Greenlandic during the first 3 days).

“The View”

“Out this window I have a view of one of the Blocks. Out my other window, I have a view of another of the Blocks. Where I used to live, my views went on forever…”

The View

So begins the monologue of an old Greenlandic lady sitting at her kitchen table in her apartment in Block 2. Makka Kleist delivered an extraordinary solo performance, drawing us in with her storytelling as she reminisced about her life in the settlement with her beloved Kali. At intervals, these happy memories were interrupted by noises from neighbouring apartments, and both she and the audience would abruptly return to the new reality. That of city life in a small apartment.  

The way she tells it, there certainly were advantages to moving into the Blocks (it was warm, there was running water, everything worked at the press of a button), but it is clear that her heart still longed to be out in the fjord living the harder life.

“Sletten”

This was the most powerful piece of theatre I have ever seen! Kudos to Kim Leine who wrote it, and Helene Kvint, Karina Møller and Thomas Knuth who performed it.

The story is about a Danish nurse and his wife who come to Greenland for a 2-year stint in the hospital in Nuuk.  It is a no-hold-barred look at the relationship between Greenland and Denmark that is played out in the interpersonal relationships of this couple and a Greenlandic woman who has an affair with the husband.

A scene from Sletten

What made it so powerful were the subjects that it broached and the way in which it broached them – head on, in your face, with no holds barred. But also, the fact that it was performed in such a small space. The audience was sat along the two long walls of what I imagine was the living room/kitchen in one of the apartments. The room was about 6m wide and perhaps 15m long (probably an over-estimation), and most of the action took place in the middle of the room. The actors were so close to the audience that you couldn’t help but feel as if you were in the middle of what was going on. And the fact that the actors actually acknowledged the audience as part of the play when they entered the room for the first time, cemented the fact that we were all in this together.

Scene from "Sletten" showing how close the audience is to the performance - part of Sletten//Narsarsuaq
You can’t help but feel like you are part of the scene when the stage is this small and you are sat in the thick of the action

I have never been so affected by a performance in my entire life!

And I have no connection with the history between Greenland and Denmark.  I cannot imagine what it must have felt like as a Dane or Greenlander to have your relationship portrayed in such a raw manner. Certainly, there were many eyes that glistened with tears (my own included) by the end of the performance, and the standing ovation the actors received could only begin to express how much we had been all been affected.

In Zombieland

This was another powerful experience based on stories from the collection of novels written by Sørine Steenholdt. Through poetry, dance and music, three young people explored the dreams, fears and hopes of Greenland’s youth while raising to the fore many of the social issues that affect them. Amazing performances by all three actors (Amisuna Berthelsen, Hans-Henrik Suersaq Poulsen and Nukakkuluk Kreutzman), touching on suicide (Greenland has the highest suicide rate in the world), drunkenness and child abuse. No photographs were allowed during this performance.

Boy meets Concrete

I have to admit, I’m a very literal person and not really into interpretive dance. However, I did go to see this performance which apparently explored how “the soft human soul and flesh meet the challenge of the concrete, of the city”. No photographs were allowed during this performance.

Remembering Lisa

The final performance in the series told the story of “Lisa” – a Greenlandic woman who was murdered in Block 6 back in 1985. How many of the current residents of Nuuk remember that this happened? The answer: not many.

And this was the point of the performance. Showing how we should never forget people’s lives, no matter how “ordinary” they may have been.

"Lisa" serving tea in her kitchen to welcome us to the performance "Remembering Lisa", part of Narsarsuaq//Sletten
Lisa serves us tea as she welcomes us to her kitchen in “Remembering Lisa’

The story was told through a re-enactment of what may have taken place on that fateful day. Amidst the certainty of the football game happening at the stadium, the fact that kids would have been playing outside between the blocks, and the knowledge of the weather on the day and who the Prime Minister of Greenland was at the time, it is still unknown who killed Lisa. Possible scenarios for the 3 suspects were played out, with two of them rooted once again in the social issues that are still found in Greenland. 

A light-hearted moment arises about two-thirds of the way through when Lisa decides that she wants to change the outcome of the story and not end up dead. She forces a re-work of each of the scenarios, interacting with each of the potential suspects in a more generous manner to see if that could make a difference.  In two of the scenarios – the outcome was different. But the third…

Lisa consoling one of her suspected murderers in order to try to effect a different outcome in "Remembering Lisa", part of Sletten//Narsarsuaq
Trying to rewrite history in “Remembering Lisa”

Final thoughts on Narsarsuaq//Sletten

I have no idea whether this amazing epic will ever be shown elsewhere or ever again. I am so thankful I was able to experience it.

Staging it in the Blocks themselves was absolutely inspired, and I heard the director discuss this as a conscious (and necessary) choice at an Artist Talk during the Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival.  The performances would still be amazing in another venue, but to be couped up in the heart of where these stories took place was particularly powerful.

I cannot thank Teater FreezeProductions and all the people involved enough for such an incredible experience. The absolute highlight of Nuuk Nordisk for me.

Recommendation

If you are interested in experiencing a wide range of Nordic culture and art, you should time your visit to Greenland to coincide with the bi-annual Nuuk Nordic Culture Festival. Read more about the festival itself in this article about Nuuk Nordisk, and discover more of what there is to see and do in Greenland’s capital city in the Ultimate Guide to Nuuk.

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.

You can read more about my experiences in Greenland both here and 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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2019 Akisuanerit Festival – Nuuk

After 2 long years of waiting, I finally got to see my absolute favourite band in all the world – Nanook – play as part of the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk. Featuring both domestic and international artists and a wide range of musical styles, this 3-day music festival is one of the biggest in Greenland and a great place to discover musicians from the world’s largest island.

My favourite band – Nanook

Nanook were one of the first acts to be announced for this year’s festival, and I think I may have been first in line to buy a ticket to the Saturday night when they were released. There was no way I was going to miss them this time! The added bonus was that another of my favourite Greenlandic performers – Kimmernaq – was also scheduled to play the same night, as was the headline performer – Danish artist, MØ.

Akisuanerit Festival – arriving at Katuaq

Months after buying the ticket, the big night finally arrived.  Determined to reclaim “the spot” I had occupied for the Ole Kristiansen concert in the Katuaq Foyer earlier in the year (one of the best places for short people like me), I rushed my friends through dinner and out the door so that we would arrive early.

Lineup poster for the Akisuanerit Festival 2019 in Nuuk, Greenland
Program for Akisuanerit 2019

Unfortunately, I had not read the schedule very closely and we found the doors still firmly locked when we arrived at 8:30pm. I thought the first act was scheduled for 9pm, but it turned out that was when the doors would be opened.

Oops! 

I wasn’t the only one to be making my friends stand out in the cold, however. Elaine – a 68 year old lady from Florida and another enormous Nanook fan – was also stranded outside.  When we were finally let in, I headed straight for “the spot” and claimed it with no worries at all. But I think my friends will double-check anything written in Danish next time before taking my word for it 🙂

Akisuanerit Festival – Kimmernaq and Adam

The first performers of the night were Greenlandic singer Kimmernaq and her brother Adam. I’d come across Kimmernaq about a year ago and immediately fell in love with her amazing voice and many of the songs off her two albums. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given her second album was written by Frederik Elsner from Nanook!

Covers of Kimmernaq's 2 album

I had heard her songs performed by many local musicians in towns and settlements around Greenland, but I was really excited to actually hear her in person. She was fab!

Kimmernaq and her brother Adam playing at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk 2019
Kimmernaq and Adam

She sang a mixture of songs during her performance, including many of her own as well as a few Radiohead covers that allowed her and her brother to harmonize gloriously. Adam turned out to be an incredible singer in his own right, performing a solo, melancholic folk-style song that aligned exactly with the type of music I love. What an incredible start to the night!

Adam, Kimmernaq and Nathan performing at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk, 2019
Adam, Kimmernaq and Nathan

Their set culminated in an amazing hip-hop collaboration with several other Greenlandic artists, including Nina Kreutzmann Jørgensen, Pilu Lynge and Da Bartali Crew. Something very different to her usual stuff – and seriously, seriously awesome! Yes, even for someone who is not into hip-hop music.

Adam, Kimmernaq, Nina, Pilu and Da Bartali Crew performing a hip-hop collaboration at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk, 2019
Adam, Kimmernaq, Da Bartali Crew (back), Nina and Pilu performing their hip-hop collaboration

Buy music from Kimmernaq at: Atlantic Music Shop, iTunes


Akisuanerit Festival – Nanook

Next up was the band I had come to see – Nanook. I discovered their music about 2 years ago when I was living in Ecuador and have listened to almost nothing else ever since! If you’ve been following me for a while, you will have seen my blog posts about them both here and on Guide to Greenland 🙂  I had been trying to see them play live since 2017 (I missed them by less than 12 hours in Sisimiut in 2018) and I finally got the chance here in Nuuk.

Nanook official image

The wait was totally worth it!

They started out with the amazing soundscape of Minguitsuugami – one of my favourite tracks off their latest album, Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq – and played a mixture of old and new songs from their 11-year career.

Greenlandic band - Nanook - performing at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk, 2019
Nanook

There is something really special about seeing your favourite musicians play live, and it can only be surpassed when they actually give you a shout-out/name-drop in the middle of their performance 🙂  One of the highlights of my year!

I love these guys!

Buy music from Nanook at:  Atlantic Music, Amazon (Pissaaneqaqisut, Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq), iTunes, Spotify


Akisuanerit Festival – Tarrak

A surprise addition to the program was Greenlandic rapper, Tarrak. Performing with KimoJax, they sang his controversial hit “Tupilak” – a song that highlights some of the difficult aspects of the relationship between Greenland and Denmark.

Tarrak and KimoJax performing Tupilak at the Akisuanerit Festival, Nuuk 2019
Tarrak (left) and KimoJax (right) performing “Tupilak”

The linked YouTube clip includes an English translation of the lyrics, and although I am not a fan of rap, I think this song is amazing.

Akisuanerit Festival – Julie

Julie Berthelsen is one of the biggest Greenlandic pop singers, and insanely popular judging by the reaction of the masses who had packed into the foyer of the Katuaq Cultural Center by this time.

Julie singing her very popular songs at Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk, 2019
Julie

Personally, her music is not my cup of tea. But I have to admit to liking the song “League of Light” which she sang with Nina Kreutzmann Jørgensen as Greenland’s entry to the Danish qualifier for Eurovision 2019. Nina joined her on stage again at the Akisuanerit Festival to finish off her set with this number.

Akisuanerit Festival –

The headline act for the 2019 festival was internationally famous Danish singer, . To be honest, I had no idea who MØ was or what her music sounded like (yes, I can be a little behind the times), but given I was there I figured I should stay awake, stick around and give her a go.

She. Was. Amazing!

MØ performing at the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk 2019
MØ was fabulous

She didn’t appear until about 1:20am, but when she did, her energy and stage presence were amazing and her vocals were flawless. I’m now a massive fan!

MØ and her band playing in Katuaq, Nuuk

Summary

For a person who normally goes to bed around 10pm, this was a huge night! MØ finished at 2:30am and I had a 30-minute walk to get home afterwards. Even then, I found it difficult to fall asleep. Between the ringing in my ears and the high of finally seeing Nanook play live – my brain would not let go of the awesome night.

If you are a music lover and also interested in visiting Greenland – perhaps try to plan your trip for end-September/start-October so you can catch the Akisuanerit Festival in Nuuk. Like the festival’s Facebook page to stay up to date with the latest news, and check out the Ultimate Guide to Nuuk to discover what else there is to see and do while you visit Greenland’s capital.

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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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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!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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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.

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