Now that we were settled into our room, we still had about an hour before we had to meet our tour guide in the lobby of the hotel. Therefore, we decided to venture out to get some cash and have a quick look around.
The currency of Greenland is the Danish Kroner (DKK). At the time we were there, 1 DKK was roughly equal to $5. Our hotel was next door to the Pisifik grocery store, which contains several ATMs. I was able to use my card to withdraw kroners for petty cash. I didn't use much of the cash until I needed to get rid of it at the end of our trip. Instead, I used my credit card most of the time. I normally had to warn the merchants that my purchases require a signature as opposed to a PIN required by European credit cards. Although this caused confusion in many cases, most of the vendors eventually figured out the correct series of keystrokes to process my card. There was only one case where the vendor couldn't figure it out. I just used cash in that situation.
As I mentioned before, our hotel, Hotel Hans Egede, was located on a busy 2-laned street. There was a steady flow of cars and buses. There is a traffic light on the same block as the hotel. This is significant because there are only three of them in all of Greenland. Two of them are in walking distance from the hotel.
As Traci and I walked the streets, I did notice a few double-glances. After all, there was no one who looked like us. However, I was struck by the friendliness of the people. They would smile and nod. A few curious people approached us with questions. One young lady, who spoke English very well, wanted to know if Traci braids hair. We met some other Greenlanders who didn't speak much English but wanted to know "Where you from? What you like to eat?"
I think my most memorable conversation was with some older people who were trying to speak to us in Greenlandic. It didn't seem to matter that Traci and I didn't speak their language. The conversation was accompanied with a lot of handshaking, smiling, and Charades. I still have no idea what we were talking about.
After looking around in a few stores and then doing more walking to see if we could figure out where that wonderful aroma of fried seafood was coming from, we headed back to our hotel. The Nuuk Tourism van pulled up at 1 PM on the dot. We met Margaret, our tour guide for the city tour. She is Danish but has lived in Greenland for a long time. For the next two hours she drove Traci and me on a personal tour around the city providing us with a wealth of historical, cultural, and even personal information. She said she hadn't done this tour in English in a while so she apologized up front for any miscommunication. However, she didn't seem to have any problems understanding us and we certainly had no problems understanding her.
Margaret began our tour at Nuuk's old Colonial Harbor. It doesn't look like much on the surface but there are several interesting attractions in the vicinity. Before diving deep into all the historical stuff, Margaret drew our attention to a big red mailbox. Apparently, Santa Claus has expanded his operations since his days of living at the North Pole. He is now said to have a home in North Pole, Alaska; Lapland, Finland; and Greenland. Although his Greenlandic residence is located in the town of Uummannaq in North Greenland, Santa's post office is right here in Nuuk. Letters from children all over the world are received and answered at this location. By the way, we didn't see the old man and we definitely didn't see any of his reindeer. Reindeer is a popular menu item in this part of the world.
We continued the tour up a hill where a bright red Lutheran church sits. It was built in 1849 and its name translates to Our Savior's Church. Outside the church on a mound of rocks stands a statue of Hans Egede looking out over the harbor. Hans Egede founded Nuuk, Greenland's oldest city in 1728 when he came from Denmark as a Christian missionary. Inside the church are portraits of Hans praying. The church interior is simple but elegant with its grey and gold decor. There are candles attached to the end of each pew. A ship hangs from the ceiling at the entrance. We spent about 15 minutes inside while Margaret told us about history and religion in Greenland.
With nearly 16,000 residents, Nuuk is the island's most populated city. Even though Greenland is still a territory of Denmark, it became a Home Rule nation in 1979 to handle internal affairs. We were driven past Greenland's parliament building, court house, and other official buildings.
We noticed a lot of construction both to the roads and buildings as we were being driven around. Living this far north, the people have to take advantage of the short summer season to get all the construction done before the harsh arctic winter sets in.
Margaret took us to the industrial harbor. The major industries in Greenland are shrimping/fishing, services, and tourism. There has been an increase in cruise ships visiting Greenland. At the time, Margaret told us her company was trying to work out the logistics issues brought on by the largest cruise ship to date scheduled to pull into port in Nuuk in a few days. The ship would contain nearly 3,000 passengers. Nuuk Tourism does not have enough shuttles to accommodate that many people; therefore, they would most likely enlist the help of the city's fleet of public buses.
As more people move to Nuuk in search of employment, the housing situation is becoming strained. The large grey concrete housing blocks in the city's center are at their limits. Therefore, the city is expanding outwards. Nuuk now has a suburb. We were driven through these burbs where brightly-colored single-family homes and apartment complexes exist.
Hans Egede statue overlooks the Colonial Harbor
houses near the Colonial Harbor
Our tour continued through various parts of Nuuk where we visited the tiny University Of Greenland consisting of one building and about 350 students. We visited Malik, one of the two swimming pools Greenland. There were many other places we saw during the 2-hour tour. We had Margaret drop us off at the Greenland National Museum instead of back at our hotel. Continue...