Our trip began with a tour of Sisimiut, the second-largest town in Greenland, with 5600 residents (i.e., about Clinton, NY, size). It feels like a small fishing village. It is about 40 km above the Arctic Circle, and is the northernmost year-round ice-free port. Passengers were divided into groups based on language. Our guide to Sisimiut was Evie, a young woman from the town.
Evie pointed out an artists’ workshop near the pier, then led us up the hill, through a whale-jawbone arch to the old town, which is now a museum, with a church dating from 1775, an administrative building, a store, and a turf house. Now they are all part of the museum.
The earliest settlements still surviving in Greenland were by Inuit from Canada beginning in the 13th century. Vikings began European settlement soon after in Southern Greenland. Because the Inuit could not read Norse language, early buildings were color coded: blue for church, red for store or administrative, etc. Although the coding is no longer necessary, Greenlandic towns continue to be colorful.
Our tour continued up the hill past a dog park, where sled dogs are kept, outside of town. Each one is staked and chained so it cannot reach the others. These dogs are working dogs, not pets, and can be dangerous to people and each other just as people can be dangerous to them. They do have enough chain (several feet) so they can move around. Most were just sleeping on the bare ground. We were warned not to interact with them; if a dog bites a person, the dog is killed.
Evie also pointed out a couple of schools, the cemetery, and the city hall. Then we had some time to wander on our own. I think Sisimiut has both primary and secondary schools. The only university in Greenland is in Nuuk, the capital. I stopped in a bank and got some Danish Kroner, which I never really needed. I also went into a grocery store but did not buy anything.
Heading back down toward the ship, I browsed the museum, which included settlement history, tools, relics, and local art. I also stopped in the artists’ workshop near the harbor, but did not buy anything there, either. Various crafts were displayed for sale, including carvings of walrus and reindeer bone. I later found out they can legally sell walrus and whale carvings, but we cannot legally import them into the US.
Back on board, the afternoon included lunch, a little hand laundry in the bathroom, and a welcome meeting with the Expedition Leader and Hotel Director, followed by a safety drill, for lifejackets, zodiac safety, and lifeboats.
Before we left port, a local kayaker gave us a 15-20 minute performance of kayaking skills beside the ship, demonstrating many rolls in his kayak. Mind you, there were icebergs floating in that water.
After we left port, the Captain’s welcome meeting and reception was followed by a recap of the day and briefing on tomorrow. The recap and briefing was repeated before dinner each day. Dinner was at 7:30 (this was okay, because we always had “tea” at 4 pm, with sandwiches and desserts). Dinner was the only meal where we sat, ordered from a menu, and the meal was served to us. But it was open seating, so we could choose whom to sit with. Breakfast and lunch were buffet-style.
After dinner we returned to our cabin for the night. Oh, yes, our cabin. It was big, with a king bed near the portholes, which could be covered with heavy drapes to darken it. The sky never darkened (we were already north of the Artic Circle!). A curtain could separate the sleeping area from a sitting area with a couch and a big TV, a mini fridge, and dresser. A closet was opposite the bathroom, and a desk was in the part with the bed. I’ve been in motel and hotel rooms that were much smaller. Quite a change from our Galaxy Hostel pod.