Journal of a July 2005 Cruise

Cruise 2005: Ireland, Greenland, Iceland and Norway
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This page last updated: 18th June 2007.
6: Nuuk

Nuuk We waken to thick fog which has slowed the ship down and put us about an hour behind schedule. As we near Nuuk, Greenland's capital, once known as Godthåb, the fog clears and the sun comes out. The ship anchors in the bay. There are some whales in the channel between the ship and the shore, though all we see is the tips of their tails.

I get a tender about 11am. The landing place is not ideal. There is a two-foot gap to get across to some uneven steps. A few people decide to stay on the tender and return to the ship.

At first it is cold but gradually it warms up strongly. I wend my way up a steep path towards the city centre. The central area is pedestrianised with an interesting range of shops but for the most part is architecturally unbeautiful. Much of the housing is apartment blocks, which look very bleak and remind one of dour estates. Blok P, we are told, houses 1% of the total population of Greenland. Nonetheless I see that the end of Blok Q has been tastefully decorated with images of birds.

In a little boutique I buy some earrings for Christine. As the weather is changing, the shop assistant kindly provides me with a large carrier bag so I can take off my anorak and carry it more easily.

A husky is tied up outside the bank and I see other large dogs obediently following their owners.

I buy a slice of pizza from a mobile stall for Dkr25. I can't read Danish and the vendor doesn't speak English so I just point at one that looks nice. It is probably one the most delicious and scrumptious pizzas I've ever devoured. The meat tastes a bit like strong beef with a hint of pepper. Musk-ox, whale meat, reindeer, seal? — I've no idea! I enjoyed it by the side of the road at the junction of Kuussuaq and Skibshavnvej. The former is a wide road which leads past building work towards the hinterland and snowpeaks. A large drain runs down its side, with flat wooden crossing boards at intervals.

Skibshavnvej leads to the lovely blue building that is the Atuagkat Bookshop. Although I only buy a couple of postcards I'm treated to a cup of coffee which is served on a table outside the shop. After the pizza it is very welcome.

Whilst Qaqortoq was yellow with buttercups, Nuuk is yellow with dandelions. Approaching the Cathedral of Greenland — a red-painted wooden Lutheran chapel — I come across a couple who have two sheep on leads. It seems the sheep have been in the churchyard eating the grass and having done their mowing chore are being led home. In front of the cathedral is a bronze bust of the celebrated organist Jonathan Petersen and on the hill above is a statue of Hans Egede.

On Tuapannguit I find Anori Art. I try on a sealskin coat. It feels extremely nice but when I realise the price is around £1000 ... I do make a purchase here though and buy my wife a pair of earrings made of narwhal. Because of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species I have to obtain from the shop a certificate allowing them to be imported into the UK.

I spend the last of my Danish krøner in the same street at Roar Christiansen's Galleri. I'd called in earlier to admire the paintings on display and bought a postcard with an aerial view of Nuuk. Now I buy a couple of posters. One is a pictorial guide to Greenland Whales. The other is a print of a painting by Aka Høegh called "Havets moder/ Mother of the sea".

Back at the quay, the queues for the returning tender are horrendous, stretching in a huge circle. The souvenir stalls have a captive audience. I walk past towards the Greenland National Museum. Entrance is free and it looks very interesting, but I'm really too tired to take in any of the information about the exhibits. Nearby is a large Christmas tree and Santa's Post Box. I join the queue for the tenders. It takes almost an hour. Back on board there is a lot of criticism. Part of the problem is the unsuitability of the landing stage to handle large numbers of people. The one thing that would have made the situation a little more bearable though would have been the provision of some seating. It is a good job the weather was so kind. The ship's departure is delayed as a result.

We've settled into life aboard ship now and so tonight we sample a bit more of the nightlife. After dinner we go along to the Curzon Theatre. The ships company put on a show called Cold Discs in Platform Shoes — a musical trip down memory lane — which is very enjoyable apart from a spotlight that keeps focusing itself directly onto my face. We then transfer to Carmen's Bar where we are entertained by the comedian Les Bryan.

Photographs Journal page 7