Nuuk, Greenland

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August 26th 2019
Published: May 2nd 2022
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Church of Our Saviour Church of Our Saviour Church of Our Saviour

Church of Our Saviour (Lutheran) also known as Nuuk Cathedral (Annaassisitta Oqaluffia). Built in 1848-1849. The building next to the church is the seat of the Bishop of Greenland (Church of Denmark.) DSC_0419
Our first port call in Greenland was Nuuk, the capital. Formerly named Godthåb, the city is the largest town in Greenland with a population of about 18,000. Nuuk is also the world's northernmost capital city, just below the Arctic Circle. The city is spread out and the landscape quite austere looking. There is little vegetation, even in summer, and no trees or shrubs. Housing is primarily in the form of apartment blocks, most of new construction, although there are townhouses and scattered individual homes. The cityscape of Nuuk presents many contrasts. There is the older area, with its colonial era wooden buildings painted red in the Scandinavian style. Then, there is the newer construction downtown and towards the port and beyond.

Caribbean Princess was able to dock at the Port of Nuuk. It is a busy container and fishing port. Nearly all of Greenland's consumer goods come in from Denmark, transported by the Royal Arctic Line. The city center was about a mile from the dock. Princess had chartered most of Nuuk's public bus fleet to provide shuttle service (at a cost of US$20 per person) to the center and to the colonial area, the location of the museum. After
Inuit MaskInuit MaskInuit Mask

Inuit ask made of driftwood. IMG_0359p1
disembarking from the ship, we took the bus to the colonial port and museum area. Two Inuit girls were on hand to provide information to visitors (and to practice their English).

While there, an Air Greenland plane from Nuuk airport flew overhead. Nuuk and Greenland has outside air connections only to Reykjavik and Copenhagen (and the latter only via connection at Kangerlussuaq). There is no air connection from Greenland to North America. It reminds one who isolated Greenland still is. No roads connect any of the towns. Access between them is by air or by a weekly ferry service. Cargo comes in by ship at each coastal port.

The colonial port area is the historic section of town. The Lutheran Church of Our Saviour (also known as the Cathedral of Greenland) overlooks the scene. The red wooden structure dates from 1848-1849. Above it on a hilltop is the statue of Hans Egede. Hans Egede (1685-1758) was a Danish-Norwegian missionary who came to Greenland in 1722. He had heard stories of the old Norse (Viking) settlements in Greenland and intended to make contact with them. (Those settlements had been abandoned in the 16th century.) Egede instead turned his attention
Statue of Hans Egede Overlooking NuukStatue of Hans Egede Overlooking NuukStatue of Hans Egede Overlooking Nuuk

Statue of Hand Egede, “the Apostle of Greenland”, overlooking Nuuk. Hans Egede (1686-1758) was a Danish-Norwegian Lutheran minister. In the Lofoten Islands, he heard of the Norse settlements in Greenland that had not be contacted for 200 years. In 1721, he was sent by Denmark to attempt to reach them and serve as a missionary. He discovered the ruins of the settlements and by 1723 has established a Danish settlement in Greenland. The settlement eventually became Godthåb (Good Hope), modern Nuuk. DSC_0412
to missionary work with the Inuit and he and his colonists established Danish colonization of Greenland.

Down street from the church is the Colonial Harbour district, old Godthåb. The Greenland National Museum is here, housed partly in new construction and partly in repurposed whale oil processing buildings from the 1930s. Other preserved buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries form an open-air museum.

The national museum was excellent in its collections and their presentation. In a series of exhibits one learns of the Dorset People, the first inhabitants of Greenland! who lived in the region from 4500 years ago to about 1250. The Thule people, ancestors of today's Inuit, came much later, coming across the polar ice and sea from Alaska about 1200. The Norse arrived from Iceland in the 10th century, establishing two settlements. I had not known before that the Norse settlements maintained regular contact with Europe until about 1550, sending trade goods such as ivory. After that, no one knows what became of them. (Hence, Hans Egede's curiosity 200 years later.) Stone Ruins remain and clothing and implements have been discovered in southern Greenland. The Inuit and the Norse engaged in cultural exchanges, including the
Nuuk HarborNuuk HarborNuuk Harbor

Inuit learning farming and sheep raising and the Norse walrus and seal hunting. Displays of five Inuit graves lead to a discussion of Inuit beliefs and funerary traditions. Displays contrast Danish and Inuit experiences during the colonial era. Init culture is examined through displays on artistic expression, implements, clothing and other items of Inuit material culture.

Denmark asserted sovereignty over Greenland in 1721, with increasing self-rule in effect since 1979. The interaction of the Danish and Inuit in the colonial era is described through exhibits of clothing, education, industry and communicatIons. I also enjoyed the exhibit on Inuit Means of Transport, with displays qujaqs (kayaks), umiaks and dog sleds.These traditional forms of transportation remain in use in northern Greenland.

After our visit to the museum, we returned to downtown Nuuk. In the center of town are Nuuk Center and the Katuaq, the Nuuk cultural center. Nuuk Center is an office building and also houses a two level enclosed shopping mall. The mall includes a supermarket, which we visited. Most items are imported from Europe, including American brand chips and snacks. We picked up sandwiches from the deli counter for lunch. The mall also includes a pharmacy, restaurants, clothing
Nuup Kangerlua Fjord Nuup Kangerlua Fjord Nuup Kangerlua Fjord

Nuup Kangerlua fjord at Nuuk (Godthåb). In the distance is Sermitsiaq 3,970 ft (1,210 m). DSC_0392
and household goods stores, and an electronics store. A number of craft and souvenir shops are found along the Imaneq pedestrian precinct. Many of these operate, I think, depending on tourist volume. At one shop, the proprietor told us she was a casualty nurse and had come to Greenland from Denmark some 20 years before. She liked life in Greenland, though the winter nights were long. We went into the Katuaq for a look. It is a cinema, theatre, conference center and arts space. The wavy panels of the exterior evoke the curtains of the Northern Lights.

Another bus returned us to the port from downtown. Caribbean Princess docked at the largest wharf and even so was an unusually large ship to visit Nuuk. When we sailed late in the late afternoon, families came down to the dock to see the ship depart.

Additional photos below
Photos: 48, Displayed: 25


Church of Our SaviourChurch of Our Saviour
Church of Our Saviour

Church of Our Saviour (Lutheran) also known as Nuuk Cathedral (Annaassisitta Oqaluffia). Built in 1848-1849 in then-Godthåb. DSC_0406
Royal CairnRoyal Cairn
Royal Cairn

Cairn commemorating the visit of King Frederik IX and Ingrid of Denmark to Greenland in 1952. DSC_0405
Sassuma ArnaaSassuma Arnaa
Sassuma Arnaa

Mother of the Sea sculpture. The Mother of the Sea (Sedna or Sassuma Arnaa) is the Inuit goddess of the sea and ruler of sea creatures. Inuit hunters traditionally seek her favor. DSC_0413p1


Peninsula jutting into Nuup Kangerlua fjord at Nuuk (Godthåb). DSC_0414
Colonial HarbourColonial Harbour
Colonial Harbour

Colonial Harbour historical area of Nuuk. Established in 1728, it is now home to the Greenland Museum. DSC_0418
Royal CairnRoyal Cairn
Royal Cairn

Cairn commemorating the visit of King Christian X and Alexandrine of Denmark to Greenland, 10 July 1921. DSC_0425
Greenland National MuseumGreenland National Museum
Greenland National Museum

Greenland National Museum. Main exhibition building. DSC_0443
Ethnographic Film Ethnographic Film
Ethnographic Film

Greenland National Museum. Ethnographic film on the Inuit. IMG_0309
Inuit DrumInuit Drum
Inuit Drum

Drum dancing and singing is an important form of Inuit musical expression. IMG_0360
Inuit MasksInuit Masks
Inuit Masks

Inuit CarvingInuit Carving
Inuit Carving

Greenland National Museum. Inuit carving. The carved wooden piece with 28 faces from a 17th century grave in Upernavik is unique. IMG_0378p1
Dog SledDog Sled
Dog Sled

Greenland National Museum. Inuit means of transport exhibit. Dog sled. IMG_0370

Greenland National Museum. Otto Petersen's Ortorujuk, an umiaq (umiak) from the now abandoned village of Aulatsivik in the Aasiaat area. To this vessel, the story of the last hunting trip with an umiaq in West Greenland is linked to the inland east of Kangaatsiaq, in the summer of 1966. A documentary film was made about the trip entitled Umitalik. An umiaq is a vessel carrying multiple people. IMG_0390
Norse HeadgearNorse Headgear
Norse Headgear

Norsemen (Vikings) settled in Greenland about 1000 AD. They eventually formed two settlements known as the Eastern Settlement and the Western Settlement, where they farmed and raised sheep. IMG_0393p1
Inuit ClothingInuit Clothing
Inuit Clothing

Greenland National Museum. Inuit clothing made from polar bear and reindeer. Avenersuaq - The hunter's trousers and fur coat are from polar bear or reindeer. Women wore fox skin trousers. Headgear - The hood of the Anorak (Parka) made caps for everyday use unnecessary. Some special caps made from feathers or fur may have been used for ritual ceremonies. IMG_0348

8th May 2022
Inuit Mask

Enjoyed reading this post. I love the stark beauty, and this mask is very eye-catching too.

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