Ilulissat is stunning. Every time you turn a corner, you see another angle of a landscape that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. The views change with the passing hours as the icebergs move slowly out into the bay and the sun moves around the sky, never falling below the horizon. I confess, I figured 24-hour sun was exciting because it’s unusual, but I wasn’t really sure what the big deal was. (This is kind of embarrassing.) Like, if it’s light at noon and it’s light at midnight, what’s so exciting about it being light? It’s always light. Right, but wrong. The midnight sun is really freaking cool. Because it’s at a different angle. Which makes everything look totally different. This now seems very obvious. And it is why I accidentally slept all morning on my first two or three days in Greenland and didn’t even feel bad about “wasting” precious time. If you’re not going to work or school, it really doesn’t matter which hours you’re awake, so you might as well choose the ones with the best light, right?
It wasn’t hard for me to imagine how I’d pass four days in Ilulissat on my own. There are hiking trails, a few museums, and endless opportunities to sit in beautiful places and read a book. Or just stare. Like, in a non-creepy way. And I had some incredibly peaceful walks where I just took it all in: the coolness of the water and ice juxtaposed with the cheerfulness of the town’s brightly colored buildings. The burbling of the stream rushing down to the fjord mixed with chattering birds and howling sled dogs, and punctuated occasionally by the distant crack of an iceberg. There’s much to be said for solitude, especially in such a unique and enchanting place (and especially coming from a culture that seems to encourage spending as much time as possible WITH people DOING things).
But doing stuff with other people is fun too, and luckily for this solitary traveler, it wasn’t long before I’d struck up conversations with a few other hostel guests. A group of Austrian and German tourists invited me to share their delicious meal of fresh catfish (this is my most direct link to the original purpose of this blog – perks of having lived in Germany!). A French composer working on a Greenland-based project played me some nifty sound recordings of glaciers calving and air bubbling up to the surface when I let him use my computer. A New York-based Australian web designer on a sort of sabbatical took me out for a midnight hike to the ice fjord. Sounds like a great week – but that was just Tuesday, my first day in Ilulissat.
Highlight reel: After a long hike on Wednesday, my Aussie friend and I went to a bar where a Greenlandic couple invited us back to their home. They shared stories, photos, magic tricks, and three different kinds of fish with us, and were just generally incredibly kind, gracious hosts. I cannot say enough about how warm the people here are. (Obviously, use common sense about this stuff. Personally, as a young foreign woman, I would not choose to go to a bar here alone, but it doesn’t take away from the really amazing people in this town.)
On Thursday, I was on my own, so I went to the art museum, where I met the lovely Danish man who runs it and a former artist-in-residence who lives about fifteen minutes away from my parents in the States. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Then I took a short hike on my own to the most beautiful place in the world (disclaimer: in my experience, so far). I also cooked some amazing (frozen) peas and carrots that were expertly seasoned with salt and pepper. I’m waiting for my call from Paris.
On Friday, I decided to check out the cultural museum, but ran right into the American artist I’d met the day before so we went and admired the icebergs together and talked about Greenland and home. My Austrian friends invited me for one last meal (fresh salmon this time) and while I was chatting with them, a mysterious group of guys appeared. They turned out to be Scandinavian fishermen, sort of. Apparently if you’re Scandinavian and young-ish, you can get hooked up with cool summer jobs like fishing in Greenland (no pun intended). Then you get to come into town for the weekend and attempt to not spend all of your earnings on overpriced Danish beers. At any rate, we hit it off over a football match and had an awesome weekend of hiking, dancing, football, and making good-natured fun of each other’s countries.
(window could be cleaner, but note the view from this bar…)
But now it’s Sunday and finally time for the shenanigans to come to an end. The fishermen are off, and I’m ready to do what I came for. I haven’t met my bosses yet, but I just had my first proper conversation with the other guy I’ll be working with. Similarly to every other person from the States whom I’ve met here, he’s originally from New York, went to high school like an hour away, and used to run past my house. Literally. Someone please cue that annoying “It’s a Small World” song…or maybe the Twilight Zone theme… At any rate, though, the first chapter is coming to a close and I’m ready for part 2 of this crazy trip.
[Okay, actually, I’m at home now. Just suspend disbelief for a couple more posts!]