Nuuk is not only the largest city in Greenland but also North America’s northernmost capital. With a population of 15,469, Nuuk is also one of the world’s smallest capitals.
We met one of Nuuk’s inhabitants on the day we visited. Else Marie Jerimiassen served as our guide as we toured the National Museum and other attractions in Nuuk, all highlighted in the accompanying video.
We spent time at Colonial Harbor and saw the House of Hans Egede, a Norwegian-Danish missionary who founded Nuuk, then called Godthåb. We stood by the oversized Santa’s red mailbox, stuffed with letters from hopeful children, and watched kayaks –qajaq in Greenlandic – glide through the gentle harbor waters.
Nearby, we visited The Board, a fish and meat market, where we were supposed to film, but a man turned us away, frantically waving his arms and saying in broken English, “No filming.” Greenlanders still hunt humpback whales, and apparently the man wanted no bad publicity.
Before we set sail, Else Marie changed into the traditional Greenlandic costume, handed down to her from her grandmother. She spoke fondly of her grandmother and told us how her grandmother paddled an umiak (an open boat used by the Eskimo) when she was younger.
At 26, Else Maria has seen rapid modernization in Greenland. “People are surprised to learn we have televisions,” she says, shortly after calling home on her mobile phone and speaking to her mother in Greenlandic, the language her family prefers over Danish.
Else Marie also talks of her mission to change Greenland’s image, which, she adds, “has not always seen in the best way in Denmark.” In Copenhagen, there is a derogatory phrase, which translates to “Drunk as a Greenlander.”
We also met Else Marie’s mother, who was leaving the next morning to hunt Caribou. Augusta would spend three days traveling by boat and sleeping in tents, similar in spirit to the way her ancestors lived. She had a good hunt, writing to me a few days later: “We got 2 caribou, 10 trout, and 16 kilograms of blueberries. It was a wonderful trip. We left on Thursday and returned home Saturday. Sunday we were out again, and my husband got six ptarmigans, and I got 3.5 kilograms blueberries. All of those blueberries to make smoothies and package and to eat.”
Nuuk is a destination worth visiting – at least once in your lifetime, but the people we met in Nuuk made us think it would be sad not to return to check up on them now and then.
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