Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nuuk, Greenland

It's now Wednesday, July 6, 5:45 AM, Greenland time. I'm in the Nuuk airport. My flight leaves at 7:35 for the hour travel time to Kangerlussuaq. Then the plane for Copenhagen leaves at 11:40 AM. I'm supposed to arrive in Denmark at 8 PM. The day's not as long as it sounds because Copenhagen is four hours ahead, so I'll be in Denmark at 4 PM Greenland time.

Anyway, back on Monday, in Reykjavík, I got up at 7 AM for my noon flight to Nuuk, Greenland. On Sunday afternoon, the owner of the inn called the shuttle, which was supposed to come at 8 AM, so I stood on the corner where the Flybus dropped me off on Friday (a half block from the inn). About 8:10 one of those Iceland Expedition vans pulled up in front of a hotel two houses from the Alfhouse Guesthouse. I asked the driver if he was going to the BSI Bus Terminal. He said no. So I returned to standing on the corner in front of the Icelandic Salvation Army.

Around 8:30, still no Flybus. I went back to the guesthouse and saw that the shuttle was actually Iceland Expedition not Flybus, and it didn't go to the bus terminal but the airport. Damn, I should've read the fine print!

I headed into town, a two-minute walk. A short row of taxis usually were parked in front of the main tourist center. I had the cabbie drive me to the bus terminal. I could've walked the kilometer to it -- God knows I had enough time -- but walking in light rain with luggage in tow isn't my idea of a good time.

At the bus terminal, I bought a ticket for the first Flybus shuttle to the airport: 9:30 AM.

The shuttle made it to the airport in better time than the one on Friday. Maybe it helped that this driver wasn't squinting into the horizon like Friday's driver (put those bifocals on mate!). Got to the airport around 10:10 AM.

In the terminal, I didn't see my flight on any of the boards. A woman at the one of check-in desks informed me that my flight is at the other airport. WHAT!?! A small city like Reykjavík has two airports? By now it was 10:30. The airport employee suggested I take a shuttle. I opted for a cab, which cost me almost a $100 US. That's what I get for not reading the fine print twice (once on the shuttle service and once on the airport code on my plane ticket).

The correct airport was coincidentally across the road from the bus terminal. Real small. They had one gates and one runway, and I couldn't check in until a half-hour before takeoff.

The plane was only half-full. Not a lot of people going to Greenland, I guess. Kinda nice to have a window view with the seat next to me empty so I could throw my jacket.

The Air Iceland plane landed in Nuuk around 1:15 PM; it was a three hour-plus flight (Greenland is two hours behind Iceland).

The Nuuk airport is about as small as the one in Reykjavík. The baggage claim has a conveyor belt that's only about four feet inside the building; you could see outside through the vertical plastic flaps as they loaded the luggage from the truck, with the plane only 10 feet away.

Outside it was 45 degrees with 15-to-25-mile winds. I grabbed a taxi that drove me five kilometers to my hotel apartment. When I went to pay the cabbie, neither of my credit cards would take because apparently in Greenland you need to type in PIN codes. Reluctantly, I paid with my debit card, which has a PIN.

Checking in turned out to be another nightmare. Neither of my credit cards would work without a PIN (I don't know it) and they could run my debit card through but because it's a MasterCard they would charge me 4% extra.

I headed into town, which is only about two blocks away and went to the bank. I could only withdraw $2,000 Danish kroner (about $400 US), so I went back to my room and grabbed a bunch of Euros I had left over from Finland. I traded these in at the bank for kroner along with about $240 US; that gave me an extra 2,000 kroner. Oh, and I tried to call my VISA credit card company, but I had trouble getting through from the room in my hotel, and the kid at reception wasn't too helpful, mainly due to language barriers (more on that later).

With enough kroner to get me by, I wandered around. I was a little under-dressed with those wicked winds. My pants, short-sleeve T-shirt, mock turtleneck and Australia cotton/polyester barely kept me warm, but I could've used another layer. I took as many pictures as possible because the next day the BBC weather website said to expect heavy rain.

Across the street from the bank was the big hotel in Nuuk, sandwiched between a convenience store and a sports store, with construction going on out front. I headed up to the fifth floor to their restaurant.

Great dinner! Service was top-notch. With my cold still going, I got hot tea. For a starter, I had scallops. Main course was rack of lamb. All outstanding. And I went a little crazy with the bread, so no room for dessert.

Afterwards, I headed back to the hotel apartment and lied low. There were tons of public housing around me. I wasn't sure what to expect, especially since the inside of my door jamb was carved up, as if somebody had tried to break in with a crowbar.

A few blocks from my hotel. (Nuuk, Greenland; July 4, 2011)

On Tuesday, I woke up before my alarm went off at 7 AM. It hadn't started raining yet. I headed two blocks to the downtown area where there's a supermarket, which I had visited a few times on Monday. Attached to it is a bakery that opened at 6:30. I got a square-shaped pastry about an inch thick and sugary in some parts. Yum.

Back in my room, I planned the day's itinerary. I wanted to start things right then and there at 8 AM, but most of Nuuk's few tourist spots don't open till 10.

Since I had time to kill, I headed to reception, which was only open from 8 AM to 4 PM, to pay my bill. It came out to 1,600 krona (about $300 US), which I paid in cash.

Real quick: it doesn't seem a lot of people here speak English. Presented a problem in some instances. And when they did speak, there was trouble communicating. For example, on Monday, the kid at reception said in order to pay my bill in cash I needed to go to the bank and make a "deposit". I thought I had to deposit the money in the hotel's account, but I found out on Tuesday he meant "withdraw". From what I read, Greenlandic is the primary language, followed by Danish (since Greenland is a republic of Denmark), then English.

Around 9:30 it started to rain. Lovely.

Around 10:30 or so, I called a cab to take me to the Nuuk Tourism office. It was only a 10-to-15-minute walk but I didn't feel like getting soaked, even though the wind wasn't as fierce as on Monday.

Nuuk Tourism didn't have any stamps for the postcards I had picked up the day before in what I believe is the city's only bookstore. Though I wished I had waited to buy the postcards at Nuuk Tourism because they had a better selection. Oh, well.

What was cool about Nuuk Tourism was in the back they had a little Santa workshop. Cute.

Then it was off in another taxi for downtown.

I withdrew another 2,000 kroner from the bank. Glad it took. I had feared it wouldn't let me do so because less than 24 hours had elapsed. Now I had plenty of money. No need to worry about using my credit cards. And my next (and last) stop will be Copenhagen, which uses kroner too.

I also hit the post office to get postage for the postcards. What's interesting about retail outlets is they make you take a number and you wait to be called. It happened here at the post office, the supermarket, the bank and the bakery. Oh, and what also caught my attention at the post office was all the electronics they sold. iPads, iPods, cameras, headphones, etc.

I then visited that sports store next to the hotel where I had dinner Monday night. Unfortunately, they didn't have any football jerseys.

By now it was 11:30 AM. I crossed the street to hit a cafe that recommended. It was over top a bar. Though the cafe was more like a restaurant. I ordered penne with chopped-up chicken in an Alfredo-like sauce. The hot green tea kept my cold in check, which is lingering.

I then realized I wanted to visit the Greenland National Museum; it's 50 yards from Nuuk Tourism. I'm so stupid! Should've went there before. Grrrr. . . .

The museum consisted of about five different buildings. Some interesting stuff in there, like a family of mummies from 500 to 1,000 years ago, and an exhibit on Norse farms, the latter which settled around 1,300 AD but eventually left because (it's assumed) either because of the weather or their goods weren't valued anymore by Europe. Fascinating stuff.

I then tried to walk back to the hotel. On the way, I took pictures of Nuuk's main church and some statues. But I got a little lost -- couldn't find the artery that led to my lodgings, so I hailed a cab.

When I got back to my room, I realized my camera was AWOL. Beautiful. I called the taxi company. About two hours later the driver returned with it. I couldn't believe I'd lost it because when I got out of the cab I remember making sure it was in my jacket pocket. Must've slipped out at the last second, and my last glance in the backseat didn't see it because the upholstery was black like my camera.

With that little piece of stupidity and drama behind me, I walked to Nuuk Art Museum, next store to my hotel. It didn't look like much from the outside but they have numerous rooms to display mostly modern artwork. Some of it blew me away. I especially liked these little white figures (should've asked what they're made out of). Some were quite horrific. They merged faces you might find on totem poles with bodies of seals or sharks.

I was really lucky to visit that museum. Apparently they're only open on Saturday and Sundays, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer.

Back at my hotel, I figured out how to download pictures from my camera to my computer. It's been so long since I've done so that it took awhile to figure it out. I had pictures on there going all the way back to August 2010. Downside of having a mega memory card -- I get lazy.

For dinner, I wanted to go to a restaurant down by Nuuk Tourism, but the Lonely Planet website said reservations were a must and I called several times. No dice. The phone rang and rang; one time it was busy. Around 6:30 I gave up. If it hadn't been raining I would've hiked a kilometer down the road to a cafe I saw on Monday, so instead I went to a pizzeria around the corner. Once again, language barriers prevented me from understanding the menu. Would've liked to gotten something different but the cashiers and I had a "failure to communicate", so I just pointed at the first thing on the menu, which turned out to be a plain pizza. Surprisingly, it was good, thanks to a soft crust and copious oregano cooked in the cheese.

I turned in around 9:30 PM, since I had to get up at 5 AM on Wednesday for my flight.

Before I go, one thing I noticed in Nuuk is the major Inuit population. That may not even be the proper term, since they've been Westernized. From what I read, about 10% of the population is Danish. I guess most of the Danes are here for work, since there's construction everywhere. Crazy.

Around the corner from my hotel apartment, a little after 7 AM. (Nuuk, Greenland; July 5, 2011)


Lil Monk said...

Wow, I am surprised the driver returned the camera. I'd have though they'd just pocket it and claimed not to see it. Is that me being pessimistic or cynical? Probably a bit of both. Language barrier can be a killer..

Johnny Ostentatious said...

Yeah, I lucked out to get it back.