Ilulissat, Greenland, March 2007

When I arrived in Ilulissat, the weather was dull and cloudy and it was snowing a bit.

I had a fairly good dinner in the restaurant at Hotel Arctic as a sort of celebration of getting back to a different kind of civilisation again.

Next morning I went for early breakfast, had a short look outside, noticed that the weather hadn't changed and decided that this was a good day to be lazy, stay in bed and just go for a quick walk through the town in the afternoon.

So I went back to bed to catch up on some sleep, but around 11 am, I woke up with the sun shining right into my face. Looking out, I saw clear blue skies again.

At least in that part of the sky I could see from my bed.

Looking out of the window, I noticed that the clouds had rolled back like a curtain and while there were hardly clouds over the land, there was still a thick cloud cover over the sea.

Clouds over the sea

And since I've slept long enough anyway, I decided to go out for a bit, before the clouds came back.

First I took the road towards the airport, to visit the graveyard (which is obviously not much visited in the winter).

Ilulissat bay Snow cleaning machine Ilulissat graveyard Ilulissat graveyard

I'm wasn't actually planning to visit the graveyard. The reason for going there was a rock, which made a nice lookout point with views towards the icebergs in the bay, the airport and a bit of the inland ice. I had been standing on the same rock on my first visit to Ilulissat, eleven years ago and somehow it was appropriate to go there again, watch a helicopter take off, look at the scenery and feel nostalgic.

Ilulissat airport Helicopter starting Helicopter flying Helicopter flying by
Snowdrift Snowdrift Inland ice Inland ice
Icebergs swimming Icebergs and boat. Iceberg and clear water

It felt kind of odd to see icebergs in open water again, instead of being frozen in place.

But not as odd as the box that was standing next to the hotel.


It looked like something out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

The presence of the box itself wasn't really irritating. They were extending the hotel and obviously they needed to deal somehow with the rocky ground. (Although having seen the box made it less irritating when I was standing in the hotel lobby a while later and there was a booming sound to be heard outside.)

What irritated me was the name. I had assumed that modern explosives would have some technical sounding name (such as 'Technical demolition substance X2233S-TG' or whatever) and that boxes labelled 'Dynamite' were only to be found in old Western movies and cartoons.

And calling it 'Extra-Dynamite' made it sound even more ridiculous. You could almost hear the dialogue: "Are you sure we have enough dynamite to blast that rock?" "Well, I wasn't sure about that either, but no worry. That why I got some extra-dynamite. That'll do the trick!", followed by a big explosion and the same two guys coming towards the camera with their faces blackened for some closing one-liner.

The weather was still fine, so I continued walking to the center of Ilulissat. There weren't any boat tours to the iceberg, so I just went to the museum, which is the house were Knud Rasmussen was born.

Knud Rasmussen bust

I also encountered the only cat I have seen in Greenland.

Ilulissat cat

In theory, the cat must have a tough life. Ilulissat supposedly has 5000 dogs. (Although I doubt that. When I was there the first time, almost every house in Ilulissat had dogs chained somewhere outside. Now there were few chained dogs to be seen in the city itself. While a lot of the dogs were in an area just behind the town, these were maybe a couple of hundred, but hardly thousands. I assume that they still used to be the main mode of winter transport a decade ago, but now the dogs are mainly for tourist tours and not everyone owns their own dogs anymore.)

But even with less than 5000 dogs, there are still a lot of young dogs running free through Ilulissat. While they are only running free until they are half a year old, a sledge dog at that age is already a fairly big animal. And they run in small groups through the town.

So, as an environment for a cat, this is probably far from ideal. Adding the outside temperatures, which are also not usually to a cat's liking, I was quite surprised that the cat seemed quite relaxed and unconcerned.

Speaking of young dogs roaming the streets of Ilulissat - here are some of them:

Ilulissat dogs Ilulissat dogs Ilulissat dogs

Ilulissat is almost, but not quite, located at Ilulissat Icefjord. At the end of the Icefjord is a large glacier, which produces a lot of icebergs. (Supposedly it's the biggest iceberg producer north of Antarctica.) The actual glacier is some distance away (that's why most tours to the glacier are helicopter tours), but since the fjord gets shallower towards the open sea, the larger icebergs get stuck there and the highest density of icebergs is found there, not near the glacier itself.

But that area can't be seen directly from Ilulissat, so it's a small walk to a couple of hills, from which the icebergs can be seen. (The relative location of the fjord to the town can be found on this map.)

So I walked to the top of a hill and enjoyed the panorama that was unfolding below.

Ilulissat panorama

Since I had a great location and there was nowhere, where the view could have been better, I just snuggled into a drift of snow, relaxed and stared at icebergs. Even at the end of a vacation full of icebergs, the view fascinated me.

Icebergs. I love them.

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But it was unavoidable. After a long time, I had to leave and head back. First to the hotel, next day to mainland Europe and two days later to go home.

Luckily the hotel was still standing when I got back. So they hadn't used too much 'extra-dynamite'.

Hotel Arctic

The weather stayed the same until late in the night - the clouds being out at sea, but the sky over the land still cloudless. And the scenery lit by an almost full moon.

Moon over Ilulissat

The following picture needs some minor explaining. I noticed that one when I was in the Hotel Arctic in 1996. I am fairly sure that there was a note next to it that the painting/woodwork had been done by Thue Christiansen, the designer of the Greenlandic flag. I liked the artwork back then and regretted that I hadn't photographed it.

Luckily, it is still hanging in the hotel (although in a different place, since they added another wing to the hotel since then), but there is no note next to it (and it's not signed as far as I could tell), so I am not quite sure whether it is really the work of Thue Christiansen. But at least I got the chance to take a picture of it.

Thue Christiansen artwork (probably) at Hotel Arctic

And that's almost the end of the trip. All that was left to do was to get out to Ilulissat airport...

Ilulissat airport

... wait for the plane to come in...

Plane about to land in Ilulissat

...and fly home.


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