Thursday, August 29, 2019


June 15, 2019

After our midnight sun iceberg cruise, we took the opportunity to sleep in the next morning. At this point we had moved to our second hotel, the Hotel Arctic, which was situated on the outskirts of Ilulissat in an area where there appeared to be some development going on.

Although it was supposed to be the better hotel, we weren't all that impressed. It was pretty basic, and our view of the bay was better in the Hotel Icefiord.

The Danes have definitely left their mark on Greenland's sense of interior design:

It is always fun to run into familiar things in an unfamiliar place:

Well, at least the PICTURES are familiar. Check out the text. Greenlandic words are SO LONG:

Monday, August 26, 2019


June 14, 2019

Land of the Midnight Sun: Any of the world's northern regions above (or close to) the Arctic Circle. (Wikipedia)

"Midnight Sun" refers to the phenomenon on the earth's poles when the sun is visible all night long. Some part of the sun is visible for 24 hours a day in the Arctic Circle from about June 12 until July 1. We were fortunate to be in Greenland at a location over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle from June 16 until June 20. We left Greenland just one day shy of the summer solstice (June 21), the day with the longest period of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere, but in Greenland, there are 2 1/2 weeks of "longest days," so we didn't miss anything.

The flag of Greenland reminds me of the midnight sun. The top white stripe represents the glaciers and ice cap covering most of the country. The bottom red stripe is the ocean that surrounds the island. The top half of the circle is the sunset (never quite setting into the ocean), and the bottom half of the circle represents the icebergs partially submerged in the ocean.

Taking advantage of the midnight sun, we were picked up for an iceberg viewing trip at 9:45 PM and didn't get back to the hotel until 1:00 or 1:30 AM.

Several years ago we cruised Alaska and went on several glacier sightseeing trips there. The Alaskan glaciers are definitely spectacular, but our Greenland midnight sun cruise was a very different kind of spectacular.

First of all, these two other boats are the only ones we saw the entire night, and most of the time we couldn't see or hear either one of them.

The few times we saw one of the boats, we appreciated the fact that they were not huge, noisy cruise ships jam-packed with tourists.

Friday, August 23, 2019


June 14, 2019

I love the name of the first place we visited in Greenland: Ilulisssat (ill-LOO-li-sat). It rolls off the tongue, much more so than the original name of the village: Jakobshavn (Jacob's Haven), which was the name given to it by the Danes who settled it in 1741. The name Ilulissat is the local word for "iceberg," a very appropriate name as will be shown in future posts.

Ilulissat is the most popular tourist destination in Greenland, and tourism is its principal industry. It sits right next to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ilulissat Icefjord, and it has developed a nice infrastructure for tourism.

The first thing that stood out to me about Ilulissat is that there are no straight streets other than one that goes through the center of town. I was sure our driver was lost when we were taken from the airport to our hotel because it seemed we were trapped in an endless weaving around and through town.

We stayed the first night in the Hotel Icefiord, and then moved the second night to a slightly nicer hotel, the Hotel Arctic, because of some complications we had when rearranging the trip because of a cancelled flight. Our view from the Hotel Icefiord was definitely better than our view from the Hotel Arctic:  

A seal skin tacked to the desk in the check-in area is not a customary sight where we are from, but we saw a lot more animal skins during the next few days:

Our room was clean but spare, and the most important item was hanging from a hook in the bathroom:

The second thing I noticed was the ubiquitous icebergs. From our hotel room window, we could see a dozen or so medium-sized icebergs and lots of baby icebergs floating in the bay, complete with sapphire-colored edges that are hard to see in this photo:

Monday, August 19, 2019


June 14, 2019

Our next stop on our Grand Northern Adventure was Greenland, conveniently marked in green (of course) below:

At about 840,000 square miles, Greenland is the largest island in the world, almost three times as large as the next largest island, New Guinea. (Of course, Australia is more than three times as large as Greenland, but it is considered a continent, not an island.)

Iceland is a mere 40,000 square miles, so Greenland is twenty-one times larger. But while Greenland has a population of about 56,000 people, Iceland has about 340,000 people, or six times as many.

By comparison, the contiguous 48 states in the US comprise about 3.1 million square miles, which is 3.7 times larger than Greenland. Alaska, perhaps a better comparison, is just over 663,000 square miles, about four-fifths the size of Greenland. In contrast, the population of Alaska is about 737,000 people, about 13 times the population of Greenland, and the population of the 48 contiguous states is about 327 million, almost 6,000 times the population of Greenland.

That's not surprising considering that most of Greenland is inside the Arctic Circle, which doesn't make for great farming or raising of livestock (although it is great for fishing), and which means the summers are very short and the winters are very, very long.
Map from Wikipedia

There are only two cities that offer flights in and out of Greenland: Reykjavik (Iceland) and Copenhagen (Denmark). All other flights to Greenland connect in these two cities. Greenland doesn't get a lot of tourists. I think this chart from Wikipedia showing the number of overnight visitors in 2016 is very interesting.

If you are wondering why so many more visitors come from Denmark than the other Scandinavian countries, it is because Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory, so there are many economic and cultural ties between the two countries. I would think Iceland and Canada, Greenland's closest neighbors, would be sending more tourists, but apparently Greenland doesn't have much appeal for them.

As a side note, this week the news media reported that President Trump is talking about buying Greenland. Having been to Greenland and having seen the national pride of the people and the lifestyle they have chosen, it seems like a preposterous and even offensive idea to me.  I love this tongue-in-cheek response published in the New Yorker a few days ago: "Denmark Offers to Buy U.S."

Friday, August 16, 2019


 June 13, 2019

(I'm sorry about that title, but I absolutely LOVE the incomprehensible, unpronounceable Icelandic names and couldn't resist.)

At the southernmost tip of Iceland is the tiny village of Vik (pronounced "veek"), population 320. 
It is the largest settlement within 40 miles in any direction. It is also has over 1,000 hotel rooms, is the wettest and warmest spot on the island, and will likely disappear in a flood of melted glacier if the nearby volcano Katla erupts, as it is expected to do in the near future. 

But for now, it hosts the tourists who have made their way to the mystical, magical black sand Reynisfjara Beach. ("Fjara" means "shore" or "beach" in Icelandic, so I guess I'm being redundant.) In the distance are massive 220-foot-tall basalt towers known as Reynisdrangar. ("Drangar" means "pillars.") According to legend, one night some trolls were trying to pull some ships to shore. However, they took too long, and when dawn broke, the trolls and ships were turned to stone:

Wednesday, August 7, 2019


June 13, 2019

One of the most unusual places we went in Iceland, at least from a photography standpoint, was the Sólheimajökull glacier, one of several "outlet" glaciers of the Myrdalsjökull icecap, which is itself Iceland's 4th biggest icecap. "Sólheimajökull" means "Home of the sun glacier."  One of the things that makes Sólheimajökull popular with tourists is the fact that it is easily accessible from the road and less than 100 miles from Reykjavik.

It takes just fifteen or twenty minutes to walk from the parking lot along a dirt pathway to the glacier:

Saturday, August 3, 2019


June 13, 2019 (My title is quite a mouthful, don't you think?)

Another day of driving  took us to the southern tip of Iceland, where once more we were stunned by the rich variety and endless beauty of the country.

Erv, our wonderful driver/tour guide, picked us up in this ten-passenger minibus, and we headed out:

Our destination was Vik (pronounced "Veek"):

Our first stop was at Seljalandsfoss--a towering 197-foot-tall waterfall that looks like a bride's lacy veil that has been dropped over the edge of a cliff:

Some smaller waterfalls off to the side are like bridesmaids at the wedding: