It’s referred to as putting your best foot forward.
They believe the U.S. traveler will embrace the thrill of almost touching
an iceberg; marvel at the spectacle of the Northern Lights; be excited
about a walk on a polar ice field and be interested in a visit to
an authentic Viking Village. Or maybe the attraction will be
something simple, such as, dropping in on the true home of
Santa Clause. All of this and more they reason will have the
American traveler standing in a Greenlandic line in just a few months.
The gateway will be Baltimore, Maryland and May 2007 is the month
that the initial service will begin.
My fellow (travel writer) passengers and I have
just completed a visit along with a group of tour operators.
With magnificent precision thanks to our efficient Greenlandic guides
we were able to crisscross each other as both groups visited the same
four towns: Kangerlussuaq, a
town that sits at the head of “The Great Fjord” and where the International
Airport is located; Ilulissat where there are as many sled
dogs as inhabitants; Sisimiut,
Greenland’s northernmost town
with open water during the winter and southernmost town with dog sledding.
And, lastly, the visit took us to the capital city of Nuuk
home of the only two traffic signals in all of Greenland.
The entire visit was rather spectacular. The
first snow of the season greeted us upon our arrival in Kangerlussuaq
and the snow also showed up to bid us a goodbye, however, the weather
was kind to us for the most part. We walked and rode a snowmobile
on the Polar Ice Cap outside of Kangerlussuaq. In
Ilulissat we took an exciting boat ride to view the icebergs which
became a momentous happening even for the captain and crew as the
ice flow magically parted and allowed us to navigate a normally
ride through the ice flows. Many of us also enjoyed a Greenlandic
sledge dog ride pulled by descendants of the polar wolf. Another
boat ride out of Sisimiut permitted us to visit Assaqutaq,
an abandoned fishing village on an island 6 miles into the Sisimiut
Fjord. The village oddly enough still has one resident living
the life of a hermit.
In Nuuk we were scheduled to visit Anavik,
a thousand year old Viking settlement in Air Greenland’s Sicorski
61-N helicopter, but high winds aborted the plan. The tour operator's
group did this visit but the weather didn't hold for us. Our
group then had an opportunity to observe the Greenlandic Parliament;
view the paintings and handicrafts in the Nuuk Art Museum;
visit Santa’s little shop--home of the real Greenland
Santa Claus; partake in a spirited discourse on the pros and cons
of global warming at The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources
and look at the Nuuk Museum which houses the world-famous “Qilakitsoq”
mummies. Lastly, we all enjoyed the Katuaq Cultural Center which
hosted both groups for an artistic and entertaining evening.
Perhaps your interest has been piqued enough to
pursue a bit more detail about how to visit Greenland and experience
your own adventure. On the trip I met a couple of tour operators
that impressed me with their experience--Othmar Grueninger
a 50+ year veteran tour operator runs the Grueninger Travel Group
and can be found on the Internet at www.grueningertours.com
and Natalie Chambers, Managing Director of Five Stars of Scandinavia
which can be found on www.5stars-of-scandinavia.com.
Both satisfied me with their vision of packaging Greenlandic
tours beginning this coming May. Natalie is perhaps ahead of
the game as her company has previously sent visitors to Greenland
via Copenhagen and Reykjavik. A travel bonus for Americans is
that the flight to Greenland only takes four hours from Baltimore
making it the closest European country to the U.S.
There is a caveat or two where Americans are concerned.
One is weather which can be a travel factor during winter months,
but no doubt your tour operator will take this into consideration
if a connecting flight is needed. The second is that Greenland
is European and European’s still like to smoke. So, if smoking
bothers you ask for a non-smoking room on a non-smoking floor.
That aside, the people of Greenland want Americans to visit their
country and if possible visit with them one-on-one and share a cup
of coffee. Your tour operator can simply build a home visit into the
you do go you can experience first hand why Greenlanders love their
country, so be exploratory and walk the streets in any of the towns--join
the perambulators being pushed by both male and female in between
kids having fun on their way home from school. It’s a lifestyle
that won't be spoiled by only six thousand American visitors strung
out over 18 weeks—which is the max Air Greenland can tote in 2007
Bear in mind that this will be Greenland’s first
effort to attract U.S. visitors and after all, the Island of Greenland
is not a sophisticated island like Majorca or a world renowned
playground like Cancun, however, it is perhaps the world’s most wondrous
place that you can still visit and breathe the fresh air of open space,
taste the ice cold water from a pure iceberg and listen to the silence
of nothing. A little research before you go will augment your
visit either alone or with a tour guide. But do have a look
at one of the many informative web sites to enhance the visit.