Sunday, August 23, 2015

Iceland Part V: A Day in Kulusuk, Greenland & some time in Reykjavik

We went back and forth numerous times trying to decide whether we should spend one of our days in Greenland. The cons were that we only had seven days in Iceland so we weren't sure if we wanted to lose one of them, and two, it was VERY expensive! The pros were that we'd get to go to Greenland and have an amazing experience... and who gets to do that?!

The trip only lasted eight hours total and because of the long sunlit days we still had a lot of time to do what we pleased afterward. We arrived at Reykjavik airport for our 10:15 flight and right away we knew this was a different experience. This airport only serves domestic flights in Iceland, summer flights to Greenland, and flights to the Faroe Islands. There are only two gates (little did we know we would be seeing a much smaller airport on the other end). After checking in and going through the small security line, we settled onto the AirIceland plane for our 1.5 hour flight to Kulusuk.

Definitely didn't need to take the jacket with me! It ended up being sunny and in the 60s! 

Flying into Kulusuk was a very different experience than what we're used to! First, this...

A million pieces of ice as we approach Greenland 

And second, we flew into the smallest airport I have ever seen in my entire life. The airport was actually built by the U.S. Air Force in 1956 as part of an early warning defense system. I started to get a little nervous when it looked like we were only about 100 feet away from the mountains on the left as we were landing, but then we landed on a dirt runway and we started to seriously wonder where we were! This airport is so tiny that when we were leaving Kulusuk they simply opened a back door to the one room we were in (which was more like a souvenir shop) and went around to everyone telling them that the flight to Reykjavik was leaving. This airport is so small that they didn't ask anyone for their passports and the security line would have our TSA agents having heart attacks. Just a totally different experience all around!

This is the entrance and exit to the airport!
This is the whole airport - it's basically one room! 

View from the airport

We met our tour guide who would be taking us around the town for four hours. The tour was originally supposed to include a 45 minute boat ride through the icy water to get a closer look at the glaciers, but because their winter lasted longer than usual the water was still icy and impassable. We left the airport and walked three kilometers towards the town while making some stops along the way to hear about the daily life and history of the people here.

Kulusuk is an island town of about 250 people and is part of the least populated part of the country. Our guide gave us a lot of information on this very small and somewhat disconnected place. The only flushing toilets they have are at the hotel about two kilometers from the rest of the town. They have a grocery store that has a regular supply of food and items (although supplies dwindle in the winter as the ice blocks a lot of shipments to East Greenland), a school house, a church, and a large room where they hold parties. There are no doctors or hospitals, but they do have two nurses if the need arises. If they want to go shopping for anything besides groceries they have to take a boat to Tasiilaq (about an hour ride in the summer, or a ten minute helicopter ride). The winters can be really depressing here (as with all of Greenland) as the sun is only out for about 2-3 hours a day and no boats can leave the area (though helicopters are still able to get out if there's an emergency).

The cemetery - they don't put names on the graves since they'll use that name for the next baby born and believe the person will live on in that name. Some people have 6 or 7 middle names due to this tradition! The flowers are not real and are made in China :/

The grocery store


Our group took the scenic route down...

A really interesting tidbit that our guide told us was that the color of the houses are designed to show what the occupation is of the person living there. There are four main colors used: red signifies government establishments like the school, blue signifies transportation, yellow signifies medical personnel, and green signifies telecommunication. This was to ensure that people could see the houses in a snowstorm if they needed to find the appropriate person. If it's painted a different color then you're not part of these occupations. These days you're allowed to change the color of your house, but almost everybody keeps to the tradition.

 During our time here we also went to the museum where the guide showed us artifacts from the old days, some of which they actually use today! 

We ended the day with a stop at the church, a nice walk along icy water, and a three kilometer walk back to the airport.

This was such a great experience and we're so glad that we decided to do it! We would love to see the western side of Greenland and see the city of Nuuk, and maybe spend some overnight time there coupled with hiking and some boating adventures. Although, it's not quite at the top of our list right now! But you can't beat this stunning view from the airplane ...

We arrived back in Reykjavik at 6pm and went right into the city to Hallgrimskirkja - The Church of Hallgrimur. It's dedicated to the most renowned sacred poet of Iceland, Hallgrimmur Petursson, and it towers over the center of Reykjavik. It has a 73 meter tower, which gives a beautiful view of the city and surrounding area.

After the church we went to a sculpture called the Sun Voyager (Solfar in Icelandic), which sits right on the sea in Reykjavik. They say that the Sun Voyager is a dream boat, an ode to the sun. It's an imaginative view of a classic Viking ship and it's a really beautiful sculpture. With the mountains in the background and the sun hitting just the right way off of the metal, it almost looked like it was on fire (although the picture doesn't show it).

We walked around the city a little bit more and found a restaurant that I had wanted to eat at. It was an Icelandic tapas bar, which I thought would be perfect since it would give us the opportunity to try a variety of food as opposed to a couple of entrees. This was by far our favorite restaurant during our whole trip! We had some Icelandic favorites like puffin, shark, and whale, while also eating bacon wrapped dates, scallops, and so much more! We left very full.

Reykjavik really impressed us. Honestly, I really believe that it could be a city that we would enjoy living in!

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