Thursday, July 22, 2010


The name "Nanortalik" means Bear Country.

Nanortalik was founded in 1797 as a Danish whaling station. Today, Nanortalik is a fishing port. The harbor does not freeze over, as the waters from the Gulf Stream flow nearby. The locals say there is no fish in nearby waters. They depend upon seal meat as a reliable food item. They also fish for trout in mountain streams to sell at the local market.

I went ashore alone, as we knew there would be a lot of walking. We had not received word of any driving tours which would be offered. This was logical, since the only roads were those in this small village. As I approached the Nanortalik Tourism Office, I saw a sign saying, “Twenty Minute Tours -- Only $5 US Dollars”. After a short walk around the center of town, I decided to splurge and take the $5 tour. The minivan tour lasted 40 minutes, and we learned a lot. The driver (originally from Denmark) drove at a snail’s pace, and we literally drove down every street in the village. The only place we did not go was the town dump.

We learned that the local school children are flown in by helicopter or arrive by boat. Once they arrive in Nanortalik at the beginning of the school year, they remain at the school (complete with dormitories and canteen) until the end of the school year. The schooling is at no cost to the students. We learned that Denmark plays an important part in providing comprehensive services to the local inhabitants. Medical and dental care is at no cost, for example. The professionals there are sent from Denmark. Some of the nurses are natives of the village.

The town was very eager to present several events for the enjoyment of the cruise passengers. There were folk dances at the Culture House, choir performances at the old Nanortalik wooden church, and a kayak show at the Old Harbor in the Open Air Museum. Inuit natives were preparing seal meat for those who wanted to sample a staple of local food. Historic Nanortalik (of particular interest to tourists) consists of a museum turf house, sealskin tents, bakery, personnel house, stable, cooperage, timber church, blubber house, oil-boiling house and general store.

Even though the temperature was in the low 40’s, I found that a simple windbreaker was sufficient outer wear.

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