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Greenland: Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Nuuk, Sisimiut
Sisimiut, Greenland: People at the fox burrows.
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Formerly known by its colonial name Holsteinsborg, Sisimiut is the second-largest city in Greenland. It is located in central-western Greenland, on the coast of Davis Strait, approximately 320 km north of Nuuk. Although now a place-name, Sisimiut literally means "the people at the fox burrows". The site has been inhabited for the last 4,500 years, first by the Inuit peoples of the Saqqaq culture, Dorset culture, and then the Thule people, whose descendants form the majority of the current population.
The population of modern Greenlanders in Sisimiut is a mix of the Inuit and Danish people, who first settled in the area in the 1720s, under the leadership of the Danish missionary, Hans Egede. Today, Sisimiut is the largest business center north of the national capital of Nuuk and is one of the fastest growing cities in Greenland.
In fitness of things I should tell you more about our ship named Sarfaq Ittuk. Do not imagine the ship to be a luxurious cruise ship. The Sarfaq Ittuk is a ferry ship (for cargo and people) that sails just once a week from Narsaq to Ilulissat and back with stops at various destinations including Nuuk and Sisimiut. It has comfortable cabins and dormitory style bed configuration for the budget conscious. The dining room offers all 3 meals that need to be purchased. Since we were all vegetarians, we had pre-booked all our meals.
After sailing for a night and most of the next day, we reached Sisimiut at 5 in the evening. We would set sail again at 7 PM towards Ilulissat; giving us just about 2 hours to explore the highlights of Sisimiut. A local guide and a bus was waiting for us at the pier to take us around.
The first and a must-do stop was the Sisimiut Museum. Located in a historical building near the harbour, specialises in Greenlandic trade, industry and shipping, with artifacts based on ten years of archaeological research and excavations of the ancient Saqqaq culture settlements near the town, offering an insight into the culture of the region of 4,000 years ago.
The museum also hosts a collection of tools and domestic items collected during 1902-22, an inventory from the old Church with the original altarpiece dated to approximately 1650, and paintings from the 1790s. The peat house reconstruction of an early 20th-century Greenlandic residence with domestic furniture is part of an outdoor exhibition. The exhibition includes the remains of a kayak from the 18th century and the Poul Madsen collection, a collection of handcraft, art, house items and ethnographic objects compiled over fifty years.
The next stop was at the town's highest point to give us 360 degree views of the town and the beautiful landscape beyond. Sadly, we couldn't spend more than 20 minutes at the stop. We still had to go a little out of town to visit a 'dog village'.
The sled dog is an important part of the Greenlandic culture and has historically been the only means of transportation when the landscape was frozen and covered with snow. Sisimiut has got around 1000 dogs and they are owned by either full time competitors, who combine hunting and fishing with tourism and free time or dog sled owners, who owns the dogs as a hobby. Both types of owners play an incredibly important role in the preservation of the dog sled culture in Greenland.
Once 6-months old, the dogs cannot be left unattended in the town and must be placed in special areas that have been created outside of town. Our guide had 5 dogs and it was fun to watch when she arrived near the kennels. It was feeding time and her dogs were at their playful best to get their share of proteins.
That was it. We were back at the ship on time. We heard the hoot at 7 PM to sail towards our final destination – Ilulissat.
Sisimiut Image Gallery Photo viewer
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