Day 2,020 of Traveling the World | Paamiut, Greenland | August 10, 2023

Greenland, you have eluded us before, but not today! In 2009, our cruise ship had to skip this largest island in the world due to rough seas. But today we docked safely and went ashore to explore this wild land…the 108th country we have visited! Greenland has only 56,000 inhabitants, and they mostly live in the 20% of the country that is not covered year-round in snow and ice.

Greenland was named by the Icelandic murderer, Eric the Red, when he was exiled here. Hoping to attract more settlers, he named it Greenland, even though there isn’t a single tree on the island. While it has its own local government and is classified as a country, it is also part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Fishing and hunting have been the key to survival due to its extremely short summer. Due to the climate and geography, farming is almost impossible, but there is sheep raising in the extreme southern part of the island. The primary source of income in small towns is still seal hunting. There are also dramatic mountains, breathtaking fjords, majestic icebergs, and huge glaciers. These spectacular natural formations are what draw people to visit.

Interestingly, while of course there are roads in each town, or settlement, there is no network of roadways throughout the island to connect the various towns. Transport to other places is generally via boat or via airplane, and in the photos, you can see why. Paamiut is surrounded by craggy mountains. Surrounding towns are few, and are on their own islands or across spans of water. It simply wouldn’t make sense to build roads to places that are more accessible through the water. We were captivated by all the colors of the buildings we saw here, and surprised to learn that the colors designated the function of the structure…at least, they did in colonial times. Red = commercial houses, government buildings, and churches. Yellow = hospitals, health care. Green = telecommunications. Blue = fish factories. Black = police stations.

Paamiut means “the people who live at the mouth,” as the town is situated at the mouth of Kuannersooq Fjord. There are paved roads in the town, of course, but no sidewalks. Vehicles and pedestrians share the roadway. It is obvious to us that locals are not used to lots of people on their roads, as most vehicles drove pretty fast as they came at us around bends. There were some children out on bicycles and a few people here and there, one of whom said hello and asked what country we were from. Everyone (except Mike) was dressed warmly in the 42-degree weather. But it was mostly quiet and deserted, and we enjoyed seeing the multi-colored buildings, the town cemetery, the famous church, and all the surrounding ocean. It was a short visit, but just wandering around and seeing a very foreign land was both interesting and fun.

The entrance to land was a long, narrow bay. The ship couldn’t get very close, so our tender boats took a while to get us there through these stunning islands and fjords. Just magnificent.
More from the tender boat. As you can see, beyond the closer islands was a layer of low clouds and some mountains on land.
Early in the morning, we were socked in fog. This little island faded in and out of sight for several hours. It was eerie yet beautiful.
On our way in, we passed this rusted boat that looks like it has been there for many years. The passengers on the outbound tender joked that if we missed the last tender back to the ship, this would be our new home.
This iceberg was dead ahead of us as we approached Greenland. The Captain said they would navigate around it – and they did. No forced Polar Bear dip for us!
Another iceberg in the bay, close to the town.
This house had two reindeer antlers in front, a common decoration in Paamiut.
Once on land, this was the view as we made our way into town.
This is the closest thing we saw to a town square – a gazebo and a whale fluke sculpture.
This sculpture was closer to the road.
We suspect that today the towns don’t subscribe strictly to the color coding that we talked about above. This green building doesn’t look like a telecommunications center, nor does the yellow house look like healthcare.
There’s a whole lotta climbing when your house is on the side of a mountain.
Speaking of lots of climbing…imagine doing these stairs every day!
Coca-Cola is found around the world, even in the remotest locations.
There were about 5-6 of these apartment buildings, possibly to house seasonal workers.
There were the same number of abandoned, boarded-up apartment buildings.
Here, old buildings never die or get torn down – they become part of the landscape, like old pieces of art.
There were lots of flowers here, in a country with no trees. Even though it was just 42 degrees, the blooms stubbornly stay alive.
Several homes had plastic furniture outside for al fresco dining.
These bright colors decorate the local school.
The Police sign was in black, its traditional color, but the building was blue and white. We can’t tell if the animal is a wolf or a fox, as both can be found here.
Another home with antlers as a decoration.
As you can see, towns here are built on barren rock. Pipes coming to and from homes are for waste, water, and heating. Nothing is easy here!
We traversed the entirety of Paamiut. This was the only lime green house, which really stood out!
Entrance to the town cemetery – notice the dates of 1721-1921.
Every grave was marked with these white crosses, with names and dates on them, but some also had traditional headstones in addition to the cross.
Walking through town, we were able to glimpse small bays from the road.
Paamiut Sailor School – the residence buildings are named Siberia, Canada, and Alaska.
A warning, or just information?
Fredenskirche – also known as Fredens Church or Paamiut Church – is in the center of the town. Built in 1909 in the Norwegian style with a Hansel-and-Gretel facade, it is one reason people visit Paamiut.
The inside of this Lutheran church feels very classic with the chandeliers and with light pouring in.
The church has a tiny pipe organ of the type meant for a residence.
The open hymn book has very lengthy hymn titles!
The ship hanging over the main aisle symbolizes the old Nordic tradition of giving offerings for the protection of loved ones at sea and a reminder of those lost at sea.
Dating to 1900, this is the Barrel-Maker’s Workshop. The bell was used in colonial times to summon the hired hands early in the morning.
The local museum – $3 entry fee.
Most of the year, Paamiut looks like this – covered in snow, when the town comes alive with winter sports. Summer is very short.
A gorgeous view of Greenland from the cruise ship.

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