Friday, July 20, 2007

Greenland's Second City

Today we visited Sisimiut, a fishing town whose main business is shrimping and fishing. The world's largest cold-water shrimp factory sits on its dock, and last year that factory processed and shipped 18,000 tons of shrimp. It helps that the harbor here is warm enough to be accessible all year.

Population: 5,500.

Being the second-largest city means options. The supermarket sells a surprisingly large selection of wines -- Chilean, Australian and French -- and Maile mustard, along with musk ox steaks. There's a small airport here, video rental store, plus plenty of taxis and a small museum.

Still, you get the feeling that people here work hard and don't have much. You don't see many toys around.

One of the cultural aspects of Greenland is the natural resources: People here legally kill and sell seals, dolphins and whales. All are plentiful, and with a national population just over 32,000, the impact isn't heavy.

Still, it's eerie to see seal meat at the dock, already skinned and bagged. "Oh, I don't want to look at that!'' said the ship passenger next to me. Stranger still to see purses, boots and suits made from seal skin.

But not so strange when you learn about the history. In the 1700s, Inuit peoples made this a significant base. By summer they were nomadic, but in winter they came here, building homes from peat near the harbor so they could easily head out in kayaks for hunting and fishing. The homes were heated with oil made from whale and seal blubber; what else did they have?

When Danish explorers came here, they tried to trade pearls and ladies dresses...useless to the local people. Still, the pearls caught on, and sweaters dotted with pearls and beads are still part of the national costume.


- Check out Cruise Critic, which features reviews from experts (such as my blog) along with terrific message boards.
- David Molyneaux, retired travel editor from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, also writes about cruises on his blog, Travel Mavens.

- For more on Travel in Florida and throughout the world, see the Miami Herald's Travel page, where you will find more stories by me.

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