Something happened today that has never happened before in my 19 years in England. I got to dig my car out of a pile of snow where it had got stuck returning home from the school run. It had snowed a teeny tiny bit overnight, merely a dusting, but the snow came with a fierce, howling north-easterly wind, the kind we get here in Devon which rattles the windows and whistles in the chimney breast. The wind funnels through the valleys, and this morning it had created snowdrift at the entrance of the single-track lane leading down to our village. I got stuck, and I had to run home, fetch a shovel, and run back and start shoveling snow in my Bergans down jacket. Snow was swirling all around us, it was clearly the most fun I have had in Devon in months, and I thought of Greenland.
I went to Greenland in April 2011 with husband to cross the ice cap on kites and skis, a refreshing 1500 kilometre trek. Greenland has stayed with me ever since, and it’s the one place on this earth to where I feel compelled to return. We started our trip in Ilulissat on the west coast, and we got to spend a week there before our flight to the ice. The town works its magic from the moment you step off the plane in the tiny airport: the incredible light of the Arctic sun, the pale colours of snow, ice and sky contrasted with the bright coloured wooden houses dotted all over the icy Disko Bay. The constant eerie but strangely comforting soundtrack of sledge dogs howling.
Greenlanders are fiercely proud of their heritage, the local Greenlandic language is the first official language and widely spoken and used everywhere. Many communities still earn their livelihood from hunting, and in the winter dogs and sledges are the main method of transport from one town to another as there are no roads. Although we spent most of our trip in a tent in -35C, this is not necessary. If expedition rations and wearing one pair of thermal underwear for days on end is not your thing, there is always Hotel Arctic.
Hotel Arctic is the world’s northernmost design heaven, a modern luxury hotel overlooking the icebergs floating in Disko Bay. We ate our way through the superb menu in the restaurant, featuring halibut, musk ox, whale and local vegetables. The view is breathtaking, majestic icebergs floating by and everything in the landscape is the coloured with the most delicate pale blue grey hues, the huge panoramic windows ensure you don’t miss a thing. Inside it’s all pared down ascetic minimalism, art from local artists and the unmistakably Danish design aesthetic. From May to October you can also stay in their aluminum two-person igloo huts overlooking the bay.
Greenland lefts its mark on me, quite literally, and I left part of me in Greenland, also quite literally, a finger tip to be precise – we did not finish our expedition because of severe frostbite (mine) which necessitated an evacuation off the ice. The Arctic is unforgiving, humbling, violent and beautiful.
Photos: Heidi Clover, Hotel Arctic