Saturday, January 20, 2018

Paamiut is a secret treasure of Greenland

Brightly painted houses keep the cold winters from being so dreary.
While tourists to Greenland often prefer itineraries filled with all the famous sights of bigger towns, Paamiut naturally attracts travelers who want to go off the beaten path and gain a different perspective. Fortunately for us, it was a port stop on our Regent cruise to Iceland and Greenland.

What makes this tiny town so special? The people of Paamiut, which is located on the southwestern corner of Greenland, are very friendly. When they spot tourists they are quick to share all the good spots in the region. Sightseeing in Paamiut is about appreciating the beauty in simple experiences--hiking, skiing, and wildlife viewing.

Famous church in Paamiut
You can easily walk to the Stave Church, one of the finest churches in Greenland, and you might even get to hear a local person playing hymns on the small organ. Built in 1909 the red and green steepled church is like a work of art with its fancy Norwegian-style designs inside and outside. Imagine what it takes to build such a wooden structure in a country with no trees.

This mural on the side of a building depicts the fishing lifestyle.
A replica of a ship hangs from the ceiling in tribute to the fishing lifestyle and strong connection to the sea. For its 1500 inhabitants, 90 percent of whom are native Inuits, every aspect of life revolves around water. The town grew because the sea is free of ice during the winter. Fishing for redfish, sea salmon, and cod is the primary occupation.

Additionally, icebergs drift from the east coast and up the west coast bringing seals and a prosperous hunting season, and whales can be hunted on a quota system. 
Icebergs float in from the open sea.

Often shrouded in fog, Paamuit means “those who reside at the mouth” of Kuannersoaq Fjord. Started as a trading post for fur and whale products when founded in 1742, Paamuit has become known for its soapstone artists, too. The town is a mixture of old and new cultures and provides amazing nature experiences for those with a different perspective of life than more urban folks.

Summer flowers brighten the simple landscape in town.
In summer beautiful hiking trails attract nature-lovers; and as with everywhere in Greenland, sailing is a summertime favorite in Paamiut. If you take a boat ride through the fjord, you might see the town’s guardian, the white-tailed eagle, called Nattoralik. It is plentiful in Paamiut, and the townspeople feel a strong connection with it as with all wildlife in the area.

The Inuit culture has a long history of whaling.
The town is quite small, so we easily walked through the city center as our school teacher guide pointed out the school, fire station, hospital, fish market and museum where displays showed how women turned thousands of tiny beads and pieces of sealskin into extraordinary national costumes that are still worn today.

The green building behind the bridge is the school.
We stopped along the bright red and white bridge in the center of town and listened to the babbling river beneath. We watched children riding bikes and playing everywhere, even on the roof of a house—easily accessible because of being built on a hill. Summer flowers grew wild throughout the town and were especially lovely in the field beside the iconic whale-bone arch.

We trekked to the observation tower.
Later Larry and I set out on our own to climb the rocky coastal hill and then scale the stairs leading to the observation tower.

Despite a brisk wind at the top, we had excellent views of the entire town’s streets and buildings in one direction and the fjord in the other. Colorfully painted houses stood out in a toy-city panorama against volcanically formed, blue-black mountains. We felt we had discovered a hidden treasure in Greenland.
Volcanic rock surrounds the fjord where Paamiut is located.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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