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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

Greenland – Country Number 199?

Colourful Nuuk, colourful Greenland.

I recently visited Greenland, the world’s largest island, and had a smashing great time! It is quite hard not to. But it is not an independent country, at least not yet. That is set to change in 2-3 years, according to people I spoke with. If they are right, it will make Greenland country number 199, and set up the race rather nicely for number 200.

Nuuk harbour.

Greenland is Danish, and formally governed by the Queen in Copenhagen, over 3500 kilometers from Nuuk. The four hour time difference is only one tiny reason why it would make sense for Greenland to become independent. And the parliament here has been given the power by Denmark to decide on its own future. And they are at it. A commission is being set up, as we speak, to write Greenland’s constitution. The next step, presumably in 2017 or 2018, will be to organize a referendum where the 56,000 people get to decide whether to go solo or not.

Hats, gloves and slippers made by seal, fox, wolf, sheep and muskox are freely available in Greenland. And very much needed in the winter. Temperatures of -40 are not unusual. The record is -66.

The last referendum was held in 2008, and 75 percent voted for greater autonomy. That gave Greenlandic people the power to decide their own future, and the election in 2014 introduced some new politicians to parliament. Per Pilutaq Rosing-Petersen is from the Naleraq party, which got 11.6 percent of the votes at the election in November 2014 and is in opposition with 3 of 33 members of parliament. He is certain that Greenland’s time as an own country has come.

– We have five times more sea than Iceland, and just look at their fishing industry, he says.

On the outskirts of Nuuk with Per Pilutaq Rosing-Petersen.

The natural conclusion is that the vast amounts of seafood alone should do the trick. But there is more. There are huge amounts of minerals in Greenlandic mountains, such as uranium, diamonds, coal, crystals and gemstones to name a few.

Additionally, tourism has just about started. The biggest drawback is the lack of flights. Now almost all planes come from Denmark, something that doesn’t make sense for an island that is located in North America. And international flights, except for short haul flights with propellor planes from Iqaluit in Canada and Reykjavik in Iceland, are serviced by large passenger jets that can only land in Kangerlussuaq, a village – or a settlement, rather – in the middle of nowhere. It almost feels like what I would expect a moon base to feel like. Preproduced concrete buildings everywhere, and very little in between. Including a lack of people.

Kangerlussuaq: This place has seen better times. I hope.

From Kangerlussuaq, small propellor planes or helicopters will take you to the capital Nuuk or a number of other towns, villages, settlements and airstrips around the island. Then again, there are plans for an improved situation, regardless of independence. The airport in Nuuk (GOH) will be expanded so that large aircraft can land. And leave. Direct flights from the US and other countries in Europe than Denmark may not be too far away.

Greenland’s Danish connection also means more expensive food, drinks and goods than need be. To fly everything in from Denmark, one of the most expensive countries in the world, may not be the most clever of solutions.

A view from the sky bar of the tallest hotel.

– I don’t think that Danish politicians in Copenhagen are very well suited to govern Greenland. Most of them haven’t even been here, let alone experienced the incredible nature, the beauty and the harsh, rough and unforgiving conditions. We often have four seasons in the same day, Per says. With big dreams for an independent future clearly visible in his vivid and enthusiastic eyes.

Fancy a fish?

And he might be on to something. Denmark hardly has four seasons in a decade. While the Greenlanders have inside information on how to live – and make a living – in these conditions, and how to compromise with nature, and when needed combat it.

Per for President? Time will tell.

Greenland is the least dense populated territory in the world. But given that 80 percent of it is covered by ice, the comparison isn’t all that accurate. There are only a few towns, villages and settlements were people actually live – on the 20 percent of the area that isn’t covered by ice.

Snowmobiles are commonplace here.

But wow, this is an incredible island! You should not be allowed to enter without a high quality DSLR camera and plenty of storage space. I am not Nostradamus, but I don’t have to be. I see a bright future for tourism in Greenland, the challenge will rather be to keep it at a sensible level and not to destroy the unique scenery and way of life that people are here to see in the first place.Just a little money saving tip for last. In the day of oversharing in social media, be sure to book a hotel or rent a flat with unlimited Wi-Fi included. You will otherwise have to pay 10-30USD per hour to get access from cafés and hotels, if they have internet available in the first place.

And you will often see more parked boats than cars outside the houses. No surprise, given that there are no roads in between the towns and villages. Fly, boat or bust.

No wonder that houses here are so colourful, given the huge amounts of white.

Please turn around, there is nothing to see here.

Just another angel resurfacing after a long winter.

You won’t find a much more peaceful resting place anywhere. But not much colder, either.

Kangerlussuaq Airport (SFJ). And pretty much everything else.

Not exactly crowded around here.

A godforsaken place, really.

Wow, a kindergarten with real people!

And here is a garbage dump, even in Greenland.

I couldn’t resist trying out the old fuel truck.

Downtown Nuuk.

Nuuk harbour.

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