If you’ve ever set foot in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, you’ll instantly recognize the stark contrast between what you’ve experienced in reality and the whimsical world portrayed in the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” While Hollywood has its own way of showcasing places, nothing truly captures the essence and charm of Nuuk like being there in person.
This blog post aims to shed light on the true spirit of Nuuk, highlighting its attractions, stories, and the warmth of its people. Whether you’re revisiting the city through these words or planning your first trip, this article offers insights that go beyond the cinematic portrayal.
Originally published in the Greenland Travel Guide, this post serves as a testament to Nuuk’s enchanting allure and the unforgettable memories it holds for its visitors.
‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is a sweet film about a daydreamer who suddenly finds himself on a real-life quest. This adventure takes him to among other places Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan. The majority of the movie was filmed in the stunning country of Iceland.
The movie makes fun with a lot of stereotypes. Greenland included. There’s a big dose of humour based on the generalisations people might have of the country. That’s saying it nicely. For those that have travelled to Nuuk before, you know that Walter Mitty would probably have been more impressed with the real city.
The Reality of Greenland’s Air Travel
Walter Mitty’s cinematic journey vs. the actual experience
The Jumbo Jet Myth
Walter Mitty flies from the USA to Greenland on a jumbo jet. He arrives in Nuuk, and the plane is so much bigger than the airport building.
Two people get out of the plane. You wouldn’t be able to fly directly to Nuuk on a jumbo jet.
The runway is too small and surrounded by mountains for that type of aircraft to land. A common plane people take to arrive in Nuuk is something like a Dash-8-200, which holds 37 passengers.
Generally, you’d have to either fly to Iceland or Copenhagen to start your journey to Greenland.
- Air Greenland Delights: If you are flying on Air Greenland, watch out for the chocolate chip cookies and sweets they offer on each flight. They are a classic!
The True Nuuk Experience
The paint on all the buildings are peeling. There is limited sign of life.
The city consists of a few buildings, the centerpiece being the pub. Nuuk is portrayed kinda like a backway town in a country western movie that has seen better days.
Nuuk is much more modern, even more cosmopolitan than you think. One thing for sure is that it’s certainly livelier and prettier than portrayed in the movie!
The city is positioned right by a fjord, with looming mountains in view. Charming multicoloured houses pepper the landscape.
The city might not be New York or Shanghai, but it’s got its own flavour of Arctic cool (excuse the pun).
Debunking Greenland’s Population Stereotypes
The real numbers and the diversity of its inhabitants
The Eight Drunk Eskimos Myth
Walter Mitty tries to track down a picture of a ship and a thumb and ends up in Greenland. It’s at the local pub where Walter finds the man who owns the thumb.
The man says that Greenland’s one of the better places to find someone, since there are only, like, 8 people who live in the country (about five of them were in the pub). Truth be told, Greenland has a tiny population.
Still, the capital has nearly 16,000 folks, and the country altogether about 57,000 inhabitants. Greenland has its mix of people who have received a wide spectrum of education.
So let’s just say Greenland is much more than just eight drunk people living it up in a pub. You’ll also probably find more than eight drunk people 😉
The Beer Boot Myth
At the pub, beer is served in a beer boot. Awesome.
The beer boot is largely associated with Germany. Apparently it’s getting big in America.
They aren’t popular in Nuuk…yet!
Greenland’s Unique Canine Companions
The Greenland dog and its significance in the local culture
The Greenland Dogs in Nuuk Myth
In the movie, there are Greenland dogs sitting outside the pub. They are visible around the city.
The Greenland dog is a signature of Greenland, and dog sledding is a really popular tourist activity. However, you won’t be finding any of those around in Nuuk.
The breed is only allowed to live north of the Arctic circle and in East Greenland.
The Car Rental Experience
Walter Mitty goes to rent a car at the airport – he gets the choice of the red one or the blue one. There are a few places you can rent a car in Nuuk, but you don’t really need one as a tourist.
There are plenty of taxis to take you from the airport, and regular buses can take you to most destinations. Fun fact: there’s about 3500 cars here in Nuuk – and you can drive from one side of the city to the other in 15 minutes.
The Natural Beauty
Beyond the silver screen: The breathtaking landscapes of Greenland
The Untouched Wilderness
While the movie showcases some stunning landscapes, it barely scratches the surface of Greenland’s natural beauty. The country boasts a vast expanse of untouched wilderness, from its icy glaciers to its lush green valleys during the summer months.
- Midnight Sun: One of the most mesmerizing phenomena in Greenland is the Midnight Sun, where the sun doesn’t set for several weeks during summer in the northern parts. This provides a unique opportunity for extended exploration and photography.
- Northern Lights: Conversely, during winter, the Northern Lights paint the sky with their ethereal glow, making Greenland one of the best places in the world to witness this natural spectacle.
The Rich Marine Life
Greenland’s waters are teeming with marine life. From humpback whales that can be spotted near the shores during summer to the rich variety of fish, the ocean here is as alive as the land.
- Kayaking Adventures: One of the best ways to explore Greenland’s coastline and get up close with its marine life is by kayaking. It’s not only a traditional Inuit mode of transportation but also a popular activity among tourists.
Culture and Traditions
Understanding the heart and soul of Greenland
The Inuit Heritage
Greenland’s indigenous population, the Inuit, have a rich history and culture that dates back thousands of years. Their traditions, from storytelling to hunting, are deeply rooted in the harsh environment they’ve thrived in.
- Traditional Music and Dance: Drum dancing and throat singing are integral parts of Greenlandic culture. These traditional forms of expression are not just for entertainment but also serve as a means of storytelling and preserving history.
Modern Greenlandic Lifestyle
While Greenland has its roots in ancient traditions, it’s also a modern society. Nuuk, for instance, is home to a thriving arts scene, contemporary cuisine, and modern architecture that seamlessly blends with its natural surroundings.
- Festivals: Greenland hosts several festivals throughout the year, celebrating everything from music and films to the summer solstice. These events offer a glimpse into the country’s vibrant contemporary culture.
The Culinary Delights of Greenland
Feasting in the Arctic: A unique gastronomic experience
Traditional Greenlandic Cuisine
Greenland’s traditional dishes are a testament to the ingenuity of the Inuit people, who have made the most of the resources available to them. From dried fish and fermented shark to seal and reindeer meat, the local cuisine is both hearty and flavorful.
- Taste of the Sea: Seafood is a staple in Greenlandic cuisine. Freshly caught fish, shrimp, and even sea urchins are commonly enjoyed, often accompanied by locally harvested herbs and plants.
Modern Greenlandic Gastronomy
In recent years, Greenland has seen a culinary revolution. Chefs are blending traditional ingredients with modern techniques, creating dishes that are both innovative and deeply rooted in Greenlandic culture.
- Fine Dining in Nuuk: The capital city boasts several fine dining establishments that offer a contemporary take on traditional dishes, often paired with international flavors.
Greenland, with its mesmerizing landscapes, rich culture, and unique culinary delights, is a destination that promises unforgettable experiences. While movies like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” introduce us to a fictionalized version of this Arctic wonderland, the real Greenland is far more enchanting and diverse.
Whether you’re seeking adventure, tranquility, or a deep dive into ancient traditions, Greenland beckons with open arms. So, pack your bags, set aside the stereotypes, and embark on a journey to discover the true essence of this Arctic gem.