Qaqortoq, pronounced ‘cake-a-tok’ in English but said in a much more guttural way by the Greenlandic people. I tried to say it as they do but was not very good. It caused much laughter.
The first building we saw on arrival
Before leaving the boat, Trevor and I, and the same 5 from when we stopped at Shetland, had to go through the Customs and Immigration process again. We had to sit and wait 45mins for the Immigration Officers to be brought to the ship. They walked in, took our passports, stamped them and returned them to us and we were free to go. It reminded me of going to a public hospital and joining the queue of patients, some of whom had been waiting for 4-5 hours already, and getting excited when moving forward a place. We called it the ‘Hurry up and wait process’.
The weather was bitterly cold, 02degC, with a bit of wind that added to the chill factor. We could not let that bother us as we had just that day to discover this city. When travelling to new and exciting places you cannot let the weather deter you from being a tourist. As we stepped off the Tender Boat and on to the boardwalk there were ship staff dressed as Vikings encouraging passengers to have their photos taken. The Welcome Centre was straight in front of us. It was small for the number of visitors and had no wifi – free or otherwise.
Greeted by Vikings
After a quick look around we decided to walk first and then come back to the Centre before returning to the ship. Although they talk of themselves as a City size-wise Qaqortoq is definitely a town not much bigger than the average town. According to the British definition a city has a cathedral which Qaqortoq does have a small, fairly newly cathedral which stands high on the hill above the town. Like both Akureyri and Reykjavik, there is a flat area along the seafront before rising fairly steeply. There are homes on the lower roads but most are up on the hills with the wealthiest living highest on the hill.
View of Qaqortoq. We saw some beautiful homes near the top of the ihill
We walked along the seaside road into the central shopping area after passing through the ‘City’ Square. In the Square there was a simple but lovely fountain which has 2 dolphins sculpted on the top. It is the oldest and, until recently the only, fountain in Iceland.
The Fountain in the centre of the ‘City’ Square
On the one side of the Square there is another sculpture of a maiden without any explanation of its origin. Behind this was a stone with a plaque on it dated 1775. The inscription was in Danish but loosely translated reads, “Commander Olfen founded the city in April 1775”. Considering its importance it was a rather inconspicuous memorial to the man.
Memorial to Cmdr Olfen
The first store we came to just beyond the Square was a General Dealer/Cash and Carry called a Sissami which sold a variety of items mainly in bulk packages. These included non-perishables, materials required for making clothing, household goods and even rifles displayed on the walls.
The Cash and Carry or Sissami
We discovered 2 supermarkets which catered for the daily groceries. The first was just a few paces from the Sissami and the other on the top of the hill. It was closed when we first arrived at it as their computers were down but fortunately opened soon afterward as it was a wonderful shop where we managed to get a magnet which I really liked. (My one downfall is fridge magnets and I try to get one from every town we visit and they make special talking points and create memories)
Also close to the Square was the Fish Market which works very early hours and by 10am there was no activity at the Market. We continued to walk around the ‘city’ and passed the original church built in 1832. It is painted red as is its Manse as required back then. Today the church is up on the hill and is very modern built in 1973. We went inside and stayed close to a tourist group who were being guided by a local lady. After giving them the tour she sang her favourite hymn. A wonderful way to end a tour.
The Old Church, in front and the New Church, white and on the hill
Inside the new Church
As we walked through the town we saw that there were marks along the sides of the river showing how high it flows under normal circumstances and it was sad to see it so low. We were told that they too were suffering from a drought. From the homes it was easy to see that there were many very poor people who lived at the edge of the town and close to the river.
The river flows through the town
From the lower main road there was a steep wooden staircase which went to the top of the hill with breaks in it for each of the homes that it passed. Although it seemed a short-cut I would not have enjoyed carrying my shopping up those stairs!
The stairs to the top of the hill
We continued along a higher road and saw a number of rock carvings of various things including, a snake, a door and a school of fish. These are part of what was organised in 1993 and 1994 by Qaqortoq artist Aka Høegh and another 18 Nordic artists who created the Stone & Man project. It was designed to transform the town into an open air art gallery.
A door carved into a rock
As we continued down the hill back to the ship we passed a few houses with murals and were told that these are done especially for visitors to enjoy.
One of many murals that we saw on buildings
On our way back to the boat we stoppe again at the Welcome Centre where I fought my way through the throngs of people, being careful not to knock over any displays and found my magnet. Now I was completely happy.
Although it is not a big or fancy town we found much to give us pleasure to explore. It saddened us that there were others who felt that stopping here was a waste of time.