Greenland Stories and Tips

Evening on the Town

Restaurant Mamartut Photo, Ilulissat, Greenland

On our second evening in Ilulissat, my wife and I took the advice of some of the World of Greenland tour guides and made a dinner reservation at Restaurant Mamartut for some Greenlandic cuisine. We had the coolest hotel shuttle driver that evening. As we were exiting the van with other passengers at the drop-off in the center of town, he asked my wife and me in broken English where we were going. He somehow understood my mangled pronunciation of the restaurant and motioned for us to stay in the van. He drove us several blocks up the hill to the entrance of the restaurant.

My wife and I were the first customers that evening at the restaurant. We were seated at a table near a large polar bear hide hanging on the wall. Gazing out the window, we had a great view of the colorful town with the icebergs of Disko Bay in the background. The food was pretty good. I had the fish soup and Greenlandic lamb for my first two courses while my wife had the shrimp dish and the fish plate for hers. We shared the dessert sampler which was excellent. It was a 3-hour dinner. The time between courses was very long.

Mamartut turned out to be our most expensive meal in Greenland. Its price converted to $144. However, this was not what bothered us the most since everything in Greenland is expensive. What really left a bad taste in our mouths was that the restaurant had charged us for tap water. This was the only restaurant we encountered during our trip that did this.

It was close to 10 PM when we left the restaurant and I was blown away by how bright it still was outside. During our walk to the shuttle pick-up point, we saw children riding bikes, a soccer game in progress at the field, and people out and about.

We had the same nice, shuttle driver who gave us door-to-door service earlier. He did not head directly back to the hotel. Instead, he drove through the neighborhood and dropped off two locals. When it was just my wife and me left, he continued driving through the residential areas where we saw more of the brightly-colored houses. I thought maybe this was a different route back to the hotel but I noticed the driver would slow down or stop anytime I took out my camcorder to record the scenery. I finally realized he was giving us a tour. The language barrier prevented any narration.

I noticed many of the houses had either a snowmobile or dog sled in the yard. These two modes of transportation are still common when the town freezes over in winter. The Greenlandic sled dogs are closely related to wolves. No other breed is allowed above the Arctic Circle in Greenland. There are approximately 5,000 dogs in Ilulissat (as many as people). During the summer, they are chained in large fields around the town. No matter where we were in Ilulissat, we always knew when it was feeding time by the sound that fills the air. These dogs don't do much barking. Instead, they howl, bow wow, and yelp. I had no idea what this strange chorus was during our first afternoon in Ilulissat because I had never heard anything like it. By the end of our stay, it was a sound I had come to associate with the town.

Our driver paused in front of a big dog field where hundreds of sled dogs were lazing in the sun. He then continued driving up into the hills past more Lego-like houses until we came to an endpoint with the most gorgeous view of the town and the bay. The driver motioned us to step out of the van for better pictures. We accepted his invitation but the photos just could not capture the beauty of this place.

After a short while, we got back in the van and were driven along the winding roads of the town back to our hotel. We were very appreciative of this driver. His marvelous, unexpected tour had etched a lasting memory of Ilulissat in our minds.

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