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Arctic life

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-08-24 07:38:25

Arctic life

Tourists approach an iceberg on a raft in a harbor inlet in Greenland. Photos by Mike Peters/China Daily 

After a serene voyage highlighted by glaciers and whale sightings, Greenland's capital of Nuuk offers surprisingly civilized charms, Mike Peters discovers.

Somebody on this cruise ship has a gun.

He didn't sneak through the airport-style security at the ship's gangplank when we boarded.

He's part of the crew, a sort of game warden who was on this Arctic cruise ship's earlier leg, which passed through the polar-bear habitats of northern Norway.

His job in remote ports along the Arctic Circle is both to protect shore-going passengers from polar bears and vice-versa.

At this point of our cruise, which began aboard the Silversea Explorer at Reykjavik, Iceland, we have swept along Greenland's southern coast, where the odds of seeing a polar bear are very remote-especially in summer. The wildlife sightings that lure passengers to the rails are less fearsome: whales, reindeer and seals.

The ranger's gun is behind the bar.

This morning, after several days of stops at tiny villages and a Viking ruin, we've landed at Greenland's capital, Nuuk. The population is 16,000; since there are only 53,000 people in the whole country, it's a big city.

Our guide in the city is named Salik, but he really wants us to think of him as an average Joe.

"Life for me is like that of a city dweller anywhere," he insists.

In many ways, this picturesque city itself is eager to be typical of the modern world. There are grocery stores, offices and coffeehouses. The fine-dining restaurant, Sarfalik, starts its set-menu dinner with an amuse-bouche of foie gras with gooseberry and arugula leaf on a small lava rock.

However, the hunter-gatherer life of the native community is never far below the surface.

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