Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge
Hotel Angmagssalik in Tasiilaq, Greenland
The dictionary definition may not allow leeway, but in some circumstances "luxury" is a relative term. A case in point is the Hotel Angmagssalik in Tasiilaq, Greenland. While it would rate as modest, compared to customary five-star standards, it is the "all-star" accommodation in the principle settlement on the remote East Coast of Greenland. Travelers come to go dog sledding and to view the majestic glaciers and ice floes clogging the straits and fjords. After an hour or two flight from Copenhagen or Reykjavik visitors land in Kulusuk and are transferred by helicopter or boat to the village where they arrive and look up the hill to see the bright blue hotel stretched along a ridge high above.
While its outside appearance is modest, once you step onto the lobby's flagstone floor, you discover the accommodations are surprisingly comfortable and tasteful. Guests are received at a black marble topped counter perched on natural wood siding beside a cozy gas fire which blazes away in the darker months. Bookshelves line a lobby with seating upholstered in black leather and spotted seal fur. An authentic antique kayak is mounted overhead. One entire side of the hotel is lined with windows looking down to the town and water Tasiilaq means "like a lake" Snow covered in winter, it is sunny and ice flecked, and perfectly calm in summer's virtual 24 hours of daylight.
Four dozen guest rooms on three levels are tastefully decorated with seal skins, silhouette wall paintings, and photos. Panorama suites on the top floor, highest of three grades, provide comfortable king size beds, wooden armoires beside a desk area, and tidy bathrooms with rounded curtains enclosing wall showers. Wall mounted televisions sets screen a couple dozen channels including BBC and MTV. Desks are provided with plenty of outlets although the fee for wi-fi in this remote region is steep -- over $10 per hour.
There is one treadmill for joggers in the hallway, but a better workout is a brisk half-hour walk down to the harbor and back up the hill past the convenience store, post office, and colorful local cottages perched along the way.
Another sunny lounge with comfortable seating for reading and card games to a terrace and there a framed wall collage chronicles the harrowing rescue of actor Richard Chamberlain and his cast who were almost stranded on a breaking ice floe while shooting a film about Arctic explorers.
Meals are served at a buffet with seating between the fireplace and windows or in a lounge lined with watercolor pictures of colorful local flowers and opening out to a balcony overlooking the valley. Breakfast includes servings of eggs, sausage, cereals, breads, cold cuts, and cheeses. Each dinner features both a meat and fish dish -- sometimes whale steak which resembles dry roast beef. Best value is the elaborate lunch menu of smoked and cured salmon, herring, prawns plus several mayonnaise salads and delicious dark bread and butter. Prepared by a Danish chef, the foods are remarkably tasty -- each dinner starts with a delicious tomato, vegetable, Mulligatawny soup, and sauces for the meats are inventively delicious, the creamy lemon sauce for the salmon was so delicious I returned for a second helping. Fancy coffee preparations, beer, wine, and liquor drinks are served at a bar area through the meals and into the evening. The crowd is diverse and interesting -- Scandinavian tourists mingle with university research teams -- I dined one night with a CNN crew on assignment to record the drastic acceleration of climate change.
The hotel can help arrange helicopter and boat tours to nearby glaciers, fjords, indigenous settlements. There are extraordinary sights you can't begin to imagine -- a glacier's solid wall of compressed snow surging into the waters of a fjord and mammoth, stadium-size iceberg chunks bobbing beside your boat . In summer, charming wild flowers blossom on mossy hills beside roaring waterfalls. One of the last unexploited regions of the earth, East Greenland is a place not to be missed, and the hotel named for this region of the country is an ideal location for exploring and a comfortable refuge after a day in Greenland's majestic outdoors.
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