Partly as result of that subsidy, on a long luminous summer’s evening in Greenland, life can feel pretty paradisiacal. Nuuk, where we spent a few nights either side of our stay at the camp, is lavishly equipped for a town of just 17,000. There is a new cultural centre with a state-of-the-art cinema showing the latest Hollywood releases, a brilliant art gallery, a shopping mall, a huge swimming pool looking out over the bay, a gleaming central library and a modern hospital (to which, in emergencies, patients in remote communities are brought by helicopter). There is a university (where tuition is free), but if they don’t like the courses, Greenlanders can choose to study in Denmark instead. There is a decent skate park, a thriving music and arts scene and a new literary star in Niviaq Korneliussen, a 28-year-old recently profiled in The New Yorker, whose novel about LGBT lifestyles in Nuuk has been published in Greenlandic, Danish and English.
And yet the wilderness is never far away. The snowy saddle of the Sermitsiaq mountain is a constant presence, just above the rooftops, and the links to the old ways remain deep and strong. When a designer at London Fashion Week showed an update on the traditional kamik boots, part of the national costume, people here took to the streets in protest. Hunting and fishing remain an obsession. Down by Nuuk’s harbour we saw the prime minister’s official residence, a yellow wooden cabin with a picket fence and antlers above the door.
Nuuk’s hot new restaurant is Kalaaliaraq (so hot that the chef was proclaimed “Greenland’s Jamie Oliver” on the cover of the Air Greenland magazine), which specialises in traditional Inuit dishes — seal blubber, whale skin, dried capelin and cod. Chatting over lunch there on our first day, I asked Anika how she’d met her husband Jon. “Well, we’d shot a reindeer and I was showing him how to cut it open,” she said. “Our arms were next to each other in the warm blood, and at that moment he was just like: ‘wow, this is the one.’ ”
Later we had dinner with her parents in their blue wooden house so close to the water they could lie in bed and hear whales spout. In the hall were photos of Anika, aged 11, bloodied and beaming with her first reindeer. “My dad said I wasn’t allowed to shoot one until I was old enough to butcher it and get it back to the boat myself. I was about 45kg, the reindeer was probably 25kg. I had to carry it 8km. I was so exhausted, but I was too stubborn to give in.” Outside on the terrace was a huge set of antlers, proudly retained by her father; in the lounge, another childhood treasure, a cushion showing a picture of Don Johnson in his Miami Vice prime.
Back at the camp, life slipped into a blissful routine of day trips and evening feasts. On one day, Thure Thornbo Baastrup, partner to Anika and her husband in the camp, took us out to picnic above the “ice fjord” east of Kapisillit — where a glacier runs straight down into the water, leaving the channel almost solid with icebergs. Beyond the glacier, the ice cap itself, just visible on the horizon, glowing with reflected sunlight. On another day we hiked to a remote stream to try our luck tickling Arctic char. We put on bright red survival suits to jump off the boat and swim out to the icebergs. We walked among the overgrown ruins of a Viking farmstead. The kids toasted marshmallows on the fire. We sat together in the wood-fired hot tub, fed by the stream high above the camp.