KITAA — Atop the garnished table, cinnamon scented candles diffuse a warm, amber light. The ravioli of lobster and Madagascar green pepper are bathed in a perfumed parsley foam, later joined by a fillet of halibut, served on zucchini caviar. All will be topped by a generous serving of ivory-heart cheesecake drizzled with a red fruit coulis. Far from the glitzy ambiance of an exclusive Parisian restaurant, this tantalizing meal takes place in quite literally, it is polar-opposite setting: under the canvas of a tipi near the edge of the vast Greenland tundra.
Comfortably seated on plush sheepskin, the remarkable ease of the gourmet dining experience paints a stark comparison to that of ice-clearing European explorers who, just a century or so ago, were warming themselves by the flame of a stove powered by nothing but seal fat, huddled under a makeshift shelter, chewing the leather of their belts, their bodies ravaged by scurvy.
In the village of Kitaa, two hours by boat north of Nuuk, Jon and Anika Krogh traveled to the seasonal luxury camp. Each summer, between the months of June and September, half a dozen brightly colored tipis are nestled in front of the dramatic fjord — an amphitheater of cliffs carved out by nature's tempestuous ways. For the next few fleeting weeks of summer, the snow will melt away from the normally icy landscape.
Kapisillit village — Photo: Awewewe
With the reindeer skin covered armchairs, the feel of the camp embodies everything Nordic: a barren rock littered the landscape, flanked by iced peaks, and sprinkled by fragments of icebergs that drift on the glassy sea. "There, all is order and loveliness / Luxury, calm and voluptuousness," Baudelaire would have said. Your favorite millennial would call it the tops in "glamping," that is giving some glamour to the rough edges of camping.
Under the mess tent, behind the crowded food counter, the chef Rune Collin tied his apron and set out to reformulate the new Arctic cuisine. From 1997 to 2015, he directed Nipsia, without doubt, the best restaurant in Nuuk — and thus, all of Greenland. He was the first chef to revisit traditional Inuit recipes to suit western palettes. Always in search of innovative cooking techniques, he has cleverly created dishes of reindeer, seal, musk ox. The majority of the vegetables he cooks — potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips — come from local farms, established thousands of years ago by the Vikings.
The adventure fell short.
On a chilly morning in the year 985, 25 Knorrs, big square sailboats left the Icelandic territory with their families and cattle. They had collectively decided to brave the "Dark Ocean" to answer the call of Erik the Red who had boasted of the agricultural potential of the new shores of Greenland. Only 14 ships reached the shore, and established their presence on the southern tip of Greenland which was soon to be named the "colony of the East." As the years passed, a second group of farmers migrated further North, forming the "Western Colony." The current Kitaa camp is located at the heart of what was once the land of more than 90 farms — living solely off of goat and sheep. Not far from the tipis, lichen-eaten walls still portray the ancient essence of this rural Scandinavian country.
Yet, the adventure fell short. Around 1350, the Bishop of Garder sent an emissary to reconnect with the colony of the West, which had not been heard from in several years. They found nothing but horses, goats, and abandoned buildings. The colony of the East survived a full century longer, before mysteriously disappearing too. Since then, researchers have been racking their brains: What could have happened to the Vikings of Greenland? The "Little Ice Age," which struck Europe from the middle of the 13th century to 1850, seems to be the most plausible answer.
In Qupaloraarsuk — Photo: Facebook page
But this freeze caused the displacement of another group natives to Greenland: the Inuit. Ujammiugaq Engell of Nuuk's National Museum, says there was no evidence of confrontation, "No smashed skulls, no real trace of any exchange," he explains. "And a genetic analysis showed that there was no mixing of the two populations."
But for Jon Krogh, who regularly visits the current settings, the past looks different, "At the time, a land with so few resources couldn't have allowed two peoples to prosper. It could only be one and may have been decided by violence. But the Inuit don't necessarily want to brag about it today!"
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