I throw a quick glance at my watch, it is past twelve, midnight. The sun is setting, and I feel blasphemous to be writing this, instead of sipping my coffee, or staring at the Labrador Sea. It is June, and summer, when the days never end.

At this hour, reckoned to be unearthly at lower latitudes, there is still a mild buzz about the town. At a near distance, a group of young boys riding their bicycles seem perpetually engaged in pursuit of one another, uttering involuntary cries, possibly in Greenlandic, their native tongue, or Danish, a language understood and spoken in Nuuk, set amidst an astonishing Arctic landscape that has captivated my sight over the week that I’ve been here.

I remember, for instance, being evoked by the lilting sounds emanating from the silver waters of the Labrador Sea that took me down a muddy path, one evening, through a slope towards a junction where a solitary, white, rectangular signpost read: JOHN MOLLERIP AQQUTAA. Later, I’d discover that Google would yield no tangible results on his bio.

Or another morning, when an old man with pale, blue eyes, and high cheekbones, crooning through the window of one of the cluster of houses, to my left, leading to the Old Harbour, greets me in a hoarse voice, evidently amused at the sight of an Asian with a camera hung around his neck. My reply of ‘Good Morning’ is greeted with a wider glare, and a laugh that resonated with the sound of the distant wave striking against the rockbound coast, presumably suggesting that any further conversation would continue to get lost in translation.

A taxi driver I’d hired to get me to the town from the airport the day I’d arrived, thought I was Spanish and confessed his dreams of emigrating to Spain with his family in a few years’ time. A student I ran in to mid-week had remarked that he’d had the least concern for what he ended up doing for a living as long as he gets to spend his Fridays and Saturdays at Manhattan. “Manhattan?” I questioned, to which he nonchalantly replied “yeah, the only night-club in Nuuk.”

Contrastingly, a Thai proprietor of the one of the very few foreign restaurants in town, a Thai restaurant, ascertained that he’d wish for nothing more than spending the rest of his life in Nuuk. But what about the rising costs, I ask, a statistic I was made aware of prior to my visit. He smiles mischievously, and points at the bill I’m being asked to settle.

Nuuk appears to be a settlement taken right out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale – wooden, colourful houses along slopes leading in to the harbour, a solitary church, a few dust-laden paths, fewer paved roads, where lanky trees stand along like scrawny afterthoughts, painting the overall scene, otherwise empty barring the promontory landscape the settlement barges in to.

The houses, I notice, are painted in shades of red, green, blue, yellow and white, adding a new spectra of colours to a landscape that boasted silver waters, patches of grass with varying shades of green, grey fjords, and the Sermitsiaq Mountain with its white, un-melted snow flashing beneath a guiltless, blue sky.

Along Nuuk’s Old Harbour, a winding road slices through the houses, all the way to the Nuuk Cathedral, a wooden, red building believed to have been constructed in 1849 right beside the hill housing the statue of Hans Egede, a Dano—Norwegian Lutheran missionary credited to have founded Nuuk in the 1700s, at its top. A view of the landscape from the top of the hill had prompted early Greenlandic settlers to have said “if it can be so beautiful here on Earth, how wonderful must it not be in heaven.”

A few middle-aged locals come out through a door of the cathedral, and stare at me with the incredulity that I felt I started to attract. Too timid to reach out for my camera and get a snap of them, I decide to wait for another opportune moment.

Nuuk appears to be a settlement taken right out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale – wooden, colourful houses along slopes leading in to the harbour, a solitary church, a few dust-laden paths, fewer paved roads, where lanky trees stand along like scrawny afterthoughts, painting the overall scene, otherwise empty barring the promontory landscape the settlement barges in to.

Greenland, in my mind during my childhood, was an area I’d imagined so remote, that it could have been as inaccessible as Mars was. It wasn’t a country I had read in great detail about, for I thought it to be the same as the North Pole. I was hardly eight then, and I had done nothing beyond committing its map to memory, the scale of which one can easily misjudge – a flat map often creates a misnomer while assessing its area. It appears larger than it actually is. It is, in fact, about the same size as Mexico.

The men continue to walk hand in hand, towards the town, laughing at a joke possibly mentioned by one of them, it could have been directed at the strange foreigner. They don’t, thankfully, turn back to look at me, but their laughter continues to echo through the rocky landscape, giving to my first sight of Greenland a sense of warm and calm beauty, of enjoyment divorced from the bustling activity I was otherwise used to in cities.

I climb the hill and stand beside the statue of Hans Egede, overlooking the Old Harbour, on one side, and the town, on the other. There is an elegance about the raffish air I breathe, as I recall how the view is in complete contrast to my first sighting of Greenland, as I was flying in from Reykjavik.

Viewed from air, most of Greenland is an expanse of blinding white, for over 80 percent of the island, barring the few inhabitable coastal towns, is a sheet of ice, often over two kilometres thick in certain regions, the ice used to produce Greenlandic beer, as well for export.

Traveling between towns by road isn’t possible, there aren’t any roads. Traveling by air comes at a price. Locals commute between towns by sea, most Greenlanders own a boat.

The few inhabitable towns, scattered along a coastline almost as long as most of Europe, is home to slightly over 60000 residents, over three-fourths of whom are Greenlanders, most of them Inuit, and the rest, Danish. Nuuk is one of the world’s smallest capitals with a population in excess of 15000.

There is a whiff of carefreeness about the way Greenlanders approach life. Their geographic remoteness is testament to a unique identity they possess – a cultural adaptability driven by their closeness to nature, and not to other civilizations.

Changes in weather, summer days with prolonged sunlight, long winters with twenty plus hours of darkness invoke nothing more than a mere shrug of their shoulders. They are fishermen and hunters, accountants and engineers; the educated ones having undergone their university training in Denmark, most of whom have not returned for lack of opportunities within the country. Seal hunting continues to be the primary source of income for over 2500 locals.

When they are not working, they are probably on their boats fishing, or heading off to a fjord for an adventure. Or sailing to another town to meet a friend, or a relative. A guide book I’d read mentioned that Greenlanders are very fond of swimming, despite a lack of ability amongst most of them. Yet, a majority of the population still remains divided over where their allegiances lie – to stay, or to leave.

The history of Greenland goes far beyond the 17th century. Albeit historical evidences of settlement in the region as early as 2200 BC, mostly migrants from the region that we know today as Siberia, a more modern historical pretext is generally woven around Erik the Red, a Norwegian who had founded the first Norse settlement in Greenland, around 980 AD, having been banished from Iceland for charges relating to man-slaughter. In an attempt to entice settlers away from Iceland, Erik is said to have referred to this land as “Greenland”.

Contact had been broken for hundreds of years after the initial settlement, an opportunity that Hans Egede had sensed after hearing stories about Old Norse settlements in Greenland. He sought permission from King Frederick IV of Denmark, to search for the colony and re-establish a mission there. A smallpox epidemic in the 1730s claimed the lives of many locals, including Egede’s wife, after which he returned to Denmark, leaving his son to continue his work. Nuuk’s other reference, Godthab, refers to the early, formal settlement in the region founded as Godt-Haab, translating as good hope in Danish. And so it goes.

Nuuk isn’t as old, or as underdeveloped, as travel magazines and websites portray it. It is merely a consequence of its own remoteness, the closest major cities being Reykjavik, Iceland, to its east, and St Johns, Canada, to its south.

“There are two reasons why Greenland doesn’t attract as much tourists as you may think,” said Ollie, a Harbour Design Engineer from Denmark I’d befriended the day I’d checked in to an apartment in Nuuk. “One, it is very remote. And two, it is very, very expensive.”

The latter part of her statement was precisely why I’d opted for an apartment instead of booking myself at the only hotel in town, Hotel – yes you’ve guessed it right – Hans Egede, a blue building visible almost from anywhere in Nuuk. At over 250 EUR a night, there was little to suggest – either through the pictures, or the vegetarian-less restaurant menu – that it would have been worth it.

The apartment, located on Samuel Kliendschmidtvej, opposite to the Samuel Kliendschmidt Public school, like other wooden, coloured houses I’d become so used to spotting in clusters, was a more modern, newer structure, one that I wouldn’t have distinguished without having stepped inside. I’d later learn how this holds true for almost all establishments – banks, restaurants, the odd grocery store, Nuuk Cultural centre and even Nuuk prison.

One evening, while starting out of the window, I get absorbed watching a game of football played by a few kids in a small ground adjacent to the school. I step out to observe the game. Winter sports aside, football remains a popular sport in Greenland, played, and the European leagues, closely followed. Jesper Gronkjaer, of Chelsea and Danish fame, is originally Greenlandic, having been born in Nuuk.

I’m soon ushered by Ollie towards Nuuk Centrum, who warns that the only supermarket in town, Brugsen, would close soon. There isn’t a more stark display on the economics of import and export than the price tags (in Danish Kroner, as Greenland is a Danish colony) I notice at Brugsen. Meat and seafood, available aplenty and exported, are far cheaper than vegetables, most of which are imported. The cost of living is amongst the highest in the world owing to higher import prices, and a lesser population to amortize the costs across. Prices aside, the supermarket is as cosmopolitan as one you’d find in New York or London.

Another evening, while taking a now-what-had-become a customary walk along the Old Harbour, I am intrigued to spot a couple of school kids make their way back from the waters. I briefly recalled an article I’d come across on a system of Mathematics prevalent to the Arctic natives – the Yup’ik system, albeit originating from an Alaskan tribe.

In the Yup’ik view, the human body is the measure of the world. Measuring small distances would correlate to a pattern in a cloth, whereas a larger measurement would correspond to the distance between two features in the rugged Arctic landscape. I find the thought fascinating as the school kids stare at me as I pose my camera towards them. They scurry off in a road ahead, presumably heading home for their evening meal.

I climb up the hill towards the statue of Hans Egede, where I meet Neils, a telecom professional and a hobby photographer, and his three year old son Oscar. He mentions, in very good English, that he’s lived in Greenland all his life, barring a brief University stint in Denmark, and enthusiastically describes his upcoming plan to visit Spain during the summer break. He says it is a part of his routine as well, when I mention that I enjoyed strolling around the Old Harbour area during the evenings. Oscar, meanwhile, is busy piling rocks on top of one and other. When the weather is good, he says he prefers to go sailing.

We chat briefly on what we do for a living, and travel plans. Oscar soon starts to get restless and Neils reckons it is time for them to head home. He points to a road heading north, indicating where he lives. The road twisted, and wandered, along the coastline, heading towards the mountains, and not for the first time, I had the sense of being at the heart of a vast, remote island, in the middle of nowhere.