Day 704: Reykjavik

Laetitia moved on to Iceland. According to Medieval Icelandic historian Ari Thorgilsson (1067–1148 AD), Ingólfr Arnarson established the first Nordic settlement on Iceland around 870 AD, displacing Irish monks who left because they didn’t want to live amidst pagans. Thralls (slaves), mostly female captives from raids on the British Isles, often accompanied the early Norse settlers. Not surprisingly, recent DNA studies citing differences in genetic indicators on Y and X chromosomes indicate that 66 percent of Icelandic males are predominantly of Norse descent, and 60 percent of females have mostly Celtic ancestry.

Laetitia arranged an Iceland tour with a local guide and enjoyed seeing the hot springs and geysers of this geothermically active island along with its glaciers, abundant wildlife, and Icelandic ponies. In the afternoon, the group returned to Reykjavik, a bustling modern city of 120,000. They went to the Reykjavik Art Museum, the National Museum of Iceland, and the Reykjavik Settlement Museum.

It amused Laetitia that modern artistic depictions of Vikings wearing helmets with horns have no factual basis. Historic records don’t show them that way. There is a good reason for this. Horns would catch, rather than deflect blows from weapons. That thought was the source of the limerick of the day.

‘Tis an issue that some may find thorny
To say Viking helmets weren’t horny
Just artistic depictions
Of modern-day fictions
That turn out to be nothing but Blarney.

Day 703: Nuuk

When Laetitia began doing tours in Canada, her original plan was to tour all of the provinces and territories while she was here, but she changed her mind. Now that she was getting used to the far north, she decided to stay a bit. She would go to Greenland next and come back to Newfoundland and Labrador later. Today her tour began in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital city. Those used to visiting large bustling cities will find Nuuk surprisingly small. This town of 15,000 has only one stoplight.

Laetitia’s group began the day with a visit to the Nuuk Cathedral. It is a small red building resembling a rural village church, but is designated a cathedral because it is the seat of the Lutheran Bishop of Greenland. Later they went to Greenland National Museum and the Nuuk Art Museum, which featured a collection of prints by a local photographer. One photograph, entitled September Morn, had nothing to do with the Chabas nude painting that shocked Chicago in 1912, but was a stunning picture of a Nuuk sunrise.

After lunch, the group went by chartered boat to visit some Viking ruins. The Vikings came to Greenland in the tenth century and lived there for 500 years, disappearing for unknown reasons. The last historic document from the settlement records a wedding that occurred in 1408. Hvalsey Church, where the wedding occurred, is one of the better-preserved ruins in the area. The harsh climate, lack of trees, and lack of tillable land, no doubt made maintaining the traditional Viking farming and seagoing culture difficult. About 80 percent of Greenland is covered with an ice sheet, and much of the rest is low-tundra vegetation atop boulders.

Laetitia sat on a barstool and sipped a pint of Greenland Ice Cap Dark Lager. Later she was taking her group to a local Thai fusion restaurant named Charoen Porn, so she was amused at some bar gossip she overheard about some Air Force men in town on liberty who went there thinking it was a sex shop. It became the limerick of the day.

If you’re feeling aroused and forlorn
In Nuuk and go to Charoen Porn
You’ll find there Thai food
That is wholesome and good
But no gals dressed like September Morn.

Day 702: Nunavut

One of the virtues of imaginary tours is they can be taken any time of year. So it was that Laetitia, who had conducted a tour of Yellowknife in midwinter the day before, chose to go to today’s destination in Nunavut in midsummer.

When Nunavut became an entity separate from the Northwest Territories in 1999, Iqaluit became its territorial capital. With a population of 6,700, it is the smallest capital in Canada. Founded during World War 2 as an airbase, the town was called Frobisher Bay, sharing the name of the inlet on which it is situated. In 1987, its traditional Inuit name became the official designation.

Laetitia and her group spent the day on an excursion boat that made a landing at a prehistoric dwelling site and involved other shore excursions for wildlife viewing, including a polar bear that missed being on the ice when it went out and was spending the summer on meager rations, waiting for the ice to come back. Other sightings included summering snow buntings and a pod of orcas. During the group’s walkabout back in town Laetitia noticed how many huskies there were, most of them tethered outside without shelter.

“There are probably as many huskies in town as there are people,” said the bartender at the drinking establishment where Laetitia went for a pre-dinner libation. “Dog sledding is very popular here,” he continued. “Some mushers have more than 20 dogs.” Among the stories floating around the bar was one about a man whose young husky was more of a pet than a working dog. The dog had a voracious appetite and liked to steal meat off the grill. The owner tried to mimic his dog’s habit of practically inhaling the stolen meat before it could be taken away. This odd case of “monkey see; monkey do” made a lame story, but Laetitia decided to use it for a limerick anyway.

When a fellow who grilled in Iqaluit
A large steak with dark porter to follow it
Like his dog did aspire
To eat it entire
He found that he just could not swallow it.

Day 701: Yellowknife

Refreshed from her much-needed day off, Laetitia scanned her email in the Emerald Victorian’s library. Among the messages was one from Sophie recounting the previous day’s tour. The email ended with, “There’s a lot to do in Yellowknife besides Aurora Borealis. You should take a group there.” And so she did. It was the only tour she ever conducted in a down parka and wearing sheepskin mittens and a ski mask, but at winter temperatures in Yellowknife, exposed skin quickly becomes frostbitten. The day included snowshoeing, viewing ice sculptures and the Snowking Castle on Great Slave Lake, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and a shopping opportunity at the Original Weaver and Devore General Store.

After dropping her group at their lodging, Laetitia wanted to find a bar for a pre-dinner libation and to write a limerick. When she asked the desk clerk for a suggestion, he recommended the Gold Range and then grinned and said, “It’s also known as the “strange range.” As one whose limericks often involve slang, Laetitia was aware of the Urban Dictionary’s definition of “strange ranger,” i.e. “Someone who marches to the tune of their own sequin-clad boot-wearing Star-Wars-lovin’ drummer.”
Although Laetitia didn’t know quite what to expect, she went there and perched on a barstool. She talked to the bartender, but only briefly. He was so busy that Laetitia believed his contention that the Strange Range sold more beer than any bar in Canada. No particular incident occurred that sparked a limerick, but she enjoyed watching the lively crowd having fun and the burst of vapor that occurred every time someone opened the door and the warm air from inside collided with the frigid outside air. She went to dinner with the limerick of the day scribbled on a notepad in her purse.

The Gold Range that’s in Yellowknife
Is a place where beer drinking is rife
And where locals and strangers
And even “strange rangers”
Can go for the time of their life.