Sømandshjemmet Nuuk: Where the locals go
By Josefine Older Steffensen | Photos: Sømandshjemmet Nuuk
Hotel Seamen’s Home, Nuuk (Nuuk Sømandshjem), is a hotel nestled by the sea, with a view of the mountains in Greenland’s capital. It was originally set up as a safe haven for seamen, who otherwise had to endure tough conditions on board their ships. Today, it is both a hotel for visitors and a place where the whole community can enjoy a meal, a good chat or simply relax.
In the 1950s, the Danish Seaman’s Mission was invited to create a seamen’s home in Greenland, as they had done in harbours throughout Denmark. In 1969, the Seamen’s Home opened in Nuuk, and others in Sisimut and Aasiaat opened soon after. Today, the need for a ‘home’ for seamen is not so great, thanks to greatly improved working conditions, so the Seamen’s Home is instead open to the rest of the community, particularly to the homeless and the vulnerable.
“The hotel is a not-for-profit hotel. Everything we earn from people staying here goes straight back into the community,” explains Allan F. B. Majholm, who runs the hotel, together with his wife. There are 43 rooms, in three different price categories, to suit most budgets, and what makes the hotel stand out is how visitors immediately feel at home when they step through the door.
A home for everyone
Every morning, there is a smell of freshly baked bread wafting from the kitchen. As you come down the stairs, some of the locals are already telling some of the infamous stories about Nuuk, and there is a friendliness that will make everyone feel at home in no time. “We always aim to be as open as possible. We’re on hand to answer questions about what to see and do in Nuuk and throughout any travels in the rest of Greenland, but we’re also always happy to sit down with a cup of coffee and have a chat,” Majholm says.
He adds: “Every Thursday, we host a breakfast for some of the city’s homeless. It’s a space where they can get a good meal and have a good natter. Most weekday mornings we have locals coming in to have some breakfast, so there’s always a good atmosphere and the feeling of being a part of the local community.”
The hotel’s café is where many of the social gatherings happen. Open every day from 5:30 until 21:00, it serves good food in a price range which means everyone can enjoy it. “Nuuk can be an expensive place to visit and we especially find that people travelling for business simply want a good homecooked meal, which is exactly what we provide,” Majholm explains. “We try as much as we can to use local produce, but since we are based on quite an isolated island, it can be difficult. It’s important for us to be as sustainable as we can be, as we’re living in such a beautiful place and we want to keep it that way.” In fact, all electricity in Nuuk comes from hydropower and the city as a whole is using new technologies to reduce its impact on the climate.
At the heart of the community
Outside its own four walls, the hotel also has a social impact. A missionary welfare worker (sømandspræst) is associated with the seaman’s home and visits the ships harbouring in Nuuk, plus sets up groups in the local retirement homes and schools. The priest also leads a bi-monthly bible group at the hotel, and every morning there is a short service with singing.
“We want to focus on the people who visit us and who surround us. Whatever our situation is, we all need to be heard every once in a while, and we need to just have a conversation with another human being,” Majholm argues. “Whether it’s about the weather or something much more personal, we all have something interesting to say.”
A stay at the seamen’s home is much more than simply a bed and breakfast. It is an opportunity to get under the skin of Nuuk, hearing directly from the locals about what it is like to live in the “world’s smallest and cosiest city,” as Majholm delightfully refers to it.
“We want everyone to feel at home as soon as they step through the door, and feel like they can relax whilst we take care of them,” Majholm says. “Nuuk is a wonderful place to visit and experience and most people fall in love with it after just a short visit. By staying with us, our guests know that they have made their own impact on the community that they’ve been visiting.”
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