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Did you forget to turn on the autopilot? Thorsten looks disbelievingly as he hit the button on the cappuccino machine. He had been particularly pleased with himself that it had fit in very well with other chrome fixtures in the interior of the ‘Silver Arrow’. I thought you were driving, you're at the wheel, aren't you? Peter, Thorsten and Monty had been woken up by an icy breeze blowing through the cabin. Thorsten squinted in the direction of a suspiciously barren land mass. They had all fallen into a deep sleep after eating the Poffertjes with vanilla sauce that they had bought on their way through Amsterdam.
If I put on red sunglasses, would the polar bears over there look like raspberries?
Ok, says Peter, it looks like we drifted a little off course. Let's see now, he said while looking at the sat nav. Yeah, well, uh, I guess that's … Greenland. We went a little further north than anticipated. Happens to the best, thinks Monty. Columbus and so on. A little would be no problem, laughed Thorsten, with a nervous flicker in his eyes. This here is about 2000 kilometers off course.
Yes well, says Peter, could have happened to the best, couldn't it, Monty? Monty looked rather nonplussed, seeing as how Peter had just stolen his line.
Has The Donald actually bought Greenland or not? asks Thorsten, who remembers that the contentious ex-president had once famously suggested doing this.
I don't think so, replies Peter. Let me google it. Largest island in the world, 58,000 inhabitants, hey, that’s even less than the population of Tübingen! But as it’s right next to Canada, that means that we're not doing too bad. There's supposed to be a town near here called ‘Ittoqqortoormiit’. Maybe we could get some fermented puffins there. They’re supposed to taste like gorgonzola.
Wait a minute, says Thorsten, suddenly looking like the famous ‘The Thinker’ sculpture by Rodin. Doesn't Santa Claus live in Greenland?
Hey, if we could persuade him to come with us to Chattanooga, wouldn’t that be the thickest cherry on the sundae imaginable.
Hey, no bodyshaming!
No, by thick I don't mean…
You’re right, he lives in Nuuk, says Peter, while still staring at his phone.
Oh no, wait, that's just his mailbox. He lives at the North Pole in the frozen Artic. Isn’t that a bit far off?
Why does he live at the North Pole, there's only frozen water there. At the South Pole he would have an entire continent to stand on. In addition, it’s much colder at the South Pole, nothing melts that quickly. That would be much safer, especially if what they say about global warming comes true.
Well, if we could flit through the night sky on a reindeer sleigh at a million kilometers an hour, then you are probably what Gen Z’ers would call ‘badass’. The man is probably not bothered by having a little water under his abode.
Nobody says badass anymore, thinks Monty.
Ajunngilaq? someone shouts.
A man in a double-breasted suit stands waving from the shore. Siri translates this for them immediately: Everything all right there, tadpoles?
Imaqa, calls out Peter, ever the one to try out new things.
That means ‘maybe’, he explains to Thorsten.
Coffee? asks the man on the shore.
Sounds great, said Thorsten, giving the man the thumbs up.
They quickly set anchor and disembark. Peter was disappointed to learn that they were just out of fermented puffin, but the mushroom risotto, more than made up for it. The man is conversant in English, and they talk about the recent Top Gear Special, in which they drove up to the North Pole in their car, to prove that such a tour is now possible without terrible privation. Don’t worry, we won’t spoil anything.
The Greenlander agreed that it is complete nonsense to drive over a jagged ice surface at minus 35 degrees to the middle of a barren ice desert.
Well, says Peter, aren’t you forgetting Santa Claus? We can try that.
The Greenlanders knew nothing about Santa Claus, but knowing what strange figures Southerners are, they were not in the slightest surprised when Thorsten rolled their boat ashore. There being no streets here as almost everything is under ice, he thought, The Silver Arrow can handle this easily.
They spot a group of fast hikers crossing the scene from left to right. The group is led by a white-haired woman wearing distinctive red boots who is carrying an umbrella and shouting ‘hopp hopp’. They’re probably tourists from a cruise ship. There’s nowhere they don’t go nowadays.
Peter and Thorsten retrieved some warm jackets, equipped themselves with some thermos flasks and some astronaut food and off they went. Monty travelled First Class, you could just make out his small face peeking out from inside the blanket that Peter had wrapped him in.
I guess you could call me a hot dog now, he thought to himself. He was very pleased with his new accommodation and took the most of the opportunity to supervise his humans every move.
A mere eight hours later and they have only managed to put a measly six kilometers behind them. The landscape is like the face of a village elder and defiantly resists being driven on. We need a helicopter, says Peter, otherwise we're going to be late for our arrival in Chattanooga.
The only helicopter pilot within 6 km is in Ittoqqortoormiit, googles Peter. We have to go back.
We could have told you right from the start, revealed the smiling faces of the Ittoqqortoormiitians as they see our heroes arrive 8 hours later, but the people of Greenland are far too friendly and polite to need to say that out loud. Clarkson had started much further to the north and had a lot more time to play with.
The helicopter pilot's name is Smilla and she’s never met Santa Claus. The only person I know with a red coat, she thinks, is the dog sled grinder, Rune, and he is always clean-shaven, thin as a whip and has nothing to give away.
However, Smilla is also too polite to say it out loud. They take off into the air. Monty is skeptical, he has never been so high, this just has to go wrong, he thinks, but it doesn’t take long for him to relax and enjoy the view of the completely frozen land mass beneath them.
Google it again, Thorsten says, breathing little clouds of vapor into the air. They needed to know exactly where Santa Claus could be found.
What do we do if he's still on vacation?
Then we'll just fly back without him. The main thing is that we tried.
Looking at Peter, Thorsten smiles. Peter's mustache, which had been growing since the start of the trip, mainly because he forgot his razor and shaving is apparently the only thing that the amphibious car can't do, has tiny pearls of ice clinging to it.
The helicopter ride has offered them a bleak and desolate view of a wide-open white landscape that is completely barren of flora or fauna, but now the time has finally come. They are approaching the northern rotational axis of the World, which, needless to say, actually looks no different from anything they have been seeing up ‘till now.
So, if Santa Claus actually hangs out here, then we'll definitely be able to see him, says Thorsten, still hopeful for a breakthrough.
Provided of course that he's not taking an ice bath. Would we be able to see him if he is not wearing anything? He’d be sure to blend into the landscape, especially given his white beard.
Something's moving up ahead, says Peter, and he's right. There really is something moving there. A small blizzard, speculates Smilla, but she’s wrong, it's a sled that is being driven in a figure of eight across the ice. A sled that is being pulled by six reindeer with a large man at the reins. A large man with long, flowing hair and wearing a… blue coat.
What’s going on down there?
Just land, says Thorsten and Smilla does as she was told. The sleigh pulls up towards them.
Have you had breakfast? the man in the sky blue coat calls out to them. What's up with him? they ask themselves.
You blew my advent calendar off the sled, damn it.
Oh I see. Sorry, young man, says Peter and helps the man to put the advent calendar back on the sledge. Tell me, you wouldn’t happen to be Santa Claus, by any chance?
Who wants to know that?
Well, us, we do.
Does Santa Claus wear a blue coat? Well, actually maybe he does. Do you know how boring it would be to have to wear red all year round and anyway, nobody gets to see it here. This seemed to anger him a little and he starts complaining, Don’t you really have nowhere else to be? Is sending letters not enough for you? Do you really have to ambush me up here now? Climbing back onto the sled, and grabbing hold of the reins, he calls out, Now, blixen!
Blixen just looks around stupidly and obviously has no desire to go anywhere. The reindeer all seemed to be interested in the unusual events unfolding around them and their faces beamed contentment.
Man-o-man, well really, you really have got to do everything yourself, yelled Santa jumping down off the sled and running up to Peter only to swing a right hook at his head. Peter was caught off-guard but managed to slip backwards, just enough to prevent the blow from landing, but seeing that he was off-balance, Santa leapt forward and tackled him onto the ground. It is, Peter thinks as he wrestles with the big man on the ground, the first time that anyone has probably ever had such a thing happen to them on the North Pole. Monty, Thorsten and Smilla watch on from the sidelines in utter amazement. Finally, exhausted, they separate and lay on their backs, gasping for air. Luckily, there has been no permanent damage.
Fair fight, pants Santa Claus, sitting up and reaching out his hand to offer it to Peter to shake. Why don’t we have some vodka, and you can tell me what brought you here.
Santa Claus pulls a white object out of his coat, and a doorway opens in the ice.
To everyone’s surprise, the door opens to reveal a cluttered bachelor's apartment and there are even posters hanging on the wall. The visitors are welcomed in and a short time later they are sitting in front of a table and sharing a bottle of vodka.
So let me get this straight, you want me to accompany you on your surprise trip, says Santa, so that I can add a little polish to your act. What’s in it for me? After all, Chattanooga is not exactly just around the corner, is it?
Isn’t it, I mean for you, though, it must be, said Thorsten.
No, no, that's not the point here, said Santa.
I have always wanted to take part in a road trip like the ones you see in all of these Hollywood films, where the landscape simply floats by and you yearn to stop at a roadside food joint.
Yes, well then it's clear what's in it for you: a seat in our amphibious car. We'll drive down to Chattanooga together and then you’ll have plenty of time to gaze out the window. But there will be no smoking in the car!
What? No smoking in the car? How very European of you. Now, let's eat a little bit of Hákarl.
You don’t know Hákarl? Why it is only my favorite dish.
As it turns out, Santa loves to eat fermented shark meat. For those who don’t know, it has a rubbery consistency and is typically very salty due to the conservation process. Santa serves it along with some rye bread from Israel and schnapps from the Congo.
Sure, the man is very cosmopolitan, thinks Monty to himself.
One individual, who will not be named for a variety of reasons, ends up spending the night hunched over the Santa Claus toilet which gives rise to some attempts by other members of the group to memorialize the event in song. ‘One Night in Santas Loo’ sung to the air of ‘One Night in Bangkok’ by Murrayhead, becomes a firm fan favorite in the days to come.
And so it was, that in this convalescent and caring atmosphere that Thorsten, Peter, Monty and Santa Claus were to continue their travels across Greenland. The plan was to set off from Nuuk and cross the Labrador Sea in the direction of Newfoundland, and then sail first along the Canadian and then the American east coast as far as New York, before then going overland to Tennessee. At least that was the plan, but we all know that plans rarely go without a hitch, and unfortunately neither does this one. Join us in the next installment to hear, amongst other things, about their encounter with a Polar Bear and even a Yeti!