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Published: August 5th 2019
View from the car window
We were already captivated, as we drove from the airport into town
There are many joys of teaching in an international school. The one that I recently enjoyed, was visiting the homeland of a colleague's partner. Traveling is wondrous regardless, but there is a different quality to it when you are being hosted by someone in the know.
We set off bright and early from Copenhagen for a quick two hour flight. Even the locals were glued to the windows upon landing, as we were treated to a clear sunny day, and therefore spectacular views. This airport is known for tricky landings, due to fog and wind, so our uneventful arrival seemed a great start to the adventure. We were picked up from the airport by Johannes' stepfather, and then driven into the capital, Tórshavn. We picked up our rental car, and then set out to the town where Johannes is from, Norðskáli The drive took us up and down winding mountain roads and through tunnels. The drama of the geology and the vibrancy of the greens dazzled us.
In Norðskáli, Johannes' aunt welcomed us to her home. It felt familiar, in that she spoke Danish and we ate bread rolls with butter and cheese with coffee, something we usually have
This is the tallest waterfall on the islands. It is a bit hard to tell how impressive it is, as it falls in two sections. We hiked up to the second plateau as well to appreciate its first fall, too.
at my Danish in-laws home. The jokes between Johannes and my Danish husband Mads were frequent. The Faroe Islands are part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but there is certainly a feeling of independence and a unique culture.
Johannes wasted no time in wowing us. We set off for Fossa Waterfall first. It is the tallest waterfall on the islands, but it falls in two parts, and everything around is so high, that it is hard to appreciate the scale of it. We walked up to the falls, and the decided to hike up to the layer above us as well. That was an introduction to the narrow paths and steep drop offs. But mostly the footing felt safe. The little wild flowers and pillowy green grass were calming to look at, instead of looking down steep the mountain side. Mads took off his shoes to enjoy the feel of the water, which was surprisingly warm. The unseasonable weather caught us all off guard, as we had packed sweaters and coats, not sunscreen and hats. Who would have thought?! Johannes could not believe the string of sunny days we enjoyed.
Our drive then took us to
the town of Tjørnuvík. What a view! Mads could not resist, and before I knew it, his clothes were off and he was running to the sea! Johannes soon joined, and the two splashed very briefly in the waves before running back to us. That Atlantic Ocean water was cold and salty! The story goes, that the two rock formations off the end of the island were a giant and a witch, who tried to drag the Faroe Islands to Iceland. But they were surprised by the sun and turned to stone.
We went back to our room to let the men shower and change. Johannes put on the traditional clothing as we were heading to Ólavsøka, the national celebration. It is a few days long consisting of boat races, music, dancing, and fun. Many dress in traditional clothing. It was such a treat to see all the different ages wearing the clothes with pride. There is clearly a lot of hand work that goes into the clothing, and this along with the silver buttons and broaches make it evident why these are so treasured. As the clothes were made of wool, it was certainly a commitment to wear
them on that hot sunny day! But I did not see any children squirming to get out of them.
Johannes' mom and family invited us over for a "cold table" dinner, which was quite a celebration feast. It felt a lot like Thanksgiving with many different options and a festive feeling. Johannes was clearly in heaven, and Mads was very brave. There was whale blubber and meat, air dried fish and ram's leg, pickled herring and beats, egg, potatoes, and more. Mads tried all the local delicacies, and found himself fond of the ram's leg in particular. I asked how often they eat whale, and it is very very rarely. Johannes' sister shared that they are aware of how intense it is health wise, with the heavy metals. She thinks that they likely would have stopped killing and eating whales, but that with the pushback from some groups, they became more protective or defensive over the tradition. The feast rounded out a rather full day of impressions and beauty.
Our second day started with another picturesque town, Gjógv. The town was lovely, and a walk along the cliffs made for a great start to the day. We then
Views at Tjørnuvík
This was quite a picturesque spot. The two rocks in the left of the image are a giant and a witch who were trying to drag the Faroe Islands to Iceland, when they were surprised by the sun, and therefore turned to stone.
set off to climb the tallest peak in the Faroe Islands, Slættaratindur. The hike is steep, but would have been doable, had a few factors not interfered. One, only I had hiking boots on, while the others didn't have much grip in their tennis shoes. And two, the lack of rain meant that the trail was dry dry dry, and therefore was slippery gravel. These combined with the narrow walk ways and very steep drop offs did not make for the most comfortable of climbs. It was hard to take in the beauty while being so absorbed by foot placement and balance. When we reached the last bit, truly, 10 minutes from the summit, it became too much for my friend, and we all very understandably turned ourselves around and made slow progress, sometimes on our bums, back down. I woudn't say that one should skip this climb, as I think our circumstances were a bit unique. But, even under the best of circumstances, it is not for the faint of heart!
We were quite spoiled by a roast lamb and potato dinner from Johannes' aunt. We were all pretty beat after the hike, so the timing and coziness
of the meal was very appreciated.
Our third day started with some walking around in Tórshavn, where most places were closed due to the festivities. The shops had been closed for two days, so were were very lucky that Johannes' aunt had bought us some basic supplies to be able to make do for meals those days! But tourism goes on, so we were able to catch an afternoon boat ride from Vestmanna. The boat ride was breathtaking. My little iPhone was not up to the challenge of capturing the magnificent rock formations. The clear blue of the ocean water and bright green grass were really something special. We could not help but wonder up at the sheep grazing on these cliff sides so nonchalantly, when we thought about our own heart palpitations the day before! The captain showed some cowboy qualities, taking us in to inlets and caves and making dramatic spins. He was very confident and clearly had made the journey many times before. I was on puffin watch, but only saw a few take off from the water at a distance. Puffins are my mom's favorite animal, so I was very eager to see them and
There is a national celebration at the end of July, with boat races, singing, and wearing of traditional clothing. It was quite a sight to see what pride people had to wear these beautiful outfits. They were made of wool, so it was a quite a hot undertaking in that sunny summer sun!
catch a photo. Instead I made do with the towering landscape.
Johannes knew of my puffin obsession, and had booked a trip to Mykines for the next day. The boat can often be cancelled, so I tried very hard to not get my hopes up...not easily done! Thankfully, our boat ran! We arrived in time for a picnic lunch overlooking a giant inlet. Puffins and other birds zoomed by us to their nests with beaks full of fish. What a welcome! We set off on a hike out to a lighthouse, which Johannes promised would take me past thousands of puffins. Indeed it likely did, but as they were on the cliff face below my feet, I likely "only" clapped eyes on 50 or so. It was clearly a spot for photographers, so big fancy cameras snapped photo after photo of the darling birds. It was such a delight to see them flying about with their little wings and bright beaks and feet. The hike was again intense for its drop offs, but the footing was better, so we all were up for it. The little town has a guest house and a campsite, so some tourists stayed the
night, but we headed back on the 7 o'clock boat. Before heading home, Johannes took us to Múlafossur Waterfall. What a sight! We were completely saturated at this point, so the only thing to do was to head home and sleep!
For our last outing, Johannes took us on a walk from Saksun along the beach out to Lónna. It was a beautiful walk, which changes depending on the tide. The view out to the sea was lovely. Had we been there the first day, I likely would have taken 20 photos, but as it was the last day, we snapped one or two, and just soaked it all up. We had just acclimated to the beauty!
Our time on the islands was mostly spent in the glories of nature, but we also appreciated the laid back attitude of the locals, and all the hospitality we were given by Johannes' family. Hopefully I can take some of the calm and beauty with me back in to the new school year!
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