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Published: November 3rd 2013
The Faroe Islands are one of the West Nordic countries, and I'm thrilled to chalk up number three in this amazing part of the world. Having already visited Iceland and Greenland during this memorable trip, I've been impressed by the stunning scenery on offer in the Arctic region. Although the Islands are a part of Denmark, there is a unique feel to the Faroes that makes visitors instantly aware you have arrived in a different country. Faroese is a distinct language, and closer to Icelandic than it is to Danish. The culture and traditions of the people on these beautiful islands also stand apart from the Danish, and this out of the way spot makes for a rewarding travel destination. It's less than three hours flight on the plane from Copenhagen to Torshavn, but once you arrive in the capital it's like stepping into another world.
Let's bring the journal up to speed, dear reader, from where we left off in Copenhagen. Atlantic Airways did a terrific job flying me to the Faroe Islands, and I was even offered a Baileys as part of the excellent service. The passengers enjoyed Atlantic salmon for lunch, washed down with a beer in
my case, and topped off by a Baileys! Goodness me, the airline sure did a good job ensuring we were happy passengers. The airport is on the island of Vagar, and the airport bus takes you to Torshavn in around fifty minutes, including a journey through one of the two massive undersea tunnels that have been built to connect the Faroe Islands. I lent on a cabbie to get to my recommended guest house, and with the help of the builders working next door the owner was quickly on the scene. I checked in to a well appointed private room, and feel great that this would be my base for an extended stay in the lovely Faroes.
The first order of business, as in every new city, is to get around on foot to explore what Torshavn has to offer. Everything seems so small and graceful and elegant, it's hard to describe what visiting this city is like to the uninitiated. However, can I be so bold as to confess it's a little slice of paradise on offer out in the North Atlantic. My initial impression of the Faroese has been of a people somewhat reserved, but extremely helpful
and gracious if you take the time to get to know them. There are no other tourists around, not that I've come across anyway, so there is an opportunity for a seasoned traveller to blend into the local culture, and soak up all that being in a foreign country has to offer. I feel blissfully independent here, as there are no staff around except maybe in the morning for breakfast, so it really feels like you have your own place. The internet connection tends to drop out a bit too often for my liking, but overall I couldn't be happier with the set up in Torshavn.
The main road is only two blocks from the guest house, and Torshavn harbour less than a ten minute walk. Everything is extremely compact, and the lovely coloured houses that line the harbour are a delight to behold. In the Nordic tradition, they feature a variety of brightly coloured houses with stunning architecture and are a photographer's delight. The harbour is always busy, with either freighters or ferries coming or going on a regular basis.
Ferries service the islands daily, and there is also the option of taking a ferry
to reach either Denmark or Iceland before the winter sets in. I found my feet quickly in this peaceful country with no army and very little crime. In fact there isn't a prison on the Faroes, and on the rare occasion a serious offence takes place the convicted parties are sent to Copenhagen to serve out their sentence. The situation reminds me of Greenland regarding the sometimes fractious relations between the Faroese and the Danish, in two countries that enjoy close relations. The Faroese have been granted greater autonomy by Denmark who acceded to the wishes of the local people. On the one hand substantial funds come from the mother country, but inevitably there are squabbles and resentment about how the money is allocated. There are similar tensions regarding fishing rights in Greenland and the Faroe Islands as Denmark, under the auspices of the EU, makes what the local fishing industries consider unreasonable demands on their annual fishing catch.
These clashes are real and they are serious, but overall the relations between Denmark and the autonomous regions remain strong and vibrant. Many young Faroese go to Denmark for work or study opportunities, but the lure of these lovely islands
is strong and many are drawn back home after a few years. The Faroes are a land of sweeping green and jagged hills, with houses overlooking the harbour at every possible angle. One local I was chatting to on the bus boasted that in his home town every house has harbour views, now that's quite an achievement!
The business hours of various establishments in Torshavn are a wonder to behold. For example, the two main supermarkets in the city are closed on a sunday. Yes that's right, closed all day, as incredible as this may seem. There's a wonderful fish and chips shop in the city centre, and I'm not sure whether it is open at all on sunday, but I suspect not. But get this for business hours for the rest of the week, the store is open from 5:00pm to 9:00pm. There are many other restaurants and stores that don't open their doors to the afternoon at the earliest, if at all. And the few bars in town also open their doors at 5:00pm. It may seem slightly disconcerting for visitors but Torshavn is definitely open for business, basically all of you should be here now!
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent." John Donne
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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