Friday September 5th ~ Faroe Islands
A little about the Faroe Islands (or Faroe Islands 101):
- They are in the heart of the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic
- Located northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway
- An archipelago composed of 18 islands, 16 of which are inhabited
- The population is approximately 48,000 people and a larger number of sheep
- 687 miles (1,100 km) of coastline and at no time on the islands can you get more than 3 miles away from the ocean
- The highest mountain is 2883 feet (882 m) above sea level
- Local time is Greenwich Mean Time, the same as London.
- They have their own currency, the Krona and use Danish coins.
- They are an autonomous country, self-governing but within the Kingdom of Denmark
- The climate is surprisingly mild for as far north as they are located, and it rarely freezes here
- The population is well-educated, and every family has a computer
- The fishing industry is the most important source of income
- The language is Faroese, which is related to other Scandinavian languages. Danish and English are also taught in school.
When we boarded the Brilliance of the Seas several days ago, our first stop, even before dropping our luggage off in the cabin was at the tour desk. Having waited too long to book our shore excursions online, we wanted to get a couple of things confirmed before they sold out. The D-Day beaches tour was our first priority, then something scenic for both Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The other two ports were not worrisome as we had already been to Cobh a couple of months back on the 12-day British Isles cruise with Princess, and we felt that Portland Harbor (Weymouth) would be easy to walk around on our own.
We managed to get the last two tickets for the D-Day beaches, and if you read my posting from a few days back, it turned out to be everything we had hoped for and more. Emotional, moving, and meaningful. It will be remembered as one of the highlights of this trip.
The Iceland tours were already picked over and the one I most wanted was sold out, but a similar 9 hour tour was available so we jumped on it, with a shorter 4 hour tour that included the Blue Lagoon for the following day. So far, so good.
Then it came down to the Faroe Islands. I wanted to do a 3-4 hour panoramic tour that made several photo stops, or anything that would give us an overview of the islands, some history and of course hopefully highlight the natural elements that make these islands unique and special. I was so disappointed that all the tours were already sold out. Just as I was about to ask about being placed on a waiting list, the tour agent found two seats left on a 1.5 hour high-speed boat ride that would allow us to go up into one of the fjords. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but Tim thought it might be fine, so he grabbed the last two seats, proceeded to our cabin, unpacked and settled in.
Fast forward to today.
Up at a reasonable hour, we showered, went to breakfast, then returned to the cabin to pick up Tim’s camera off the charging station, prepared to go to the departure lounge to go ashore for our RIM high-speed boat. Just by chance I noticed a light flashing on our cabin phone and decided to check for messages. A recording let us know that sorry, our tour had been cancelled due to mechanical problems with the boat.
I was bummed. Not that I had been excited for the high-speed boat, but I did want to see something while we were here. Even though everything was showing sold out, we decided to stop by the desk, to ask for local suggestions. The agent again apologized, reiterating that all tours were full, but did offer to see if he could try to arrange something locally for us.
And guess what…
He somehow managed to find two seats for us on the original afternoon Panoramic Tour that I had wanted in the first place! How lucky are we?
That left us the morning to explore on our own. The local town of Klaksvik provided free shuttle busses for us into the small town located only a five-minute ride away. With a population around 5000, we managed to walk most of the main streets, check out the harbor, go inside a grocery store, and visit the largest building we saw, which of course was the church.
An absolutely delightful gentleman welcomed us into the church and managed to keep us fascinated for about twenty minutes telling us the history of the church and why it is unique. There are three things that are found ONLY in this church and nowhere else in the world.
There is a BOAT hanging from the ceiling. And not just any boat. This one had three different lives. Used first by the local minister to row to the neighboring islands to provide religious services. Later the same boat was used as a fishing boat, and then finally it’s third incarnation was as a chaser to help round-up whales.
Behind the altar is a wall-sized mural that is painted on canvas instead of the wall. The story and meaning of each section was careful explained to us, such as the symbolic three arches representing Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the four columns for the four books.
And finally, the baptismal font is 4000 years old and has a history of having been used in pagan days as a sacrificial basin.
Downstairs were 10 large round art pieces that were created out of multiple layers of wood, similar to creating a mosaic. They told the story of Christ. What I found most interesting was that in each picture, at least one element that was NOT made out of wood had been hidden, for example a shell, a metal key, an egg-shaped stone, or an ancient lock. Trying to find the hidden object made them even more intriguing for me. I had to admit defeat on a couple of them.
The harbor was filled with fishing boats, some well beyond their prime, in fact a few were so weather worn it amazed me that they were actually still floating. A few fishermen were at the end of the pier unwinding and cleaning their nets.
Back to our ship, and following a quick lunch, we found our correct bus to take us on our afternoon tour.
The area reminded us greatly of Northern Norway. No trees, lush green steep hillsides that went all the way to the sea, numerous waterfalls cascading down the mountains.
The sheep here were different. We were accustomed to seeing black, or white, or black with white faces, or white with black faces, but here the coloring was unique. Some reminded me of a pinto horse with big blotches of black and white mixed across their bodies. With individual markings, it makes it much easier for the owner to identify his own sheep.
The landscape was both harsh and stunning at the same time. We experienced a years worth of weather in just three hours with brilliant sunshine, a downpour of rain, dense fog, and then back to sunshine with sprinkles mixed in now and then to keep us on our toes.
To get from one island to the next, we traveled through a long undersea tunnel. Back above ground, the roads were narrow and winding, as we snaked around the island. Several passengers let out an occasional audible gasp. I’m not sure if it was due to the stunning scenery, or the narrow roads with a shear drop off and absolutely no guard rails. My hunch says it was the later.
I thoroughly enjoyed our day in the Faroe Islands. Although not very large, it was welcoming, scenic and far different from most of the places we visited throughout Europe.
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for volunteers. The elderly gentleman that spent his day proudly telling visitors the stories behind the elements in his church, brought it to life for us. And the young lady that greeted us at the Visitor’s Center, shyly handing out a local map, made it easier to for us to identify the buildings and gave us added confidence to wander on our own.