FAROE ISLANDS: IN THE LAND OF MAYBE
A distant land, unspoiled views, good food and hospitality. In a word: the Faroe Islands. We are only a month or so from the solar eclipse, when all eyes will focus on these small Danish islands, let’s get to know them through my last travel story.
IMPRESSIONS: WAITING FOR THE ECLIPSE
” What did you say? Faroe Islands? But where are they? ” When I announced my travel plans these questions were constant. However this made the situation even more interesting. Exploring a place which is wild and unknown to most people makes me happy, so happy because I can live and share something new, just enough to make me feel free, and why not, even useful! It is said that the journey starts even before leaving, the same goes for an adventure. Mine began the evening of my departure for Copenhagen, when due to adverse weather our flight was delayed for 3 hours. Despite everything, we were soon comforted by the courtesy of the crew, with the sushi that was served for dinner (thanks to Atlantic Airways) and the skill of the pilot who undertook an incredible landing despite the snowy landscape and the turbulance that accompanied us.
Outside, in the land of the Vikings, the landscape is lunar. I, too, in my own way I feel like an “ adventuress” although the Vikings beat me unabashedly. We are only a dot on the map away from Norway, Great Britain and Iceland, although overseas territory is Danish. 18 small islands huddled close to each other, as if protecting themselves from the wind, and 1396 sq km for just 50,000 inhabitants – a people who do not hide their Faroese pride. This is the “Land of perhaps”, ” Kańska”, in the local language (Faroese is the first language, but they also speak Danish, thank god they also speak English), The Faroese are honest people,, calm and have a dependence on weather. The weather factor obviously plays a fundamental role in the life and activities of these islands!
To visit them just let them lead by instinct, take a car and go, no matter where, no matter when, advice and answers will always be confusing and also evasive. The land seemingly inhospitable in the winter, green and full of energy in the summer, also becomes animated by numerous music festivals, this place will welcome you all year with its wild beauty and little explored places, as will welcome you the Faroese, hospitable people, calm and always ready to help (despite their undeserved reputation as islanders). Which islands to explore? All of them I would say. From the northern most point to the southern most, with the lighthouse located in the most extreme position. My favorite? Mykines, but don’t tell too many people!
Why bother coming to the Faroe Islands? Because the sunsets last the whole day, because you can breathe deeply the scent of the sea, because they are real islands, because the temperatures are never too severe (the Gulf Stream softens the climate), because in the coldest and clearest of nights you can observe the spectacle of the Northern Lights, because it is a paradise for birdwatchers who can find puffins and many other species of seabirds . Last but not least, for the solar eclipse that will happen here on 20 March at 09:41. A must for fans and not only. In a few words, or rather in three adjectives the tourist board describe the beauty of the Faroe Islands as: pristine, unexplored, incredible. They are quite right…
MEETINGS: THE LIFE OF A HELICOPTER PILOT
There are many meetings I want to talk about because even just a glimpse, sometimes, can convey more than words. I will begin with my meeting with the pilot of Atlantic Airways, Oli S. who, along with his co-pilot Rani, led me to discover the view of the islands from above. In essence I experienced a day in a helicopter whilst at the Faroe Islands (I was not flying of course, otherwise I would not be here either to tell you about it). In short, a helicopter pilot working in the Faroe Islands is: a privileged person. Privileged because every day they are lucky enough to fly over an earthly paradise and discover it’s thousand faces, always in a different light and always from different perspectives. Oli explains “The funny thing is that some islands are accessible only by helicopter or boat and the government must therefore ensure connections”. Result: often you take the helicopter like a bus, just look at the timetable (and in this the Faroese are really very accurate). A funny anecdote after all these years of service? He once had to transport a horse to another island to stud it! Even this can happen here it seems! Why did I decide to talk to him? Because Oli is the perfect portrait of the Faroese: smiling, friendly, traditional and proud of their islands. Not only that, also because Oli is an everyday hero. In fact his work may prove indispensable as he also works for the rescue service and is always available near the heliport. Good work Oli!
The other meeting which I want to talk about was with a girl, while we were sitting in a bar. She is called Ditte, she has Nordic features but raven hair, her eyes instead are light and her mouth is colored by a slash of bright red lipstick. You can’t miss her. She has a relaxed way of moving, a discreet smile and is easy to talk to. Immediately on hearing us talk she turned around and asked in our language with near perfect pronunciation: ” Are you Italian? ” It turned out she works in graphics and photography and she had studied for two years in Florence, my city, before returning back to the Islands. To hear your own language in a place so far away and to chat with a stranger who knows something of your own home is an indescribable feeling. The world is indeed a small place where often the distances are only imaginary. If you would also like to meet some nice local characters I would advise spending an evening in Sirkus, a place colored with great music where you can spend an evening in good company. Obviously, it’s near the port and of course in the center of the capital. If it was not yet clear, everything revolves around this small area.
CUISINE: NEW FRONTIERS OF TASTE
It seems that the best fish in the world can be found right here resulting in shrimp, salmon and cod being exported in large quantities worldwide. But is this enough to define these islands a mecca for lovers of seafood and cuisine in general? I think not, one must also know how to prepare the fish. The Faroese are wizards of the smoking process, in food preservation and in their revision. And to think that the ingredients available are so few: fish, lamb, algae, some vegetables and rhubarb, the only ” fruit” not imported to the islands. The places where you can sample the Islands cuisine are few but they are all very good. For a dinner of excellence: Koks http://www.koks.fo, an award-winning Faroese restaurant which serves dishes that create an explosion of flavor. A real party for ones taste buds! Ingredients are 100 % Faroese but used to masterfully create something unique. The chef, the Faroese Poul Andrias Ziska , took part in “The Food lover Identities” event in Milan, an event that welcomes to the stage the largest professional chefs and pastry chefs in the world (Haven’t I already said that the world is small? ). Their signature dish? For me the lamb, gentle, soft and good side dishes, although the soups served as entrée are also excellent. I give one extra point for the restaurant’s location, with a beautiful bay window and a view of the city, I give one point less for the price as it is not exactly cheap, but it can be worth it if it’s a special night. For wonderful seafood of great quality (it’s not a struggle to say, the most delicious I have ever tried in my life): Etika http://www.etika.fo, a sushi restaurant (takeaway) reasonably priced and the quality unprecedented. Excellent service and fish that melts in your mouth. The sashimi in this case is a must!
Speaking of fish it would be impossible not to stop by Barbara’s. The traditional seafood restaurant located in the old part of town, in one of the oldest buildings on these islands, warm and refined at the same time, it offers excellent food with a high level of service. Needless to say, these restaurants are all in the capital, or in its immediate surroundings, indeed it’s always better to have a small supply of food with you when out of the city as in many villages there is not even a bar where you can warm up and have a drink and a snack. A final piece of advice? Always leave a little room at the end of the meal for the wonderful traditional cakes with chocolate and marzipan hearts. Say no more…
GUIDE: HOTEL AND TRANSPORT
In our imagination these cold and silent islands seem distant and unreachable. In reality it is not so. A foolproof network of roads and bridges but especially tunnels link them, while Atlantic Airways https://www.atlantic.fo/en/ the national airline of the Faroe Islands provides helicopters for fast navigation between islands. Not only that, Atlantic Airways also puts the Faroes in contact with the rest of the world.
In the capital Torshavn, you will find all the conveniences, banks, restaurants, supermarkets, shops and some hotels, although it is one of the smallest capitals in the world. Not forgetting the football fields (the Islands national sport). The capital is home to three pitches and even the smallest towns have a pitch. Perhaps Torshavn is the best base for exploring the islands. I stayed at the Hotel Foroyar http://www.hotelforoyar.com, a must on the island of Streymoy (do not be scared by these names ) . A high level hotel, modern and functional, with grass roofs which respect the lines of the traditional architecture, with 106 rooms overlooking the capital. And the view from Koks, which is right in the city center enjoys a unique view of the city. If you arrive there in the evening, the atmosphere is magical! If you do not want to spend too much money a cheaper option could be to stay in a hostel, Hostel Kerjalon is in the immediate vicinity.
The Hotel Magenta https://www.facebook.com/gamlahotelli in Midvagur is the best place to spend the night if you are near the airport (located just 10 minutes drive from Floghavn as they say here, start to familiarize yourself…) . It is a small hotel which was completely renovated last year however it has maintained the characteristics of an old local house, with spaces used for family dinners and small private concerts. Its strengths: the location near the airport and also the pastry shop which you can find right inside the structure itself, with excellent traditional cakes.
LUGGAGE: ROOM FOR LUCK
This time, as never before, ones suitcase should be emptier from the usual clutter (except of course for the camera and telephoto lens, umbrella and waterproof jacket). There are no large stores or shopping centers and to be honest there is not that much to buy, but needless to say that in this place famous for it’s traditional woolen ware it is absolutely worth buying some lovely jumpers and scarves. Considering that the sheep outnumber the people (there are approximately 80,000 against 50,000) it is not hard to find shops that sell woolen pieces, most of which are handmade.
Obviously internationally renowned shops such as Gudrun & Gudrun http://www.gudrungudrun.com will not disappoint you, because they offer the quality of traditional models adapted to more modern and feminine style, but they do tend to be rather costly. Pay attention to the timetables: shops tend to close at 17:30 and extraordinarily , at 18:00. Carpe Diem. Oh, I forgot. Bring a waterproof jacket with you because the weather is very variable and always plays an important role in the life and consequently on ones visit to these islands, it is said to be possible to live four seasons in one day here.
BOOKS AND FILM: AN ALMOST LEGENDARY DICTIONARY
I was told that an Italian had been on the Islands for a few months a few ‘years ago. He is said to have worked on a legendary Italian – Faroese dictionary. I can’t believe it. I am sure there will be more words translated than people who will use them … Who knows what kind of book could be born from his stories. If anyone knows this man’s whereabouts please contact me. It’s a manhunt.