Thursday, August 25, 2011


The Ocean Princess docked in Torshavn on the first sunny day we had seen since we arrived in Paris over a week ago. This is ironic because the climate is similar to that in Bergen--it rains 260 days a year. Because of the Gulf Stream, The Faroes have relatively mild winters and cool summers. Torshavn, which means "Thor's Harbor" is the capital of this self governing region of Denmark. The islands are literally in the middle of nowhere--North of Scotland, West of Norway, and Southeast of Iceland in the North Atlantic. They consist of 18 islands, some uninhabited, and only 50,000 people live in the whole country. The people are called Faroese, and they have their own language of the same name, derived from the Old Norse language of the Vikings.

Torshavn is a town of 13,000 with a harbor which can accommodate large ships. It is a pretty town on the side of a hill. The people live in colorfully painted houses with steeply sloped roofs. Many houses have grass roofs.

We drove an hour out of town to Vestmanna ("West Men") on the island of Streymoy. This area is known for its spectacular sheer cliffs, 2000 feet high, rising out of the water, which provide a home to millions of seabirds. Our small double-decked boat seated about 30 people. It was small enough to sail close to the rocky cliffs and through narrow channels and natural arches carved from the rocks by the ocean. Braving the cold winds, we sat outside on the top deck, and we were required to wear yellow hard hats to protect against the occasional falling rock. Kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots and even puffins nested in the rock faces. Most looked like seagulls to the untrained eye. We could see the faces of the young birds peeking out of their nests.

Sheep roamed freely on the steep slopes, grazing on the grass. The farmers constructed fences to prevent wayward sheep from falling into the surf. Someone suggested that the sheep had Velcro on their hoofs, so they wouldn't roll off the steep grade. There were no trees, and it was explained to us that the sheep would eat the seedlings. Farming is minimal because of the short growing season. They do grow root vegetables like potatoes and carrots.

The other major industry is salmon farming. Salmon pens, large circles in the water, were scattered around the islands. About 90% of the Faroes' exports are fish, and 20%of these are farm raised.

In Torshavn, an elderly man confronted us on the street, handing (but not selling) us a photo of a cross that appeared in the sky on Ascension Day. He owned a small shop selling religious artifacts a few doors down, and we stopped in. In New York or Chicago, we would ignore the guy, but Dianne is much nicer to these people than I would be. We purchased a few postcards in his shop.

NEXT; Iceland and Crossing the Arctic Circle



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