A big dream came true! Faroe … hang on, what the heck is that? Well, the Faroe Islands are a tiny group of 18 islands halfway in between Iceland and Scotland. As I already made it to Iceland, I couldn’t resist and travelled on to the place I dreamt about for so many years. I don’t even recall how and when I heard about these islands for the first time. If you consider Iceland being small and remote, let’s have a look on the Faroe Islands:
It is an autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark, about twice the size of New York City, but with only a population of about 50 000 people. Sheep probably outnumber humans on the islands by far – I guess there is a reason why the translation for Faroe is „Sheep Islands“. There are quite a lot of direct flights connecting the archipelago with Copenhagen, but also to Norway, France and even Spain. I guess the islanders long for some sun at some point as well because the climate on the islands is windy, wet, cloudy and cool; sometimes you might even witness some sun. Most of the times you will have all weather all day every day. Although it never gets below freezing – gulf stream! – , the other way round, it is not a destination for the sun bathers and summer seekers. But it is a great spot if you look for a bit more solitude and want to marvel on thousands shades of green and rough and wild sceneries.
My mom, with who I met up on Iceland, and me decided to take the ferry from Seydisfjördur in the east of Iceland to Torshavn, that is the capital of Faroe. After 20 hours on North Atlantic waves we reached the major island of Streymoy with shaky legs. There we picked up our rental car and headed into this new and exciting adventure.
My first impression I kept during the whole week we spent exploring: Everything looks the same. But everything looks the same amazing and stunning way! The Faroe Islands basically look like the backs of huge whales that emerge from the sea. The landscape is rugged and rocky and the land never goes smoothly into the sea. Cliffs over cliffs fall into the sea: the land towers over the North Atlantic like walls of grey and green rock. Hiking is quite a challenge as there are no trails; there are some paths and you just go to get to the destination that you spotted before. Nothing hides your views as there are no trees, no bushes. Just rocks and gras and sheep and often enough the sight is disturbed by mist and fog.
The people that live on those rugged rocks are similar to their land: sometimes rough and silent, sometimes friendly and welcoming. But we couldn’t get enough of that harsh beauty: from north to south and east to west we kept on exploring. We saw puffins and sheep and tiny horses and turf houses and cliffs and waves and many huts where you would wanna hide in November with a pile of books and a big bag of tea overlooking the sea.
Well, what else can I say? Time seemed to have stopped on Faroe. It is far away from all that urban hustle and bustle and islanders still follow their traditions and rituals. Most of them are well worth keep up with, some should be looked upon more controversial. Hunting and killing whales is such a tradition. Organizations criticize it as cruel and unnecessary as whale meat is no longer a necessary food source of the islanders. There are always two sides of the story, same here and as I only spent a week there I am not in the position to argue for either side.
But something else also was very noticeable – these islands are no longer a white spot on the tourism map. The national tourism bureau does quite a bit of pretty good marketing for the islands, „unfortunately“ as a result more tourists than the islands can handle are coming. People are stomping over private land, disturb all kind of birds while nesting, leave trash and even have to sleep in their rental cars as there are not enough rooms to accommodate everybody. Some farmers react by putting up fences and by charging a fortune for using their private land to hike to a waterfall or to an especially dramatic cliff. Tourists seem to disturb their solitude. I understand that and I ask myself – even though I travelled to that place as well – Is Faroe on the way to become a „second Iceland“? In what way will tourism in that country develop? It is in the hand of the islanders to keep their home quite and a little bit behind time by implementing a very regulated and therefore sustained tourism or to open up totally and embrace the possibilities for business and build a major tourism infrastructure.