Faroe Islands, Far Away, Yet Once Visited, Unforgettable

Grass-Roofed Houses In The Faroe Islands

Decades ago, I was leafing through the pages of National Geographic magazine when I came upon a photograph of a grass-roofed house in the Faroe Islands. The image of that fairy-tale-like home engaged my imagination, and thus began my desire to visit the exotic cluster of islands that had etched an indelible image in my mind.

The journey from then until now spanned more than 30 years, and it was only last week that I set foot on the rugged group of islands jutting out of the North Atlantic. Descending the steps from the Atlantic Airways jet that had brought me to the Faroe Islands from Copenhagen, I put my foot on the tarmac and gazed in front of me: rugged, green and impressive.

I wasn’t the first traveler to be enthralled by the beauty before me. In 2007, National Geographic Traveler named the Faroe Islands the world’s most appealing island destination. The Faroes outranked the Azores, Lofoten, Bermuda, Hawaii and other islands. The judging panel remarked that the Faroes were “lovely, unspoiled islands, a delight to the traveler.”

Indeed. Not five minutes from the airport and already we were commanding the driver to pull over so that we could snap photographs and film the surrounding scenery. This continued for three days as I traveled with a film crew from Copenhagen on assignment here to capture the essence of the Faroes. Our mission was to discover the soul of this mystical place and to reveal it in video to give cruise passengers a tantalizing taste of what they can expect when cruising to the Faroes.

A few minutes further and a group of grass-roofed houses emerged. The village of Bøur was picture-postcard perfect, perched on a small cliff by the sea, the white steeple of a church piercing the sea of grass roofs. Creating a near-deafening sound, a stream of whitewater roared past the church.

Picture-Postcard Perfect: The Village of Bøur.

What I discovered during three days in the Faroes was a stunning landscape and a vibrant culture. The near vertical slopes of the glaciated landscape plunged into the sea. Dotting the grass-covered hillsides were sheep, brown, black, grey and white. The sea, which is is nearly always within view, teems with marine life, and the economy of the Faroes relies on the bountiful harvests from the sea. Seafood export accounts for the more than 90 percent of the local export economy.

On one day of our visit, we witnessed a tradition more than four centuries old, the so-called drive hunts for pilot whales. The killing of these whales has been part of a non-commercial ritual dating from 1584.

Hunters surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of boats, then drive the whales to shallow water in the bay, where the whales become beached and are slaughtered. The ritual is an important part of Faroese culture and history. The Pilot Whale was considered a gift from god. Whale meat meant food for a long time. I was told, there is no waste, and as has been the custom for centuries, the whale meat is distributed to villagers, not sold commercially.

Upon hearing of the practice, I thought it to be barbaric. But once I witnessed this age-old tradition and was informed about its social significance, I realized it was no more barbaric than the slaughter of cows, pigs or chickens for sustenance worldwide.

Picturesque Gjogv.

The Faroe Islanders are extremely independent. They descended from the Vikings who came here from Scandinavia more than 11 centuries ago. Irish monks lived in the Faroes even before the Vikings but fled the islands when the Viking longships arrived. In 1035, the Faroe Islands were annexed by the Kingdom of Norway, which ended up under Danish rule in 1380.

Though officially an autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroese were granted control of most of the matters that affect their islands in 1948. However, the Danish Queen’s kingdom includes the Faroe Islands (as well as Greenland), and Denmark is responsible for the military defense and the foreign affairs of the Faroes.

The Faroese have their own language, with grammar as well as vocabulary similar to Icelandic and to the extinct language Old Norse. Spoken Faroese, however, is closer to Norwegian dialects. While Faroese is the main language in the islands, both Faroese and Danish are the official languages.

The Faroe Islanders even have their own currency, the Faroese krona. The islands are not a member of the European Union.

A modern infrastructure of paved roads and tunnels connects more than 80 percent of the 50,000 people who live in the Faroes. Nearly 20,000 people live in Torshavn, the world’s smallest national capital. There are 18 islands in total, and all but one is inhabited.

The Faroe Islands are a place of unforgettable beauty. A simple photograph in a magazine had inspired me to visit, yet I waited much too long for my first journey to these enchanting islands. You need not wait for decades to pass before your visit. Chart your course to the Faroes on a cruise of the North Atlantic. You’ll be glad you did.

Also see Video: The Stunningly Beautiful Faroe Islands

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  • http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001HD407S Ralph Grizzle

    An interesting article about the death of more than 100 pilot whales in New Zealand. Man, however, played no role in these deaths.
    http://www.gadling.com/2011/02/21/107-whales-die-on-new-zealand-beach/

  • http://kaninusferoingus.wordpress.com/ Andreea

    Thank you, Andre, you are quite a gentlemen. One that loves to have the last say in a conversation, isn’t it?!

  • Andre

    Hi Andreea,

    It is clear that you are very capable of reading selectively, or you are just plain dumb. You have anchored yourself in your tunnel and all you can see is the narrow view through the end. Like a few billion others. Good luck with your life!

  • http://kaninusferoingus.wordpress.com/ Andreea

    “but what I eat does not come from or out of any animal, for the simple reason that people like you are not to be trusted with animals. ”

    Thank you! LOL You made me laugh with tears. You don’t eat meat or diaries or eggs, because I, my person, can not be trusted with animals. Priceless!

  • http://kaninusferoingus.wordpress.com/ Andreea

    @Andre, your ramblings continue. Bla-blah-blah without any substance or point. And completely without sense. Hormons and meat industry which, I quote, “has nothing to do with animals”???

    I reffered only and only to the outrageous and impolite comment you wrote, besides I don’t care about what happens in the USA, neither about their society and I actually don’t see why I should. The subject of the article was simply about the beauty of some islands from North Atlantic. Which you felt the need to bash because you suffer of the syndrome “knight on a white horse, saviour of the world”. I really pitty you. You are an ignorant who believes he ownes the absolute “truth” about Faroese and what happens there.

    I care about good people and about truth. No one in this world gives you the right to come and issue false and calumnious accusations based only on information you’ve collected either from a mail or blogs who continue to twist stupidly actual facts. Besides, you definitely care about my opinion, otherwise you would have not come back to see if somebody read your ridiculous accusations.

    I can not reason with people like you. I am just wondering … why do I actually lose my time answering?

  • Andre

    Hi Andreea,

    Thanks for your heartbreaking reaction. ROFL.

    It is just a matter of time that you guys will see that conservationists actually save the world, because if they don’t you will not have any thing to eat anymore.

    I don’t care at all for your opinion, but what I eat does not come from or out of any animal, for the simple reason that people like you are not to be trusted with animals. The meat and dairy industry is an industry. It has nothing to do with animals, but with subsidies and pushing kids to drink milk and eat meat.

    In the US the kids are the same size as fully grown up Europeans with obesitas. All the hormones, all the trash that they are forced to eat…. What a life indeed….

  • http://kaninusferoingus.wordpress.com/ Andreea

    Oh, God, now I saw this “The whole world already looks down on these barbarians, who have the reputation of being drunk all day and encourage their children to also drink. ”

    Now I will get at your level and I’ll call you an UTTER imbecile. Yeap, being drunk all days and giving alchool to their children they made the country with the highest standard of living from Europe. No one works here, everybody parties non-stop. In a country where a bottle of wine costs 40$ and where there is one single shop where you can procure that. What a life!

  • http://kaninusferoingus.wordpress.com/ Andreea

    @Andre, you are talking rubbish. Let me quote you:

    “These people lack education and a mirror from the rest of civilization. Their genetic material has been structurally impoverished over the ages. Brothers and sisters making babies, etcetera, and it turns out into this mess that just breaks the hearts of billions around the world. ”

    Are you serious? Brothers and sisters???? What do you know about Faroe Islands? Proper facts, not that twisted information propagated through stupid mails and Sea Shepperd malicious manipulation? How can you make such affirmations? Are you a kind of antropologist who came and studied the population of Faroe Islands? How dare you stating such horribile affirmations?

    First of all 1000 exemplars is a stinky lie, if there are a few hundreads killed every year. And yes, it can be compared with the “bio-industry” as you name it. As long these islands don’t have a proper farming land, they have to find somewhere a source of food. Or you are just that kind of hypocrite who consider pigs, cows and ships being suitable for slaughter and pilot whales (yes, whales, dear, maybe you should study a little and drop that “dolphin” non-sense) not?

    You have obvious a chip on your shoulder. Why don’t you find a site where you can spil out all your hate towards a country about what you have absolutely no clue. Worse, you issue verdicts and present stupidities as truth. Get a grip!

  • Andre

    Dear Avid Cruiser,

    Let me quote a part from one of your posts regarding the wonderful culture of dolphin slaying for children in the Faroe Islands:
    “Upon hearing of the practice, I thought it to be barbaric. But once I witnessed this age-old tradition and was informed about its social significance, I realized it was no more barbaric than the slaughter of cows, pigs or chickens for sustenance worldwide.”

    You must be out of your mind. There is no excuse nor proper context to slam a hook into the blow hole and break the spinal cords of 1000s of defenseless, harmless, highly intelligent WILD animals, specially dolphins and whales, to leave them dying. The whole world already looks down on these barbarians, who have the reputation of being drunk all day and encourage their children to also drink.

    Only an imbecile would come to a comparison with the bio-industry in the sense that it would be “okay”. The only comparison to bio-industry is that it is equally respectless towards animals.

    My theory is that people that have no respect for animals are literally backward genetically. Whatever they SAY doesn’t matter; it is the fact that they need an excuse for blood on their hands, which feels good to barbarians, to be “more than that animal”…. So the ultimate fairytale would be that the dolphins “come from god” and therefore all is well….

    Do not fall into that trap!!!

    These people lack education and a mirror from the rest of civilization. Their genetic material has been structurally impoverished over the ages. Brothers and sisters making babies, etcetera, and it turns out into this mess that just breaks the hearts of billions around the world.

    The fact that this has been happening since the 16th century, only makes it worse. Most of the world got rid of its barbaric hobbies like slavery and witch burning, so now the ball is really for the last remaining people that just don’t see what they are destroying, and the amount of pain, fear and suffering that they cause to fellow animals.

    This is pure nationalism and indoctrination of youth. The children think it is cool to stab Flipper and watch it perish! It is this nationalism that needs to be broken down.

    The verb “whaling” to me sounds the same as “baby raping” and “ethnic cleansing”. Don’t support it.

  • Ralph Grizzle

    Very nice Andreea!

    I recommend that others visit your post, http://kaninusferoingus.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/520/, which they can translate (from Romanian) using google.com/translate for the essence of your piece.

  • http://kaninusferoingus.wordpress.com/ Andreea

    You’re very welcome.

    Actually, I have to thank you. The movie is one of the most beautiful and objective documentaries I’ve seen about Faroe Islands. And I’m trying to show people that these islands are more than whalehunt and football. And you did that beautifully. I am not Faroese, but I’ve been living here for many years now and I’m absolutely in love with the place. the islands are, simply, mesmerizing.

    I wrote the link to the documentary, because, to my shame, I do not know how to embed a video. I think my readers will manage anyway.

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