A Walk in the Faroe Islands

The last time I saw Torshavn, I was on a ferry headed to Hirtshals Denmark, and I was not allowed to get off the boat, this was just a docking stop, it was a cold 5 am, and the rains were falling over the village, I would have to wait another year before I had the opportunity to step off the gangway, and claim the Faroe Islands to my travel itinerary. This time I was traveling with a friend from Australia, whom I met in Canada. She was also touring Scandinavia, a Europe virgin, so it was rewarding to both be experiencing this country for the first time.

Our first night was dreary and grim, after having spent one day and one night at sea, I couldn’t sleep, so I was looking forward to some decent rest in the tent when we went ashore. This didn’t happen. The cheap material of the tent leaked water like broken skin does blood. We chose to set the tent up near the lighthouse right at Thor’s harbour, which was idyllic enough, privacy and seclusion, close to the sea, darkness, but alas, I woke up in a literal lake of water that had flooded the tent and my sleeping bag, not a good start, so completely soaked to the bone, I waded out of the shelter, and roamed the streets of Torshavn looking for an awning or early morning cafe where I could take refuge…

The rest of the trip was not so miserly as this, in fact it was rather comfortable, so what follows are the stories of two walks in the Faroe Islands. I had decided to take a hostel at a highpoint of the village for the next two nights, though surrounded in fog, you would never know you were about the center of Torshavn. The Summartonar festival was underway downtown, and after getting my bearings in the cobbled pathways, and winding roads, I leisurely paced through Tinganes. Every house with low lying roofs, grown a foot thick with turf grass and wildflowers, one would expect goats to graze on such rich earth. The traditional matte black walls, red door, and white window panes, and the stone walkways between the hof, this was like a picture of my future home, and I had waited years to be here. I continued my walk through the town, and was able to catch a concert from Yggdrasill and Kristian Blak, the night coming to a close, I climbed the misty path back to hostel past old wooden houses, and sheep fields. The next day was Torsfest, and to my delight, the two names I have wanted to see for years, namely Tyr and Eivor were performing on the same day, though tickets were sold out, I was able to sneak in from one of the side gates before any of the bigger bands came to stage, so I was able to witness Eivor sing a full set. The rain came down in torrents, and it would still be 6 hours until Tye would come on, so I opted for not standing at the festival freezing without any cold weather gear. I knew they were touring Europe as well, and I would be attending Midgardsblot with Enslaved, Skuggsja and Wardruna in a month. In the morning, I stepped into the Domkirkja to see Gudrid Hansdottir, and spent the evening by the port, and walking in the sculpture park.

After a restful slumber, I packed my gear and talked to a biker from Denmark over coffee, then head out on the road and started hitchhiking. This was really very simple in the Faroe Islands, and I never waited longer than 3 minutes for a ride, in this case it was the second car. By this time I was alone, and my friend had continue her travels. On the ride, I met another girl from Australia, and two guys from England and Holland, they had all met in the hostel the day before, and now we were four from different countries. They told me they were headed to Gásadalur, a small cliffside village with a waterfall that tumbles off the edge straight into the ocean. The foss poured from the lush greenery, as I quaffed dark ale in the same fashion. We then headed to the port, the Australian girl and the Englishman were to catch a boat out to Mykines (proncounced mitch-en-es) by the locals. This was a famous island known for its bird life, guillemots and puffins and several rare nesting species exclusive to this island. Unfortunately the boat was cancelled due to storm. People have been known to get stuck on the island because of the weather, so instead we made way for Bosdalafossur, another waterfall that plummeted into the sea, on the edge of a high plateau, emptying from a river that was right beside a cliff, making for an extremely interesting panoramic vision. This spot where it fell was called Trælanípan, a place where the Vikings threw their worn out slaves. It it reached from the Midvagur village, along a hike through a feral sheep field. The bird cliffs are comparable with those in Vestmanna in my opinion, and for those with vertigo, here is a chance to overcome it. We walked for a few hours here, taking in the sites of stones polished by running water, and the many intriguing sheep varieties, some appearing to have black mask markings. I ended up staying in a different hostel on the island of Vagar this night with my new friend from Holland, and we traded sagas from our travels.

The second of my walks was in Vestmanna, after walking nearly the full way to a small bay Viking village with the remains of an old settlement. I met a local who picked me up and we talked about landholding, farming and life in the Faroe Islands. Before leaving Sandavagur I tried to gain access to the church to view the runestone, but alas the priest was not in. I asked a woman walking in the cemetary where he lived and we walked to his house, still no answer, so I didn’t get to see it, but instead made my way to the Iceland wax Viking museum in Vestmanna. I was really impressed by the displays and stories learned of the heritage from Faroe Islands, I continued through the town, and walked in between the lonely roads, viewing the bay from the high points, and observing the life of this out of the way place, humbling myself to my placemark on the map. Again, the sky brooded with the dark egg of rain, and I headed back to the refuge of the hostel. In a few hours I was off again, to the solitary airport of Vagar, a one track runway, on my way to Kobenhavn, It was a fast four days here in the Faroe Islands but I only scratched the surface of the rune stone so to speak, the rest is yet to be carved into place.

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