Soul of the Faroes

I promised I would write about my amazing day in Suduroy. I cannot break a promise. And as this is my last day in the Faroes, it is time to reflect on what has been a week beyond my expectations.

Monday I caught the car ferry to the southern most island in the Faroes, called Suduroy. It is very different, even in geography, than the rest of the Faroes. The grass is greener, the water a more vivid blue, the mountains gentler. But still stunning. I am discovering the English language is completely inadequate for describing the vistas I stumble across around every corner.

A sunny day, but moody, the fog rolling in and out so quickly, which seems to characterize the entirety of the Faroes. The weather changes on a dime, moving in and out so fast, a warm sunny day one minute, then raining and misty the next. The ferry ride through the fog was surreal, like a dream from a gothic novel, with islands, these sheer cliffs of rock, emerging like ghosts from the fog, sometimes no more than dimly outlined shapes. I kept expecting a ghost ship or people out of time, ala X-Files or some other sci-fi story.

The duality of the land keeps gripping me in a poetic fever and I find I cannot keep my pen still. I scribble pits of verse and thoughts, inspired by the flow of sea and cloud and mist. It is spooky, mystic, enchanting, magical and turbulent, like that deep boy with the hint of a hidden dark side that intrigues you as a teenager. This duality perfectly mirrored in Suduroy. When we landed at the dock in Øoravík, the ferry blasting its deep, long fog horn, one side of the fjord was enshrouded in deep fog, the other side dazzling colors in the brilliant sun. Pockets of color and form would emerge briefly, only to be swept back under the covers as the fog raced through.

I walked to the other side of the fjord to the town of Tvøroyri, a typical Faroese harbor town, mostly homes overlooking the sea, all painted in bright primary colors, some workaday shops and buildings, and the harbor. I was the only tourist. Stuck out like a sore thumb. After all, this is not a place that caters to tourists; this is real-life Faroes. Perfect.

I ducked into an old black-tarred timber building on the harbor with a little cafe/pub sign that appeared to be open – the door was ajar, at least! Found a woman with jet black hair and a bundle of nervous energy, moving around what was once the town’s general store and is now an atmospheric cafe and pub. If they were really open, I don’t know, but Elin offered me coffee and explained a little of the place in the bits of English she knew. It was the town’s original general store and still has all the original furnishings, counters and shelves, as well as the gleaming metal cash register, all from the mid-1800s. I started to look at all the old tools and books in the cabinets, and suddenly Elin was unlocking the cabinets, pulling out old ledgers and books, inviting me to browse. I was shocked and honored. Found myself looking at old handwritten ledgers, all from the 1850s to 1910s, a family photo album of the original family, and even the letters of the owner, in several different languages including English to procure supplies for his store and sell the Faroese salted fish. Turned out the building is still owned by the family and this is the pub hangout for the community!

I was already overwhelmed, and then Elin surprised me with what they call the Faroese hospitality. She decides to show me her hometown on the other side of the island, closes up shop and drives me to Fámjin, a beautiful little community of 108 people nestled into a valley on the sea in the shadow of waterfalls, mountains and sea cliffs. I still don’t feel I have thanked her properly enough, because not only did she drive me to her town, but she opened up the church for me and introduced me to some of the local people.

A pinch-me-am-I-dreaming? moment when Elin takes me into one of the small little harbor sheds where the local sailors are literally plucking the feathers off about 50 seabirds, preparing them for cooking. They had just come back into harbor from catching these birds with nets on long poles, scooping the birds out of the water. Already beheaded, but still the feet attached, and plucking the fluffy white and black feathers out in quick thrusts. They would then boil the meat off the bones in a big vat, which was already steaming in preparation.

Elin invited me to her home, shared coffee and rolls, and almost ordered me to email my husband on her laptop, then shared photos of her husband and the locals out fishing, catching seabirds and rounding up their sheep. The wonders of Facebook let me share my family and home with her. I have no Faroese and her English is elementary, yet we found ways to communicate. I am beyond words in my thanksgiving for her hospitality.

Every day seems to bring new moments of disbelief and amazement. Yesterday’s helicopter ride still has not sunk in for me. 14 minutes of awe as I gazed at all the islands below, basically large ridges of mountains shooting straight out of the sea. The pilots were jovial and laid-back, curious about why an American woman would want to come to the Faroes. I keep running across this incredulous curiousity – why did you come to the Faroes? they all ask. They are used to cruise-ship tourists who descend on Tórshavn for a few hours, buying souvenirs, then disappear into the bowels of the departing ships. Those of us who stick around are regarded as unusual. But encourage the taciturn, reserved Faroese to talk about their country and their faces light up as they regale you with their love for these islands.

The helicopter ride was over much to quickly, but for only $42 dollars, I cannot complain! The locals use the helicopters and ferries as a way to commute around the island, and to them, this island hopping is perfectly natural.

The landscape has captured my soul, and I am already dreading my flight back to Iceland tomorrow. I find for the first time in weeks of travel that I am not excited for the next adventure. I want to stay. I am content. In love with a little nation of creative, musical souls and a vibrantly emotive, turbulent landscape. The waterfalls that appear overnight with the rain, creating almost a curtain of water descending down the mountains. The swirling fog and rain. A culture of sailing, fishing, and sheep-farming on fjord slopes. This is a country just dripping with poetry. Already I am planning my next visit, this time as a retreat from my real life, a hermitage to allow my soul to open up and just write. I do not know when this will be, maybe next year, maybe several years. But I know I will be back.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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2 Responses to Soul of the Faroes

  1. Rachel Lidbeck says:

    God has blessed you with wonderful.experiences!

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