The ladies in the Faroe Islands

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The Faroe Islands. We can be brief about them: you must go there! If only for the public toilets offered in even the tiniest hamlets. Or because the captain of the ferry will always wait for you. Unless it is Friday ofcourse and the weekend lures. Or for the sake of grandma who makes you pancakes and does everything in her power to stop you from leaving the isle of Sandoy

Klaksvik – “It doesn’t look that way, but we will be just fine!”, the photographer yells to the bewildered rental car man as our fully automatic Toyota Hybride is put in rear as we leave the airport with screeching tires. We are heading for Stremoy, the island where capital Tórshavn nestles in a bay overlooking the island of Nólsoy.

The Faroe Islands

We can be brief about them: You must go visit! If only for the abundance of toilets offered in even the tiniest hamlet. A deserted school? An uninhabited city hall? In the Faroe Islands they turn it in no time in a toilet overlooking a fjord full of frolicking whales. The heated seat and eternal gently rolling toilet paper are of course complementary

But beware of the ferries though. The islands are held together by ferries but lack departure times. Quite complicated since the islanders seem to have been sworn into secrecy about crossing schedules. Oh, and whether your name is spelled correctly and corresponds with the name in your passport is completely irrelevant. Everyone is welcome.

Denmark

Then again, you may leave the island whenever you like since nobody at the airport really checks you. And about them belonging to Denmark? It is all a misunderstanding really. Only the Danes themselves seem to think so. And this thingy about slaughtering whales … Best not to mention that, if you don’t want to be accused of partaking in gruesome tortures of industrial pigs and battery hens. But other than that you will be just fine!

We can also be quite extensive about our visit:

I struggle to find the route planner on my phone because it leaves a white spot, where at least 18 islands should emerge. “I only see outlines, no roads,” I grumble. It is very dark around us. Nowhere a lit road, let alone a house.  “Never mind, already got it,” says the photographer throwing her cellphone into my lap. “Stay on the road elf” says the GPS. The road elf? What the hell is a road elf?”

Heimablídni

We are on our way to the capital through an ingenious system of tunnels. The idea is to first join a heimablídni, not to be confused with a grindadrap, a whale slaughter. Although we start to fear that eating at an islanders home is exactly what it all boils down to. Frightened by our veggie status, all home cooks tell us they can’t receive us.

“Too big a challenge”, a sheep farmer explains. Having us at the dinner table without even as much as putting a tiny bit of sheep intestine or lambs buttocks in our mouth, is more than most can handle. “Sorry,” said another: “But we have only black pudding and whale meat on the menu.”

Kalsoy

So off we go to hotel Føroyar for a salad and a short night since we have to leave early to catch a ferry the next morning. We have to catch the only ferry of the day to Syðradalur to meet up with sheep farmer Jóhannus.

To give you an idea: we must go from Tórshavn on the isle of Stremoy by tunnel to Esturoy, then further by tunnel to the island Borðoy and there we take the ferry to the island Kalsoy. It’s as complicated as it sounds and it’s awfully dark when we leave.

Klaksvik

“About an hour” the Tourist Office had estimated the time we would need to arrive at the ferry. But the GPS that morning tells as something else: one and a half hours. Arrival 7:59 am. The boat leaves at 8:00 am. “That is a bit of a challenge”, I say while Nomad speeds up the Hybrid.

We have no precise address of the ferry other than the port of Klaksvik. Although I do not think it is as big as Rotterdam, I fear the worst. I decide to call the company. Amazing, but at 6.45 am they simply pick up the phone on the Faroe Islands.

The girl answering the phone is extremely friendly. “No, not a problem. I”ll explain you how to get here:

Once in Klaksvik you will get to a roundabout. Go straight.

Then follow the road for a while and then you go, let’s see, maybe right.

Or no, wait, go left on… let me see, the 2nd road because the first one is a blind alley blind. I think.

No, the street where the ferry is situated has no name. But come on to Stangavegur. At the height of the Magn you will see the boat. Magn? That’s a gas station. Yes I will tell the captain that you are on your way and ask him to join me for a coffee.” Roaring laughter.

The ferry operator

Somewhat reassured we get totally lost in Klaksvik and we decide to call the ferry operator again. It is one minute to eight. “Sorry,” I gasp. “We’re on our way. I can see the harbor, just a few more seconds to locate the boat.”

I’m lying, but who cares. Klaksvik ís the port and is situated in a bowl with a giant mountain in front of it that rises from the water, but nothing suggests there is a ferry.

Ferry to Syðradalur

“Who is this,” asks an angry voice on the other end. “Oh I am sorry,” I say. “I was just on the phone with your colleague and told her to have the captain wait for us. We are two journalists from the Netherlands. We have to make it to the ferry because it is the only one today and we have an interview with a farmer.”

“Excuse me,” the voice interrupts me, “are you seriously asking me to hold a ferry? Because in that case I have to disappoint you. The ferry departs at 8.00 am sharp.” I see how the clock jumps to 8.00 am.” “Oh, really? Your colleague said otherwise ” “My colleague? Who do you mean? I have no colleague.”

Eiland Sandoy

In disbelief I stare at the phone and then at Klaksvik. Suddenly I see the red symbol of the Magn.“There,” I point to the photographer. Right underneath the gas station lies a dilapidated boat which might or might not be a ferry.
“Is this the boat to Syðradalur?”, I ask the guy who looks like a captain. “Are you the Dutch journalists?” he asks in reply. Fifteen minutes later the boat sails out. We are the only passengers.

Grandma

Being on time, however, is no guarantee that you will make it to a ferry on the Faroe Islands, we find out a day later. This time grandma is the obstacle. We are in the bright green living room of a farmer family on the island of Sandoy, in the south of the archipelago.

The family is treating us to coffee and pancakes. It’s Friday afternoon and the ferry is scheduled for 6 pm to go back to Torshavn. At least, that’s what the family tells us since we couldn’t locate an information board.

Tórshavn

Grandma has just burst out singing Tulips from Amsterdam as the grandson mentions that the ferry does not leave at 18:00 pm but at 16:30 pm. It is 15:45 pm and we are ten minutes away from the ferry. No reason to panic. “Make sure you are on time though”, says the farmer.

“It’s Friday and then everyone wants to leave the island so the ferry can be full.” All of a sudden there are lots of reasons to panic. We grab our coats and put on our boots while I almost break my neck stumbling over the laces I did not tie. After we severely but hastily thanked the familie, grandma comes out with a photo of a woman on a rock.

Moviestar on a rock

Guess who this is?” I glance at the black and white photo. No idea. Nor why the woman is sitting on rock. “A movie star?”, I suggest. “What’s her name again?” “Exactly, I know who you mean“, Nomad says without looking, trying without much success to unlock the car from a distance.

“No!” says grandma slightly offended and throws another look at the picture as if she wants to makes sure we are wrong “A mermaid,” I try again. I mean, we are sort of in Denmark after all.

The Queen of Denmark

I wonder if it would be very rude to overthrow grandma before diving into the car. I mean, it is lovely here but I do want to get off the island. There’s no a hotel, not even a restaurant, and I fear that we cannot rely on a heimablídni for a vegetarian bite.

“Oh come on, you are not that stupid”, says grandma. I suppress a primal scream. Nomad has now jumped into the car and if I want to stand a chance I must jump as well. “The Queen of Denmark, of course! Do you see there that rock out there?

Strangling grandma

I reject the option to strangle Grandma and throw a glimpse onto the rock while shouting: “bye now “. We have fifteen minutes left. “It is a 10 minutes drive”, Nomad pants while driving 190 km / h. I sit back. My job is done. In front of us a car is driving like mad as well. “I guess he ‘s off to the ferry as well”, I laugh.

“No problem, I can handle him”, the photographer growls. But the islander is no match for us. Skidding we come to a full stop at the back of a very long string of car and trucks. Ready to embark.

Skopunafjord

“I should’ve have caught up with the guy”, the photographer swears when the lever comes down just in front of our car. “We stare in the dark over the Skopunafjord. Wild foamy water. In three hours the last ferry of the day will arrive. We will be the first on board.

“We should have listened to the lady with the speech defect”, grumbles Nomad after hours staring at the dark fjord. “Speech defect? What lady?” The one from the GPS that encouraged us to stay on the road elf. Road eleven. We should have stayed on road eleven. ”

Text: Anneke de Bundel – Illustration: Flos Vingerhoets

This trip was made possible by the fantastic support and knowledge of Susanna E. Sørensen and Levi Hanssen of Visit Faroe Islands.

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