extremes in the faroe islands

Surrounded by strong currents and tempestuous waves the 18 Faroe Islands rise in the middle of the Atlantic sea. Barren and bold the islands are a scenically extreme and captivating array, so full of life at the same time as it may be the most solitary place I’ve ever sat foot. And I live in the Arabian desert. A place I’ve always felt inclined to visit.

Anyone’s who’s a frequent reader of this blog knows about my inability to plan ahead. This trip hasn’t been an exception either, which me and my reliable travel partner Linn realized when the car rental office in the airport told us their availability was as sparse as the Faroese landscape. Sigh. An expensive and ridiculously overpriced taxi ride later we found ourselves in front of one of the Capital City Torshavn’s two car rentals. Like a bliss in our misfortune, there was a velocity left for us even if it admittedly was one of the more expensive ones. But nevertheless, sitting down behind the wheel after reluctantly swiping my credit card felt just like regaining sound to a movie with a flapping TV cable.

We quickly learned that the Faroese roads are few and far in between, so it takes a very negligent map driver like myself to get lost since most of the time your only option is left or right. Most roads are extremely narrow, and at times so tight we need to stop to give priority to oncoming traffic before proceeding. Seemingly endless tunnels without lighting occur often, and rather than rarely there’s only a modest rail of wooden barriers to protect the car as the roads stretch across steep and pointy slopes around the islands. But other than that, it’s a beautiful place to drive with tiny traffic. An ideal location to drive down an empty road with blasting music, something that never gets old.

Even if the islands is a place where you want to keep your eyes on the road, it’s very often hard not to let them gaze at the mesmerizing environs. The landscape is enthralling despite being stripped of vegetation in its barren state. There’s something so extreme about the nothingness, the devoid of life that makes you feel so small. A whole area, where man hasn’t made an impact except for the meandering roads quietly and endlessly running through the silent land. It’s a fantastically quiet place, with only the subtle sound of the wind breaking the silence. In the countryside or the small fisherman villages consisting of exclusively identical houses with tin roofs and wooden facades. There’s barely a soul in sight anywhere we go, and people keep to themselves out here. A solitary place and a solitary way of living it seems. Fascinating to me who’s living in one of world’s fastest developing cities. But I could never live here which I realize every time I have an experience too far off my reality. As appealing as the quietude is and can be, I can’t help but feel how it sometimes consumes me eventually. And maybe it’s because I grew up in the remote countryside that noise doesn’t bother me. I love falling asleep to the sound of cars passing by, of people roaming the streets, of music from a distant club. A different kind of wealth to me, to be surrounded by life.

In the Faroe Islands sheep outnumber people, and perhaps that’s actually one of the nicer aspects. The sheep are fearless and oblivious, crossing the roads as if they were some of their beaten paths while death-staring you. But their presence is appreciated and brings movement to the picturesque and windswept landscape. The real Islanders are another story. Scandinavian polite, but with a something recluse aura around them hard to actually interpret. They speak a concoction of Danish and Norwegian sprinkled with Icelandic, entirely comprehensible to anyone Scandinavian but impossible to mitigate. And we’ve quickly learned that clarification is crucial when making any inquiry. Upon being given directions to a “newly opened and intriguing restaurant,” we later found ourselves in a modest café with a menu consisting of two different sandwiches and self-serving of coffee made hours earlier. And to anything but modest prices. Sigh again. Perceptions are rarely similar, and life only ever reminds of this once the lesson is already learned.

Three days have felt like a week, for good and for bad. In a place that moves at such a slow pace time somehow loses its relevancy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Waking up each morning to subtle drizzle hitting the window along with the whistling sound of an oyster catcher passing by outside is probably the purest form of serenity in this world, but I don’t believe either one of us felt the need of an extra day here as the experience junkies that we are. The gloomy weather probably plays a part as well. Not so much the rain, but the fact that even on a sunny day it’s never really clear. In the summer it’s never really hot, in the winter, it’s never either too chilly. A bit too ambiguous to me, a fan of sharp contrasts. So it’s time to leave; new adventures await.