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davidx Kirkjubour - A travel report by David
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Kirkjubour,  Faroe Islands - flag Faroe Islands
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davidx's travel reports

Fabulous Færoes - part 1 – Southern Streymoy

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This is the first of three reports on the Færoes. Information about the islands that is not place specific will be spread mainly between the three general descriptions. report of the month contest
Jun 2008

Government Offices,
Tinganes, Torshavn
Government Offices, Tinganes, Torshavn
We were lucky! A friend took a large apartment in Torshavn for three weeks, after raving periodically about the Færoes since she went there four years ago, staying in hotels. She planned to have company for most of the time but her brother’s arrangements changed so that she would have had the last ten days alone. She asked us if we would like to stay during that period. Well, would you have turned down an offer like that?

It’s a pity the word ‘fabulous’ is overused to the point of not meaning much because its literal meaning is good to describe the Faeroes – they are indeed places rich in fables and are very worthy of them. I shall say something of their geography and population here and of their history and language in the second report. I suggest you get a map on another tab so that you can see where I am talking about. http://home.worldo seems helpful.

Streymoy, which includes the capital, Torshavn, is the largest island both in square mileage and in population. It is linked to the next largest, Eysturoy, by ‘the bridge over the Atlantic’ [sounds grand but is one of the least spectacular thing in the islands] and to the third, Vagar, that holds the airport, home to the Færoes own Atlantic Airlines, by a tunnel. Suduroy, Hesdur, Sandoy and Nolsoy are connected to Streymoy by ferry, Mykines and Koltur only by helicopter. Sandoy and Skuvoy are connected to each other by ferry.

Eysturoy is connected to Bordoy by tunnel, Bordoy to Kunoy and Vinoy by causeways and Kalsoy by ferry. Fugloy and Svinoy are reached by ferry or helicopter. Today the population is 48.220 (1st March 2006). About 19,300 people live in the metropolitan area which comprises Tórshavn, Kirkjubøur, Velabastaður, Nólsoy, Hestur, Koltur, Hoyvík, Argir, Kaldbak, Kaldbaksbotnur, Kollafjørður, Signabøur and Oyrareingir. About 4,700 people live in Klaksvík, [Bordoy] the second largest town in the islands.

Favourite spots:
Torshavn is a place that can be described as a rural city. The first views of it either from the road or the sea are not particularly impressive but closer views bring far more interest. First there are some very pleasant park-like wooded areas, not found anywhere else on the Færoes – wood is something washed up! Then, the pride of the Færoes, there is Tinganes, a small peninsula formed by the old town - between the two harbour areas. Here are a number of fascinating buildings, all with turf roofs. Some are residences but the most fascinating street is composed of government offices – including the Prime Minister’s Office. Anything less like Downing Street and Whitehall would be hard to imagine. [cont. below]

What's really great:
Nordic House
Nordic House
Further out in the city are no less than four places worth seeing.
1 The Færoes Art Gallery. This is a great building in one of the woody areas and the islands are rightly proud of their artistic achievements, which are in no way commensurate with their small population. Out side the gallery there are a number of impressive sculptures.
2 The National Museum. Another fine building, purpose built. Different temporary exhibitions appear on the ground floor and, when we were there, an exhibition on lighthouses had replaced what our friend had much esteemed on the historic life patterns of the islands. The large downstairs area is more consistent. There is an open area with a number of different sized fishing and whaling hand rowed boats. Then in an enclosed gallery is the real pride of the museum, a set of richly carved pew ends of late medieval design that had once been removed from St Olav’s church in Kirkjubøur and exhibited in Copenhagen. [cont. in nightlife]

St Olav's, Kirkjubour
St Olav's, Kirkjubour
Kirkjubøur was once the most important place on the Færoes and the one chosen for a great cathedral. It is clear why it was surpassed in importance by Torshavn, which has a far better anchorage. Indeed it isn’t clear why Kirkjubøur should ever have attained its status and presumably it is a historic accident of somebody’s residence.
Regrettably the Magnus Cathedral was never completed – although its walls and arches were only awaiting roof and tower. How on earth did a fairly impoverished seafaring community of small size ever achieve this much? The village church of St Olav was first built in the 12th century but there were several major later rebuildings. St Olav’s served as a cathedral for several centuries but is now a very plain building of typical Færoese design behind elaborate gates.
There is also the Roykstovan, an old farmhouse, part still used as a residence and part converted to a museum.
There are fine views of Koltur, Hesdur, Sandoy and, in the distance, Vagar.

Torshavn from the Nolsoy ferry
Torshavn from the Nolsoy ferry
We were staying in an apartment that a friend had taken for three weeks. We were there for ten days and there was plenty of room to accommodate Judith, us, her brother and his partner, [who had missed their boat back to Scotland!] with big bedrooms and living room and a dining kitchen. All the furniture and appliances you could want were available including unlimited access to a computer – hence my log entries. She booked the apartment through Greengate Incoming. These islands are not yet properly on the tourist circuit, thank goodness but it does have drawbacks! Accommodation is not plentiful in Torshavn compared to places of similar status in other parts of Europe and is very limited elsewhere. Hence it is far from cheap.

At Torshavn's outdoor museum
At Torshavn's outdoor museum
[Torshavn continued]

3 The Open Air Museum. Unlike a number of bigger Scandinavian outdoor museums, no buildings have been moved in here. A farmstead that was functioning well beyond the middle of the 20th century but dated back several centuries more has been preserved as the museum. It is really impressive – from the farmhouse itself with its area like a grannie flat to the various farm buildings to the old boat houses and the views out over Nolsoy are terrific.

4. The Nordic House, built by the Nordic Council, of which the Færoes forms an Associate member with its own representatives and is seeking Full Membership status. This contains a cafeteria, a recital room and a lecture hall.

Some southern islands
Some southern islands
We missed out on most islands south of Torshavn; in fact we only reached Sandoy [next report] and missed Skuvoy, Hesdur and Suduroy, all reachable by ferry. Given even more time Suduroy would have appealed a lot. I think even I could have got face to face with a puffin there – but it’s well over two hours each way in the ferry and needs at least one night there to make the highlights possible.

He's enjoying his - free!
He's enjoying his - free!
I saw nowhere that appealed enough to justify paying the high prices and I feel the chippy in Torshavn would have enjoyed considerable custom from us, if we had not been self-contained. In the SMS supermarket in Torshavn most foodstuffs were available that can be obtained here – at a price. At local supermarkets near us delicious pastries were available – at a price. It was also possible to buy Danish Lurpak butter at 26 Kroner!! Supposedly perfectly good Faroese butter was obtainable for half the price but it was sold out – I wonder why. [ Fish was available in considerable variety at more equivalent prices.]
In fairness I should say that often coffee in restaurants or Cafés, where they existed, was cheaper than in the UK and a two gig memory stick for my pics only cost £10. For pensioners the price of ferry trips made operators in the UK seem like bandits.

Other recommendations:
Only one third of the shocking garden
Only one third of the shocking garden
Kaldbak is a small village on the north side of the Kaldbakfjørdur. It was mentioned in guidebooks for the distinctive carving in the church. Although I like the simplicity and style of Færoese churches, there is a great similarity between most as though they are constructed from a large size Leggo kit. Sadly, the church was locked. The book told us that ‘anybody’ would tell us where to find the key. ‘Anybody’ was conspicuous by absence. Eventually I found two women [separately.] Neither could use much English but one did manage to let me know that she had no idea of where to get the key! Pity – because what we could see through the window did rather whet the appetite.
So my memories of Kaldbak are of failure, of an even larger number than elsewhere of ofster catchers, the national bird of the islands and of a garden that contained about three times the number shown in the photo of ornaments. Everybody to their taste – I thought them hideous!

Published on Wednesday July 30th, 2008

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Wed, Dec 03 2008 - 03:20 AM rating by bineba

I always like you being so honest in your reports. But it sounds, despite the high prices, like a fantastic place to visit.

Sun, Oct 12 2008 - 11:01 PM rating by magsalex

A new destination to me. Very informative. Well deserved report of the month.

Thu, Sep 04 2008 - 05:55 AM rating by marianne

Congratulations RoM!!!. You've (almost) convinced me to go there

Wed, Aug 27 2008 - 07:13 AM rating by murrayskinner

A wopnderful read I am off to read the second. Good stuff!

Tue, Aug 05 2008 - 08:31 PM rating by mtlorensen

Really nice report and pictures to match! Looking forward to reading more on this area.

Sun, Aug 03 2008 - 04:53 AM rating by krisek

Excellent! Joy to read! The photos are superb, too. A whole package. Thank you very much.

Fri, Aug 01 2008 - 04:23 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Magnificent! I read your travel logs and was anxious to read more about Feroes, where I only spent (unfortunately) a few hours during the stop of my ferry between Oslo and Iceland. Pictures are wonderful. Many many thanks, infinite thanks for your efforts to show us these archipielago!

Wed, Jul 30 2008 - 02:56 PM rating by eirekay

This a terrific Report - I like the analogy to the Lego bricks!

Wed, Jul 30 2008 - 02:56 PM rating by horourke

Makes me want to read the next two!

Wed, Jul 30 2008 - 12:14 PM rating by mistybleu

David, a really enjoyable read; I love the pictures and make me want to visit this serene setting.

Wed, Jul 30 2008 - 09:48 AM rating by christianj.

Hi David,

thats a very informative report, structured clearly, easy to read, with nice pictures - and sparked my interest to read more. Good to know that there are coming two further ones...!

Regards, Christian

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