Fuglafjørður / Faroese National Library tour

I have just arrived in Fuglafjørður. Fuglafjørður (pop. 1600) literally means “bird fjord” and it’s sixty km north of Tórshavn on the island of Eysturoy.

I am staying tonight at the home of Vónbjørt Solmunde. She is a librarian at the town’s library, from where I am now sending this message.

Before I arrived in the Faroes, I had been corresponding from home with Kristian Blak, a composer and musician who runs the on-line www.tutl.com mail-order site. When I arrived in Tórshavn, he asked me to call him. I spent last Friday evening with him and his wife, and I devoted some postcard space to telling you all about it, so I will not go into too much here.

Sharon Blak kindly arranged accommodation for me in Fuglafjørður with Vónbjørt, one of her librarian friends.

Before I left for Fuglafjørður at 12.30, I spent the morning running around Tórshavn from one end to the other. I was on the hunt for special postal souvenirs, and two larger post offices were at opposite ends of the city. I knew that I would not have a chance to visit either office tomorrow or Thursday, when I skip through Tórshavn in my island-to-island trek.

With my luggage in tow, I had a supreme workout climbing hills and then I had to try not to trip over my wheeled luggage as I spurted down them.

At the post office in Argir, a town just south of Tórshavn, I bought some older stamps not available in the other post offices, and I also got a set of special postcards for a work colleague who recently got a position at the Burnhamthorpe Library (hello Linda!).

Buses and ferries leave right on time, and I just made it when I got to the Tórshavn bus station. My bus was pulling away and I had to flag it down. I am so thankful I did not miss it! One more second in the Argir post office picking stamps and I would have missed it.

The bus to Fuglafjørður passed through three tunnels and two of them were only dimly lit with roof lights, while the shortest tunnel had no lights whatsoever. I am so thankful I am taking the bus to these places and not a bicycle. While biking is possible in these islands, to get to some places it is impossible to avoid the tunnels. I realized that I could not go wherever I wanted with a bike, so I decided not to rent one, or borrow one, as the Blaks so kindly offered to me. I concentrated instead on hiking and walking, and besides, you just can’t cross to the other side of these islands on bicycle, as I did Sunday when I hiked to see Hestur and Koltur.

This library closes at 17.00 (in two hours) and Vónbjørt kindly has allowed me to leave my luggage in the staff room while I explore the town. There are no words to describe the sense of awe I feel whenever the bus turned a corner and my eyes were met with yet another fjord, small community and harbour, and climbing green hills and cliffs, shrouded in mist and blanketed with grazing sheep and tiny black birds skittling through the grass. How can I possibly grab all this beauty in a small photograph? I have relied on postcards and photo books to capture the images, and I will use these mails and my postcards to describe the profound effect this scenery has had on me.

Tomorrow I will be in Tvøroyri, on the southernmost island of Suðuroy. I will take the bus to Tórshavn and grab the ferry (2½ h). En route I will pass the two smallest Faroe Islands, Stóra Dímun and Lítla Dímun. If I at all can arrange a visit to Fámjin on Suðuroy, I most definitely will because in that village’s church the very first Faroese flag is on display. While on tour of the Faroese National Library yesterday, I got to see and photograph the first book published in the Faroese language, from 1822.

The National Library tour was a one-hour personal show-around by Durita Joensen, another friend of Sharon Blak. Sharon so kindly arranged for me to see this library by special appointment. I was so excited to see all this Faroese literary history. Some archives, like the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, are extremely strict with who can see what and what you can bring in. For example, when I was at U of T from 1985-1990, it was forbidden to bring pens into that rare book library. Pencils only. And some things were not available to the public to see. At the Faroese National Library, its collection was open, and although I was free to touch some fragile rare books, I really preferred to photograph them while Durita held them. I also was taking notes on what I was looking at and photographing, so I did not want to take any chances, no matter how remote, of defacing the pages with my pen.

I got to see the archives and newspaper collections, plus the language department where the very first Faroese grammars were kept. Faroese is a very new written language, and its grammars from the early 1800’s were milestones in the formal recording of the language. I took photos of some of these book covers.

Durita generously gave me some library paraphernalia, including a library card. My card is an un-linked card so I cannot use it anywhere 🙂 But it is far the most beautiful library card I have ever seen: thick plastic, with a sketch of the National Library on one side.

Now I will go explore Fuglafjørður and take pictures. I will not get to a computer at all in Tvøvoyri since the village’s library is not open on Wednesday or Thursday. The next time I will have Internet access will probably be Sunday 23 March from Arto’s office (provided he’s going in).

I have been able to buy smaller denominations of Faroese stamps from 1999; I am using combinations of them on postcards to total the international postal rate of 8.00 FKr. These stamps are reproduced as postcards so if the post office cancels them beyond recognition, I will show you their beauty in postcard form.

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