Made it to the Faroes!

I am sitting in the Býarbókasavnið (Tórshavn Town Library), writing from one of their two Internet terminals. The first thing I did in Tórshavn, after checking in to my guest house, was find the library and reserve a one-hour slot. So I can now relax and write to you.

BTW I notice I am typing using a Danish keyboard cuz there ain’t no edhs on this thing. And there is an Å key, which is not a Faroese letter. Neither are there keys with acute accents over the vowels, also characters of Faroese.

The Faroes are five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, the time zone in my home city of Mississauga, Ontario. I got the Finnair bus at the Helsinki central railway station at 05.30 (after my friend Arto told me that I did not need to be at the airport a half-hour earlier as I had originally intended). Check-in was speedy and fortunately I was told that my bags would travel from Helsinki to the Faroes without me having to pick them up in Copenhagen. (I had heard two different things from the airline staff at SAS and at Maersk Air.)

Highlights of the flights:

1) Flying over the Åland Islands. I was in awe. The ferry routes had been frozen in ice, so it appeared as if some supremely enormous truck had crossed over the surface. I visited the Åland Islands last January for a cycling holiday. From the air I could recognize the islands, see the ferry route stop at Långnäs, and then as I soared overhead I marked the bike route I took last year to the Åland capital of Mariehamn.

2) Just before landing in Copenhagen, another awesome sight was the new (newish) bridge connecting Malmö, Sweden, to Copenhagen. Is this some kind of record-breaking bridge for length? It went on forever.

When I boarded the tiny Maersk Air plane for Vágar, Faroes, I grabbed a free daily newspaper. For a population of some 45.000, the paper is obviously lightweight and I will gladly share it with you so you can get a look at What’s News in the Faroes.

3) Flying over the northern tip of Denmark. Denmark’s northernmost point is a sandy tip that reminded me of Canada’s Point Pelee, only hookier [1]. I was amazed at how flat a country Denmark is.

4) Seeing southern Norway for the first time. I have been to Norway, twice, but each time I visited the northernmost region, Finnmark fylke. This time I got to see (albeit from the air) the country’s southernmost region.

Tórshavn is a small city of 17.000, and I have been racing around to the post office and book stores.

Let me tell you, I am ecstatic to be here. I really meant it when I said that I now had the chance to relax. I have had to calm myself down in the city’s book stores (there are three of them) and take notes as to prices. I realize that I have plenty of time to buy stuff, and that I shouldn’t buy the first thing I see because it might be cheaper elsewhere. The first thing I bought was a 1:100.000 scale map of the Faroes. I paid the equivalent of $29 Canadian for it; in Helsinki it was selling for the equivalent of $45. I also got a Faroes (er, Føroyst) T-shirt, which I will wear to Scrabble tournaments for months to come.

There are so many picture books and coffee-table books here, that I have to crack down and decide on only one or two. The price of books is very expensive, and I must choose sensibly.

The official currency of the Faroes are Faroese kronur, which are on a par with Danish Kroner (note the two different spelling of “kronur”/”kroner”). I could only receive Danish kroner at the Helsinki foreign exchange yet I get my change back in Faroese kronur. The designs on the paper money are different as well. Only coinage is the same.

I have already mailed off the first batch of Finland postcards, yet with Faroese stamps. There are only two available stamps for international mail, so I do not have the luxury of picking and choosing from a variety of stamps to send on your mailings. I have already taken photos of a Faroese postal van, central post office and mailbox. The locals already think I’m nuts.


Because I keep walking around in circles in this town!

The layout of this place is very confusing, and I am only now getting acquainted with it. No grid system here. There are many narrow streets, ancient cracks down by the harbour that hide just exactly what it is you’re looking for. I have had to walk around the same block twice just to find the office I was headed for.

Oh yeah, how could I forget: THE SHEEP!

I took the bus from the airport in Vágar to Tórshavn. The trip took an hour, and travelled through several tunnels. Let me tell you: I was right when I said that riding a bicycle in one of these tunnels would be dangerous. The tunnels are narrow, dark, and there is room only for two passing vehicles. No pedestrians, no bikes. So I will grab a bus, I promise, if I find I cannot avoid a tunnel.

There are twice as many sheep here as people, and they graze by the roadside, on the cliffsides, near town. They are everywhere!

I have no conversational knowledge of Faroese yet the natives seem to light up when I say a simple Hello or Thank-you. I have no time to go back to my old mails I wrote from Mariehamn, Åland, but I am experiencing a sense of déjà vu in that I feel like everyone is looking at me here. No wonder: in a small town, off-season for tourists, I am very conspicuous, especially since I can’t find my away around this place 🙂 Everyone does speak English.

The book stores are filled with Danish and Faroese books, but unfortunately there are no Faroese language materials for English speakers. (I knew this well before, from both personal on-line research and also from my friends of the LearningFaroese Yahoo Group.) However I kinda wanted to come to this place and be proven wrong. There are, however, plenty of materials for native speakers of Danish, Icelandic and, uh, Esperanto (plenty!). I am not kidding.

My room in the Hansina Berg guest house is a clean single, and I have the single-wing of the two-winged house all to myself. There are couples staying in the guest house as well, but the double rooms are in the other wing. That means I get my own bathroom, until another guest arrives, however the showers are in the other side of the house. Breakfast is at 08.00. I have booked next Thursday night at the same place, on my last night in the Faroes. It is then an easy ten-minute walk to the harbour where the airport bus departs.

It was burning sun when I arrived at 10.30 local time, and yes, I can believe everything I have read about temperamental Faroese weather. It has not rained yet, but has turned chilly mighty quickly. I have learned never to leave the guest house without my hat, gloves and scarf, regardless of how boiling the sun seems.

I will not get to an Internet terminal again until perhaps Monday, before I depart for an as-yet-undecided island. If I can book a slot first thing Monday morning right now, I will. But I hope my bus on Monday does not interfere with my early Internet booking.

These islands are hilly. If you have walked the hilly streets of San Francisco, then you know exactly what I mean.

I will send this off, un-proofread, cuz it is now 17.55 and the library closes at 18.00, and staff are making preparations to close.

[1] Scrabble alert: an inflected adjective in context!

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